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How Much Does a Real Estate Agent Make a Year?

By Caroline Banton · January 25, 2024 · 9 minute read

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How Much Does a Real Estate Agent Make a Year?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay per year for a real estate agent in May 2022 was $52,030. However, agents can earn much more if they buy and sell properties in a high-income area with expensive real estate, such as New York or California, or if they build a highly successful business.

Here’s a look at what real estate agents do, the different types of agent jobs possible, how much they earn, and the factors affecting their salaries.

What Are Real Estate Agents and What Do They Do?

Real estate agents help buyers and sellers conduct transactions involving residential or commercial property. They usually work under a broker, who takes care of the management and branding of a real estate group. The real estate agent’s role is to find clients, help them search for properties, and then guide the price negotiations between the buyer and seller. In addition, they may help coordinate the legal transactions involved and prepare documentation.

Real estate agents are licensed professionals in the states where they work. The real estate agent is usually paid through commission, which is a percentage of the property’s sales price. How much commission they earn depends on the brokerage, the state, and property values. Some agents are licensed brokers, meaning they can work independently.


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The Different Types of Real Estate Agents

There are different types of real estate agents depending on their licenses and the types of property they work with. The main types of agents are realtors, brokers, listing agents, buyer’s agents, commercial agents, and residential agents.

Realtor

A Realtor® is a licensed real estate agent who is a member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR), which requires them to adhere to a code of ethics.

Broker

Brokers are licensed as such and tend to earn higher salaries and have more freedom in their career choices. They do not necessarily need to be tied to a larger brokerage firm.

Listing Agent

Listing agents are called “seller’s agents” because they represent the seller in a real estate transaction. These agents find buyers for property and try to sell a property at the highest price possible for the seller.

Buyer’s Agent

The buyer’s agent represents the buyer in a real estate transaction. They will try to find the right property for the buyer and negotiate the lowest possible price.

Commercial Agent

A commercial real estate agent primarily sells, rents, or buys commercial real estate, such as retail space, warehouses, office buildings, industrial, and mixed-use space. These agents typically know the local commercial real estate market well and might be involved in property management.

Residential Agent

A residential real estate agent primarily buys and sells homes, condos, and units in apartment complexes. They need a good grasp of the local residential real estate market, the amenities an area offers, and what type of home best suits their clients.

It’s worth noting that being a real estate agent can be a good job for a “people person” vs. a job for introverts. An agent will often have to discern a buyer’s or seller’s needs, draw them out, and spend a lot of time hand-holding clients through the ups and downs of a real estate deal.

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How Much Do Starting Real Estate Agents Make?

The entry-level salary for real estate agents reported by various sources is varied. According to McKissock Learning, a group that provides learning solutions for licensed real estate professionals, agents earn an average of around $55,000 after being in business for one year.

The amount depends, of course, on many variables, not least of which is how hard the agent works and how many hours they devote to their real estate profession. The area where they work and the kinds of properties they sell will also make a difference, especially when earning commission.

Starting salaries for agents are typically in the ballpark of $52,030, which is close to some of the national averages for the job. However, according to McKissock Learning, after one to three years, the income of a real estate agent could rise to around $80,000. The longer you work as an agent and develop a clientele, the higher your salary might be.

Also, consider the cost of living and housing prices where a real estate agent works. Real estate agents typically earn money via commission (say, 5% of the property’s sale price, which may be divided between a couple of agents, such as the listing agent and the buyer’s agent). This can make a tremendous difference: One real estate agent might be selling homes that sell in the range of $300k, while another might sell multi-million dollar waterfront homes in Hawaii. The latter will likely earn much more competitive pay.

What Is the Average Salary for a Real Estate Agent?

How much does a real estate agent make a year? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for a real estate agent in May 2022 was $52,030, while real estate brokers earned a median salary of $62,000.

Salaries will vary depending on where an agent works (the state), their licenses, and how hard they work. Brokers tend to earn more than agents.

How much does a real estate agent make per sale? This is a critical factor regarding their income. An agent who works in New York City, prime areas of Los Angeles or Palo Alto, or in Hawaii will likely earn a higher net commission per sale because average property prices are high. (For the very high-end professionals, being a real estate agent could be among the highest paid jobs per state.) Because agents earn more the more properties they sell, how much time they spend on their business can also be a major factor affecting their earnings.

The table below shows the average real estate agent salary for 2022 (the most recent year available) based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

State

Real Estate Agent Mean Wage

Alabama $58,840
Alaska $72,290
Arizona $61,330
Arkansas $66,750
California $77,430
Colorado $79,610
Connecticut $71,830
Delaware $53,690
District of Columbia $96,070
Florida $56,580
Georgia $55,130
Hawaii $57,310
Idaho $49,830
Illinois $44,510
Indiana $64,610
Iowa $69,210
Kansas $52,970
Kentucky $55,050
Louisiana $46,690
Maine $62,380
Maryland $69,810
Massachusetts $79,060
Michigan $62,990
Minnesota $57,280
Mississippi $72,900
Missouri $47,670
Montana $58,120
Nebraska $53,090
Nevada $73,990
New Hampshire $94,810
New Jersey $82,090
New Mexico $50,920
New York $93,950
North Carolina $55,370
North Dakota $63,620
Ohio $45,570
Oregon $58,680
Pennsylvania $56,760
Puerto Rico $58,850
Rhode Island $71,490
South Carolina $65,160
South Dakota $74,323*
Tennessee $42,041*
Texas $77,320
Utah $60,830
Virginia $69,510
Washington $72,080
West Virginia $55,230
Wisconsin $57,930
Wyoming $74,820

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics[CB6]
*Data from Salary.com

Real Estate Agent Job Considerations for Pay and Benefits

There are, as you might guess, an array of factors that contribute to a real estate agent’s pay and career opportunities. Consider the following points.

The Cost of Becoming Licensed

Pre-licensing real estate classes may cost around $300. These classes are necessary to prepare for the real estate exam.

An established agent may also have to pay brokerage fees, which could be from $25 to $500 a month. A broker will take a commission on an agent’s real estate earnings or charge a monthly fee.

Marketing Costs

A realtor must likely market their services, which could cost around $600 a year or considerably more in competitive markets. It could cost more at the outset as the agent builds their brand and presence in the area they intend to work in. Or, as a real estate agent builds their client base, they might upgrade and begin to invest more in videos and social media to boost their profile.

Initially, an agent may do better working under a brokerage. A brokerage already has a customer base to draw from and an established brand name that will help an agent’s reputation. A brokerage will expect some commission in return, but it could be a valuable partnership.

Economic Conditions

The real estate market is infamous for its volatility. In a “hot” market, properties can sell quickly at high prices (often elevated by bidding wars), and estate agents can earn high commissions.

However, in times of recession, homes sit on the market longer, prices can slump, and real estate agents may earn much less.

Because most people buy a home using a mortgage loan, interest rates heavily influence the market. High interest rates deter people from borrowing and slow down the real estate market.

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Pros and Cons of Making a Living as a Real Estate Agent

A real estate agent is often an entrepreneur. That means they are in control of their business, but how much they earn depends on how much time they put in, their expertise and creativity, and other factors.

Here are some advantages and disadvantages of making a living as a real estate agent.

Pros of Making a Living as a Real Estate Agent Real

Cons of Making a Living as a Real Estate Agent

As entrepreneurs, agents are in control of their day. An agent’s income can be irregular and depends on economic and market conditions.
Agents can set their own schedules and work as hard or as little as they like. Income may be limited by the area where the agent works and the types of property available.
A commission-based salary can be lucrative if an agent works in the right area and the market is favorable. Real estate agents often work weekends and evenings to accommodate clients’ needs.

The Takeaway

The typical real estate agent’s salary is $52,030, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, that figure can vary greatly depending on where an agent works, their skill, and how hot the market is. Agents in major cities and who specialize in luxury properties can do very well.

When working as a real estate agent, it’s important to balance such concerns as marketing, building your client base, and adjusting to fluctuating economic conditions. These and other factors can impact cash flow, for better or for worse.

FAQ

How to make $100,000 your first year in real estate?

It’s possible to make $100,000 a year in real estate or put together enough deals to take in that amount of income. Factors that will help include working in an area where house prices are high, setting a strategy, and marketing your services well to generate leads.

How much do Realtors make in California?

The mean salary for Realtors in California as of May 2022 was $77,430, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. According to ZipRecruiter, the national average for 2023 was around $91,000. Realtors in California may earn more than the national average because property prices are often high, which leads to higher commissions on sales.

How much money does a real estate agent make a year?

How much a real estate agent earns in a year will depend on where and how they are licensed, the number of clients they represent, and the property prices in their area. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for a real estate agent in May 2022 was around $52,030, while real estate brokers earned a median salary of $62,000.


Photo credit: iStock/Pekic

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