Career in Real Estate

Career in Real Estate2022-04-13T11:27:18-05:00

A career in real estate can offer variety, independence, and great earning potential. You can train for this career at home with online courses, making it an attractive option for many people. Some people earn a real estate broker, managing broker, or leasing agent license with the intent to practice part-time, and others make it a full-time career.

Real estate is a highly challenging, commission-based job where your position is classified as “independent contractor” rather than a company “employee” working regular hours with a regular paycheck. Your financial success ultimately depends on your business plan, self-motivation and a lot of hard work. Is this career right for you?

Real estate licenses in Illinois

Broker license

Brokers help people buy, sell or rent residential real property. They act as an intermediary between sellers and buyers and help draw up the necessary legal paperwork to complete transactions. Brokers work under the direction of managing brokers. There are three steps to earning a real estate broker license in Illinois.

Residential Leasing Agent

Residential Leasing Agents work with property owners to market and show their residential properties and attract good tenants and they also help renters find and lease properties.

To earn a Residential Leasing Agent license in Illinois, you must be at least 18 years old, have a high school diploma or equivalent, complete a 15-hour Residential Leasing Agent Pre-LIcense course and pass the state licensing exam.

Managing Broker

Managing Brokers do all the things brokers do and have additional managerial privileges. They may work independently, supervise other agents, and own or manage their own brokerage.

To qualify for a Managing Broker license in Illinois you must be at least 20 years old, have an active, valid Illinois real estate broker license, have had an active real estate license for two (2) of the past three (3) years, and successfully complete the 45 hours of required managing broker pre-license education and pass the licensing exam.

Applicants who have never held a license but wish to earn a managing broker license will first have to complete the Broker pre-license and post-license education requirements, and follow with the 45-hour Managing Broker pre-license education requirement. You will not be able to apply for your Managing Broker license until you have met the “two out of the past three years” practicing broker requirement.

Real Estate Specialties

Many brokers and managing brokers choose to specialize in a particular area of practice.

Residential broker

When working with sellers, residential brokers help them get the best possible price for their home. When working with buyers, they help identify properties that appeal to the buyer and negotiate the best price.

Commercial broker

Individuals who work in commercial real estate specialize in income-producing properties such as apartments and office buildings, retail stores, shopping centers and industrial parks. Commercial brokers can assist buyers in determining if a property is a good investment or in the leasing and managing of commercial properties. Learn more about the commercial real estate specialty.


Appraisers provide expert opinions as to the value of properties. Real estate is appraised to determine many types of values, be it assessed value for tax purposes, insured value, book value for accounting purposes, present value for potential investors or rental value for income projections. They evaluate all factors that affect the potential use of the property at present and in the future. A separate license is needed here.

Farm and land broker

Land brokers not only deal with land for farming and recreation, they also deal with land for residential, commercial, and industrial expansion. Land brokers analyze the income potential for properties and determine a farm’s capacity to produce based on their knowledge of agriculture and the market.

Land developer

Land developers attempt to put land to its most profitable use through the construction of improvements. They organize and supervise the project from the acquisition of land all the way through construction and final sale, including site selection, planning and layout, and financing.

Urban planner

Urban planners work with local governments and other civic groups to develop productive and convenient ways to use land and water resources for urban renewal projects. They influence many aspects of community life as they try to accommodate the city’s future growth.

International real estate specialist

Global transactions are becoming increasingly common to all kinds of business. Each of these real estate specialties can be pursued in a global arena. Real estate professionals can be a resource to consumers through assisting foreign investors or helping local buyers invest abroad. Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS) is a designation for those interested in global real estate transactions.

Real estate career expectations


  • Reliable car
  • Mobile phone with hands-free capability
  • Insurance for your car
  • Insurance for your business (e.g., Errors & Omissions or E&O)


  • Good at time management
  • Budgeting skills
  • Financial discipline
  • Technology-savvy
  • Highly social, active networker
  • Empathy and good judgement
  • Self-motivated
  • Goal-oriented
  • Sales

Work hours

  • Flexible hours, no set work day or week
  • Nights and weekends to accommodate client schedules for showings
  • Mobile phone makes your office open 24 hours, so you must set our own limits
  • 40 hours per week is the typical hours worked by Illinois REALTORS (Source: 2019 Member Profile Illinois Report)

Start-up costs for Illinois brokers

Start-up costs vary, but you can expect to budget for these costs:

  • Getting licensed (state-required 90 hours coursework, state exam fee, license fee paid to Illinois Dept. Of Financial and Professional Regulation)
  • Post-license state-required education (75 hours)
  • REALTOR members must complete 2.5 hours of Code of Ethics training
  • Multiple listing service (MLS) and local REALTOR association annual dues
  • Marketing costs (e.g., business cards, signage, marketing pieces, advertising)

Ongoing costs

  • State-required continuing education to maintain your broker license every two years
  • Biennial license renewal fee paid to Illinois Dept. Of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDPR)
  • Optional continuing education via online or in-person conferences to stay current, gain more knowledge and grown your networks
  • Optional designation coursework to hone your skills and earn a designation such as Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR), Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM), Certified Property Manager (CPM), Graduate REALTOR Institute (GRI)
  • Marketing (e.g., website, direct mail, email marketing, advertising)
  • Client retention costs (e.g., closing gifts, client appreciation events, holiday gifts)
  • Client Management System (CMS)
  • Vehicle expenses
  • Taxes
  • Health care
  • REALTOR® members must complete 2.5 hours of approved Code of Ethics every two years (some courses offered free of charge)

Income expectations

  • Real estate is a commission-based business. You get paid a percentage of the sale on a home sales or purchase transaction.
  • The commission typically is split being the buyer’s agent, seller’s agent with a split also to your sponsoring broker based on the office policy.
  • You will likely need a secondary income until your business gets going
  • Funds must be set aside from each commission to pay federal income taxes

Questions to ask your potential sponsoring broker

  • What will sponsoring broker pay for? (e.g., marketing, website, business cards, signs, name badges, computer)
  • What is the commission split?
  • What do you offer for new agent onboarding training, coaching, MLS training, continuing education?
  • What are the sales goals and rewards program?
  • What do you have to offer for referral programs or lead generation?
  • What are your office policies?

Real estate designations and certifications

Designations and certifications are a way to enhance your skills, add to your credentials, and demonstrate your expertise. REALTORS® with a professional designation earn a median income of 74% more than those without a designation. The National Association of REALTORS® and its affiliated Institutes, Societies, and Councils provide a wide range of programs and services that help members increase their skills, proficiency and knowledge.

Learn more

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