Learn About Being a Realtor

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated May 18, 2022 | Published January 27, 2020

Updated May 18, 2022

Published January 27, 2020

Related: Career Paths: 3 Engaging Non-Desk Jobs

Hear a brewer, welder and a real estate agent describe their daily work and the skills it takes to be great at their job.

What does a realtor do?

A Realtor is a real estate professional who is hired to help and offer guidance to clients as they buy, sell or rent a residential or commercial property. Though similar to a real estate agent, a Realtor is a member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and is expected to adhere to its ethics code. 

A Realtor locates real estate properties that meet the requested specifications of a client, arranges for them to see the property and walks with them through the property. They put together contracts, answer questions for the client and facilitate communication between all parties involved. Their specific responsibilities can vary depending on whether they represent the seller or the buyer during the process of selling a home. Some of the duties can include:

  • Networking and prospecting to locate clients and sell them on the benefits of working with them at their agency

  • Traveling with clients to show them the features of each home and compare different properties based on their needs

  • Guiding clients through the process of preparing a home for sale, including bringing in extra furniture and decor to stage the home for prospective buyers

  • Negotiating the contract to obtain the best possible purchase price for a home

  • Hosting open houses for clients who are motivated to sell quickly

  • Looking for comparable sales, or comps, to identify the best price a home should be listed at or what offer should be made on a home

Average salary

Salaries vary according to the geographic location and experience levels of the Realtor. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the salary link.

  • Common salary in the U.S.: $79,263 per year

  • Some salaries range from $15,000 to $233,000 per year.

Realtor requirements

There are several qualifications necessary to obtain a position as a Realtor. They include:

Education

Aspiring Realtors are generally required to have a high school diploma or GED. They must also complete real estate education courses and meet a minimum number of instruction hours. In the real estate courses, aspiring Realtors study topics like time management, the listing and selling process, escrow procedure, closing the sale, taxes and financing. They also learn about the business of real estate, how to price and list homes for sale, contract clauses, real estate laws and disclosure guidelines and procedures.

Training

Much of the training for Realtors happens on the job, through formal education or work experience in a related job. Some real estate agencies provide formal training for agents to help them learn their processes and systems. Other agencies may allow Realtors to enter the field immediately after obtaining the required licensure. New agents often work alongside more senior agents early on in their careers to better understand the sales environment and complexity of the industry. 

Certifications

Candidates are expected to pass a state licensing exam to be a Realtor, with requirements differing from state to state. While licenses are generally not transferrable from one state to another, some states will accept some of the requirements to get a license in another state. Some states require that Realtor candidates pass a background check. The primary requirements for qualifying for a real estate license to become a Realtor are:

  • Being 18 years of age

  • Completing real estate courses

  • Passing an exam

To be a Realtor⁠ — as opposed to a real estate agent⁠ — the agent must be a member of the NAR.

There are several other certifications that Realtors can pursue after they obtain their real estate license and have been working in the role. They include:

Seller Representative Specialist (SRS)

Offered by the Real Estate Business Institute (REBI), this certificate demonstrates a Realtor is highly specialized in representing the seller and has a unique set of skills for protecting their interests. To qualify, the Realtor must be a member of NAR, document that they have represented the seller in three completed sales transactions and have completed the application. This designation gives them access to member-only resources and services. 

Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR)

This designation is available to NAR members who have taken the ABR designation course, completed one of the elective courses and provided documentation where they were the sole buyer representative in five completed sales transactions. The designation gives them access to membership events and continuing education opportunities.

Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM)

This designation verifies to clients that you are an expert in identifying commercial real estate investments. To qualify, you must complete a four-course curriculum on commercial real estate as well as elective courses from the Ward Center for Real Estate Studies. Candidates must also meet minimum sales volume requirements for commercial real estate and pass a full-day exam. The cost for CCMI members is $7,885 and $9,474 for non-members.

Certified Residential Specialist (CRS)

This certification verifies that you are an expert in residential property sales. To qualify, you must first join the Residential Real Estate Council (RRC). You must also complete the required coursework, including 30 or 60 hours of RRC courses. Candidates will choose between two different programs depending on their experience levels or the total average value of their annual sales.

Skills

There are several skills that a Realtor must have to succeed in their role. They include:

Interpersonal skills

This refers to the strong communication and “people skills” that Realtors need to work with clients and other members of their team. Realtors must be trustworthy, pleasant and enthusiastic. They must be empathetic to better understand their client’s needs and frustrations throughout the process. They must be able to communicate clearly and practice active listening when working with their clients.

Attention to detail

Part of the role of a Realtor is drawing up complex contracts. A Realtor must have strong attention to detail to avoid overlooking details that could result in costly mistakes for clients.

Organizational skills

Realtors are often working with multiple clients at one time. To do this successfully, they must be able to manage their time well, stay organized and prioritize their work to complete the most essential tasks promptly and close transactions on time.

Problem-solving

Realtors must be able to gather and analyze information rapidly to address concerns that clients or potential clients may have. They also need strong problem-solving skills to negotiate deals between buyers and sellers.

Business skills

Realtors often are self-employed or work independently. To do this successfully, they must be able to confidently manage every area of their business, from finances to client relationship management to marketing.

Realtor work environment

Realtors work full or part time both in and out of offices. While they spend much of their time in an office — creating comps, writing contracts and reviewing listings that meet the needs of their clients — they also spend a substantial amount of time in the field showing houses or staging homes to sell. Realtors often work more than 40 hours per week and frequently work evenings and weekends to accommodate the needs of their clients. They may have to spend a significant amount of time at networking events to locate new clients. They generally work for individual real estate and leasing offices or are self-employed.

Some common characteristics of their work environment include:

  • Sitting for extended periods of time at a desk or in a car

  • Using computers, printers, scanners and other office equipment

  • Facilitating communication between the parties involved in the purchase of a home

  • Working evenings and weekends

How to become a realtor

These are the steps typically required to pursue a position as a realtor:

1. Complete real estate courses.

While candidates generally are only required to have a high school diploma or GED, you will need to complete real estate courses to understand the complexities of the real estate industry and qualify for a license. Complete the required courses. If you are still in high school, classes in communication and math can help give you the skills to succeed in the role.

2. Obtain a license.

Every real estate professional must have a state-issued license to assist with real estate transactions. While the requirements vary between states, you typically must be 18 years old, complete the real estate coursework and pass a state licensing exam. 

3. Acquire experience.

Some real estate agencies require new agents to complete training while others allow agents to start working in the field right away. Consider working under or alongside a more senior agent to further develop your sales skills and better understand the complexities of real estate transactions.

4. Join the NAR.

To have the designation of Realtor, you are required to be a member of the National Association of Realtors. Join a local NAR association in your local area.

Realtor job description example

White Sands Realty is seeking a full-time realtor to join its dynamic team. The successful candidate will be responsible for following up on all incoming leads, consulting with clients to identify what they’re looking for in a property and locating the best properties to meet those needs. They will be expected to stay on top of market conditions and trends, show homes, write and negotiate offers and offer the buyer or seller counsel on pending offers. The ideal candidate will have excellent written and verbal communication skills, enjoy working with people and have a track record of success in a previous real estate role. Outstanding customer service skills are a must. A Florida real estate sales license is required.

Related careers

  • Real estate broker

  • Purchasing agent

  • Leasing agent

  • Director of sales


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