Career Opportunities in the Real Estate Industry – Part I

Many young people love living in Ukiah but wonder how they can support themselves financially in such a small town, especially without a college degree. For some, a career in the real estate industry might be a good fit. Jobs range from sales agent to property manager to loan officer, and more. They all require a real estate license, but little additional schooling.

When I’m trying to figure out if someone is a good fit for a job, I look at two things:  whether they can learn the skills required and whether they have the right personality or character traits. Some things can be taught. Some can’t.

The jobs I’m going to describe require three traits: accuracy, thoroughness, and timeliness. Two out of three really doesn’t cut it here. If you’re accurate and thorough, but the work doesn’t get done in time, it’s no good. If you’re thorough and timely, but you did the wrong work, you probably won’t be praised for your thorough and timely approach. If you’re accurate and timely, but not thorough, the job hasn’t been done well and, again, you haven’t pleased your client.

To be a successful realtor, the top requirement is that you be interested in meeting and working with people. In addition, you need to be a self-starter. Being a realtor isn’t like having a regular office job where people notice (and care) if you aren’t there during regular business hours. You have to be disciplined enough to prioritize and schedule all your own activities.

And, it’s best if you enjoy solving problems, since that’s what you’ll do most of the time. As a realtor, you’ll work on behalf of your clients to find homes, invest money, sell homes, borrow money, and lots of little details in between. Since a realtor works on commission, your financial success depends on your ability to solve problems for your clients.

realtors can specialize in several areas: residential, commercial (business), industrial (factory/warehouse), ranches/land, agricultural properties, or new development. Each area has laws and practices associated with them, from zoning to water rights. As a practical matter, you may want to consider whether you’re the outdoor type. If you’re selling ranches, for example, some properties may not be easy to access. Plan on owning a four-wheel drive vehicle and a pair of hiking boots. If you want to sell agricultural property in Mendocino County, understanding soil and terrain (and how they affect different types of grape varietals) comes in handy. If you want to work with a developer to subdivide land and build spec houses to sell, you better be good at details and willing to work with bureaucracy at all levels, completing forms coordinating inspections and reports, and more.

Real estate sales can be the lowest paying easy job or the highest paying tough job you’ll find. You can make $5,000 a year or $250,000 a year. Depending on the market, your income is largely up to you.

If you’re interested in real estate and know a lot of people, but don’t have the time to be a full-time agent, consider becoming a referral agent. A referral agent learns of people interested in buying or selling real estate and introduces those people to an active realtor. For that introduction, the referral agent is paid a percentage of the commission when the purchase or sale transaction is complete. There is no job in real estate that pays more per hour. Why do you need a real estate license for this? Because the government says so.

With Thanksgiving next week and the Christmas season close on its heels, I thought I’d remind folks about the Ukiah Valley Christmas Effort. This year they anticipate providing 750 food baskets and toys for some 2,200 children for local families in need. All donations are tax deductible. Check out their Facebook page for more information:

Next time I’ll write about jobs other than a sales agent in the real estate industry. If there’s something you would like me to write about or if you have questions about real estate or property management, feel free to contact me at or visit our website at If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 35 years.

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