Working as an estate agent can be a challenging yet rewarding career. The work is varied, often with generous commissions, and estate agents are continually kept on their toes by an ever-changing property market, making no two days the same. Whether you’re fresh out of education or looking to make a career change, it can be a great choice.
In this guide, we take a look at the responsibilities of the role and the possible routes to securing an entry-level position. Is becoming an estate agent the right choice for you?
What are an estate agent’s responsibilities?
Responsibilities will vary between agencies. There are also several different types of agency you could work for — from traditional high street agencies to online companies.
Within one agency, responsibilities are likely divided between residential sales, residential lettings, commercial sales, commercial lettings and rural estate. Some agents work across these areas, but many specialise in lettings or sales.
Regardless of the setting or department in which you operate, the following are core responsibilities that most estate agents are expected to assume:
- Building customer relationships — estate agents must have excellent communication skills and be able to quickly build rapport with their clients.
- Liaise with clients to market properties — the agent’s purpose is to maximise the selling value of a property by collecting relevant information and arranging for professional photographs to be taken.
- Visit sellers — to discuss the sale of their property, ascertain special features, allay any concerns and generally to gain a thorough understanding of the client’s requirements and expectations.
- Respond to telephone enquiries — an agent will sometimes be in the office and at other times, they may be visiting properties. They must respond in a timely and professional manner to all incoming telephone enquiries.
- Conduct property valuations — The independent consumer watchdog Which? advises homeowners to invite three estate agents to value their property before committing to one agent. Estate agents need to have a strong understanding of the property market and provide accurate valuations that will secure new business. An agent must have sufficient knowledge to explain their valuation if challenged with questions — “Why is your valuation £10,000 less than your competitor’s valuation?” — from potential clients.
- Act as a mediator and negotiator — If an offer is made, the agent must mediate between the buyer and the seller as negotiations on the sale price, moving date and a variety of matters progress.
- Monitor sales and problem solve — An agent must keep a careful eye on a sale as it progresses and quickly pre-empt or address any problems that may arise. For example, if a sale is endangered due to the buyer’s house sale falling through, can the estate agent save the day by offering a chain repair service to prevent the property chain breaking?
- Keep up-to-date with the housing market — The price of properties are in continual flux. Anything from a national financial crisis, such as the global 2008 crisis, to the coronavirus pandemic, can impact how fast properties sell and for what price. An estate agent must keep up-to-date with such changes and be proactive and creative in seeking out new opportunities while allaying customer fears.
How to become an estate agent
There are no formal entry requirements for becoming an estate agent in the UK, although many employers are keen to take on graduates. Some agencies offer graduate fast-track schemes, which allow a recruit to quickly progress up the career ladder.
Many employers are more interested in a candidate’s experience and personality than formal qualifications. If you’ve worked in a customer-facing role previously and can demonstrate a keen interest in property, this could be enough to secure an interview. The personality traits and competencies that many agencies want include:
- Confident and personable when talking to clients
- Good problem-solving skills
- Ability to be creative and think outside-of-the-box
- Flexible — willing to work across offices, visit client’s homes and take on a wide range of tasks
- Driving licence — for visiting customers and travelling between branches
- Interest in the property market
- Knowledge of the local area
- Ambitious — many estate agents are given considerable responsibility early on
- Organised — you may have to manage multiple clients/properties and deadlines simultaneously
Gaining relevant work experience is the best way to plug any skills gaps and demonstrate a commitment to the profession. Many estate agencies will be happy to take on a willing volunteer for a fixed period. If they are pleased with your performance and there is a suitable opening in the economy, this could evolve into an offer of paid employment.
Social media is another way to develop a good understanding of the industry — get your name out there and make connections that could lead to employment. Platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter provide a wealth of up-to-the-minute property news as well as putting you in touch with the right people.
For career changers, don’t undersell any transferable skills you possess. Many of the key competencies employers are looking for in new estate agents — confidence, organisation, willingness to assume responsibility — you probably gained through other roles and life experience.
Although no formal qualifications are required to start a career as an estate agent, the NAEA Propertymark (formerly the National Association of Estate Agents) offers various nationally recognised qualifications via its sister site, Propertymark Qualifications. An employer may expect you to complete these as part of your job. Making a start on these courses independently is a good way to show commitment and secure your first position as an estate agent.
Being an estate agent can be a highly-rewarding career with huge potential for progression and diversification. If the role feels like the perfect fit for you, seek out some work experience and investigate the courses available. But, don’t forget to capitalise on your existing skillset and make these evident to potential employers. Chances are you already have a strong foundation for becoming a successful estate agent.