How to Become a Commercial Realtor


Becoming a commercial realtor takes a combination of the right personality, a strong work ethic, and the ability to network and market yourself. In return for your hard work, this field offers incredible earning potential, excellent opportunities for advancement, and the ability to meet a lot of new people. 


If commercial real estate sounds like a good option for you, then read on below; we’ll fill you in on the details, such as how you can get into this profession, how much you could earn, and of course, what you’d be doing once you get there.



Steps for Becoming a Commercial Realtor

Here’s a brief overview of the steps you’ll need to take to become a commercial realtor:


Step 1. Figure out if you're well suited: Determine if you have the right personality (covered below).


Step 2. Interview commercial realtors: Contact existing commercial realtors find out how they got in, what they like/don’t like about the career, and other tips.


Step 3. Meet the basic requirements: Ensure you meet the basic criteria (contact your local real estate association for exact licensing requirements).


Step 4. Get schooled: Get an education in real estate (optional, but recommended)


Step 5. Get licensed: Attend and pass the training to get your license


Step 6. Get a job: Sign on with an established brokerage, which will involve starting at the bottom.


Step 7. Work, work, work: Work long hours, network, and learn from established senior associates.


Step 8. Advance: Move up the ladder and take on projects of your own!



The Details: Education You’ll Need

So, now that you've got an overview, let's get into the nitty gritty details! To become a commercial realtor, you’ll need at least a high school diploma. You will also need to complete pre-licensing coursework as directed by your provincial/state real estate association. 


Consider Getting a Diploma or Degree in Real Estate


Post-secondary education isn't usually a formal requirement for becoming licensed as a commercial realtor. However, having a degree related to general business or real estate can be very helpful for your career, as it will likely be considered an asset by prospective employers.


It can also cover topics that licensing coursework doesn’t; most licensing coursework is designed to ensure you are complaint to all relevant laws and industry regulations when selling real estate, but it doesn’t necessarily teach you how to actually make a living. A degree can teach you hands-on skills such as marketing, that will help you build a career. 





Certification/Licensing You’ll Require

You will need to have a valid Realtor’s license (granted by the province or state in which you will be working) in order to sell real estate. 


Obtaining a license often consists of taking select courses through your local real estate association and passing an exam. In some cases, this can be quite expensive (upwards of a few thousand dollars). In addition, you may need to meet the following criteria (depending on the jurisdiction in which you work):


• Have a high school diploma

• Be at least 18 years of age

• Be able to pass a criminal record check


You can often begin working in commercial real estate as an unlicensed assistant, either before you obtain your license, or while you are working towards it. Please contact your local real estate association for specific licensing requirements.



Typical Career Path: Getting Experience and Climbing the Ladder

Before you sell your first strip mall, you’ll need to put in a whole lot of legwork and hours; you’ll really need to establish yourself as a hard working, trustworthy and capable professional before you earn big opportunities with your firm (unless of course, you’re coming into the career as the son or daughter of a real estate mogul and have a pipeline of clients ready to go).


Once licensed, you’ll likely start your career as a junior sales associate with a commercial real estate firm. This will involve a lot of support work, such as preparing financial documents, preparing marketing materials, and so on. At this stage of your career, you will be paid very little. You might receive a small salary and very little commission, if any.


Once you have proven yourself (which may take a year or more), you will earn the opportunity to take on more responsibility with deals, and likely a greater share in commissions. From there, you will get more and more responsibility (often taking the lead on deals), oversee junior staff, and earn higher commissions.



Where You Will Find a Job: Typical Employers

You could potentially find work as a commercial realtor with the following common employers (not an inclusive list):


• Commercial, residential and industrial real estate firms

• Property management firms

• Property developers

• Government agencies (all levels of government)

• Large organizations that purchase or lease multiple pieces of property 

• Real estate investment trusts (REITs)



Career Advancement Possibilities

If you exhibit competence and motivation in your work, there will be a wide variety of career advancement opportunities available to you, including:


• An increase in pay, commissions or bonuses

• Moving into a senior sales associate role and taking on bigger accounts 

• Increasing your client base

• Becoming the office manager

• Becoming a partner in the firm, or moving into a firm with better advancement possibilities


Success Tip: Advancing your career in commercial real estate is typically more difficult than in residential real estate; deals are bigger and more complicated, and those who buy and sell commercial properties tend to deal exclusively with established and reputable agents and brokers. Establishing a network of connections is critical for your success. 




Is This Career Right for You?

To succeed as a commercial realtor, and to enjoy what you do, you should have the following attributes:


• You aren't afraid to pick up the phone and cold call

• You aren’t afraid of long hours and paperwork, including financial documents

• You’re interested in a career with exceptional income potential 

• You’re willing to devote a few years to getting established in your field

• You don’t expect to succeed right away

• You’re willing to represent the interests of clients and negotiate on their behalf

• You have a keen interest in the property market, local economic trends, current income tax regulations and purchasing arrangements 





Details of the Occupation Itself: Job Description

As a commercial relator, you would be responsible for representing the interests of buyers or sellers of commercial property, including multi-family income properties, strip-malls, shopping centres, apartment buildings, industrial buildings, vacant land, warehouses and others.


You must help clients find appropriate properties for their purposes, or help clients sell existing properties. This would involve gathering a vast amount of financial information relating to the income and expenses of the properties. 



Typical Job Duties

Although your duties could vary from job to job, you would generally be responsible for performing the following functions:


• Providing general assistance to senior sales staff (if starting out in your career)

• Expanding your client base by conducting marketing campaigns

• Conferring with clients to gain a thorough understanding of why they are looking to buy or sell, as well as their needs, wants and budget

• Ensuring buyers have been qualified for purchase by a bank or financial institution

• Ensuring the sellers of the property are the actual titled owners or have the legal right to oversee the sale of the property

• Searching properties that fit a client’s criteria

• Preparing or obtaining financial documentation from owners concerning the expenses and revenue of the property

• Taking clients to view selected properties

• Preparing offer for purchase and present to seller’s realtor, or reviewing offers to purchase with sellers

• Maintaining in-depth knowledge of the property market, local economic trends, current income tax regulations and purchasing arrangements 

• Negotiating with other realtors to ensure client receives optimal terms, pricing and conditions of sale

• Attending brokerage marketing meetings

• Attending continuing education classes and seminars to maintain an active real estate license 



Average Salary in This Profession

The salary level you could earn as a commercial realtor can vary substantially, typically depending on the following factors:


• The size of your client base and their portfolios

• The region in which you work

• The scope of your job duties and functions

• The amount of deals you close

• Which side of the 20/80 divide you’re on (it is commonly said that in real estate, 20% of the agents make 80% of the money)

• The type of remuneration package you are offered (such as if you are a salaried employee, or if you earn commission, or some combination of the two) 


Salary in Canada (Alberta figures only): According to the 2015 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, the average salary level of Albertans working in the Real Estate Agents and Salespersons occupational group is $106,351 per year. Unfortunately, no similar statistics were available for the rest of Canada.


Salary in the United States: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of Americans working in the Real Estate Brokers and Sales Agents occupational group is $45,610 is per year. 


Please Note: Successful commercial realtors can earn upwards of $1,000,000 per year, while some might actually earn a negative income when trying to market their services and establish themselves.



Job Postings - Open Opportunities

Our job board below has "Commercial Realtor" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.


Typical Work Environment

Working Hours: You would likely start work very early in the morning and finish in the evening. You may be required to work evenings and weekends in order to catch up on administrative duties, marketing duties, prepare offers, or generally accommodate the needs and schedules of your clients. To become successful in this field, you would almost certainly have to put in more than 40 hours per week.


Work Setting: Your work would be based out of an office, possibly a home office. You would have to travel often locally, in order to meet clients and show them properties.


Working Conditions: Working as a commercial realtor would involve a wide variety of tasks including paperwork; cold calling; negotiating; showing properties; liaising with lawyers, conveyancing personnel, property managers, and many others. This career could have very stressful moments, such as when a big deal falls through or sales are slow, or a client or competing realtor files a complaint against you. Although it can be highly satisfying, such as when a client is pleased with your work, or a big deal comes through.



Similar Occupational Profiles in Our Database

Listed below are similar careers in our database. We've chosen these because they require many of the same skills, interests and competencies, and involve many of the same responsibilities:


Business Development Officer

• Entrepreneur

• Insurance Agent

• Land Agent

• Realtor

• Real Estate Appraiser

• Real Estate Developer 



References for this Career Guide

The following resources were drawn from in the preparation of this career guide:


• “Become a REALTOR.” (n.d.). Canadian Real Estate Association. Retrieved August 1, 2016.

• “Occupational Profile: Real Estate Associate.” (n.d.). Alberta Government - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved November 6, 2019.

• “Job Profiles: Estate Agent” (n.d.). National Careers Service. Retrieved August 1, 2016.

• “Occupational Outlook Handbook: Real Estate Brokers and Sales Agents.” (May, 2015). United States Department of Labor - Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved August 1, 2016.

• “Getting Started in Commercial Real Estate.” Chandler, Cindy S. (January, 2007.). National Association of Realtors - Realtor Mag. Retrieved August 1, 2016.



Scholarships for Becoming a Commercial Realtor

The 'Relevant Fields of Study' section below shows fields of study relevant to a career as a commercial realtor. You can search for scholarships matched to that/those fields of study on our All Scholarships by Major page.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Relevant Fields of Study 

Studying one of the university majors listed below will serve as an excellent educational foundation for this career. 


Top Banner Image: