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If you would like to help people make one of the most significant decisions of their lives, a career as a real estate agent might be right for you. Buying a house is a big investment and a complex transaction. Most buyers use a real estate agent to guide them through the process. The real estate agent helps homebuyers with this decision by finding and showing properties, arranging financing, and closing the sale.

A real estate agent is an independent worker who contracts with a licensed real estate broker. The broker, who may own a real estate firm, supervises the agents and pays them a portion of the commission from the sale of the property.

Real estate has many specialties. In addition to selling houses, real estate agents sell apartments, office buildings, commercial buildings, industrial buildings, and farmland.

Successful real estate agents work well with people. The agent has to know what the client needs and wants in a space. The agent's goal is not just to sell a house (or an office space or apartment) but to sell a house that will make the buyer happy. The agent also helps buyers make decisions by offering expert advice. This might range from whether a wall can be removed to make a room larger to whether or not to include the existing appliances in the deal.

The agent needs negotiating skills to work out a final price between the buyer and the seller. A real estate agent has to be detail-oriented. Because a real estate sale is a legal transaction, the agent must make sure that the title to the property is clear (has no existing ownership claims on it), the financing is approved, and that the many legal papers are ready at the time of closing.

A job in real estate is not a nine-to-five job. People who are looking for houses are generally at work during the day, so a real estate agent must be available in the evenings and on weekends to show houses. Independent contractors do not get paid vacations or holidays. Some weekends are spent hosting open houses, where prospective buyers can view the property without making an appointment.

In addition to showing houses to buyers, real estate agents must get listings—that is, they must find owners who will let the agent list the property for sale. The listing agent gets a portion of the selling price if another agent actually sells the house. Agents get listings through mailings, going door to door in a neighborhood, holding open houses, and by referrals from satisfied clients. One popular method of getting listings is to send cards with the agent's photo and listings of sports schedules, civic phone numbers, or obscure holidays. The agent hopes that when a person decides to sell a house, he or she will remember that particular agent.


Most real estate agents earn about $27,000 per year through commissions, although there is no limit to what a good agent can make. Brokers make about $47,000 per year. The commissions are usually divided among the listing agent and broker, and the selling agent and broker. An agent can expect to receive about half of what the firm gets. An agent who both lists the property and sells it makes the most money.

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