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  • Writer's pictureVivian Chong

5 Hard Truths About The Real Estate Agent Career (Updated 2023)

Updated: Aug 21

I enjoy meeting aspiring real estate agents who want to make a switch to the property agent career.

Love their raw passion and enthusiasm! And it always reminds me of my early real estate career days.

The real estate industry has frequently been portrayed as one which is full of glamor.

But what are the challenges faced by real estate agents in their careers?

In this article, I will share with you 5 hard truths of the property agent career.

(1) You might not be earning as much as you would have thought

It has been said 'The sky is the limit' when it comes to the amount of income a real estate agent can earn.

It is true.

I have seen agents, many of whom new to the industry, clocking in a 6-figure sales commission in a single month! This is no small feat and kudos to all who have done that!

According to CEA, there are a total of 32,414 real estate agents in Singapore as of 1 Jan 2022. While we hear of agents closing fat commission, there are many others who are not earning as much as they should be earning.

Which is why the turnover rate for real estate agents is high.

In my opinion, achieving a phenomenal sales figure takes a lot of hard work and a fair bit of luck. But it is relatively easier if you are targeting a more realistic and consistent sales figure.

It boils down to identifying the direction you want to head, devising a strategy and work hard for it.

The problem is many of us do not have a clear direction, not focused on what we should be doing, or not disciplined enough to carry out what we are supposed to do.

I think an experienced agent will understand what I mean by the above. But new agents will probably be scratching their heads.

Let me share my experience.

When I first started in the real estate business, I focused a lot on the sale of HDB flats. The very first deal that I concluded in my career was a 3room flat in Eunos Crescent. It was sold at $152,000.

Argh... gone were the days when you can buy a 3rm flat which is on a high floor, nicely renovated, and near to MRT station at this price!

The very first deal I concluded in my real estate career - A 3room flat in Eunos Crescent at $152,000

At a commission of 2%, the commission will be $3,040. So if you are targeting $15,000 sales commission per month, you have to sell 5 such flats.

It is easier nowadays considering how much prices of properties have appreciated. The sales commission for selling a 5room flat, say in Punggol at $500,000, will fetch you a commission of $10,000.

However, do note that this is not the net commission you will receive. You will have to factor in the cut from your agency, and the marketing expenses.

Assuming the cut from your agency is 20%, and marketing expenses at 20%, you will get back 60% of the $15,000 sales commission, which works out to be $9,000.

So if your direction is towards the HDB resale market, the strategy should be getting as many sellers' exclusives to sell as possible. The same goes if you are heading towards the direction of resale private properties.

How do you convince owners to give you the exclusive to sell? A good mentor will be able to train you so that owners are confident to engage you as their exclusive agent.

If you are working towards the direction of new launches, the strategy will be very different.

An experienced mentor will be able to guide you in the right direction and strategy.

marine terrace marine crescent marine drive
I focused on HDB resale market in Marine Parade during my earlier days in real estate.

(2) You might face cash flow difficulties

A real estate agent career is similar to running our own business. Cash flow is very important for developing business and generating profit.

We do not get paid until the transaction is completed, which could mean a week to 9 months from the day we conclude the sale.

What do I mean by that?

Below are the typical transactions most agents handle, and the time between we conclude a transaction to the date we get paid:

  • Rental Transaction: 1 to 2 weeks

  • HDB transactions: On the completion date which is around 3 months from the day we conclude the sale.

  • Private resale transactions: On the completion date, which is around 3 months from the day we conclude the sale.

  • New launch project: 6 to 9 months from the date we conclude the sale.

You can see from the above how important is the ability to manage cash flow.

I have the habit of keeping 2 spreadsheets. The first one is to keep track of the sales I have done every month, and the second one is to keep track of the commission that will be coming in monthly.

This allows me to monitor and manage my cash flow carefully.

A common question I often received from aspiring agents: How much savings should I have before I commence my real estate career?

If there is an ideal saving to have, it should be an amount that can tide you through for at least 6 months.

However, if you do not have the luxury of 6 months savings buffer, you might want to go in the direction of rental transactions at the beginning of your career. You will receive your commission faster so it solves the problem of cash flow temporarily.

Having said that, it is important to keep your focus on the direction of sales transactions as this is more sustainable.

The key to overcoming this cash flow challenge is simply to be consistent in your sales.

Once you are on track to consistent sales, you will be able to manage your cash flow much better.

3) You need to be really disciplined

One of the most attractive benefits of a real estate agent career is flexibility. We do not need to report to anyone, neither do we need to reach the office at a stipulated timing.

However, it is easy to lose focus, becomes inefficient and succumb to laziness when you have such flexibility. Throughout my career, I have seen many agents (myself included) falling into such traps.

We go through the days busy with many things. Arranging viewing appointments, attending to clients' needs, handling paperwork, helping new teammates on their cases etc.

In between, there are meetings and training to attend.

It is so easy to get caught up with everything and at the end of the day, we attend to all urgent matters but neglected the important ones.

It is through experience that I manage to come out with a solution for myself to be more efficient but it takes a lot of discipline.

The solution is to plan. And the key to making the plans work? Disciplined!

And yes, I am still working hard on being disciplined every day.

4) You will receive a lot of rejections

When I first started in this industry, I received a lot of rejections and felt discouraged very frequently.

During my initial days, I will do door-to-door cold calling for the HDB exclusives that I was marketing. This is because many times, the one who buys your unit will be the neighbour staying in the same block or nearby blocks.

So I was marketing this 5 room unit in Geylang Bahru and was doing door-to-door cold calling for that unit. I saw this resident watering her plants in the corridor and so I passed one of my name cards to her.

Next thing I know? She threw my card down right in front of me!

How did I feel then? Honestly, I don't know what to feel and how to react cos I didn't expect her to do that.

Looking back as a more experienced agent now, I can only say what she did reflect more on who she is as a person rather than on me. I was just doing my job.

There were also many occasions during my earlier days when I spent 1 to 2 hours doing exclusive presentations to owners looking to sell their property, only for them to tell me "we will think about it".

It got to a point that after the appointment was made, I will hope they call and cancel the appointment. Then I will not need to spend the time going through the presentation and feeling disappointed after that.

I believe many agents experienced what I went through. The rejections I had were not uncommon.

It is all part and parcel of any sales job.

The good thing is as we become more experienced, we will be able to handle rejections better and pick ourselves up faster after every rejection.

5) You will be undercut by other agents or even your own clients

I believe every agent has experienced being undercut. We can be undercut by other agents and even our own clients. It is a bitter pill to swallow when we are not being rewarded for the hard work we put in.

Many years ago, I was marketing a 5room unit in Marine Parade. If you are familiar with this estate, you will know the 5room units there are all located on a point block. ie. There are only 4 units per level.

5 room for sale in Marine Terrace
A typical point block in Marine Parade.

Out of these 4 units, 2 units are facing towards the sea, and 2 units will have afternoon sun. It is easy for agents who have the intention to undercut to find out exactly which unit you are marketing by asking a few questions.

So while I was marketing a unit there, an agent called and make inquiries about the unit. Being the new agent then, I innocently gave information that revealed the unit I was marketing.

And the next thing I know? The unit was sold behind my back!

Another example was a detached house I was marketing in Tanjong Katong area, I showed the unit to a buyer and I can see that he was very keen as he asked many questions.

Guess what happened after that? He went to knock on the seller's door and attempt to make a deal with him directly without me!

The owner called and told me about the incident. He asked me to contact the buyer and negotiate on the price.

While I detest the buyer for doing that, I am thankful to my seller for looking after my interest.

I was marketing this detached house many years ago and almost got undercut by a potential buyer!

I have learned through the hard way on how to protect my rice bowl and minimize the chances of being undercut.

Nowadays whenever I secure the exclusive to sell, I will always pre-empt owners on what the potential undercutting agents or buyers will do.

And how do we prevent undercutting?

One of the best ways to prevent undercutting is to build a good relationship with our clients.

There are many sellers and buyers out there who will have no qualms about protecting our interests!


Real estate agent career is a journey with great opportunities and rewards. It is also a road with many challenges and obstacles to conquer.

While a career in real estate is attractive for many reasons, the work involved is definitely not a walk in the park.

To all my fellow agents whether you are new or veteran in the industry, we all know it is not an easy feat to be here this far. So 3 cheers to all of us!

To all realtors-to-be who are taking the RES course and exam, I wish you all the best as you take the first step to the real estate agent career.

Do speak to real estate leaders and agents who are experienced in this industry so you understand more about the industry before joining.

Or you can drop me a whatsapp or make an appointment with me using the link below.

See you soon!

Make An Appointment Here


Related Readings

1) Journey Of My Real Estate Agent Career

2) Is Real Estate Career A Good Choice For Mums?

3) Which Real Estate Agency Should I Join?


About The Author

Vivian joined the real estate industry in 2002. Having been in the real estate business for almost 2 decades, she knows the rewards and challenges that a real estate agent face.

While the real estate career offers lucrative income and flexible work hours, it also presents many challenges - financial insecurity as we do not have basic pay, time management as we juggle work, children and family all at one time.

Only those who have walked the same journey will understand.

Vivian would now like to pay it forward by mentoring fellow agents, especially women who want to build a real estate career.

It is her vision to see women achieving their dreams, and live their lives with purpose and passion through a successful real estate career.

Connect with Vivian to embark on this journey.

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