I've been in residential sales for 18 consecutive years and it is nothing like it used to be. Banks now having the monopoly on transactions, the major shift in how appraisals are worked, the influx of distressed properties, along with short sales as another negative element within the industry, has taken all the fun out of this business. I'm working more leases than ever before with so many now being removed from their homes, they have to go somewhere. Recently, I had the Mrs. of one couple (they were just forced out of their home) who broke down in tears as I was trying to get them situated into a rental. It's just a very sad time for so many, many people and it's gravely effecting the housing market. Now with the oil spills and hit to the stock market again, even my high end listings have come to a halt on their showings.
This is not to say the market is not active. It's definitely active, however, you MUST have enough in the pipeline to sustain yourself through all the bust-outs. I spoke with one of our broker associates here in the office who said he had 11 transactions set to close last month; 7 of the 11 transactions in escow fell through and not all of them were due to financing, rather due to a variety of reasons. I'm hearing some are even trying to qualify when they haven't yet completed their IRS filings; no can do people!
The money you make in this business is entirely up to you, however, be aware, because in this business there are so many other entities involved, anticipate the best, but you must prepare for the worst since much is out of your control. Your hours are determined by who you're working (buyers or sellers). As a listing agent, you have more control over your schedule. As a Buyer's Agent, you tend to work more evenings and weekends if working local buyers, because you'll be working around their work schedule. However, if you're working more buyers relocating to the area, that tends to be during the day, all day, while they're here to make a decision on area and house selection.
Expenses to work this business has certainly gone up with gas costing more, etc. And unless you have an MBA and/or Broker's license, many commercial firms would not consider you as an independent contractor. Unless you've got someone taking you under their wing, I wouldn't even consider the commercial market at this time.
If I were in your position considering this business, I would seek out the top producers in your area and team up with the brokerage firm/agent with the strongest market share working with them as a Licensed Assistant or Buyer's Agent. This would give you a mentor in the business and someone successful to follow as an example. Until you've worked this business, you really don't know if you're even cut out for it.
An excellent read for this business is "Work By Referral: Live the Good Life!" by Brian Buffini & Joe Niego. It's a quick read. Apply it and succeed!
Best of luck to you!
RE/MAX Agent in TX