Job Title: Real Estate Agent
Type of Company: I work for a small "boutique" real estate office. Being small and focused, allows the agents to specialize in one-on-one interaction with buyers and sellers and allows a more personal approach to selling real estate.
Education: BA, Teaching and English, Monmouth College (Monmouth, IL)
Previous Experience: I was in advertising for two years right out of college. Then a move to the North East....and marriage....led to substitute teaching for a year.
Job Tasks: There are two main duties of a real estate agent. You can list houses for sale or you can work with the buyers to find the right home for them. An agent can do both....and most Agents do just that. Both jobs are very rewarding.
When you list a house for sale, you have a responsibility to the seller to present their home in the best possible light and to meet all legal disclosure requirements about the property. So it's your job to know (or to find out) everything you can about the house. This includes measuring rooms, understanding its infrastructure (heating systems, electrical, sewer systems, etc.), researching deeds to verify lot lines and legal ownership, understanding how its affected by local zoning laws, and lots more! Once you've done that, you need to become a marketing "guru" and decide how to best advertise the home. Logical places to list it include the local Multiple Listing service, newspapers, magazines and sales brochures, but it's important to know too where and how to use the Internet to "get the word" out. Next, you get to show the house to potential buyers and pass along your knowledge about the property.
Once you've found the right Buyer, you have to understand contracts, to negotiate any offers to buy the house, and then to stay involved until the house actually goes to closing. This requires interaction with appraisers, banks, lawyers, title companies, etc. But it's a great feeling to have made the seller of that house happy to have a nice buyer enjoying their beautiful home!
The other end of the spectrum is to work with the buyers to find them their dream home. The issues are very similar....in that you must spend a lot of time with the buyer to discover what they really want in a new home. You must work with their banker to find out what they can afford and you must have a strong knowledge of local real estate so you can, hopefully, find them the perfect home. Once they have found that, then you have to run the gauntlet again, through legal contracts, negotiating offers and dealing with appraisers, bankers, lawyers, etc.
In either case, you must be an educated and dedicated Agent with a sincere interest in people. This is NOT, as many people think, a part-time job. It is a full-time plus job, with your clients often calling you at home to discuss their issues. It takes patience and commitment to do this job well. But the rewards can be great.
Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The absolute best part of being a real estate agent is to see people truly happy with one of the most important decisions of their lives. The older couple who are down-sizing to a condominium are thrilled to see a young family buy their home....someone who will raise their children there just as they did. Or the young married couple buying their first home and being just so excited to start their life together!
There are 2 worst parts. First, it is very hard to organize your life because your schedule is so sporadic. You end up working lots of weekends and lots of evenings -- whenever the buyers are available to look at houses. The other down side is that you are not salaried. So you can go long periods of time with no income. My advice to anyone trying to enter this business is to have a financial cushion of about 6 months and then, when you do have a sale, put some of the commission money into a savings account to tide you over until the next sale. The flip side to the financial uncertainties is that with a lot of work and perseverance, you can become very financially successful in this field.
Job Tips: I would say that most successful real estate Agents have some level of higher education under their belts. Although the job doesn't require specific "book learning," it does require intuitive thinking and problem solving. There are, of course, RE course that you have to take to become licensed and continuing education courses to remain actively licensed with your state. It might make sense for someone to become a real estate assistant to a licensed agent, just to see what the job is all about. You would not need to be licensed but would need to be computer-literate and flexible. You could learn a lot by shadowing an agent. I would also recommend becoming very active in your community. The more you know about your target area and the more contacts you can make, the better chance you have of finding clients and being able to help them with their real estate needs.
Additional Thoughts: Most people think that the best part of being a real estate agent is the opportunity to see all of the beautiful homes that are for sale. I won't kid you, that is the really fun part of the job. But if that's someone's sole reason for going into this business they will be sorely disappointed. You must be a real, true "people person" with a talent for bringing people together. As I've said, lots of people think this career is a chance to work part-time and see pretty houses. That's a joke! To be successful you must be committed to long hours, interrupted dinners, changed plans and last-minute disruptions of your life. But somehow....it all get's forgotten when everybody's smiling at the closing table and you know you've done a great job for all parties involved.
It's a stressful job that sometimes involves a little marriage counseling on the side, and it's a job that requires becoming educated on all sorts of legal and technical issues. But most of all, it's a career that you can commit a lifetime to, and each day brings you something new and interesting to deal with! I wholeheartedly recommend a career in real estate. You might sometimes be broke, but you'll never be bored!
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