6 Things to Know Before Becoming a Real Estate Agent

Real estate agent in front of California home

Are you excited to become a real estate agent in California? We asked experienced agents in California to list important things to know before becoming a real estate agent. Here’s what they had to say about California market trends, income potential, and other skills or qualities that lead to success.

Key Takeaways

  • Understanding market trends and local specifics is crucial for success in California real estate.
  • Real estate offers high income potential but requires solid financial planning due to its commission-based nature.
  • Building a strong network and choosing the right brokerage with good mentorship programs are essential for career growth.
  • Key skills for success include flexibility, problem-solving, ethics, negotiation, and perseverance.

Things I Wish I Knew Before Becoming a Real Estate Agent

According to the California Department of Real Estate, as of May 2024, there were 434,661 licensed real estate agents and brokers in California. How do you stand out from the herd as a new agent? Here’s what experienced real estate salespeople have to say.

1. Market trends and local knowledge

One key to success is a deep understanding of the California real estate industry.

Understanding market trends is critical for residential buyers and sellers agents and those involved in the commercial market. In addition, having local knowledge will help you better serve your clients and expand the reach of your business.

Here’s how staying informed about the broader real estate market and local statistics have helped these agents succeed.

My work with IPA Commercial Real Estate in Riverside has taught me the importance of staying updated on local trends. The Inland Empire’s rapid growth, particularly in retail and office spaces, offers unique opportunities. For example, knowing that retail vacancy rates are lower than the national average can guide your investment or leasing decisions. – Matt Morgan, IPA Commercial Real Estate

Local expertise is the cornerstone of effective real estate practice. In Riverside, knowing the nuances—such as which neighborhoods are up-and-coming or which areas are best for families versus professionals—helps me guide clients to make informed decisions. For instance, neighborhoods like Orangecrest have shown consistent property value appreciation, which is invaluable information for prospective buyers. – Scott Beloian, Westcoe REALTORS®, Inc.

Understanding Riverside’s unique blend of small-town charm and big-city opportunities is crucial. The Inland Empire’s growth, especially the industrial market, reinforces the region’s expanding business hub potential. Staying on top of these trends allows me to provide clients with valuable insights, ensuring their ventures align with local market conditions and demographic shifts. – Joe Stance, Stance Commercial Real Estate

2. Income potential and financial considerations

According to the 2022-2023 California Real Estate Income Report by Allied Schools, the average starting salary for real estate agents in California is $66,334. However, it’s important to note that most of the time, real estate agents work entirely on commission. If you are new to this income structure, you may be concerned about managing your finances without a regular paycheck. Here’s advice from those currently working in the field.

Real estate offers high income potential, but it requires a solid understanding of financial planning. Through my experience in acquisitions and sales, I’ve learned the importance of leveraging market cycles and financing options. For example, utilizing low-interest periods for property acquisitions can maximize ROI. – Matt Morgan, IPA Commercial Real Estate

Real estate can be highly lucrative, but it requires keen financial management and a willingness to weather market fluctuations. At Westcoe Realtors, we focus on strategic planning and leveraging market trends to maximize our clients’ investment returns. Buyers and sellers must understand the financial landscape, from commission rates to potential market downturns, to navigate the industry successfully. – Scott Beloian, Westcoe REALTORS®, Inc.

3. Time commitment and flexibility

A flexible schedule is one of the perks of working as a real estate agent. However, even though you may get to choose your own hours as an agent, you may be working more to achieve the income level you desire.

For example, according to Allied Schools’ Salary Guide, agents working 40-50 hours per week earned an average of $119,192. But, California agents working over 60 hours per week yielded an average of $167,521 in commissions.

4. Networking and building a client base

Whether networking comes naturally to you or not, it’s an essential skill to develop. It may help to think of networking as “building a community,” as described by one agent.

Networking isn’t just a strategy; it’s building a community. Our dedication to forming meaningful connections has consistently helped our clients find ideal properties. For example, a local business owner, Blaine, found ample retail leasing opportunities through our network, securing steady income from tenants. Effective networking translates to long-term benefits for both the agent and the client. – Joe Stance, Stance Commercial Real Estate

Building a robust network is vital. My affiliations with organizations like the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) have been instrumental in forming valuable industry connections. These relationships not only facilitate transactions but also help in obtaining referrals, which are crucial for sustained success in real estate. – Matt Morgan, IPA Commercial Real Estate

Related article: Networking Like a Pro: Top Tips for Real Estate Networking

5. Support systems and mentorship

Choosing the right brokerage is one of the most critical decisions you make as a new real estate agent. You’ll need the support of experienced agents, and some brokerages have excellent mentorship programs to assist those new to the industry.

Learn more by reading How to Choose the Right Real Estate Broker as a New Agent.

6. Skills and qualities for success

You might be surprised by the skills and qualities experienced agents say lead to their success. They include flexibility, the ability to problem solve, ethics, negotiation skills, and perseverance.

Success in real estate hinges on a diverse skill set. Project management and tenant relocations have taught me the importance of flexibility and problem-solving. These skills, combined with a strong ethical foundation, ensure that I can add value to all client interactions and transactions. – Matt Morgan, IPA Commercial Real Estate

In my career, the skills I have seen help me the most have been negotiation and perseverance. By understanding what sellers and buyers want, you will be able to more effectively win offers for buyers and list more homes for sale. Perseverance is key because of the fluctuations in the California real estate market. – Maureen McDermut, Maureen McDermut & Associates

Our summary of things to know before becoming a real estate agent would not be complete without discussing real estate education. Quality education and training are critical for new and experienced agents. Allied Schools has been a trusted education provider for over half a million Californians. We offer pre-license courses, continuing education (or license renewal), and broker courses. Learn more about the California real estate market by subscribing to our free publication, California Journal of Real Estate.


California Department of Real Estate. “Licensee and Examinee Statistics.” Department of Real Estate. Accessed June 20, 2024. https://dre.ca.gov/Stats/.

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