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Being an estate agent looks like a cool, easy gig – but is it really?

A career in real estate can be rewarding for the right person. Picture: Alena Darmel/Pexels

A career in real estate can be rewarding for the right person. Picture: Alena Darmel/Pexels

Published Aug 3, 2022


Over the past few years the number of people suddenly changing life-long careers or giving up their part-time hustles to become an estate agent has become very noticeable.

And the reasons are obvious: From the outside, it looks like agents work their own hours, and it is no secret that they earn really good commissions when they sell a property.

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While this may be true to a certain extent, however, there is a lot more to being an estate agent.

Read our latest Property360 digital magazine below

For the right person, the career can be exciting and rewarding, but for the wrong personality type, it could be disappointing.

So how do you know if you are fit for a career in real estate? Read on...

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What qualities or personality traits should I have?

In most of the traditional real estate agency sector, says Carla Clarke, public relations and communications manager for the Rawson Property Group, earning is commission-based, and hours are not limited to 9am to 5pm.

“The harder you work at upskilling yourself, generating business, and delivering excellent service, the more you will earn. You have the ability to write your own cheque.

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“So good agents are definitely driven, self-motivated individuals willing to put in the time and effort to make sure they are the go-to agents in the areas they operate.”

Good agents also have good interpersonal skills and are able to relate well to clients; they are able to understand clients’ needs and emotions, and guide and support them through often complicated or emotionally challenging situations.

“At the end of the day, property decisions are big decisions, hard decisions; and good agents are able to make sure that their clients are in the best possible position to make the right decision for them.”

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Nikki Elliot of Country and Coastal Properties says aspiring agents must be self-motivated and tenacious, and have strong morals like honesty, and integrity.

“They must also be problem solvers and be prepared to be available at all time. A good agent must be reliable, emotionally strong, and willing to serve and walk the extra mile.”

In addition, they must be interested in their areas or specialities.

Paul Stevens, chief executive of Just Property, says people with a can-do attitude and a good work ethic, who love helping people and working in a competitive team environment will thrive in the property industry.

While noting that there are no income guarantees, he says the earnings potential of rookie estate agents far exceeds what they might earn in other entry-level positions.

Are there any particular skills or qualifications that are recommended?

In terms of the industry regulations, Stevens says trainee agents need to complete a 12-month internship under the supervision of a fully qualified agent. There are also formal qualifications to achieve, including:

  • Further Education & Training (FET)
  • National Qualification Forum (NQF) Level 4
  • Real Estate and Professional Designation Exam Level 4 (PDE4)

“These can be acquired while you undertake your internship.”

Before becoming an intern agent though, Clarke says any tertiary qualification in fields such as finance, sales, legal, or marketing would be “advantageous” as it would add valuable knowledge and skills to what the agent has to offer an employer and clients. However, it is “most definitely not a requirement for the majority of real estate agencies”.

How do I choose the right agency to work for?

While the answer to this question can be subjective, Clarke recommended potential agents consider the following aspects about a real estate agency brand:

  • Its presence in the area you want to operate in
  • Its values and culture, including team leadership
  • Access to ongoing training and upskilling, as well supporting and facilitating you to obtain the relevant real estate qualifications
  • Access to technology, systems, and data that enables agents to be more efficient and professional, as well as added value offerings that put them ahead of the game in their services to clients

“The recent ‘rude awakening’ due to 2020’s Covid-19 lockdown effects on our industry showed that brands offering online solutions to agents and clients were able to do much more than just survive. They thrived by implementing better, more efficient ways of adding value and conducting business.”

Other questions that potential agents should ask revolve around an agency’s mind-set, Stevens says.

“Does the agency have a forward-thinking creative mind-set? How did they transition to working from home, for example? Were they able to nimbly adjust? You don’t want to be stuck in a business that is still holding on to legacy processes and ways of working.”

Leading from that, one should consider how tech-savvy an agency is.

“The standard of their technology will tell you a lot about how much a firm values its agents.”

Echoing Clarke, Stevens says potential agents should ask the following questions when selecting the right brand to work for:

Do they place value on staff development?

“Your internship is a learning period so try to determine if the agency has a strong development culture. Do they offer a structured on-boarding programme for interns? Do they even have a specific internship programme?”

He advises that one asked about intern logbook training and mentorship as “that will clearly illustrate whether internships are well managed or a waste of time.”

What are your prospects for advancement?

One should therefore check if the company has a vested in the success and happiness of its agents.

“If you hope to be able to buy your own franchise one day, ask about such opportunities, and listen closely to what the franchisee says about the parent company. Is there support from their head office?”

Are you a good match?

To be happy and fulfilled, you need to know that you and the company are a good fit, he adds.

“Ask about their values. Ask about how they live these values. Then ask if these align with your values. Weigh up values like optimism, integrity, equality, collaboration, excellence, innovation, personal development and loyalty.

“Passion and commitment are essential, along with people skills, attention to detail and a thirst for learning.”