How to Build a Real Estate Budget and Maximize Your Earnings
As an agent, it's critical to have a solid real estate budget in order to determine how much you can afford to spend on business-related expenses. You need to know things agents should include in their budgets, and how to navigate your expenses even as you face potential changes and challenges along the way.
Real estate agents, like other commission-based workers, may also face periods of lower earnings. Sometimes, sales naturally run higher. Other times, you may find it more difficult to make ends meet, and you may feel as though you have no actual income coming in. In this guide, we’ll help you navigate your income’s ebbs and flows and teach you what you need to know to establish a comprehensive real estate agent budget.
Take Inventory of Your Average Income
Look at your income on a monthly basis over the last six months to a year. This is one of the most effective places to start building your real estate agent budget. Your income over the past several months can give you a better idea of the overall ebb and flow of sales and commissions throughout the average year.
When planning a real estate budget, always hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. Do you have notably low-income periods reflected on your income records in your real estate agent expenses spreadsheet? You may need to prepare for those same lows in the future. Don't budget based on your highest-earning months or outliers, even if you've made recent changes to your sales approach. Remember, extra income is always a plus, but discovering that you made less than you anticipated can hit your real estate agent budget hard.
Did You Know?
The average real estate agent spends less than $5,000 on their annual marketing efforts. The top spenders, however, may spend more than $80,000 on marketing!
It's critical to track your business expenses so that you know what you're spending. Not only are those expenses important tax deductions (more on that in a minute!), they are income that is already accounted for, which means it's not used for personal salary or other business costs. Keep separate records for business and personal expenses. You may want to maintain a specific account just for business purposes or use a separate real estate agent expenses spreadsheet to track your business expenses.
You may need to account for:
- Marketing material
- Education and/or training
- Office equipment, including your laptop/computer, printer, and other products dedicated to your job
- Testing and licensing fees
- Self-employment taxes
Make sure you prioritize important or large expenses. For example, if you know you have an insurance renewal coming up, you may need to push it to the top of your list while buying new office equipment may inch closer to the bottom.
Account for Taxes
As a real estate agent, you're likely self-employed, which means you will need to pay self-employment taxes. Those tax rates can change based on current rates and your overall income each year, so make sure you have a solid understanding of how much you will owe.
When you create your real estate agent budget template, set up a tax account and use this specific account to deposit the taxable amount you receive each time you make a sale. This tip is non-negotiable: You need to keep your taxes separate from your income. Since you are self-employed, you will also need to make sure that you make quarterly payments to the IRS. If you have that money already set aside in a separate account, you do not have to worry about missing, late, or partial payments.
Prepare for Slow Periods
Most agents work on a commission basis. Naturally, that means you will have slow periods: periods when you have less income coming in. As a real estate agent, you need to prepare for those slow periods so that they do not catch you off guard. While you may do your best to balance your income and available properties, there are some factors that are outside your control. To help prepare for those slow periods:
- Know your annual slow periods. Most people do not, for example, want to move over the holidays. The summer months, on the other hand, may be a popular time to buy new property in your community. Track your slow and fast periods over the course of the year so that you have a better idea of when those slow periods are coming.
- Track your averages in your real estate agent expenses spreadsheet. Know what average monthly income looks like, including how many sales you will likely make each month.
- If you have a better-than-usual month, save the additional income.
- Average your overall spending based on your mean income. Don’t incorporate work outliers - a rare sale of a luxury property that would usually be out of your range, for example - into your calculations, or you’ll skew your real estate budget.
Utilize Budgeting Tools
Budgeting tools and apps are a highly effective way to keep up with your spending or to track your income.
This useful tool allows you to look at your budget holistically, which can make it easier to estimate your overall expenses. With the spreadsheet, you can also track your unique, individual expenses.
Microsoft Excel is a highly powerful tool that can make it easier to track your spending and keep up with your overall budget in a real estate agent expenses spreadsheet. This platform makes it easy to keep all of your financial information in one place.
With the Mint app, you can keep track of your real estate budget on the go or from wherever you are. It allows you to look at spending patterns and get a better idea of how much you might actually be spending on certain elements of your budget.
PocketGuard makes budget tracking simple. It organizes your monthly expenses and provides a clear look at your bills and other spending. Not only that, but also this tool allows you to input your financial goals and track your progress accordingly.
YNAB, or You Need a Budget, makes money management as simple as possible. Many people struggle to take control over their spending, and a real estate agent budget can feel intimidating to set up. But YNAB is designed to make budgeting easy so it won’t take unnecessary time away from your other responsibilities - without causing you unnecessary stress!
Personal Capital provides a single dashboard that allows you to track everything involved with your real estate budget, from how much you're spending to your income from multiple sources. Since this platform keeps all your information in one place, it's easy to manage your real estate agent budget through regular check-ins.
Compare Your Budget vs. Actual Spending Habits
Having a budget is great, but it doesn't work as well if you don't stick to it. Check in on a monthly basis to see how your actual spending compares to your monthly budget. You may discover that some categories cost less than you thought, or you may need to make adjustments to your budget based on increased needs or changing priorities. In some cases, you may just need to make improvements to your spending habits. Commit to taking a regular look at your actual spending and how it impacts your ability to keep your finances on track.
Dealing with money can stress anyone out, especially if you have unexpected expenses. With these strategies, however, you can create a budget that will help you navigate your finances and keep your goals in mind.