Millions of people think about pursuing a career in real estate, helping people buy and sell houses while earning money on commission (or sometimes, with an attractive salary). But they’re either too intimidated or too conflicted to take the first steps. The reality is, real estate can be a valuable and rewarding career, but it isn’t for everybody. There are pros and cons to this line of work, and it’s important to acknowledge them all before finalizing your decision.
Let’s start with some of the most impressive perks of a career in real estate:
- Straightforward training and education. To become a real estate agent, you’ll need to take a series of classes and pass a standardized test. While the exact requirements vary by state, for the most part, this is a straightforward process. You can take all the classes you need online, in your spare time, and without spending much money. This makes real estate a much more attractive field than, say, becoming a doctor.
- Career options.Real estate careers can take many different forms, and you can change direction whenever you choose. For example, you could work for a formal real estate agency, or you could start an agency of your own. You could work independently, taking on and closing deals in your spare time. You could even become a real estate agent for your own purposes, like if you want to flip houses or become a landlord.
- Potentially lucrative income.Real estate agents have the potential to make a very good living. Earnings vary by state and neighborhood, but with enough experience, you can easily make six figures. In New York, the average annual wage for a real estate agent is $102,310 as of 2017. Of course, to earn this much, you must be in a popular area, you must have a strong reputation, and you have to close some high-profile deals on a regular basis.
- Working in real estate affords you some degree of flexibility. You’ll need to research properties, talk to clients, run open houses, and host tours, but you aren’t going to be stuck in an office 9 to 5, 5 days a week. Much of the work of a real estate agent can be done on your own time, when it’s convenient for you. Many agents also work part-time only.
- Human interaction.As a real estate agent, much of your job is going to focus on people. You’ll be meeting new people regularly, getting to learn their wants and needs, and helping them find the home of their dreams (or helping them close a sale as quickly as possible). If you like talking to people and helping people, this is extremely rewarding.
However, there are some downsides that prevent this from being a perfect career:
- Hot and cold periods. Housing markets frequently change, thanks to sharp fluctuations in supply and demand. Even if they didn’t, you might have periods of time when you’re on a “hot” or “cold” streak, closing lots of deals or barely scraping by. For some people, the changes are a nice change of pace. For others, this is a nightmare. It’s difficult to plan a budget around an inconsistent income, and even the best real estate agents struggle to make accurate predictions about the future of the market.
- Self-reliance. Even if you work for a real estate agency, much of your earnings are going to be based on commissions. Accordingly, real estate is a fairly self-reliant career. There are people who can mentor you and coach you, but at the end of the day, you’re the one responsible for finding new clients and closing deals. For some people, this is an exciting challenge. For others, it’s distressing—especially in the early stages of their career development.
- Demanding clients.While there is some flexibility in when and how you work, you also need to cater to your clients whenever possible. That often means working nights and weekends, when your clients are available. It also means responding to their calls and messages, even if it’s not especially convenient. Certain demanding clients can make this very difficult.
- Real estate is also a highly competitive field. There are likely already several agents working in your neighborhood of choice, and more will emerge in time. It can be challenging to find a foothold as a newcomer.
Are the high earning potential and flexible career options enough to make up for the volatility and demanding hours? Is the quick route to formal registration enough to make up for the competitive nature of the job? Only you can answer these questions and decide whether real estate sales are in your future.