Real Estate Brokers and Sales Agents

Summary

real estate brokers and sales agents image
Real estate brokers and sales agents help clients buy or sell real estate.
Quick Facts: Real Estate Brokers and Sales Agents
2015 Median Pay $45,610 per year
$21.93 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education High school diploma or equivalent
Work Experience in a Related Occupation See How to Become One
On-the-job Training See How to Become One
Number of Jobs, 2014 421,300
Job Outlook, 2014-24 3% (Slower than average)
Employment Change, 2014-24 10,900

What Real Estate Brokers and Sales Agents Do

Real estate brokers and sales agents help clients buy, sell, and rent properties. Although brokers and agents do similar work, brokers are licensed to manage their own real estate businesses. Sales agents must work with a real estate broker.

Work Environment

Most real estate brokers and sales agents are self-employed. Although they often work irregular hours, many are able to set their own schedules.

How to Become a Real Estate Broker or Sales Agent

Every state requires real estate brokers and agents to be licensed. Requirements vary by state, but all states require candidates to be at least 18 or 19 years old, have a high school diploma, complete a number of hours of real estate courses, and pass a licensing exam.

Pay

The median annual wage for real estate brokers and sales agents was $45,610 in May 2015.

Job Outlook

Employment of real estate brokers and sales agents is projected to grow 3 percent from 2014 to 2024, slower than the average for all occupations. Employment generally follows the overall health of the economy and the real estate market.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for real estate brokers and sales agents.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of real estate brokers and sales agents with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about real estate brokers and sales agents by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Real Estate Brokers and Sales Agents Do About this section

Real estate brokers and sales agents
Real estate brokers and sales agents help clients find a home that meets their needs.

Real estate brokers and sales agents help clients buy, sell, and rent properties. Although brokers and agents do similar work, brokers are licensed to manage their own real estate businesses. Sales agents must work with a real estate broker.

Duties

Real estate brokers and sales agents typically do the following:

  • Solicit potential clients to buy, sell, and rent properties
  • Advise clients on prices, mortgages, market conditions, and related information
  • Compare properties to determine a competitive market price
  • Generate lists of properties for sale, including details such as location and features
  • Promote properties through advertisements, open houses, and listing services
  • Take prospective buyers or renters to see properties
  • Present purchase offers to sellers for consideration
  • Mediate negotiations between buyer and seller
  • Ensure that all terms of purchase contracts are met
  • Prepare documents, such as loyalty contracts, purchase agreements, and deeds

Because of the complexity of buying or selling a home or commercial property, people often seek help from real estate brokers and sales agents.

Most real estate brokers and sales agents sell residential property. Others sell commercial property, and a small number sell industrial, agricultural, or other types of real estate.

Brokers and agents can represent either the buyer or the seller in a transaction. Buyers’ brokers and agents meet with clients to understand what they are looking for in a property and how much they can afford. Sellers’ brokers and agents meet with clients to help them decide how much to ask for and to convince them that the agent or broker can find them a qualified buyer.

Real estate brokers and sales agents must be knowledgeable about the real estate market in their area. To match properties to clients’ needs, they should be familiar with local communities, including knowing the crime information and the proximity to schools and shopping. Brokers and agents also must stay current on financing options; government programs; types of available mortgages; and real estate, zoning, and fair housing laws. 

Real estate brokers are licensed to manage their own businesses. As independent businesspeople, brokers often sell real estate owned by others. In addition to helping clients buy and sell properties, they may help rent or manage properties for a fee. Many operate a real estate office, handling business details and overseeing the work of sales agents.

Real estate sales agents must work with a broker. Sales agents often work for brokers on a contract basis, earning a portion of the commission from each property they sell.

Work Environment About this section

Real estate brokers and sales agents
Real estate brokers and sales agents show properties to prospective buyers.

Real estate brokers and sales agents held about 421,300 jobs in 2014. About half of all brokers and sales agents were self-employed in 2014. Most of the rest worked in the real estate industry in brokerage offices, leasing offices, and other real estate establishments.

Workplace size can range from a one-person business to a large firm with numerous branch offices. Many brokers have franchise agreements with national or regional real estate companies. Under this arrangement, the broker pays a fee to be affiliated with a widely known real estate organization. 

Although some real estate brokers and sales agents work in a typical office environment, others are able to telecommute and work out of their homes. In both cases, however, real estate workers spend much of their time away from their desks, showing properties to customers, traveling to see properties for sale, and meeting with prospective clients.

Work Schedules

Many real estate brokers and sales agents work more than 40 hours per week. They often work evenings and weekends to accommodate clients’ schedules. Many brokers and sales agents spend a significant amount of time networking and attending community events to meet potential clients. Although they frequently work irregular hours, many can set their own schedules. 

Some brokers and sales agents work part time and may combine their real estate activities with other careers.

How to Become a Real Estate Broker or Sales Agent About this section

Real estate brokers and sales agents
Real estate brokers and sales agents often find new clients through referrals.

Real estate brokers and sales agents need at least a high school diploma. Both brokers and sales agents must be licensed. To become licensed, candidates typically must complete a number of real estate courses and pass a licensing exam. 

Education

Real estate brokers and sales agents must have at least a high school diploma or equivalent. Although most brokers and agents must take state-accredited prelicensing courses to become licensed, some states may waive this requirement if the candidate has taken college courses in real estate. 

As the real estate market becomes more competitive and complex, some employers are preferring to hire candidates with college courses or a college degree. Some community colleges, colleges, and universities offer courses in real estate. Some offer associate’s and bachelor’s degree programs in real estate, and many others offer certificate programs. Courses in finance, business administration, economics, and law also can be useful.

Brokers intending to open their own company often take business courses, such as marketing and accounting. 

In addition to offering prelicensing courses, many real estate associations have courses and professional development programs for both beginners and experienced agents. These courses cover a variety of topics, such as real estate fundamentals, real estate law, and mortgage financing.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

In all states and the District of Columbia, real estate brokers and sales agents must be licensed. Licensing requirements vary by state, but most have similar basic requirements:

Candidates must:

  • be 18 years old
  • complete a number of real estate courses
  • pass an exam

Some states have additional requirements, such as passing a background check. Licenses typically are not transferable among states. However, some states have reciprocity agreements and will accept licenses issued by some other states. 

To obtain a broker’s license, individuals generally need 1 to 3 years of experience as a licensed sales agent. They also must take additional formal training courses. In some states, a bachelor’s degree may be substituted in place of some experience or training requirements. 

State licenses typically must be renewed every 2 to 4 years. In most states, brokers and agents must complete continuing education courses to renew their license. To verify exact licensing requirements, prospective brokers and agents should contact the real estate licensing commission of the state in which they wish to work.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

To get a broker’s license in most states, real estate brokers must have experience working as a licensed real estate sales agent. Requirements vary by state, but most require 1 to 3 years of experience. 

Training

Real estate sales agents improve their skills through practice and repetition. Because of the sales environment and the complexity of real estate deals, new agents typically observe and work closely with more senior agents. In addition, some of the larger real estate companies provide formal classroom training for new agents as a way to gain knowledge and experience, while others provide training to employees studying for their real estate licensing exam.

Advancement

Sales agents who earn their broker’s license may open their own offices. 

Important Qualities

Business skills. Because most brokers are self-employed, they must manage every aspect of their business. This task includes reaching out to prospective clients, handling their finances, and advertising their services.

Interpersonal skills. Strong interpersonal skills are essential for real estate brokers and sales agents, because they spend much of their time interacting with clients and customers. To attract and keep clients, they must be pleasant, enthusiastic, and trustworthy. 

Organizational skills. Real estate brokers and sales agents must be able to work independently, managing their own time and organizing, planning, and prioritizing their work.

Problem-solving skills. Real estate brokers and sales agents need to be able to quickly (sometimes immediately) address concerns clients or potential customers may have with a property. They also mediate negotiations between seller and buyer.

Pay About this section

Real Estate Brokers and Sales Agents

Median annual wages, May 2015

Real estate brokers

$56,860

Real estate brokers and sales agents

$45,610

Real estate sales agents

$43,370

Total, all occupations

$36,200

Sales and related occupations

$25,660

 

The median annual wage for real estate brokers was $56,860 in May 2015. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $23,400, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $166,940.

The median annual wage for real estate sales agents was $43,370 in May 2015. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $21,780, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $110,560.

Brokers and sales agents earn most of their income from commissions on sales. The commission varies by the type of property and its value. Commissions often are divided among the buying agent, selling agent, brokers, and firms. 

An agent’s income, therefore, often depends on economic conditions, the agent’s individual motivation, and the types of property available. Income usually increases as agents become better and more experienced at sales. Earnings can be irregular, especially for beginners, and agents sometimes go weeks or months without a sale. Some agents become active in community organizations and local real estate organizations to broaden their contacts and increase their sales. 

Many real estate brokers and sales agents work more than 40 hours per week. They often work evenings and weekends to accommodate clients’ schedules. Many brokers and sales agents spend a significant amount of time networking and attending community events to meet potential clients. Although they frequently work irregular hours, many can set their own schedules. 

Some brokers and sales agents work part time and may combine their real estate activities with other careers.

Job Outlook About this section

Real Estate Brokers and Sales Agents

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Total, all occupations

7%

Sales and related occupations

5%

Real estate sales agents

3%

Real estate brokers and sales agents

3%

Real estate brokers

2%

 

Employment of real estate brokers and sales agents is projected to grow 3 percent from 2014 to 2024, slower than the average for all occupations.

Because people are increasingly using real estate brokers and sales agents when purchasing homes, employment is projected to grow as the real estate market improves.

Both financial and nonfinancial factors spur demand for home sales. Real estate is perceived as a good long-term investment, and many people want to own their homes.

Population growth also will continue to stimulate the need for new brokers and agents. The large millennial generation will be entering the prime working-age and household-forming age cohort over the next decade. Although this generation has delayed home ownership because of financial and debt considerations, it is projected that many will enter the housing market over the next 10 years.

In addition to being first-time home buyers, people will need brokers and agents when looking for a larger home, relocating for a new job, and other reasons.

An improving job market and rising consumer spending also will drive demand for brokers and agents to handle commercial, retail, and industrial real estate transactions.

However, the real estate market is sensitive to fluctuations in the economy, and employment of real estate brokers and agents will vary accordingly. In periods of economic growth or stability, employment should grow to accommodate people looking to buy homes and businesses looking to expand office or retail space. Alternatively, during periods of declining economic activity or rising interest rates, the amount of work for brokers and agents will slow and employment may decline.

Job Prospects

It is relatively easy to enter the occupation, but getting listings as a broker or an agent depends on the real estate market and overall economic conditions. As the economy expands and more people look to buy homes, job competition may increase as more people obtain their real estate license. In contrast, although the real estate market declines in an economic downturn, there also tend to be fewer active and licensed real estate agents.

New agents will face competition from well-established, more experienced brokers and agents. Because income is dependent on sales, beginners may have trouble sustaining themselves in the occupation during periods of slower activity.

Brokers should fare better because they generally have a large client base from years of experience as sales agents. Those with strong sales ability and extensive social and business connections in their communities should have the best chances for success.

Employment projections data for real estate brokers and sales agents, 2014-24
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Real estate brokers and sales agents

41-9020 421,300 432,100 3 10,900 [XLSX]

Real estate brokers

41-9021 83,900 85,400 2 1,500 [XLSX]

Real estate sales agents

41-9022 337,400 346,800 3 9,400 [XLSX]

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of real estate brokers and sales agents.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2015 MEDIAN PAY Help
Advertising sales agents

Advertising Sales Agents

Advertising sales agents sell advertising space to businesses and individuals. They contact potential clients, make sales presentations, and maintain client accounts.

High school diploma or equivalent $48,490
Appraisers and assessors of real estate

Appraisers and Assessors of Real Estate

Appraisers and assessors of real estate provide an estimate of the value of land and the buildings on the land usually before it is sold, mortgaged, taxed, insured, or developed.

Bachelor's degree $51,860
Insurance sales agents

Insurance Sales Agents

Insurance sales agents contact potential customers and sell one or more types of insurance. Insurance sales agents explain various insurance policies and help clients choose plans that suit them.

High school diploma or equivalent $48,200
Loan officers

Loan Officers

Loan officers evaluate, authorize, or recommend approval of loan applications for people and businesses.

Bachelor's degree $63,430
Property and community association managers

Property, Real Estate, and Community Association Managers

Property, real estate, and community association managers take care of the many aspects of residential, commercial, or industrial properties. They make sure the property is well maintained, has a nice appearance, and preserves its resale or leasing value.

High school diploma or equivalent $55,380
Sales engineers

Sales Engineers

Sales engineers sell complex scientific and technological products or services to businesses. They must have extensive knowledge of the products’ parts and functions and must understand the scientific processes that make these products work.

Bachelor's degree $97,650
Securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents

Securities, Commodities, and Financial Services Sales Agents

Securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents connect buyers and sellers in financial markets. They sell securities to individuals, advise companies in search of investors, and conduct trades.

Bachelor's degree $71,550
Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives

Wholesale and Manufacturing Sales Representatives

Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives sell goods for wholesalers or manufacturers to businesses, government agencies, and other organizations. They contact customers, explain product features, answer any questions that their customers may have, and negotiate prices.

See How to Become One $59,080
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Real Estate Brokers and Sales Agents,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/sales/real-estate-brokers-and-sales-agents.htm (visited September 27, 2016).

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015

What They Do

The What They Do tab describes the typical duties and responsibilities of workers in the occupation, including what tools and equipment they use and how closely they are supervised. This tab also covers different types of occupational specialties.

Work Environment

The Work Environment tab includes the number of jobs held in the occupation and describes the workplace, the level of physical activity expected, and typical hours worked. It may also discuss the major industries that employed the occupation. This tab may also describe opportunities for part-time work, the amount and type of travel required, any safety equipment that is used, and the risk of injury that workers may face.

How to Become One

The How to Become One tab describes how to prepare for a job in the occupation. This tab can include information on education, training, work experience, licensing and certification, and important qualities that are required or helpful for entering or working in the occupation.

Pay

The Pay tab describes typical earnings and how workers in the occupation are compensated—annual salaries, hourly wages, commissions, tips, or bonuses. Within every occupation, earnings vary by experience, responsibility, performance, tenure, and geographic area. This tab may also provide information on earnings in the major industries employing the occupation.

State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's Career InfoNet.

Job Outlook

The Job Outlook tab describes the factors that affect employment growth or decline in the occupation, and in some instances, describes the relationship between the number of job seekers and the number of job openings.

Similar Occupations

The Similar Occupations tab describes occupations that share similar duties, skills, interests, education, or training with the occupation covered in the profile.

Contacts for More Information

The More Information tab provides the Internet addresses of associations, government agencies, unions, and other organizations that can provide additional information on the occupation. This tab also includes links to relevant occupational information from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

2015 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2015, the median annual wage for all workers was $36,200.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2014

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2014, which is the base year of the 2014-24 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2014-24

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024. The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.

Employment Change, 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

2015 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2015, the median annual wage for all workers was $36,200.