How Much Money Does It Cost to Be a Real Estate Agent?

Getting into real estate?  You'll need a cushion.

Annual Recurring Fees

Estimated figures for illustrative purposes only

National Association of Realtors (NAR) Dues                        $185

State/Local Realtor Association Dues                                         $550

Multiple Listing Service (MLS) Subscription                            $680

Suprakey or other electronic key access                                    $200

Business cards                                                                                           $100

Errors & Omissions Insurance                                                         $600

Desk fees ($100/mo)                                                                             $1,200

Agent advertising ($100/mo)                                                           $1,200

Mileage (500 miles/mo)*                                                                     $3,600

Total annual expenses                                                $8,315

*Mileage assumes a standard rate of 60 cents for gas, depreciation, and maintenance.

A real estate agent career comes with many business expenses.


You pay for the MLS, national/state/local real estate board memberships, lockbox, E&O insurance, business cards, advertising, mileage, desk fees, and more. That’s not counting the money you need for personal living costs!


Without steady commissions, it’s challenging to make a living wage. And paying for all those recurring costs only makes it more complicated.


According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), real estate agents have an average of nine years of experience and close twelve transactions per year (Source: Quick Real Estate Statistics, That’s a lot of transactions — it’s approximately one per month.


It takes a long time for agents to reach that sales level, especially when downturns in the market result in the industry having more agents than listings (Source: Too Many Real Estate Agents,




Even if you’re an active agent with many closings, you don’t get the full commission.


First, you must subtract the referral fee if you got a client from another agent. Then you pay the broker’s split.


Let’s say your broker receives a check for $3,000 for a sales transaction on a $100k house. You agreed to a 25% referral fee with another agent, and your broker takes 45%.

  • Referral fee (25%): $3,000 - $750 (25%) = $2,250
  • Broker split (45%): $2,250 - $1,012.50 (45%) = $1237.50

You walk away with $1237.50. It’s not a bad payday, but you’re still not making enough money to cover your base costs when comparing it to the recurring expense illustration above. At this rate, you’ll need several more transactions.


Let’s assume the second closing brings in a $6,000 check from a $200k house, and you found the client on your own.

  • Broker split (45%): $6,000 - $2,700 (45%) = $3,300

Now you earned $3,300. You can cover your costs after a couple more transactions and put a little extra money in your pocket. But it’s not exactly a living wage. And all the while, you have personal expenses piling up as well.


Waiting for the next sales transaction can be stressful, frustrating, and debilitating. 


Check out your colleagues' real-life stories in A Day in the Life of a Real Estate Agent: The Underappreciated Facets. It can take several years to build up a steady flow of real estate closings. That’s why some agents choose to “park” their licenses. 


When you transfer your license to our real estate brokerage, your status remains active with the state. It lets you refer clients to other agents, so you can earn a referral fee. If the client buys or sells a home, the other agent shares their commission with you.

Technically, you could let your license go inactive with the state, but it comes with a lot of negatives.

  • You remain dormant in the state's database.

  • You can't conduct any real estate activities or earn a commission check.

  • If a client reaches out, you can refer them to someone else, but you make no money.

  • To top it off, you still need your continuing education hours (depends on your state).

So you might as well earn some extra money on the side with referral fees! 

At our referral-only brokerage, your annual membership package includes continuing education credit hours. So you won’t have to pay for that on your own anymore. Plus, we only keep 10% (or $99, whichever is greater) as the broker’s split. 


Parking your license gives you the chance to regroup, save up, care for a loved one, go back to school, or pursue another career.


Don’t let your client list lose its value!


Sign up for our membership to protect your future referral commissions.

I'm Ready to Park My License!

We help sales associates and broker associates “park” their license

by transferring it to our referral-only real estate brokerage.