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  • Writer's pictureVivian Chong

5 Hard Truths About The Real Estate Agent Career (Updated 2024)

Updated: Jul 15

5 Hard Truths About The Real Estate Agent Career

I enjoy meeting aspiring real estate agents who want to 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 full of glamor.

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

In this article, I will share 5 hard truths about the property agent career.

5 hard truths as a property agent

(1) You might not be earning as much as you would have thought in your real estate agent career

It has been said that '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 new to the industry, clock in a 6-figure sales commission in a month! This is no small feat, and kudos to all who have done it!

According to CEA, there were 32,414 real estate agents in Singapore as of 1 January 2022. While we hear agents closing fat commissions, many others are not earning as much as they should be earning.

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

Achieving a phenomenal sales figure takes a lot of hard work and a fair bit of luck. However targeting a more realistic and consistent sales figure is easier.

It boils down to identifying your goal, devising a strategy, and working hard.

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

An experienced agent will understand what I mean, 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 selling HDB flats. The very first deal I concluded in my career was a 3-room flat in Eunos Crescent. It was sold for $152,000.

Argh... gone were the days when you could buy a 3-room flat on a high floor, nicely renovated, and near to the MRT station at this price!

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

The commission will be $3,040 at a 2% rate. So, if you target $15,000 monthly sales commission, you must sell five such flats.

It is easier nowadays, considering how much property prices have appreciated. The sales commission for selling a 5-room 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 must factor in the cut from your agency and the marketing expenses.

Assuming your agency's cut is 20%, and marketing expenses are 20%, you will get back 60% of the $15,000 sales commission, totaling $9,000.

So, if you are targeting the HDB resale market, your strategy should be to get as many sellers' exclusives to sell as possible. The same goes for the resale of private properties.

How do you convince owners to give you the exclusive right to sell? A good mentor can train you so that owners are confident in your ability and 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 can guide you in the right direction and strategy.

marine terrace marine crescent marine drive vivian chong property agent
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's career is similar to running a business. Cash flow is very important for developing a 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, around 3 months from the day we conclude the sale.

  • Private resale transactions: On the completion date, 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 the ability to manage cash flow is for real estate agents.

cashflow is important for a property agent

I have the habit of keeping two spreadsheets. The first one tracks my monthly sales, and the second one tracks the commission that will be coming in monthly.

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

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

If there is an ideal savings amount, it should last you at least 6 months.

However, if you do not have the luxury of a 6-month savings buffer, you should consider rental transactions at the beginning of your career. You will receive your commission faster, which temporarily solves the problem of cash flow.

Focusing on the direction of sales transactions is essential as this is more sustainable.

The key to overcoming this cash flow challenge is consistency in your sales.

Once you are on track to consistent sales, you can better manage your cash flow.

3) You need to be really disciplined

Flexibility is one of the most attractive benefits of a real estate agent career. We do not need to report to anyone or reach the office at a stipulated time.

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

We spend the days busy with many things: arranging viewing appointments, attending to clients' needs, handling paperwork, helping new teammates with 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 neglect the important ones.

Through experience, I have managed to devise 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 to be disciplined every day.

discipline as a real estate agent

4) You will receive a lot of rejections

When I first started in this industry, I received many rejections and frequently felt discouraged.

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

I was marketing this 5-room unit in Geylang Bahru by doing door-to-door cold calling. I saw this resident watering her plants in the corridor, 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 how to feel or react because I didn't expect her to do that.

Looking back now, as a more experienced agent, what she did reflects more on her as a person rather than on me. I was 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 the point that I hoped they would call and cancel the appointment after it was made. I will then not need to spend time going through the presentation and feeling disappointed after that.

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 clients

Every agent has experienced being undercut.

We can be undercut by other agents and even our clients. It is a bitter pill to swallow when we are not rewarded for our hard work.

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

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

Out of these four units, two are facing towards the sea, and two will have afternoon sun. It is easy for agents who intent 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 inquired about the unit. As the new agent then, I innocently gave information revealing 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 the 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 knocked on the seller's door and attempted 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 the price.

While I detest the buyer for doing that, I am thankful to my seller for protecting my interests.

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

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

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

And how do we prevent undercutting?

Building a good relationship with our clients is one of the best ways to prevent undercutting.

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


A real estate agent career offers incredible opportunities and rewards but presents many challenges and obstacles.

While a career in real estate is attractive for many reasons, the work involved is 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 easy to be here this far. So 3 cheers to all of us!

To all aspiring realtors taking the RES course and exam, I wish you all the best as you take the first step towards a real estate agent career.

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

You can also drop me a WhatsApp or make an appointment using the link below.

See you soon!


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About The Author

vivian chong property agent

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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