Commercial vs. Residential Real Estate Sales

Commercial vs. Residential Real Estate Sales

Considering a career in real estate sales? In most markets, your first choice will be whether to sell commercial or residential properties. An entrepreneurial, aggressive salesperson can succeed in either, but there are some distinct differences you should know about.

Residential is easier to break into, says Mike Winkeler, owner of RealtyPlusUSA, a St. Louis-based residential brokerage. "You can achieve success in a short period of time -- 90 days to six months," he says.

Not so in commercial, where it can take 10 months to close your first sale, says Sandra Sellani, vice president of marketing for commercial real estate brokerage Sperry Van Ness in Irvine, California. "The people doing [commercial sales] right are young and living with their parents," says Sellani, who has worked as both a residential and commercial sales agent.


The commercial sales cycle may be slower, but per-deal commissions are higher, because properties are more expensive and agents get a percentage of the sale price. Sperry's average deal is $3 million to $4 million. Compare that with a national median sale price of $154,400 for an existing US home.

The average commercial Realtor makes $85,000 annually versus $39,300 for residential Realtors, according to National Association of Realtors' (NAR) surveys of its members. You must belong to NAR to be a Realtor. Commercial Realtors' incomes are higher, because they're more likely to collect 100 percent of the commissions they earn and they're more likely to hold a broker's license rather than an agent's license, NAR says.

Commercial Harder to Enter

For either job, you'll need a real estate license. Residential agents aren't expected to have a college degree, but they do need to know the community they serve, says Wayne Etter, adviser for the Land Economics and Real Estate graduate program at Texas A&M University.

Commercial real estate firms, on the other hand, tend to have tougher hiring standards. They'll look for sales ability coupled with a finance or business degree that shows you can talk to clients about internal rates of return, capitalization rates, gross rent multipliers and other analytics.

"When one of our master's-degree graduates elects to go to work for a commercial brokerage firm, they apply everything they learned about commercial development and finance," Etter explains.

Corporate vs. Casual

Commercial and residential agents work in very different environments. "The commercial side is a more corporate environment," says Adam Christofferson, a regional manager for the Denver office of real estate investment brokerage Marcus & Millichap. "You don't see people doing it part time on the side to see if they can make it, which you do see in residential."

Aaron Kaufman, a real estate agent in the Atlanta office of Keller Williams Realty, moved from commercial to residential sales for a better quality of life and to use his gift for schmooze, which works well with everyday people but flops with corporate types. "Chief financial officers are not known for their sense of humor, but I can't tell you how many times I've been invited to someone's home for Christmas dinner, because I helped them buy their first home," he says.

More Diversity in Residential

Because it's more familiar than commercial real estate, residential real estate may be an easier sell at first. "People identify with owning a home, but not all of us have owned a $2 million retail center," Sellani says.

For that reason, the residential side attracts all kinds of people, from recent college grads to 40-something moms with children at home to retired salesmen, says Renee Kullberg, office manager for Thornton Properties, a Chicago-based residential and commercial real estate firm. "No matter where you are in your career, it's very doable to become a residential real estate agent," she says.

In contrast, commercial real estate has a reputation for being male-dominated, although that doesn't keep women from succeeding, Sellani says. Sperry's top two agents in 2004 were women.

An In-Between Option

Can't decide if you're suited to residential or commercial sales? In a small market, you can sell both. In a large market, you can touch on both fields by selling residential rental properties to individual real estate investors. "You'll have cash-flow projections, and [you'll] incorporate expenses into spreadsheets, but it's easier to get your feet wet there than it would be to go strictly into commercial from day number one," Winkeler says.

Learn more about real estate careers.

Latest Jobs

Accounting Principals
Posted: 05/26/2015
Houston, TX, 77046
Ajilon Professional Staffing
Posted: 05/26/2015
Houston, TX, 77046
Posted: 05/26/2015
Bridgeport, OR, 97819
Ajilon Professional Staffing
Posted: 05/26/2015
Saint Louis, MO, 63141
Ajilon Professional Staffing
Posted: 05/26/2015
Denver, CO, 80202

Want more personalized results?  Update Your Profile


Monster Communities

Teaching Community
Where teachers meet and learn.
Create and connect.
Networking for the career-minded woman.
Nursing Link
Where nurses call the shots.
More Monster Communities

Monster Partners

Scholarships, financial aid and more ways to pay for school.
Find top campus and online degree programs.
Military portal for the US Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.
Financial Aid
Scholarships & financial aid.
Staffing for Government Jobs
Staffing and hiring solutions for federal government agency jobs.
More Monster Partners

Job Hunt Strategy

Six Ways to Make a Recruiter Hate You
If you want to blow your chances with recruiters -- and, by extension, with the companies they work for -- here are six perfect ways to do so.

Resumes & Cover Letters

Rev Up Your Resume to Relocate
Hoping to relocate? Get the ball rolling on landing the right job in the right location with these expert resume and cover letter tips.


100 Potential Interview Questions
Interview questions can run the gamut. You probably won't face all 100 of these, but you should still be prepared to answer at least some of them.

Salary & Benefits

10 Questions to Ask When Negotiating Salary
Most of us aren't natural negotiators, but asking these 10 questions during salary negotiations can help you get everything you deserve.

Employee Sourcing

Alt text
November Monster Employment Index Grows 13% Year-Over-Year, Tenth Consecutive Month of Positive Annual Growth.

For Seekers

Campus and Online Degrees
Advance your career and earn more with an online degree.
Free Salary Wizard
What are you worth? Find out and negotiate a better salary.
Research Careers
Get information on jobs and career paths to help guide your choices
Questions & Answers
Find answers to all your career related questions -- powered by Yahoo! Answers
Resume Distribution Service
Our distribution service puts your resume right in the hands of recruiters.
Resume Writing Services
Our experts will craft a keyword-rich resume that stands out in the crowd.
More Career Resources

For Employers

Career Ad Network
Target your job posting to more candidates on thousands of websites.
Hire Right Background Checks
Explore our background check packages to improve the quality of your hires.
Hiring Home Page
Find the best candidates for your business with Monster hiring solutions.
Job Postings
Find the right solution for your hiring needs. Starting at $99.
Power Resume Search
Monster's new search technology precisely matches people with your jobs.
Resource Center
Find staffing insights, labor trends, HR best practices and more.
Target Post
Connect with skilled, hourly and administrative candidates for only $99.

Social Media

Jobs on Twitter
Find jobs in your area and industry.
Monster Careers
Tune into our career advice and discussions tackling a wide range of topics and industries.
Monster Corporate & PR
Stay up-to-date on the latest news. Get the 'Who', 'What', 'When', and 'Why' on all things Monster related.
Monster Customer Service
Got a Monster question? We've got the answer. Whether you're a job seeker or employer, we can help you find the answers you need.
Monster for Employers
Find advice on hiring.
Follow Us
Check out our many pages and stay connected with the latest industry news, events, career advice and job openings.

Other Links

Monster Company Profiles
Explore companies and get information to guide your career decisions.
Compare Salaries
See how your pay stacks up to others in your field.
iPhone Application
Download the Monster app for iPhone and iPod touch.
Monster Job Seeker Blog
Monster Job Seeker Blog.
Monster Thinking Blog
Monster's Recruitment Trends Blog.
Jobs & Career Resources
Search Jobs:
For Employers: Post Jobs | Search Resumes | Advertise
About Monster | Work for Monster | Advertise with Us | AdChoices | Partner with Us | Investor Relations | Social Media
Terms of Use | Privacy Center | Accessibility Center | Help | Security | Contact Us | Sitemap | Mobile
©2015 Monster - All Rights Reserved U.S. Patents No. 5,832,497; 7,599,930 B1; 7,827,125 and 7,836,060 MWW - Looking for Monster Cable? - V: 2015.8.0.34-303