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Is selling real estate easy money?

I know, you think you know the answer to this question. You’re probably thinking: ‘a lot’. But is that really the case?

I pulled the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) sales statistics from November 2015 to November 2016 and here’s what they reveal.

Out of Toronto’s 43,680 agents:

  • 20% of registered agents sold 0 homes last year*
  • 52% of agents sold between 1 and 6 homes last year
  • 14% of agents sold between 7 and 12 homes
  • 10% of agents sold between 13 and 24 homes
  • 2.5% of agents sold between 25 and 50 homes
  • 0.4% of agents sold 50-99 homes
  • 61 agents (or 0.1%) sold more than 100 homes


A Breakdown of a REALTOR’s Income

  • The average price for a home in the GTA in November was $776,684.
  • While there are lots of real estate commission models in Toronto, for the sake of my example, I’m going to assume that the commission payable is 2.5% to the Buyer agent and 2.5% to the Seller agent
  • $776,684 x 2.5% = $19,417 average commission

The Brokerage Split

In Ontario, REALTORS are legally required to work for a brokerage. The brokerage has various legal obligations (for example, maintaining the trust accounts for Buyer deposits), oversees the agents, and provides various services (from reception, administration and showings coordination, to design, marketing and coaching). Real estate agents give part of their commission to their brokerage, and that ‘split’ can be anything from a $300 per fee transaction to 30% of the commission (or more). Many brokerages also charge monthly “desk fees” that are payable whether or not an agent sells something that month.

From what I’ve seen and heard, 15-20% of a typical agent’s income is normally paid to their brokerage.

So using my example above, $2,900 – $3,825 would be payable to the brokerage.

REALTOR Expenses

The average realtor spends 20-30% of their income on expenses. Those expenses include:

  • Realtor fees and insurance
  • Car, insurance, gas, parking (and parking tickets)
  • Phone, data, internet
  • Home office including office supplies, systems and tools
  • Laptop, tablet
  • Marketing (online, offline, video, photography, postcards, billboards, printing, postage gifts, client events, etc.)
  • Listing preparation costs (which may include cleaning, staging, gardening, etc.)
  • Education (continuing education, conferences)
  • Virtual, contract or full-time administrative assistance


Let’s not forget about taxes! Realtors in Ontario are not currently allowed to incorporate (unless they form sub-brokerages), so tax rates are the same as regularly employed people. So assume another 25-30% of that income goes to taxes.

The Math

So let’s do the math for the average agent in Toronto, who sells 6 homes per year, at an average price of $776,684:
Gross Income – $116,502
Broker fees (15%) – $17,475
Expenses (20%) – $23,300
Taxes (28%) – $32,620
Net Income: $43,107

Not quite as glamorous as you thought, right? The number in my example is in line with studies from the National Association of Realtors and the Ontario Real Estate Association that found that the average real estate agent in Ontario makes $30,000-35,000 a year (which of course would be higher in Toronto given the prices here).

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking for pity or sympathy…and yes, some top agents do make tons of money. But like any business, it’s not just about the income. There are expenses. There are risks. Like everything else in this world, there are people who excel and reach for the top, while there are others who struggle to get going.

Being a real estate agent is different than having a normal job with a salary. Sometimes you spend 6 months with a Buyer and they decide not to buy. Sometimes you spend thousands of dollars on a listing and the Seller decides not to sell. With greater risk comes the possibility of greater reward. Or loss.

If you’re thinking about becoming a real estate agent, think long and hard about your decision. Don’t get sucked in by the ‘Make six figures and set your own schedule’ BS. It’s hard work. You eat what you kill. But if you’re obsessed with real estate like we are, it can be a pretty awesome life.

*this statistic is deceptive as many people are ‘registered’ but not practicing real estate (appraisers, mortgage agents, people on maternity leave, etc.). Agents who sell pre-construction condos generally don’t report their sales through the Toronto Real Estate Board either, so they are likely appearing in the  “0” sales category. And of course, there are real estate teams that are made up of multiple people but report their sales under the Team Leader’s name, leaving 0 official sales for the team members. (FYI, we don’t do that at the BREL team).


  1. Nope. Sorry. I am calling BS.

    You cant go by the “average” number of sales, because there are so many part time agents. The 6 per year is not from a full time agent.

    The “full time” agent would be in the 13% club, which is doing 13-100+ deals per year.

    Using your math at 12 deals per year – ONLY ONE PER MONTH – you’d be looking at $86,000. And, that is only at 1 per month. At two deals per month (still peanuts, with very little work) you’d be at $172,000!!!! That more than most CEOs make.

    Don’t cry wolf. I thought you were above the BS fridge magnets.

    • John, I assume you are in a 13% club. How did you get to those results? What advise can you give to someone who has just started his career in RE industry? What were your biggest challenges in the beginning? Thanks

    • Hi Josh, I like your feedback on the article. Part-time agents is definitely something the writer didn’t mention. Are you a practicing real estate agent? Could you comment on how many deals you think the average full time real estate agent makes? Is it the 13 deals per year?

      • Ange – Josh is out to lunch. The average full time realtor is doing 6-8 deals a year. Been doing this a long time. Josh should be selling houses for a living if its so easy and there is no work involved. Even a seasoned realtor would be thrilled with 2 deals a month, but one needs to take into consideration the advertising expenses much more closely. Many teams even smaller team can have advertising budgets or farming expenses of $80-$100k a year? to get 24-30 deals a year. Josh has zero concept of real estate business practice.

        • BS for Toronto in particular. Buying agents do very little or no work at all, especially when demand is already high for housing and prices are high as well.

          And what adveryising expenses are you referring to? The MLS listing?

          What a joke.

          • Melanie Piche says:

            Sounds like you’ve been working with a different kind of agent than us! Last year, we spent on average $2,000 on marketing per listing (agents should do a LOT beyond MLS to get the highest price, but of course, not everyone does). We also spent just over $3,000 on staging per listing. And during the hot market last spring? We were averaging 6 offers per Buyer and 40 showings.

          • I’m curious to know what kind of marketing you specifically spent $2,000 on per listing? I find that hard to believe as real estate essentially sells itself in Toronto. If you are spending that much on advertising a single listing, your clients shouldn’t have to bare the costs for your ineffective business decisions.

          • Robert, go back to school, take some classes, learn what a valid argument is, do some research on the topic you want to debate, gather facts and evidence that can withstand scrutiny and then come back here and comment. Please troll some other industry!

    • I agree with you Josh, an ACTIVE agent would sell at least 1 per month or more…. there are a lot of agents who do it part time in their retirement years and bring these averages down.
      You can make great income as a realtor but if you are doing it part time – you are a part time income.

    • Wake up and smell the coffee and get a grip with reality man. A real estate agent is making more than a CEO??? Your CEO maybe.

  2. I call BS too, a friend of mine sold 5 houses last week and he is not even in the top 100 remax seller for our province, he makes over 250k a year, and he works in Quebec where prices are not that high.

  3. A lot of agents expense of a lot of their personal expenses (including their relatives and family ones) as business ones as the CRA cannot really check each and every agent’s expenses – it is too much work for the CRA. So the percentage of expenses (20%) might be well above what we see here, and then they pay less taxes. However, agents enjoy ‘free ride’ by expensing their personal and family expenses.

  4. John, I assume you are in a 13% club. How did you get to those results? What advise can you give to someone who has just started his career in RE industry? What were your biggest challenges in the beginning? Thanks

  5. Oh my, those numbers are so, so far off.
    I won’t go into the details but most of my friends are real estate agents.
    They had a good laugh when they heard me repeat those VERY low numbers.
    One of my friends made that on just a few sales.

    The numbers shoyuld be accurate or they should never be posted.
    Problem is the world is changing now that the public has Realtor.ca access and soon most of the MLS numbers through companies.
    In order for the realtors to keep face and be reputable yes the percentages must come down now that homes are SO much more BUT,,,we need to maintain honesty with the public.
    Losing integrity with reported numbers will only prove dishonesty and push potential customers to do the job themselves and save a fortune.
    Remember 5% of a sellers 800,000.00 home is about 45,000.00 with HST BUT…he/she had to earn abot 60,000.00 just to pay the selling fee.
    We need to be honest if we are asking more such large dollars for the work done.


  6. I’m a Realtor with over 20 years at the top company in Calgary and I would be THRILLED to average 2 deals a month. Especially in December, January, February and August! Maybe 10 percent of my office do 24 ends a year and at $2300 month desk fee’s there are NO part time Realtor’s – even a lengthy holiday is financial suicide. I’d say the numbers given by the author are pretty accurate (at least for Calgary). But yes, we pay corporate tax levels, not income tax level. It takes at least 3 years before you have a steady income; if you’re highly respected in your peer group, don’t have any separation between work and social life and are lucky enough to start in a market where property is actually moving (which about 1/2 the time). Two of 130 Realtor’s that went through my course were still in business after 5 years which made for some pretty lonely reunions. Hi from Calgary – good article!

  7. I became a full time realtor after I sold my grocery store in 2010. This is how much I made in 6 years.
    2010 income =12800 Total Expenses for the year 42,000 (sold 3 condos)
    2011 Income =61,000 Expenses for the year 52,000 (sold 11 properties)

    I was broke by the end of 2011.

    2012 Income = 124,000 Expenses for the year 55,200 (sold 16 properties)
    2013 Income = 230,000 Expenses for the year 67,100 ( sold 40 properties)
    2014 Income = 472,000 Expenses for the year 102,000 (sold 72 properties)
    2015 Income = 390,000 Expenses for the year 87,000 ( sold 61 properties)

    I made it to the top but it was very very very hard.

    Calgary, Alberta

  8. Gabriel Grimeau says:

    Hello im 21, Years old and i Extremely want to get into Real Estate career any tips anyone could give me.
    would be very appreciated! God bless.

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