Estate Agent

The Job and What's Involved

Estate agents sell property for their clients and earn their living by taking a percentage of the sales price after finding a buyer and completing the sale.

Their work is a mixture of negotiation, marketing and sales. They first of all have to convince prospective clients that they are the right agency to handle their sale or letting, and agree a price and the terms of the sale. They then advertise and promote the property in the agency's window, in newspapers, online and through 'for sale' boards. They also send out details of properties new to the market to people they know are looking for that type of property.

Agents make appointments and show buyers around a property, pointing out its best features and answering any questions. Their job is to find a buyer who is in a position to proceed with the purchase and willing to pay a price acceptable to the seller. They may also pass buyers on to their mortgage arrangers for quotations and advice.

They may specialise in residential houses and flats, in commercial property and businesses or in letting and managing properties.

Residential lettings and management involves letting property to a tenant on behalf of the owner and dealing with all aspects of the let from then on, including the legal and financial implications. Management means undertaking the ongoing responsibility for a property.

Agents have to be careful to choose responsible and reliable tenants, and handle any problems that arise with the property. This can mean liaising with various people, including plumbers, cleaners, gardeners and builders.

Commercial agents handle business properties from High Street stores to village shops, retail parks, offices, warehouses and factories. They may also deal with building plots (or land), properties to be converted for business use and specialised areas such as quarries, amusement parks and forests. These can range in value from a few thousand pounds to millions of pounds.

Agents act for the owner who wants to sell or let the property and for buyers or tenants. They may also agree adjustments to the rental or terms for a new lease for an existing tenant.

Business transfer agents specialise in selling existing businesses. These cover a wide range of facilities including High Street shops, post offices, convenience stores, newsagents, public houses, restaurants and hotels. They may also handle the sale of much bigger businesses in engineering, manufacturing and wholesaling.

Property auctions are an extension of the role of the estate agent. Many firms of estate agents don't handle the auctions themselves, but work with auction houses. However, agents may need to know how auctions work and be able to advise clients on this method of selling property.

Most estate agents will have an online presence and some are exclusively online such as Ask Susan if a quick house sale is needed.

Estate agents usually work from about 9am to 5.30pm, Monday to Saturday. Many agencies also open for part of Sunday and may have late evenings on some days. Agents may need to meet clients and buyers outside of normal working hours.

There are opportunities to work part time in some agencies.

Agents are based in an office, but are likely to spend a lot of time visiting properties in order to show prospective buyers around and check on the progress of a sale.

A driving licence will be useful.

A trainee estate agent could earn about £13,000 a year. In addition to receiving a basic salary, many agents are paid on a commission basis. This is often a percentage of the profit they have made for the agency.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There are estate agencies throughout the country and job vacancies are common. However, opportunities do tend to fluctuate with the state of the housing market.

Jobs are advertised in local newspapers and in publications such as The Estate Agent, The Negotiator and Estate Agency News. There are also recruitment agencies that specialise in estate agency jobs.

Education and Training

The most usual route for young people joining straight from school or college to become an estate agent is to join a firm as a trainee negotiator.

It is also possible to start as a receptionist or clerical assistant and move on to become a trainee estate agent.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

There are no set entry requirements for trainee agents, although GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), or higher level qualifications, can be an advantage. Most employers look for a good personal attitude and communication skills as much as formal qualifications. Increasing legislation covering the property market means that agents do need to be able to build up a good knowledge of the relevant laws.

TTC Training offers an Apprenticeship for young people, leading to an NVQ Level 2 or 3 in the Sale of Residential Property. The Apprenticeship also includes The National Association of Estate Agents' (NAEA) Technical Award, and Apprentices gain student membership of the NAEA after three months. The scheme is open to people of all ages, but only those between 16 and 24 years can receive government funding. There are no formal entry requirements.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work, Careers Wales; and for Northern Ireland contact

Degree courses in subjects such as property studies management and real estate management are also available. Entry is normally with two or three A levels/three or four H grades, or equivalent qualifications.

Trainee estate agents usually work alongside a more experienced negotiator or agent and may be encouraged to attend external training courses. The NAEA runs a wide range of half-day and one-day courses for existing agents. The NAEA offers Diplomas in Residential Estate Agency, Residential Letting and Property Management, and Commercial Property Agency. These are aimed at those with previous experience in agency work and are at HNC/HND and degree pass level.

The NAEA also runs a Technical Award in Residential Letting and Property Management and the examination-based Certificate in Residential Lettings and Management. Both are open to practising letting agents and those just starting in the business.

It is also possible to become a member, associate or fellow of the NAEA, depending on qualifications and experience.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

An estate agent should be:

  • An excellent communicator.
  • Able to inspire trust and confidence in clients and buyers.
  • A good negotiator.
  • Knowledgeable about the laws governing property sales and lettings.
  • Interested in how the economy works in relation to the property market.
  • Keen to work within a very competitive business environment.
  • Able to work under pressure, as their salary may depend on sales performance.
  • Smart and business-like.

Your Long Term Prospects

With experience, it is possible to become a senior negotiator or to manage a department within a firm. Larger agencies tend to have more opportunities for promotion, particularly for staff who are prepared to change location.

It is possible for an agent to become a partner in a firm, or to set up their own agency.

Get Further Information

The National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA),
Arbon House, 6 Tournament Court, Edgehill Drive, Warwick CV34 6LG
Tel: 01926 496800

Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS),
RICS Contact Centre, Surveyor Court, Westwood Way, Coventry CV4 8JE
Tel: 0870 333 1600

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