(**) Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning our company, JCHQ Publishing will get a commission if you decide to make a purchase through the links, but at no additional cost to you.
I regularly talk to new graduates and people who want to explore a second career option. Many of them show interest in the real estate career.
After all, we all need a place to live, an office for working, a nice restaurant to eat, and a shopping plaza to enjoy our time. Real estate indeed is a tangible asset which we all connected to it every day.
However, “Real Estate Career” is such a broad term. What are the actual options of professions available?
To help you gain a better understanding of the real estate industry, below is a list of career choices I’ve compiled.
- Income Summary and Job Descriptions of Different Real estate Professions
- 1) Real Estate Agent
- 2) Commercial Real Estate Agent
- 3) Real Estate Broker
- 4) Notary Loan Signing Agent
- 5) Mortgage Broker
- 6) Mortgage Underwriter
- 7) Real Estate Appraiser
- 8) Home Inspector
- 9) Real Estate Attorney
- 10) Home Stager
- 11) Property Manager
- 12) Property Insurance Agent
- 13) Escrow Officer
- 14) Real Estate Investor
- The Bottom Line
Income Summary and Job Descriptions of Different Real estate Professions
|Real Estate Profession||Job Description||Average Annual Income|
|Real Estate Sales Agent||Help clients to buy, sell, rent and lease properties.||$62,060|
|Commercial Real Estate Agent||Help clients to buy, sell, rent and lease commercial properties such as office units, retail stores.||$99,995|
|Real Estate Broker||Provide training, industry updates, marketing, administrative and technology support to real estate agents.||$81,450|
|Notary Loan Signing Agent||Handle the signing process of the mortgage/refinancing documents. Verify the identity of the signer, and ensure all required signing spots are completed.||$37,927|
|Mortgage Broker||Find a suitable financing option for property owners.||$82,880|
|Mortgage Underwriter||Determine the eligibility of a mortgage application from borrowers||$54,655|
|Real Estate Appraiser||Provide an unbiased opinion about the market value of properties||$57,010|
|Home Inspector||Find out what are the existing and potential problems of a property.||$61,091|
|Real Estate Attorney||Draft contracts of sale, review mortgage documents, conduct title search, or discuss provisions in a real estate sale contract.||$150,867|
|Home Stager||Decluttering unnecessary items, position furniture and decorate the property accordingly.||$48,517|
|Property Manager||Manage the day-to-day tasks of a property to ensure everything is working properly for the occupants.||$65,010|
|Property Insurance Agent||Provide suitable insurance advice and set up the appropriate coverage for your clients. The purpose is to protect them against unexpected events and minimize their financial losses should that occur.||$37,473|
|Escrow Officer||Ensure the real estate closing can be done seamlessly and accurately. You will secure the funding, review documents, and disburse them only after all required conditions are validated.||$54,903|
1) Real Estate Agent
This is one of the most common professions a person would think of when we talk about real estate. It is no surprise as you would receive their regular flyers, seeing their ads on newspaper, billboard and their signs in front of a selling house.
As a real estate agent, your primary role is to help clients in buying or selling properties.
Role as a Buyer’s Agent
When working for buyers, you first need to understand what are their needs (i.e., budget; the number of bedrooms and bathroom; means of transportation; proximity to schools, supermarket, and others). Then you would search for the properties that match their requirements and bring your clients to house viewings. You can expect a significant amount of driving from properties to properties would be involved.
Role as a Seller’s Agent
When working with sellers, you would advise them on how the real estate market is performing in their neighborhoods and provide them with comparable sell figures. This can help your clients in setting a reasonable expectation on their selling price, and the time it takes to close a deal.
You would also provide suggestions on what maintenance or decoration can be done to the house to make it more sellable. This could involve the work of a home stager, which we will also discuss later in this post.
Then you would market the properties to the public. This may include advertising on local newspaper, magazine, social media, or prospecting from the people in your existing network.
In many scenarios, a real estate would do an open house during the weekend, which gives a chance for potential buyers to walk through the property.
Other Roles as a Real Estate Agent
Some of your other duties include negotiating deals for your clients, writing and presenting offers, and communicate with different professionals that are involved with the transaction.
Some real estate agents do not just handle the buy and sell transactions, but they also help clients to lease out their unit.
How much do real estate agents make?
The average annual salary of real estate agents is $62,060. The income typically falls between $33,600 and $75,340. Top producers are earning $111,800 per year.
There are 162,330 real estate sales agents. The projected grow for real estate sales agents and brokers is 2% from 2019 to 2029.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2019)
Here’s a Snippet of what Lori James Thinks about Being a Real Estate Agent!
“You can make your own hours, but you have to plan out your week in advance, so you have a work life balance.
If you are interested in becoming a real estate agent, you should have two years worth of income in the bank, because you pay for everything up front, and only get a paycheck when you close on a property. Start a data base with your sphere of influence, add to that data base new clients, and stay in touch with all of them on a monthly basis.”
– Lori James, Real Estate Agent at Real Living Real Estate
If you want to know more about being a real estate salesperson, you must check out this resource page. In there, I will walk you through how to obtain the real estate license and important updates about this profession.
2) Commercial Real Estate Agent
We just covered being a real estate agent for residential properties, but not yet discussed the commercial line of the business.
Your role of being a commercial real estate agent is to help in selecting and securing locations that are suitable for a business.
For example, you could be searching for greater office space for a client who is expanding their business operation or looking for a location with high traffic for a franchise restaurant.
Therefore, the daily routine of a commercial real estate agent typically involves more research than a residential agent. Due to the many factors that a company needs to consider, the sale cycle could take longer than residential properties. Especially for cases that there are multiple decision-makers in a firm.
How Much do Commercial Real Estate Agents Make?
The average annual salary of real estate agents is $99,995. The income typically falls between $83,535 and $111,580.
Source: Salary.com (Dec 28, 2020)
Here’s a Snippet what Amie Lenhart Thinks about Being a CRE agents!
“I think being a real estate agent is a great career. I love the hustle and relationship building aspect of this job and working for myself. Historically there has not been a lot of female Commercial Real Estate Agents in the Columbus, Ohio market but that is changing and I am excited to be a part of that growth.”
– Amie Lenhart ,Commercial Real Estate Agent with Donald R. Kenney and Company Realty (DRK)
If you want to know more about the CRE agent business, here’s an ultimate career guide for you! Not only you’ll find the ins and outs of this profession, but you’ll also find feedback from a CRE professional.
3) Real Estate Broker
Once you have gained an adequate experience as a real estate agent and fulfill the licensing requirement, being a real estate broker could be your next step.
Although you could still help clients with their real estate transactions, your role would gradually transition to managing real estate agents.
Your firm should provide training, industry updates, marketing, administrative and technology support to your agents. In return, the agents would do a commission split with your office for every real estate transaction that they have successfully closed.
How Much do Real Estate Brokers Make?
The average annual salary of real estate agents is $81,450. The income typically falls between $35,940 and $95,790. Top producers are earning $178,720 per year.
There are 42,730 real estate brokers. The projected grow for real estate sales agents and brokers is 2% from 2019 to 2029.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2019)
4) Notary Loan Signing Agent
As a notary loan signing agent, your role is to get documents from a loan company, then bring them to the right borrower in signing it. During the process, you need to verify the identity of the signer, and that all required signing spots would be completed. After you notarize the paperwork, you would send them back to the lender.
I think this is one of the best real estate professions which most people do not know about. I have talked to many signing agents, and they can make between $75 to $200 per signing appointment. Each job order only takes them 1-2 hours.
How much do notary signing agents make?
The average annual income of Notary Signing Agents is $37,927. The earning typically range between $37,051 and $48,242. (+).
However, I have personally met a number of successful signing agents who consistently make over $10,000/month.
(+) Source: Salary.com (Dec 28, 2020)
“ I am making between $90 to $125 per closing. I can do 1 or 2 closings per day Monday through Friday. On Saturdays, I am closing at least 4 to 5 signings. On average, I am making between $2,000 to $3,000 a month on a consistent basis.
This is just doing 1 to 2 signings a day. Imagine where I would be if I were doing this full time. Just do the math!
It took me at least seven months to a year to get to where I am. My business is on a growing stage right now due to the fact that I am making more direct connections. It will lead me to double up my income per month. ”
– Stephanie Espinal at Espinal Notary Signing Services
I also connected with several signing agents and asked them whether they think being a loan signing agent is a good career. Here’s the post with their responses. I’m sure their input can help you to have a better understanding of this business.
5) Mortgage Broker
A lot of families and businesses do not have adequate savings to purchase a property, so they would need to borrow money from a lender. Your job as a Mortgage Broker is to find a suitable financing option for your clients.
Most mortgage brokers would deal with many lenders. It is a great competitive edge to your clients since you can shop around and compare the different mortgages for them.
Different criteria could affect your client’s eligibility to apply for a mortgage. For example, the annual salary, job nature, the stability of the income, the amount of down payment, credit history, and the type of property they are purchasing.
Also, each mortgage option has own pros and cons. Some mortgage could have a lower interest rate but have more restriction when it comes to early repayment.
Therefore, you’ll need to know your client’s situation n order to find them the proper mortgage solution.
How Much do Mortgage Brokers Make?
The average annual salary of mortgage brokers is $82,880. The income typically falls between $74,943 and $98,971.
Source: Salary.com (Dec 28, 2020)
6) Mortgage Underwriter
This job is where you determine the eligibility of a mortgage application from borrowers. You will review the different aspects of their financial situation to see if they fit into the lending guidelines of your company.
Then you would request a list of documents to approve the loan. For example, a job letter from the borrower’s employer, pay stubs, credit report, bank statement to show the down payment, property purchasing agreement, MLS details of the property, appraisal report, real estate lawyer’s contact information and more.
Although an application might look good on paper, you still need to verify that the information is correct and valid. Typically speaking, you would need to contact the Human Resources personnel of the borrower’s workplace to confirm their employment status.
Once everything is in order, you would communicate with the real estate lawyer to arrange the funding and registering the mortgage.
How Much do Mortgage Underwriters Make?
The average annual salary of mortgage underwriters is $54,655. The income typically falls between $47,428 and $64,206.
Source: Salary.com (Dec 28, 2020)
7) Real Estate Appraiser
As a real estate appraiser, your job is to provide an opinion about the market value of properties. The approaches you use must comply with the USPAP rules. Your assessment must be independent, objective and unbiased.
The real estate appraisal could be used for home purchasing, obtaining a mortgage, refinancing, settlement of estate or divorce.
What it is like to be a Real Estate Appraiser?
To complete a high-quality appraisal report, you would be conducting thorough research on the subject property, real estate market trend in the area, sales comparables, zoning, proximity to other facilities, and others.
You are also required to inspect the property in person, confirm its measurement, and take photos to be included in the report.
How to Become a Real Estate Appraiser?
You need to obtain a real estate appraiser license to begin in this industry. Some license levels would have its own restriction and limitation to the scope of properties you could appraise.
If you want to expand your scope of work into commercial properties, then you would need to become a Certified General Appraiser. This license provides you the credential to evaluate all types of real estate regardless of its value and complexity.
There are many niches you could consider in this industry. For example, review appraisal, relocation appraisal, agriculture appraisal or even being a real estate appraisal expert witness.
How do Real Estate Appraisers Get Paid?
If you are operating your own real estate appraisal business, then you would be charging your clients a fee per project. A typical fee for a residential unit would range from $300 to $500.
On the other hand, you could be employed by an appraisal firm which offers you stable income and medical insurance benefits. Companies such as government assessor’s office, REIT, investment fund managers, and institutional investors could also be hiring appraisers
How Much do Real Estate Appraisers Make?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2019), the average salary of real estate appraiser is $57,010. There are 75,100 active appraisers. It is projected to grow 3 percent from 2019 to 2029.
However, appraisers who specialize in evaluating commercial properties tend to have a much higher income. According to Salary.com (Dec 28, 2020), the average salary of commercial real estate appraiser is $103,205.
Let’s Hear What Jamie Owen Thinks about Being a Real Estate Appraiser!
“I am a Certified Residential Appraiser. I run my own firm. I specialize in appraising luxury homes. Agricultural appraising is not really in my wheelhouse of expertise. I do a lot of direct lender work as well as some work for attorneys, real estate agents and homeowners.
“While I have yet to testify, mainly because things usually settle before it gets to that point, I am happy to provide expert witness testimony. I have been an appraiser for 21 years, if you include my two year apprenticeship.
I do think real estate appraising is a good profession. While things are changing, frankly, that has always been the case. This profession has enabled me to care for my family financially, and to be able to have the flexibility, schedule wise, to do also pursue other activities I enjoy.
– Jamie Owen, Certified Residential Real Estate Appraiser at Aspen Appraisal Services
If you want to know more about what it is like to be a real estate appraiser, here’s an exclusive interview I had with Jamie Owen. In there, he shares an extraordinarily detailed insight into the appraisal industry and how he got started in this profession.
8) Home Inspector
Just as the title suggests, a home inspector is responsible for inspecting a residential property. It is one of the crucial steps during a property purchase.
In fact, some purchasing agreements would have a clause that explicitly states the offer is subjected to inspection. After all, no one wants to bear the hefty repairment costs and deal with unexpected problems after they buy a house.
Your duty as a home inspector is to find out what are the existing and potential problems of a property. For example, is there an issue with leaking water issue? Has there been a mold problem? How long can the furnace last? Is the heater and air condition working properly? Do the windows need to be replaced soon?
There could be some physical work involved on a day-to-day basis. You might need to climb up the ladder to check the condition of an attic or even the roof if the weather permits. You should also take photos of the items that your clients need to pay close attention to.
Once you finish inspecting the properties, you would write the inspection report. In the report, you would list out all your findings. To help your clients have a better understanding of the property, you could give an estimate for each item that needs to be repaired, and its urgency to do so.
You must disclose to your clients if there is any potential hazardous problem. (i.e., the stairs handrail is too loose, the electrical wiring is not up to standard, the wooden deck is rotten.)
How Much do Home Inspectors Make?
The average annual salary of home inspectors is $61,091. The income typically falls between $41,500 and $65,000. Top earning home inspectors are making $81,000 per year.
Source: ZipRecruiter.com (Dec 28, 2020)
9) Real Estate Attorney
If you love studying laws and reviewing documentation, then you could consider a career of becoming a real estate attorney.
Real estate attorneys are licensed lawyers who specialize their practice on real estate law issues. The scope of work could be huge.
For example, you may be hired to draft contracts of sale, review mortgage documents, conduct title search, or discuss provisions in a real estate sale contract.
Although many lawyers primarily focus their practice in property transactions, you could negotiate commercial leases and handle different real estate litigation. (i.e.: a breach of contract, title disputes, ownership issues, and foreclosure issues.)
Besides the years of intense education, it is essential that you have very detailed-oriented and have excellent organizational skills. It is your responsibility to protect your client, so you must know the contract in and out. Keep in mind that every detail in a transaction counts. Even small ones could have a significant impact when it comes to litigation of a real estate matter.
How Much do Real Estate Attorneys Make?
The average annual salary of real estate attorney is $150,867. The income typically falls between $131,553 and $167,166. Top earning real estate attorneys are making $182,005 per year.
Source: Salary.com (Dec 28, 2020)
10) Home Stager
When a family has been living in a house for some time, it would be cluttered with personal and unmatching items. This could inevitably give a bad impression to house viewers, and make it difficult for them to see the potential of the property.
The purpose of home staging is to turn a home appealing to most buyers so that it could sell quickly and at a higher price.
According to the National Association of Realtors, for every $100 invested in staging, the potential return is $400.
Your duties as a home stager involve decluttering unnecessary items, position furniture and decorate the property accordingly. In some cases, you could work with the existing items in the house, but there are projects which you need to rent them or use the supplies that your company already has.
But keep in mind your job is not to renovate the entire property, but to upgrade the cosmetic appearance. For example, reconstructing the kitchen countertop often is not a good idea, as it might not match the preference of the new buyers. So this would only be an unnecessary and wasted cost to the seller. Your primary job is to stage the property in a way that buyers can see the potential if they were to purchase it.
Real estate agents could be a great referral source. After all, they are the ones who list the properties, and your services could make their job a lot easier.
How do Home Stagers Get Paid?
You would charge a fee per project. Depending on what is need to be done, it could range from $3,500 to $10,000.
Some clients may not have that budget, so they would hire you for consultation sessions, where you would charge them an hourly rate.
Home stagers make an average of $48,517 per year. The income range mostly falls between $29,000 to $45,000, some high earners are making as high as $68,500/year.
Source: ZipRecruiter.com (Dec 28, 2020)
Here’s a guide which covers the income of real estate stagers in different states, how do home stagers charge their fee, and the factors that could significantly affect your earning.
11) Property Manager
Many people love real estate, but not everyone enjoys or know how to manage their property.
As a property manager, your role is to manage the day-to-day tasks of a property to ensure everything is working properly for the occupants.
Property Manager for Houses
Suppose an investor is hiring you to manage for their house, your duties could involve screening and finding the right tenants, handling the signing of leasing agreement and collecting rents.
You would inspect the property on a regular basis to make sure everything is functioning properly. (i.e.: smoke and carbon monoxide detector, heater, air conditioner, appliances).
You would be the communication hub between the house owner and the tenants, and you’ll be responsible for arranging all their repair and maintenance requests.
A property management company usually charges a monthly fee for managing a property, while all the maintenance and repair expenses would be billed separately to the clients.
Property Manager for Apartment Building
As for managing for a condo building, there would be additional tasks involved since there are many public facilities in the common area.
For example, you need to arrange for regular safety checkup for the elevator, cleaning of the swimming pool and gym facilities, snow shovel, lawn mowing, parking lot enforcement, window and air duct cleaning, hiring security guards and many others.
You are also required to attend Board meetings so that you could have a better understanding of the units owners’ concern and requests.
Of course, you wouldn’t be the only one who handle all these hands-on repairment yourself. In most scenario, these works would be outsourced to third-party companies who specialize in providing that specific service.
However, just because the work can be outsourced does not mean you should hire anyone recklessly. You should always compare the price and quality of service with a number of companies.
The key to becoming a successful property manager is that the occupant’s requirement can be fulfilled but in an appropriate and cost-effective way.
How Much do Property Managers Make?
Property managers make an average income of $65,010. The income typically falls between $58,032 and $73,193. Top earning residential property managers are making $80,643 per year.
Source: Salary.com (Dec 28, 2020)
12) Property Insurance Agent
As a Property Insurance Agent, your job is to provide suitable insurance advice and set up the appropriate coverage for your clients. The purpose is to protect them against unexpected events and minimize their financial losses should that occur.
Since everyone situation is different, first, you need to find out their insurance needs. For instance, a homeowner might need protection against flooding or property break-in, but the need to reimburse for household goods could be minimal since the most valuable items are usually electronic such as TV, laptop, game console.
However, if your client is a warehouse owner, then the need to cover for inventory is significant.
Your job is to find the proper coverage for your clients, explain to them the covered conditions, payment details, and assist them when there is a claim request.
Of course, it would be nice if every risk could be covered, but in reality, every policy has its limitation and exclusions, so it is essential that your clients understand them.
Typically speaking, after you set up a policy for a client, you would be compensated with commission and renewal fees for your ongoing services.
How Much do Property and Casualty Insurance Agents Make?
Property and Casualty Insurance Agents make an average income of $37,473. The income generally ranges between $30,000 and $44,500. Top earning Property and Casualty Insurance Agents makes $50,000/year.
Source: ZipRecruiter.com (Dec 28, 2020)
13) Escrow Officer
As an escrow officer, your role is to ensure the real estate closing can be done seamlessly and accurately. You will secure the funding, review documents, and disburse them only after all required conditions are validated.
Most escrow officers are salaried employee working for an escrow or title company.
How Much do Escrow Officers Make?
Escrow officers make $54,903 annually on average. The income range usually falls between $46,000 to $62,000. Top earners are making $70,000 annually. (-) Earning tends to go up with work experience, productivity. Escrow officers who specialize in commercial properties also have a higher salary on average.
Source: (-) ZipRecruiter.com- Dec 15, 2020
14) Real Estate Investor
It is the career that most people are interested in the real estate industry. There are many ways you could invest in real estate.
One way to do so is “Flipping Houses.” This is where you purchase a property at a lower value, then later sell it at a higher dollar amount. Although it might look easy on TV shows, you do need to have a profound understanding of the real estate market in your targeted area. In some instances, you might need to renovate a house in order to bring up its value. Therefore, you need to account for all the different costs and know your profit of margin.
A more passive strategy would be to purchase a property and rent it out. If you want to offload the management work, you could hire a property management company to handle them for you. They typically would charge a monthly management fee which is a certain percentage of your rental income.
Another investment tactic that not too many people realize is to invest in the financing side of a real estate deal. There are situations where a home buyer or builder cannot obtain adequate financing from a bank. This could be due to high loan-to-value ratio, or insufficient income proof. Then they will need to borrow your money to make up the difference.
This loan typically can provide you with higher interest rate, but it does come with a greater risk since you are not in the first position to recoup the funding should the mortgage default.
Regardless of which investment strategy you choose, you should always do your due diligence and understand all the risk factors. You should have a team of professionals which could assist you in different areas of a deal.
The Bottom Line
Above are just some of the professions in the real estate industry, but there are many that I have not yet covered. (i.e., architect, real estate builder, construction worker, interior designer)
When selecting a career path, not only you should consider the growth and earning potential, but you must also consider if it is something that you would enjoy doing.
I hope you’ll find this article useful. If so, please share it! Thanks!
(**) Affiliate Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you. Our company, JCHQ Publishing will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking on the link. Please understand that we include them based on our experience or the research on these companies or products, and we recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions we make if you decide to buy something through the links. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you achieve your goals.
Disclaimer: The information in this post is for general information only, and not intend to provide any advice. They are subjected to change without any notice, and not guaranteed to be error-free. For full and exact details, please contact the relevant professionals.
- Investopedia: What do real estate attorneys do? (source)
- StagingDiva: Home Staging is Not a Minimum Wage Job – How to Charge for Home Staging (source)
- Bureau of Labor Statistics:
- Real Estate Sales Agent (source)
- Real Estate Brokers (source)
- Real Estate Brokers and Sales Agents (source)
- Appraisers and Assessors of Real Estate (source)