How To Become a Referral Agent

Updated June 3, 2022

A real estate referral agent sells property like a real estate agent but does not work directly with clients. It is an ideal job for individuals who want to work in real estate without listing properties or negotiating sales. Referral agents do still require a license and good interpersonal and sales skills. In this article, we explain how to become a referral agent and their job duties, salary, and outlook.

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What is a referral agent?

A referral agent, also known as a real estate referral agent, is a licensed real estate professional who finds people looking for homes and refers them to other agents to complete the home buying process. The referral agent earns a fee if the person buys a home through that real estate agent. People work with referral agents because these professionals can connect them with the best real estate agents for their needs. Real estate agents work with and give a percentage of their commission to referral agents to get new clients.

What does a referral agent do?

A referral agent markets their services to find homebuyers looking for real estate agents. They then pair that homebuyer with the right real estate agent. If that agent sells the client a house, the referral agent receives a referral fee for their service. Their typical job duties include:

  • Finding potential homebuyers or leads

  • Marketing themselves online and in person

  • Meeting with homebuyers to determine their needs

  • Referring homebuyers to the right real estate agent

  • Networking with industry professionals

  • Researching real estate agents, the current real estate market and types of properties

  • Following up with real estate agents and clients

Referral agents typically work for a real estate brokerage. They might serve clients in many markets, looking for various types of properties. Some referral agents are semi-retired or work part-time and combine their real estate duties with another career. Others work full-time, including some evenings and weekends, to find and refer as many clients as possible.

Related: Learn About Being a Real Estate Agent


The average base pay for a referral agent is $48,930 per year. This amount varies depending on the region and type of real estate the agent is involved with. Because they work off fees and commissions, referral agents earn more money for each client they connect with a real estate agent that results in a sale. Also, some real estate agents pay referral agents larger fees than others. The more expensive the property a client buys, the larger commission the referral agent might receive.

A referral agent's income fluctuates depending on the number of successful referrals they make. Referral agents with more years of experience and larger networks of clients and real estate agents typically earn more than those just starting their careers.

Related: Finder's Fees vs. Referral Fees: What's the Difference?

Job outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for referral agents are expected to grow 2% between 2019 and 2029. Employment and demand for their services depends on the strength of the real estate market. Demand for referral agents typically grows during times of economic stability and growth, when more people are buying properties.

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How to become a referral agent

A referral agent typically does not require a formal education such as a bachelor's degree. They do, however, need a real estate license and strong sales and interpersonal skills to work in the industry and be successful. Follow these steps to become a referral agent:

1. Earn a real estate license

The first step to legally refer clients to real estate agents is to get your real estate license. While the licensing process varies between states, it usually includes:

  • Taking pre-licensing classes online or in-person to learn the information you need to pass the licensing exam

  • Passing your state's licensing exam, which typically includes 80 to 100 multiple-choice questions about various areas and types of real estate

  • Passing a background check

  • Applying for a license and paying the associated fees

You must be at least 18 years old to get your real estate license.

Related: How To Get Your Real Estate License

2. Consider getting a degree

While not required to work in real estate, some brokers and agencies prefer to hire referral agents who have associate or bachelor's degrees. Many universities and community colleges have courses or programs in real estate. Other classes that can benefit referral agents include topics such as finance, marketing, economics, and business administration. A business-related degree can be particularly useful if you hope to own your own real estate company.

3. Find a brokerage

Join a real estate brokerage in your desired area. A brokerage oversees your work, ensures you follow local regulations and pays your fees when its real estate agents complete sales based on your referrals. You can join various types of brokerages:

  • Small, regional boutique brokerages

  • Well-established and recognizable national brokerages

  • Virtual brokerages that do all their business online

  • Real estate referral brokerages comprising referral agents only

Each brokerage has rules for meeting with clients and receiving referral fees. Make sure you understand and agree to these before joining the company.

4. Market yourself

You need to market your referral services to get clients and begin making money off their real estate transactions. Ways to find leads include:

  • Social media and online marketing

  • Creating and promoting a personal website or blog

  • Networking with potential homebuyers in the community

  • Cold calling potential buyers

  • Joining community and local real estate organizations

Once you get a lead, meet with them to gather information, learn about their needs and determine whether they are likely to buy a home. This process is called lead qualification.

Related: 12 Tips for Succeeding in Real Estate

5. Make referrals

When you find clients that are serious about buying homes, refer them to real estate agents that match their needs and have experience selling the type of property they are looking for. To make effective referrals, you also need to have a wide network of real estate connections. Build your network by joining real estate associations and developing relationships with real estate agents in your area. Some states have referral networks that can help match your leads with real estate agents.

When you make a referral, have the client complete a real estate referral agent agreement, and give that form to your brokerage and the real estate agent you have recommended.

6. Keep your license up to date

Some states require referral agents to take renewal courses to maintain active real estate licenses. Your state might also require you to take continuing education or post-licensing education. Check with your state to confirm these requirements, and pay the fee to renew your license. Depending on where you live, you might have to renew it every two to four years.

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