4 Excellent Career Options to Pursue After Real Estate School
The buying, selling, appraisal, and management of property is big business in the U.S. After all, the nation was home to about 115 million occupied housing units in 2011 and roughly 5.6 million commercial buildings in 2012.* And, as the nation's population increases, those numbers will likely keep rising.
Plus, this industry is governed by many local, state, and federal laws. As a result, the field of real estate requires professionals who understand how to navigate the system on behalf of their clients or employers. For their efforts, many of these professionals end up receiving some very good benefits, including high incomes.
Here are four particularly enticing occupations in this field:
1. Real Estate Sales Agent or Broker
This career path is probably what most people think of when contemplating the real estate field. But there's a good reason for that: Professionals who help people buy or sell properties often play an essential role in some of the biggest and most important transactions in those people's lives. And the number of real estate transactions that happen every year is staggering. For example, consider these facts from 2013 about the residential market:
- More than five million existing homes were sold in the U.S.*
- About 429,000 new homes were sold.*
- About 88 percent of home buyers and sellers used the services of a real estate agent or broker when going through the process.*
How Agents and Brokers Differ
So, what's the difference between an agent and a broker? To put it simply, a real estate sales agent can sell property, but he or she cannot work independently. In contrast, a real estate broker can also sell property but is allowed to run his or her own real estate business. Agents must work for brokers. And both must be licensed.
Every state has its own real estate licensing or certification requirements. But, in general, you typically need to take some real estate courses (which can often be achieved through a college or university program) and then pass a licensing exam. That's for becoming an agent. To become a broker, you often need around one to three years of experience as a licensed agent as well as additional training, depending on your educational background and the state you work in.
Education, Pay, and Professional Membership
Other facts to keep in mind include the following:
- A valuable education in this field will usually cover a wide variety of relevant subjects such as real estate law, economics, finance, marketing, market analysis, customer service, and ethical issues. Ashford University is just one example of a school that offers a comprehensive real estate program, and it's even online.
- In 2015, the average annual pay for real estate agents in the U.S. was $58,410, with the top earners making more than $110,560. For real estate brokers, the average was $80,210, and the highest earners made over $166,940.**
- Real estate agents and brokers often earn most of their income from commissions on property sales. And they frequently specialize in selling either residential or commercial properties.
- The term REALTOR® is a registered trademark of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR). So it is not interchangeable with the term real estate agent. The main difference is that REALTORS® are licensed agents or brokers who are members of the NAR and subscribe to that organization's strict code of ethics.
- In the U.S., about two million people hold an active real estate license, but only about half of them (just over one million in 2014) are members of the NAR.* So it takes an extra step to go from licensed real estate agent to REALTOR®. School, however, is certainly a good way to begin the process.
2. Real Estate Appraiser or Assessor
Before land can be developed or a property can be sold, financed, insured, or taxed, its value must be determined. That's where professionals who specialize in real estate appraisal or assessment come in. They inspect properties and estimate their value based on factors such as location, condition, special characteristics, and recent sales of other nearby properties.
Appraisers usually work on behalf of banks, insurance companies, or other real estate professionals. And they generally inspect just one property at a time. In contrast, assessors are typically employed by municipal governments to estimate values within whole neighborhoods for the purpose of calculating the annual property taxes that individual property owners must pay.
Becoming a real estate appraiser or assessor usually requires at least some form of education in the field as well as licensure or certification within your state or locality. But it is also a good idea to find out what the requirements are for your particular state since they can vary a great deal throughout the U.S.
When it comes to pay, appraisers and assessors often do very well. In 2015, the average salary in the field was $58,400, and some people made more than $97,080.**
3. Property or Community Association Manager
Property management is another major part of the real estate industry. Companies and individuals that specialize in this field provide a service that allows property owners the freedom to protect their investments without having to be very hands-on about it. That's because property managers often oversee everything from ground and building maintenance to rent collection and tenant disputes.
Closely related to property managers are community or homeowner association managers. They help ensure that homeowners within a neighborhood governed by such an association follow rules and maintain certain standards related to things like architectural design, yard appearance, pets, and safety measures. People in this field earned an average salary of $68,240 in 2015. But the highest earners within the field made over $123,790.**
4. Mortgage Broker
When people go to buy a home or other type of property, they often can't afford to pay the full purchase price up front. So they need to finance the purchase through a mortgage, which is a special type of loan created for just that purpose. To give you an idea of just how big the need for mortgages is, consider this: In 2013, most home buyers who financed their purchase had to borrow about 90 percent of the cost of their new homes.*
So it should come as no surprise that mortgage professionals are often in pretty high demand. Mortgage brokers, in particular, are frequently able to find good deals for home buyers or purchasers of commercial property. They serve as intermediaries between lending institutions and borrowers. As part of their work, they generally obtain the financial history and credit status of their clients, apply for mortgage loans on their behalf, and follow through with lenders to secure the requested financing.
It's an occupation that can come with great income potential. For instance, the average yearly pay of mortgage brokers in the U.S. is almost $52,000.***
* National Association of REALTORS®, website last visited on December 6, 2016.
** Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, website last visited on May 13, 2016.
*** PayScale, website last visited on May 13, 2016.