Why Become a Commercial Real-Estate Agent?

A career as a commercial real-estate broker has its pluses and minuses. Allow me to tell you why I like it and can’t fathom doing anything else.

After over 40 years in the “commission only” business, I should pretty much know if I’m going to stick with it for the long haul. First, “freedom”.

I worked in the corporate world after college for four grueling years. Someone else set my hours, my salary schedule, my days off, etc.  I hated playing corporate politics, trying to please my superiors in hope of a promotion, having to ask for a raise.

In real estate, you are your own boss, free to do what you want each hour of each day of every week. Nobody looks over your shoulder, clocks you in and out, or tells you when you can take time off for good behavior.

I loved being able to attend my kids’ sports and school events when most dads were on the job or commuting home. I was inspired by the concept that I could work as hard and make as much money as I wanted – nobody was holding me back or charting my career path.

For the first 10 years, I straddled the line between residential and commercial real estate. I had an appetite and aptitude for both. However, residential was a relentless treadmill of seven days a week, weekends, holidays, evenings. It was not conducive to a family life.

Commercial brokerage tended to be more in line with my preferred lifestyle. It was based around corporate hours, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. No weekends, unless I wanted to.

Commissions per transaction were potentially huge, five figures sometimes, although not quite as frequent. There was not so much “emotion” in the decision process.

Not as much competition was another factor. Of 1,000 members of the local board of Realtors, only a handful specialized in commercial brokerage. The satisfaction gained by orchestrating a complicated transaction and helping someone through the maze of hurdles and helping them build wealth was, and still is, a process that gets my juices flowing.

When that same client comes back to me or refers someone else to me, it is even more gratifying.

If there are any downsides to the business, I would have to say it’s the relatively long learning curve. In my own case, I had it the hard way. I had no mentors or in-house training programs.

Now I recommend that you start out at a firm where you can get training and maybe apprentice under someone for a year.

To sustain yourself financially during this learning curve is a challenge, and probably the biggest reason why more people don’t do it.

There sometimes are long gaps between paychecks. You do have to get licensed and you also have continuing education requirements. You are an independent contractor in most offices, but that means you have to possess discipline.

There are lots of distractions that can derail you and get you off your planned day. The other downside is the economy.

Right now it is the most challenging economy I have ever experienced in my adult working career. I weathered the 1979-1981 economy, when interest rates went up to 17 percent or 18 percent. But this is a greater challenge.

People are hurting. Wealth is being taken from some and given to others. One person’s loss is another person’s gain. Banks are taking back properties and reselling them for pennies on the dollar.

The buyer, the ones with access to capital, are the true beneficiaries. We still are brokering deals such as those, commissions still are being paid.

We are very much needed in the process. And the pendulum will swing, so brokers such as us with a decent inventory of quality listings stand to prosper.

We always are on the lookout for new motivated sales agents and brokers. I hope this look at this exciting business causes you to take a closer look.

If you are a residential real-estate agent and have thought about doing commercial, I would encourage you to talk to me about making the transition as painless as possible.


By Bruce Kaplan, Senior Broker Associate with Premier Commercial Realty in Lake in the Hills.