Occupation Thesaurus Entry: Real Estate Agent

Jobs are as important for our characters as they are for real people. A character’s career might be their dream job or one they’ve chosen due to necessity. In your story, they might be trying to get that job or are already working in the field. Whatever the situation, as with any defining aspect for your character, you’ll need to do the proper research to be able to write that career knowledgeably.

Use your character's occupation to characterize them to readers. Here's information about being a realtor. #writing

Enter the Occupation Thesaurus. Here, you’ll find important background information on a variety of career options for your character. In addition to the basics, we’ll also be covering related info that relates to character arc and story planning, such as sources of conflict (internal and external) and how the job might impact basic human needs, thereby affecting the character’s goals. It’s our hope that this thesaurus will share some of your research burden while also giving you ideas about your character’s occupation that you might not have considered before.

Occupation: Real Estate Agent

Overview: A Realtor® or real estate agent, oversees the buying and selling of homes (or properties, commercial or residential). For a seller, they will investigate comparative properties to aid homeowners in setting a price, set up the listing, arrange for pictures and obtain home specs to include in advertisements and website listings, arrange and oversee realtor-only showing and open houses, negotiate between parties (including counter offers), and steer the closing process. Often the agent will weigh in on any esthetics that may need to be addressed before listing (both decorative adjustments and home repairs – a realtor will be able to tell clients what improvements are worth doing, and which will not offer a return on investment as far as price and ease of sale.)

If the character’s clients are the buyers, they will research suitable listings based on the client’s needs and price, understand current lending rates and convey this to clients should they need this information, set up viewings, investigate the area for information on schools, services, property taxes or anything else new homeowners may wish to know. They also accompany the client during showings, and once a match is found, the agent will submit an offer on the client’s behalf, negotiate price and terms, steer the closing process behind the scenes, and arrange for a final walk-through and key hand off.

Agents must be flexible, attentive, efficient, and hands on, as often the buying and selling of a home is time sensitive, especially in a hot market. A character in this job must attend to all client needs promptly, and be willing to meet at different hours as often home showings and negotiations happen outside of work time. As real estate agents have multiple clients at once, this can require a lot of schedule juggling and a need for excellent time management.

Necessary Training: Agents take a pre-licencing course (the length of which depends on the country and state) where they learn the terminology of the business, realty practices and processes like how to assess a home’s value, understand banking processes, lending rules, and how to be an effective advocate and negotiator. After meeting the training time of the course, they must take and pass their licensing exam, and then pay for a license to practice.

A character in this field will most likely join a brokerage to start, pulling on the networking of a larger firm, and later on they may choose to set our on their own. In a more populated area, agents usually choose a specialty, be it homes in a specific area of the city, working with either residential or commercial properties, having a practice focus on ranches and farms, or only taking listings in a certain price range (such as high-end properties). A smaller town, they will likely have a variety of clients and listings as this is necessary to make enough commission to live on. How your character specializes can tell readers more about them: who they like to work with, values, and level of hustle and drive. They also require excellent people skills, and have a smooth, pleasant demeanor.

Useful Skills, Talents, or Abilities: A knack for languages, a knack for making money, carpentry, charm, exceptional memory, gaining the trust of others, haggling, hospitality, lip-reading, lying, making people laugh, multitasking, photographic memory, predicting the weather, promotion, reading people, writing

Helpful Character Traits: ambitious, analytical, bold, calm, charming, confident, decisive, diplomatic, disciplined, discreet, efficient, extroverted, industrious, intelligent, meticulous, organized, patient, perceptive, persuasive, professional

Sources of Friction: clients who aren’t ready to pull the trigger and just want to look and see what’s out there, wasting everyone’s time, competitive agents vying for the same sale (few listings and many real estate agents), clients who are late or especially demanding, clients who are hoarders or leave their home a mess before a showing, a theft that happens during an open house, clients who refuse to get financially pre-approved and them grow upset when they lose out on a house offer, clients who want more for their home that it is worth, clients who have big expectations yet a small budget, a client who likes to hit on the character or makes inappropriate comments and advances, an angry past client who tries to unfairly smear one’s good name, drama at the office, other real estate agents within the firm poaching clients, a break-in at a home resulting from a realtor lock box not being secured

People They Might Interact With: administration staff, bank employees and mortgage brokers, freelance photographers and copy writers, other agents, home inspectors, homeowners, home buyers, family members of the clients

How This Occupation Might Impact One’s Basic Needs:

  • Self-Actualization:  Because of the huge time commitment and irregularity of hours in this profession, a character may find they do not have the time or energy to devote to meaningful goals or growing their knowledge and skills in other areas that will lead to fulfillment.
  • Esteem and Recognition: Within the industry, quarterly and yearly sales are constantly being used as a metric to judge the agent’s abilities, and competition is fierce. A bad month or two can lead to a bad year, and one’s standing dropping among others in one’s industry, leading to feelings of low self-esteem.
  • Love and Belonging: The non-steady hours and need to always be hustling for work in tough markets means often family and relationships come second. This can make it hard to make time to find a partner to share one’s life with, or to keep current loving relationships intact.
  • Safety and Security: Because an agent may not always know who is going to show up for an appointment or to walk through an open house, it is possible that they could be in danger if caught in a home alone with the wrong sort of people.

Common Work-Related Settings: attic, backyard, bank, barn, basement, big city street, break room, child’s bedroom, coffeehouse, elevator, farm, flower garden, garage, gas station, kitchen, living room, man cave, mansion, nursery, office cubicle, parking lot, patio deck, penthouse suite, ranch, residential bathroom, run-down apartment, small town street, teenager’s bedroom, tool shed, wine cellar, workshop

Twisting the Stereotype:

In fiction and film, Real Estate Agents often seem to come across as a bit pushy and overly friendly, and usually only point out the highlights of the property. Why not have your character’s ethics and values cause them to be overly honest about the property, even if it means costing a sale?

Characters cast in this role are always well-groomed and articulate. Why not try a character who doesn’t care about what others think of how he or she dresses, but is exceptionally good at what they do, so much so that rumpled clothing or  rougher language is overlooked?


Angela is a writing coach, international speaker, and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also is a founder of One Stop For Writers, an online library packed with powerful tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.
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13 Responses to Occupation Thesaurus Entry: Real Estate Agent

  1. Steve says:

    This gets so much wrong about the description of a real estate agent, that I’m not even going to bother with any of the other entries. It’s a good idea, but would really only be useful if you actually did you research, and not just jotted down the stuff you learned from TV.

    • Hi Steve,

      I’m sorry you feel that way. I can tell you I did significant research on this topic, but this is certainly not comprehensive and we always encourage writers do their own research depending on the real-world location they are working in. There will be differences depending on the country/state/province/county where you practice as terminology, educational components, regulations, and the type of real estate being sold all supply different variables. And of course, depending on the age of the character and how long they have been practicing will also create differences as the ecosystem they learned the business is always evolving.

      Please, by all means feel free to share your own individual experience so that all writers can get a better handle on this profession. 😉


      • Steve says:

        “Significant research” is not reflected in the fact that you missed that “Realtor” is a trademarked term and not just a synonym for real estate agent.

        “Real Estate Agents always come across as a bit pushy and overly friendly, and usually only point out the highlights of the property. Why not have your character’s ethics and values cause them to be overly honest about the property, even if it means costing a sale?”

        -is frankly just insulting. I’ve NEVER known an agent who wasn’t ethical to a fault. An honest agent isn’t a fun twist. It should be the norm. Like a writer that does research.

        • Ah, I see where the confusion is, and why you are upset. The “Twisting Stereotypes” section is not a real-world judgement of a profession, but rather a judgement on how that profession is stereotyped a certain way in fiction and film. In other words, often in movies, TV shows and fiction, Real Estate Agents are portrayed as pushy and over friendly, which may be true for some real agents, but certainly unfair to paint them all that way. We suggest people not fall into this shortcut because it can be cliche and lazy writing and instead come up with something fresh. This is reinforced in the second paragraph: Characters cast in this role are always well-groomed and articulate. Why not try a character who doesn’t care about what others think of how he or she dresses, but is exceptionally good at what they do, so much so that rumpled clothing or rougher language is overlooked?

          To clarify, here’s a section from our main post describing the main fields of the Occupation Thesaurus:

          Twisting Stereotypes. In fiction, we can often see characters with a specific job be cast in a stereotypical light (which can be unrepresentative and cliche) to further the plot or act as a characterization short cut. We will offer ways to twist these so you don’t fall into a trap that may do a disservice to your story.”

          I can see how this was confusing for you though, so I rephrased the first line to: In fiction and film, Real Estate Agents often seem to come across as a bit pushy and overly friendly, and usually only point out the highlights of the property.

          I hope you’ll give me the benefit of the doubt as no offense was meant, and this is certainly no judgement on the profession in the real world. 😉

          As for the trademark symbol, yes, I missed that and have corrected it.

          I hope this helps shed light on this entry, and our intent.

  2. Erika Hayes says:

    This entry has me giggling… as my husband is mostly the twist on the stereotype, while his language is not the issue I often say, really you’re wearing that to meet a client? I have also seen him tell people that the home they are wanting to purchase is overpriced and has talked a client out of buying a house just before the bubble popped because he knew it would put them upside down and in financial trouble. The client ended up going through another realtor and bought the house and six months later called my husband to apologize and ask if he could help them … they have since purchased another home through my husband. He knows that people are more important than money, and lives by that. Thanks for the giggle, as I read to him the twist he just smiled and said, he was happy to be a twisted stereotype!

    • I love this! I have met ethical realtors and dealt with many unethical ones. When you find a good one you hang onto them and use them house to house to house, because trust is so important with big purchases. Way to be awesome, Erika’s Hubby!

  3. I love the idea of an occupation Thesaurus! I am always reluctant to write about jobs I have zero knowledge of. I l think the level of detail you’ve gone to is great – very helpful, thank you!

  4. Pingback: Writing Links 3/19/18 – Where Genres Collide

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