How to become a top real estate agent and what you could earn

How to become a top real estate agent and what you could earn

Considering a career in real estate? How much could you earn? What would you do every day? Here we lay out everything a beginner needs to know to make a decision about whether real estate is right for you.


How do I become a real estate agent?

The path to a great job in real estate in New Zealand is quick, and pretty painless. To get a professional real estate licence, you must be 18 or over and pass a criminal history check and meet certain other criteria to prove you’re a ‘fit and proper person’. You also need to do some real estate education to get your licence.


The entry level qualification to become a Real Estate Salesperson is a certificate course which can be completed online or in the classroom in as little as 12 weeks. 


If you have a property degree you can apply for a real estate licence without completing the certificate course. With extra training and 3 years’ on-the-job experience, you can take a further exam to become a Branch Manager or a Real Estate Agent.


Who can’t become a real estate agent in New Zealand?

When you apply to the Real Estate Authority (Te Mana Papawhenua) you need to consent to a criminal history check through the New Zealand Police Vetting Service. You won’t be able to be a real estate agent if you’ve been convicted of a crime involving dishonesty in the last ten years, if you’ve had a licence revoked before, if you’re a lawyer or conveyancer or if you have any other relevant prohibitions.


Where can I get my real estate agent education and qualifications?

There are a number of education providers in NZ who offer real estate courses and training, including Skills, Tafe, Unitec, Open Polytechnic and Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology. Real estate companies such as Barfoot and Thompson, Harcourts, Bayleys, L J Hooker and Ray White also offer various training programmes to help staff members with entry-level exams or more advanced courses in real estate education, with a view to licensing and upskilling in the field.

What kind of course or training does a real estate agent do to get a licence?

The entry level qualification to become a real estate salesperson is a certificate course which can be completed online or in the classroom in as little as 12 weeks. A real estate certificate course costs between $1000 and $2500 through non-affiliated education providers. 


Real estate firms offer various education programmes so it pays to do your research to find the best fit for you.


If you already have a property degree you can apply for a real estate salesperson licence without completing the certificate course, and with extra real estate study and 3 years’ on-the-job experience you can take an exam to become a Branch Manager or a Real Estate Agent.


Is there a real estate agent exam?

Yes. The entry level real estate qualification is a certificate course, the New Zealand or National Certificate in Real Estate (Salesperson) (Level 4). This qualification allows you to apply for a licence to sell real estate, as does a property degree. To become a Branch Manager or an Agent, you’ll need to do further training and 3 years’ worth of work experience.

How much does it cost to get a real estate licence?

The entry level certificate course for a Real Estate Salesperson costs around $1000 to $2500 through non-industry-affiliated education providers. The licence itself costs $939.55, which includes a non-refundable application fee of $187. An annual renewal fee of $724.50 is also required, and these costs are often covered through employment by one of the main real estate agencies. 


What sort of secondary qualifications do real estate agents need?

There are no formal secondary qualifications required for a career in real estate, but those who have studied accounting, business, economics or digital technologies may have an advantage. 


What sort of previous work experience do real estate agents need?

There are no set requirements for previous work experience to have a successful job in real estate, but working in fields such as customer service, public relations or sales may be advantageous. 


What sort of person should become a real estate agent?

There are no hard-and-fast rules, but certain attributes may help you become more successful. Positivity, enthusiasm, self-motivation, persistence, skillful at negotiations, excellent communication, honesty and trustworthiness, patience, and strength in planning and organisation. That said, many of these skills can be learned, developed and honed with perseverance and determination. 


How much salary can I earn as a real estate agent?

A career in real estate can offer rich rewards. A real estate professional is usually paid a commission, which is a pre-negotiated percentage of the selling price of each property you sell. According to a 2019 survey by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, real estate agents make an average income of $84,500 per year. The more listings you land, and the more sales you make, the more you get paid. Experienced, hardworking real estate agents can earn a salary of closer to $500,000, with top earners reaching heights of up to $1.5 million per year.


How do real estate agents get paid?

All real estate firms have a different way of charging, calculating and paying out commissions on property sales. As a new salesperson, you may get paid around 55% of the negotiated amount the vendor pays when their property sells. High-performing salespeople and agents may earn up to 70% or more of that figure. You’ll usually move up the pay scale based on your previous earnings. There are also some agencies who employ people on a salary and don’t pay commission, but these are in the minority.


When do real estate agents get paid?

This may vary between agencies. At Barfoot & Thompson for example, commissions are generally paid monthly from the deposit paid by the purchaser of the property after that amount has been held in trust for 10 working days, but this may be affected by the date the sale goes unconditional, the amount of the deposit or the release date of the funds.


What are my chances of becoming a rich real estate agent?

Real estate can be a hugely rewarding career, but what makes one agent succeed over another? It may be the luck of the draw, or just being in the right place at the right time. After all, the odds are in your favour if you’re working in a booming property market cycle where supply can barely keep up with demand and houses are selling like hotcakes. 


One thing to consider is the area where you’re planning to sell. Is it already well represented with real estate agents? That’s going to make it more difficult to find new listings to sell. Concentrating your efforts in a new or emerging area with plenty of property development and fewer real estate agents will increase your chances of earning rich rewards.


Choosing the right agency or branch to work for is also key to getting paid in the real estate game. The support provided by the brand and the knowledge skilled agents are willing to share can vary, but this may be crucial in setting you up for a sensational career.


Ultimately building strong real estate earnings comes down to discipline and hard work. Setting up strong relationships, ensuring you have great record-keeping and follow-up so you don’t miss opportunities, managing your clients’ expectations and being realistic and honest in your dealings with both vendor and seller will build your personal real estate brand more effectively than waiting for the property winds to blow in your favour.


What do real estate agents do?

A career in real estate involves everything to do with the buying and selling of property. As a residential salesperson, you’ll find properties to suit buyers, help vendors sell their properties, research and make assessments of the value and rental potential of properties, promote properties for sale through advertising and open homes, organise and negotiate property sales and contracts, and arrange building inspections and reports. There are also other career opportunities in the real estate industry like property management, managing staff, auctioneering, administration or owning a franchise agency.


What sort of hours do real estate agents work?

Real estate salespeople do usually have to work weekends, and you may also need to be available to meet vendors or show properties in the evening after work. You need to be available for people when they’re available if you want to get properties sold so you can get paid. On the flip side, a real estate professional can largely make their own hours outside of open home and viewing obligations, so you’ll be able to schedule yourself a ‘weekend’ some other time during the week.


Can I work part time hours as a real estate agent?

As a real estate professional, you really can choose how much or how little you work. If you want to add a little extra income to your pay packet from a real estate side hustle and just work part time hours, go for it.


What’s it like to be a real estate agent?

Once you’re a real estate agent, what will it be like? Will it be a good job? Will you get paid a good salary, earn big commissions and meet tons of interesting people? Like so many self-starter careers, your success at making real estate pay off will depend on a little bit of luck and a whole lot of pluck. You’ll set your own targets, work to your own schedule and forge an income-producing real estate career by staying open to learning from each new experience.


Can I be a real estate agent with no experience?

Absolutely, yes you can. Most people enter the real estate field without any previous experience in the property market. Qualifying as a real estate salesperson is short and sweet, and once you have your licence you can start selling property, and get paid for your efforts. Although no experience is required, having a wide network, or being an enthusiastic networker can be a real asset to a career in real estate.

Real estate agent tattoo

Can I be a real estate agent if I have tattoos? Or dreads?

Why not? The most successful real estate salespeople present themselves in a professional manner, with neat attire and a tidy appearance. There is nothing to say tattoos or dreadlocks have to distract from that. Of course, some people may be a little disarmed at visible tattoos or curious hairstyles, but this is the 21st century, and discriminating on the basis of appearance is just not cool anymore. Besides, there’s nothing at all that a winning smile and a welcoming attitude can’t overcome.


Can I be a real estate agent without a car?

Not really. While it’s not a requirement to own and drive your own car to work in real estate, in most cases you will find it a challenge to run your real estate business without being able to easily and quickly move around your area. Of course there may be exceptions to this rule, and if you’re really keen to launch a real estate career but don’t have a car, talk to the various real estate agencies to see if they have other opportunities for you.



Long and irregular hours are sometimes required to earn a top real estate salary, but just think where your ambition could take you. Develop a solid plan to achieve with the help of your real estate education, training and support, apply discipline and consistency to establishing relationships and keeping communication flowing, and the sky really is the limit on how far you could go with your new real estate career.


For more information on the requirements to qualify as a real estate professional, visit Real Estate Authority (Te Mana Papawhenua)



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