Real Estate Job Titles
Real estate job titles can be confusing. Real estate is a unique industry and there are some quirks when you compare job titles in real estate to job titles in other industries, especially when they have the same name but describe different things.
For example, a “broker” could refer to a real estate broker or someone who helps people buy and sell stocks. The public will call each of them a broker, but they have very different meanings and very different job descriptions.
To make things even more confusing, the exact terminology used to describe levels of licensing varies from state to state. Some states call all of their licensees “brokers” with qualifiers in front of the word broker, like managing broker or employing broker or associate broker. The meanings change depending on the geography, but it’s easy to figure out who’s who with a little background knowledge. Other states call some of their licensees brokers and other licensees salespeople, depending on their level of experience and education.
Residential real estate job titles
The generic term that’s widely accepted for all real estate licensees is real estate agent. Whether a person is a broker who manages a large office or a part-time real estate salesperson, most will identify with the term agent. It’s not usually the most descriptive term for a licensee, but it’s understood by most people.
Most of the people you encounter in the real estate business have the lowest level of licensing, which has historically been called salesperson. At this level of licensing, a person must work under the supervision of a broker. Most people in the real estate business have this level of licensing because it’s all that’s required to perform most functions when helping people buy and sell real estate. The new trend is to eliminate this term in favor of something less confusing for the public, which is explained below.
There has been a movement over the past few years to standardize the terminology used for licensees so many states are starting to call all of their real estate licensees “brokers” of some sort. This is because it’s easy for the public to confuse the different real estate job titles. It is common to see titles such as associate broker, managing broker, employing broker and broker-in-charge. This makes sense because now everyone who has a license is a “broker.”
Managing broker, employing broker or broker-in-charge
These titles are used for the managers and owners of real estate offices. Sometimes the office consists of one person and sometimes it consists of hundreds or even thousands of licensees. The qualifier in front of the name gives clues about the exact role and responsibilities of the person. In most cases, licensees must have several years of experience and a higher standard of education before they can sit for the broker exam and become a broker who can work without supervision from another broker.
There is no difference in the licensing process for commercial brokers and residential brokers, but there is a HUGE difference in how their businesses work. In fact, one of the most common ways for residential agents to get sued is when they get greedy and try to do a big commercial deal. The specialization required to be a commercial real estate broker should not be taken lightly. Very few agents successfully work both commercial and residential real estate, and the public treats commercial and residential agents very differently. New licensees will commonly think they can say YES to every deal that comes their way, but that is foolish and rarely sustainable. The best people in the business choose one area of expertise and focus on that.
REALTOR (yes, in all caps because that’s their trademark) is a professional designation. The only licensees who can use the term REALTOR to describe themselves are those who are a member of the National Association of REALTORs (NAR). There are about one million REALTORs in the world and most of the licensees working in the industry are members of NAR. Most brokerages require their licensees to be members of NAR before they can join the company. Both residential and commercial agents can be REALTORs.
Sales manager and office manager
These are the people responsible for running the real estate brokerages on a day-to-day basis. This is also where all sorts of creative titles start to show up. Sales managers can also be called VP of Sales, VP of Business Development, CEO, COO, General Manager and a bunch of other things.
Office managers are usually focused more on the operations side of the brokerage. They manage things like office maintenance, office supplies, paying bills, staff, scheduling of office events and other day-to-day activities. Sometimes the sales manager and office manager are the same person and there’s no clear distinction. Office managers can have a wide range of creative titles as well.
With the rapid growth of real estate teams, agents have figured out how to leverage their time by hiring team members to handle specific parts of the business. One of the first hires agents make when building a team is a buyers agent. Buyers agents spend ALL of their time working with the buyers while the team owner typically focuses on sellers. The division of labor allows both people to maximize their contributions (and income).
Listing agents are focused solely on listings (sellers), just like buyers agents are focused solely on buyers. Again, the division of labor allows each team member to focus on one area of the business in order to become the expert in it while they use human leverage to handle the rest.
Administrative assistants are some of the most important people on a real estate team. They are the “office managers” of the team and they keep it all together while the listing agents, buyers agents and showing assistants work with the clients. A great administrative assistant is the FIRST person an agent should hire when they want to start building a team (even though many agents unwisely hire sales help–buyer agents–first).
Showing assistants are responsible for handling the time-consuming task of driving clients around and showing them houses. They are usually paid hourly and this role is usually a stepping stone for a larger role within the organization.
Commercial real estate job titles
As mentioned above, commercial real estate jobs and job titles are much different than residential real estate job titles. The only real thing residential and commercial agents have in common is the state license they hold. Just about everything else about their businesses is different.
Commercial real estate professionals tend to focus on one very specific niche such as industrial, multi-family, office, retail, restaurants, hotels, etc. Some of the larger commercial real estate firms will have several different niches represented with specific agents focused on specific areas. It may seem counter-intuitive, but focusing on one very specific niche allows commercial agents to do MORE business than they would if they tried to be a “Jack of all trades and master of none.”
The different areas of expertise in commercial real estate have different needs and different job titles. Depending on the focus, it’s common to find people with titles such as analyst, tenant representative, director, vice president, marketing manager, accountant and so on.