The Truth About Being a Real Estate Agent

Updated on April 21, 2020
AllisonSchnur profile image

I am a licensed REALTOR and my next venture will be rehabbing houses. I want to make the most of this life!

Do You Want a Career in Real Estate?

So, you're thinking about pursuing a career in Real Estate? You've heard a lot about the flexible schedule, being your own boss and the major commissions. Sounds perfect, right? Well, there is a lot to Real Estate that you must understand before you jump into a career. You may hate your current job or be interested in starting a new chapter in your life, but are you sure it's the Real Estate Industry and not just the luring promises of wealth and flexibility? Because I can tell you right now, the flexible schedule means you will make yourself available 24/7, being your own boss can mean the constant stress of hitting your sales goals and as far as the commission goes, I shouldn't even need to mention that the Real Estate market is not in its healthiest state.

Being a Real Estate Agent is Entrepreneurial

You have to think of being a Real Estate Agent as owning your own business. You will hear a lot of agents talk about their "business" and it really is the best way to think of it when you're starting out. You are an Independent Contractor, so you will have to take on managing your own taxes. If you're smart, you should keep receipts for your travel expenses, advertising, and education from the very beginning because these are tax-deductible. You may have to hire an accountant or do some research, but this is your hard-earned money and the government wants to encourage small business ownership with these deductions, so take advantage of this as soon as possible.


In order to sell Real Estate, you must be listed with a Broker. You can go with a large brand name, which usually has some great tools for new Agents, or you can go with a smaller, boutique Broker. I personally listed with Keller Williams because they have a ton of support and really useful cutting-edge technology. My best advice if you're serious about getting into Real Estate would be to set up a couple of informational interviews with different brokers. Let them know ahead of time that you're considering getting your license, so there are no expectations and they don't feel like you've wasted their time. What you need to understand with Brokers is that THEY WANT YOU. You may feel like you're being interviewed but just think about what you're interviewing for; they don't spend any money by listing you, they may offer different tools or a great commission split but they do get a portion of your commissions. Listing you makes them money, so be very careful in choosing your Broker and make sure you have a list of questions that they can answer to help you decide.

Owning a successful business is not something you just stumble into, and the same is true with being a great Real Estate Agent. If you want to be successful, you may have to struggle through the first couple of years. As the years pass you will work mostly on the referrals and reputation that you built up in your early years. Your business will be set on cruise control if you can maintain the values that got you there.

Like owning a business, the easiest advertising is word of mouth, which when you're new, may mean a lot of cold calling on expired leads. Keep in mind, you are a Real Estate Salesperson, this job is as much about selling as it is about Real Estate. If picking up the phone and calling strangers isn't for you, then this might not be the job for you. If you can grit your teeth and bear it, then you will do well. You will have to sell yourself to homeowners by setting up Listing Presentations, you have to look at it as an interview to earn their business.

Word of mouth will always be the cheapest and most effective form of Advertising and the more connections you have, the bigger your business will be. TV Shows like Selling New York and Million Dollar Listing have definitely glamorized everything about Real Estate. It seems like they spend a week or two workings and wind up with thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars for their "hard work". The most important thing to understand is that great commissions do exist, but you will have to work VERY HARD for them. You must grow your business, become knowledgeable, and maintain a great reputation before you stumble yourself into a hundred thousand dollar deals. If you already have ridiculous trust-fund, country club connections already, then disregard this whole paragraph and congratulations, you will do well. For the rest of us, we will have to work for those connections and maintain a great relationship with our clients.

What About Your Clients?

This brings me to the next reality of the world of Real Estate; the clients. If you don't enjoy working with people, then Real Estate will be a very bad fit for you and even if you love people, there will be an adjustment. You will not always have the perfect client. So many sellers unrealistically think their house is worth more than it is and the same amount of buyers think their money should be able to buy more houses than it will. If you can't level with your clients and curb their expectations then they will think you were the problem when you don't get them $30,000 over market value or a 5 bedroom house in a gated community for $100,000. You are the expert and they hired you to guide them, whether they take that guidance or not is up to them.

Handling multiple clients means handling multiple schedules. Sure, you can have a flexible enough schedule to make it all work, but what about your buyers who work 9-5 jobs? Their only option for house shopping is going to be nights and weekends. There isn't too much glamor in being on-call 24/7, but to be a good agent you should always be available to your clients. On that same note, the best Agents I know are in the office at 8:30 Monday-Friday unless they are out showing. They are ready and available if someone happens to wander into the office with a Real Estate need. This is your competition, they take this job seriously and this is how they got to where they are.

Money: How Do You Make It?

Lastly, and most importantly, let's talk about the MONEY. Being your own boss and cashing in on commissions is definitely the most alluring part of the job, but sometimes business just isn't good. Like I said, and don't even need to say, the Real Estate market and the economy are not doing so well right now. You make your money off of SALES and SALES only. If you show a buyer around for 3 months, spending hours a week with them, hundreds of dollars in gas money, finding them a perfect house, writing up the paperwork then at the last minute things fall through or they decide against buying, guess what? You get nothing.

Most people will try to keep you positive and say, well, when they're ready to buy, they will come back to you. This is sometimes true, but it also doesn't put food on your table. My grandmother was a Real Estate Agent her whole life and my dad remembers coming home to the power being shut off on them, on multiple occasions. She was a very hard worker, but there are tons of outside factors with Real Estate. There are a lot of Agents barely making ends meet at various times in their career.

Real Estate can be very rewarding, both professionally and financially, for the right people. You might need to make sacrifices in the beginning but this is a career, not a fly-by-night venture. You now own your own business and your success is completely in your own hands. One of my favorite quotes is that "Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won't so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can't." This is your business, you have to put your time into it and earn each clients' respect and eventually, you will have a very successful career in Real Estate.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


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    • profile image


      12 months ago

      As an experienced agent, I first want to acknowledge there are some great client, but at the same time, there are far more “not great” client. One sentence for people who want to jump into real estate, “buyers are liars and sellers are worse”, like author said, you will be deemed useless if you can’t find a $100,000 house in a gated community next to Beverly Hills. LOL

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      You couldn't have said it any clearer. I've been an agent for about a year in Los Angeles and ready to quit. It's a mind blowing the amount of time you spend working and by the time everyone gets thier crumbs ,you pretty much end up with nothing for all the time and effort. You truly have to love it or have a ton of cash to get you to the next level. Whatever that may be. The only advice I can give a new agent is to do your research and to always remember that " Expectations lead to disappointments. Be real !!!

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      haha some realtors are so brainwashed. It is a cut throat and crooked industry with everyone involved trying to get the upper hand be it sellers, buyers or agents. No thanks!

    • profile image

      Adam Humber 

      3 years ago

      Unfortuantely everyone and their dog is a real estate agent now. I have met so many bad ones. It doesnt help when housewives with one listing are touted by the broker as being qualified. In fact its such a waste of time and black eye on the whole office.

      When I bought my house I had to fire my buyers agent who just wasnt listening. I then found the house in the neighborhood I wanted and negotiated at a price the first guy said would be impossible. But that selling agent was aweful to and the all cash deal just about died on inspection simply because she couldn't get the furnace to work and didnt think it was a problem. Well, when buying, that IS a problem and an inspection that should have been an hour took all day.

      I walked away from buying a house like buying a car. It could have been much easier with "agents" out of the way.

    • profile image

      Levi Nolasco 

      3 years ago

      I'm on my way out of Real Estate. To clarify I was an assistant in Beverly Hills for 1 year. I read this article before I started, and thought RE would be different for me. I thought I would have free time to pursue my passions on the side. It didn't work for me, but I learned a LOT. If you're looking to start a career in RE, first ask yourself if you are ready to commit 10 years of grinding 6 days a week. This is what it takes people, unless you know a big name in the business and work for them. 10 years of being consistent with leads, prospecting, taking your work with you on vacations, outings, even funerals. (Yes that will happen). If you consider yourself a person who thrives on flexing your creative muscle, this may not be a career for you. RE is all consuming, in my experience you are never off work. In the last year, I only felt I got a break in the last 2 weeks when I put in my notice. That was something that burned me out quickly. I have had to pull over on the side of the road quite a few times to work, on road trips. I went to bed every night worrying about if I was forgetting something, or worrying about something I had to do the next day. I stopped eating right, stopped working out, it started hurting my personal relationships. I saw my friends a total of 3 times last year. They live close but I am a person who needs to have quite time and reflect on the day, otherwise I get stressed easily. Let me tell you, the quite time won't come. Just as you are finding quiet peace, you will get an email or text. Once that happened I couldn't get back to that quiet place, and felt like i was still working.

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Hello Allison,

      Great Article. Honest and Direct!

      I am thinking of becoming a real estate agent, and I liked the idea you mentioned in your article about " to set up a couple informational interviews with different brokers. Let them know ahead of time that you're considering getting your license," however, how do you get to talk to them? I call and no one returns my calls, I email and receive no replies.

      How do I get an informational interview before I get my license? I would like to know my options before I put almost $1000 down on something I may not want to do. What is your advice on getting their attention and getting into a good agency?

      Thank you so much for your advice!


    • profile image

      Matt Morring 

      3 years ago

      This article was very informative and very straight foward. Real Estate is not easy, like getting listings. As someone told be listings are your life line. If you don't have listings then you want be very successful. There are so may people even now getting into Real Estate. Real Estate is all that I do and it is satisfying when you get a listing and then make a sell. It can also be very disheartening.

    • Ken Burgess profile image

      Ken Burgess 

      4 years ago from Florida

      As others have commented, very good article, I would say you put in a nice detailed way - "You'll get out of the job what you put into it, its not easy, it takes hard work AND strong people skills... so if you like the ease of a steady paycheck and little or no responsibility, Real Estate is NOT for you."

      Do you remember the list of questions you used to ask the Brokers when you went in for those interviews you mentioned, I am curious as to what they were, and how you found their responses?

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I've been a Realtor for 12 years. This is the most detailed and accurate description of what it's really like to be a Realtor than anything else I've read on the web. Anyone thinking of being a Realtor needs to read this first. Nice job!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Very good article for beginners and on point. I can relate to everything you wrote about.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Very informative. Thank you!

    • carrie Lee Night profile image

      Carrie Lee Night 

      8 years ago from Northeast United States

      I always wanted to explore the avenue of real estate when I was younger, but when I got older I learned how hard it is to be an agent, its like being a doctor on call all the time. Some agents don't have the time to do anything and they are only making small hourly rates when you break down how much time you spend with a client and get a commission of $2500.00 for 3 months work. Thank you for this direct approach to the real estate world, some people out there need to hear it before they quit their jobs.

    • AllisonSchnur profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Orlando

      Thank you! I'm really enjoying the community feel and being around so many positive attitudes! :) Thank you so much for the rating and fan mail.

    • Ingenira profile image


      9 years ago

      I have known many engineers who actually switched their job to become a real estate agent... which they found much more interesting and comes with good income. Is it really that attractive? I wondered. Perhaps it is a great job to be your own boss.

      Great article !

      Voted up.

      BTW, A warm welcome to hubpages, hope you like it here. :)


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