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What Are Real Estate Agent Career Paths?

Even though you’re new to real estate, it’s never too early to think about the next steps of your real estate career. As an agent, you have so many options for your future, including venturing into niche or commercial markets, earning professional designations, entering into branch management, or obtaining your broker’s license. In this article, we’ve put together a preview of some of the options so that you can begin to think about where your real estate career path is headed from here.

Work for a big or small-time broker is a tried and true real estate career path

Most real estate agents go this route, so if that is your choice, you aren’t alone—and you are making a wise decision as you launch your career. Working with a broker also provides you with the chance to learn the ins-and-outs of the real estate industry first-hand without having to take on the responsibilities of running your own business.

In fact, many agents—even those who obtain their broker’s certification—remain with a firm their entire careers because the situation works for them.

Focus on residential-only real estate for your real estate career path

As a new agent, chances are you’re starting out in the residential sector serving and representing buyers—and you may find that’s where you want to stay. Some agents, associate brokers, and qualifying brokers find serving buyers and sellers so fulfilling that they never branch out into other areas.

Focusing on residential properties offers you a great deal of variety because you work with a range of clients on a variety of properties. Plus, even in rough markets, people need to buy and sell homes. In most cases, you’ll experience more steady compensation than other real estate markets, so it’s easier to manage your finances.

The biggest drawback to focusing exclusively on residential real estate is that you have to complete more transactions and work with more clients to yield the same profit of a single commercial sale or investment. Also, you may eventually find that the steadiness and redundancy of the job is boring and unchallenging.

If you do choose to become a residential-only agent, consider earning a special designation from your professional real estate organization to set yourself apart from other licensees. For example, the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) offers the Certified Residential Specialist (CRS) distinction. Although it requires additional time and training, research has shown that CRS professionals—and those with comparable designations—have a higher earning potential than their competitors.

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Specialize in a niche real estate market

If you serve a niche real estate market, the majority of your business comes from clients who buy properties within that niche. So as you learn your local market and discover that your area is known for a particular type of property, you may find that you want to focus your efforts on those properties. For example, beach or lake homes, farms and ranches, city lofts, cabins, or affordable housing.

The key to selling niche properties is that you often have to take baby steps, also selling other properties to make a living, while you build your reputation as the go-to agent in that market.

Break into commercial real estate sales

In this case, you are focusing on real estate used for business purposes, including office buildings, strip malls, hotels, parking, theaters, sports arenas, and so on. Commercial sales are appealing because profits tend to be high. One sale could yield as much commission for you as five or more residential sales.

That said, the risk is also higher, so you should definitely take some specialized training in this area before you venture into the market.

Another Lucrative Realtor Career Path is to Start Your Own Brokerage

Going into business for yourself certainly comes with its own rewards. Having independence and control over your own business is highly appealing, and you stand to make a great deal of money.

However, the risks are high, and statistics show that many new businesses fail because owners don’t fully understand the work that is involved. It’s critical that you dedicate time to developing the leadership, management, public relations, and general business skills you need to be a competent broker. Not all agents—even the top earners—are cut out for this type of real estate career path.

You’ll also need to invest in additional certification and training and understand the various regulations involved with becoming a broker. To run your own real estate business, you first must obtain your broker’s license. States differ on the number of education hours, subject matter, and other qualifications, so contact your real estate commission for the exact prerequisites. Finally, before you make the move, it’s always a good idea to consult with:

  • An attorney who is knowledgeable about real estate laws, regulations, and policies
  • An accountant and loan officer about the financial investment involved
  • And a successful broker who you trust and admire about his or her own experience

Ultimately, if you decide to go into business for yourself, this opens up several real estate career path options. Choices include purchasing an established brokerage, launching your own company from the ground up, opening a brokerage with partners and investors, or running a small one-person shop out of your home.

However, even if you decide not to move forward with your own brokerage, obtaining your broker’s license is a smart move because it increases your overall understanding of the industry. It can even land you a promotion—to associate broker or branch manager—within your current firm.

As you continue along your chosen real estate career path, don’t forget to keep your goals for the future in mind. Invest time and money in certifications, licenses, and designations that can set you apart from the pack now—and help you achieve your real estate career goals later.