A Career in Real Estate

Working in the real estate profession offers the opportunity to meet a wide range of people while carrying out a variety of different tasks and responsibilities. It can be very satisfying to assist people with important decisions such as buying, selling or renting a home or investment property.

It takes a special person to work in real estate: someone who is committed to providing exceptional customer service. Developing the skills necessary to be confident, capable and successful takes dedication and application.

Although there are many exciting things about working in real estate, you should not go in with your eyes closed: the hours can be long with late nights and weekend work, and employment can be subject to a fluctuating market and intense competition.

At the same time, you should be prepared to follow high ethical standards. After all, you will frequently be involved with transactions that might represent the most important financial decisions ever made by a client.

Generally, real estate agents lease, manage, value, buy and sell residential, rural, commercial and industrial property or businesses on behalf of their clients.

Contact the Real Estate Institute in your state or territory for further information about careers in real estate, including educational requirements and training courses.

For roles in the real estate sector, see below:

Real estate agent

Real estate agents broker business transactions that involve real property, or businesses. The ‘real property’ could be undeveloped land sites, residential homes, commercial or industrial buildings, units, townhouses or apartment complexes, retail centres or vacant parcels of land.

Most real estate agents deal with residential property such as houses, home units, townhouses and vacant land. Some firms, however, specialise in types of real estate, which are used to generate income for investors. These include shopping centres, hotels, motels, industrial complexes, home unit or townhouse developments, office blocks, etc.

Real estate agents offer a range of services depending upon the type of property they have been appointed to sell, lease or manage on behalf of an owner. The agent must always consider the owner’s wishes about price, contractual conditions and the marketing of the property. The real estate agent, once appointed to sell a property, begins a marketing campaign to attract potential buyers to the property. They then take prospective buyers to view the property and supply additional information.

The real estate agent acts as a go-between for the owner and the buyer, assisting with their negotiations to reach an agreed sale price for the property. The real estate agent continues to act on behalf of the owner until the property is legally transferred to the new owner. For these services the real estate agent receives a payment (known as a commission) from the owner.

Real estate agents are also involved in the letting of property for owners. The agent markets the property for lease and arranges for potential tenants to view the property. The agent acts as a go-between for the owner (landlord) and the tenant in negotiation of the rent payments and terms of the tenancy agreement. The real estate agent normally draws up the tenancy agreement between the landlord and tenant and then acts on behalf of the landlord in the day-to-day management of the property. The agent collects the rent, arranges repairs and maintenance and finds new tenants when necessary.

Real estate agents need to have an engaging personality and be able to communicate, understand and relate to a great variety of people. Initiative, foresight, organisational ability, integrity and a genuine concern for others are essential character traits of a good real estate agent. 


Salesperson

Sales people make up a large sector of the real estate profession and work on behalf of property vendors (sellers). While the prime duty of care involves the client, who is in most cases the vendor, there is an obligation to be fair to all parties in a transaction.

The duties of a sales person include:

  • appraising properties 
  • obtaining listings of properties for sale 
  • marketing the property 
  • seeking out and introducing buyers 
  • offering advice on current market conditions 
  • arranging and overseeing inspections 
  • negotiating the sale 
  • liaising with legal representatives.

In a small agency a salesperson might be directly involved in all aspects of marketing, including writing copy and placing advertisements. Larger agencies tend to employ specialists in some areas.


Auctioneer 

Auctioneers conduct public sales, usually on the site of the property. Auctioneers are required to explain the contract and the property’s features and answer any questions from potential purchasers before calling for bids.

Strict guidelines govern the conduct of auctions. In most cases, a person must not conduct, or attempt to conduct, an auction for the sale of any real estate or business unless that person:

  • is a licensed real estate agent; or 
  • is employed as an agent’s representative. 

An auctioneer’s public performance reflects upon the image of the agency and the profession. A good auctioneer can also increase the profile of the agency enormously.


Property manager

Property managers lease and manage residential, commercial, industrial and retail property on behalf of property owners.

The property manager’s duties include: 

  • selecting tenants 
  • collecting rent 
  • arranging repairs 
  • marketing the property 
  • negotiating leases and rent reviews 
  • advising on market rents 
  • representing the property owner at tribunal hearings. 

Large corporations often employ property managers to look after the housing needs of their employees, and financial institutions employ property managers to look after their retail outlets.

The professional property manager needs excellent communication and people skills, knowledge of all relevant legislation, including building maintenance and town planning, and an understanding of how economic conditions affect the property market.

For many years, property management was regarded as a good ‘stepping stone’ for a career in sales and marketing. It is now widely recognised as an attractive, long-term career option in its own right.


Body corporate manager 

The role of the Body Corporate Manager is similar to that of property manager; they control and administer the area known as ‘common property’ in a subdivided property that is usually part of a block of units or flats.

Functions of a body corporate manager include: 

  • managing and attending meetings 
  • preparing and distributing minutes and correspondence 
  • arranging repairs and general property maintenance 
  • collecting and managing funds 
  • arranging insurance 
  • advising of any changes to relevant legislation and regulations. 

Business broker

Business brokerage is a highly specialised form of real estate agency practice. Many businesses operate from leased premises, so the sale of a business will not necessarily involve the sale of premises as well. The business broker’s client is the owner of the business.

A business broker can specialise in selling a particular type of business, such as milk bars, caravan parks or hotels.

If you are interested in business brokerage as a career, it would be a good idea to include some accounting subjects in your secondary or tertiary studies. 


Buyer’s agent 

A buyer’s agent or buyer’s advocate is a professionally qualified property consultant who acts solely for the buyer by sourcing suitable properties and representing the buyer throughout the buying process.

The buyer’s agent is paid by the buyer. Buyer’s Agents’ need to be licensed and certified to act as a buyer’s agent. 


Stock and station agent 

Stock and station agents usually operate in rural areas and often have a high profile in rural communities as they sell, buy and exchange livestock, property and agricultural products on behalf of their clients.

Stock and station agents conduct auctions of property, livestock and chattels such as farm machinery. Many stock and station agents are also valuers. 


Support staff 

Receptionists and administrative personnel are among the most important contributors to a real estate office. The role of the receptionist is very important, as it is the first point of contact for the agency’s clients. This role can vary considerably, however tasks usually include the following: 

  • answering the telephone and handling enquiries 
  • face-to-face communication with clients 
  • receiving rents and providing receipts 
  • word processing

In some offices, the receptionist’s position may be a training ground for progression into a sales or property management career.

Other staff may be employed to provide administrative support to a variety of departments within a real estate agency. Depending upon the department, the role may include clerical duties, including the preparation of legal documents, arranging advertising, word processing, database management and general accounting duties.

Although there are no formal qualification requirements for these positions, most state and territory Real Estate Institutes conduct professional development courses specifically for real estate receptionists and other support staff.


Valuer 

Valuation is a profession closely related to real estate. A valuer determines the value of property based upon market conditions at a given time.

Valuations are used for a variety of purposes: 

  •  the calculation of land tax, municipal rates and stamp duties on property transfers and loans 
  • insurance compensation 
  • family law settlements 
  • assessing mortgages 
  • assessing the value of assets 
  • assessing rent for leases 
  • establishing the value of properties for sale. 

Valuers in city or suburban locations usually value houses, vacant land sites, commercial and industrial property, shopping centres and blocks of flats.

The valuer’s clients include banks, government departments, property developers, insurance companies or building owners.

While it is not essential that a valuer have an estate agents licence, most obtain the licence in addition to a Bachelor of Business. Valuations are an important part of most property development projects.

Adapted from Real Estate as a Professional Career, published by the Real Estate Institute of Victoria 2001, and reproduced with the permission of the REIV.