According to new figures released by the Office for National Statistics, the number of estate agents in the UK rose by 77,000 between 2012 and 2013 – an incredible number. Demand for housing means that it’s a great time to be in the property industry and unsurprisingly, many people are considering it as a career option.

We all have preconceptions about estate agents but the majority of those we actually encounter are pleasant, knowledgeable and extremely helpful when it comes to buying, selling or renting a home. To further dispel those stereotypes, here’s what real estate agents say about working in property:

Describe the role of an estate agent:

Not just anyone can be an estate agent; you need a special set of skills and characteristics. When we asked agents to describe the profession in three words via our #EAChats Twitter forum, @vixfarrar said ‘sociable, negotiating, nosey’ and @StevenHWayne said “hard, hard-working, rewarding”. The role requires confidence, self-motivation and a competitive nature. At the same time, it requires empathy, patience and resilience. The role rarely receives the credit it deserves – helping people to make arguably the biggest purchase of their lives.

The best bits about the role:

Few people dream about being an estate agent when they are little admits Josh, an estate agent speaking to GoThinkBig, but he loves it. He finds the work truly fascinating and says that the opportunity for getting ‘out and about’ is far superior to a 9-5 office job. Josh says he loves meeting different people, especially when it’s someone famous. It is hard work but the industry is stable and the perks can be really great – notably if you want to buy or sell a property yourself.

The not so best bits:

Firstly, there’s the poor reputation that’s been so unjustly levied on the entire profession but as Josh implies, when you work hard and for a good company, professionalism shines through. Also, there can be a requirement to work unsocial hours – weekends and evenings, possibly bank holidays – which can be another inconvenience. He adds being the middle man and having to negotiate with tough characters isn’t easy. Many have unrealistic expectations, says Jan Etherington in The Express, hence it can seem at times that estate agents can’t win. But at least they try.

Strange things can happen at a viewing:

Most viewings go smoothly. The vendors have tidied up and probably gone out to leave the agents to it. That’s not always the case, though. @StevenHWayne said he’s found himself locked in properties a few times and @vixfarrar recalled the time she showed a respectable couple into a house only to find three squatters in bed, smoking. Spare a thought for @louisakent who doesn’t do viewings any more after interrupting the vendors in flagrante delicato when they had promised to be out. Additionally there are some great stories collated in The Telegraph, many of which seem to feature water; clearly the message here for agents is to steer clear of swimming pools and ponds.

Honest agents want more regulation:

The truth remains that there are cowboy estate agents operating in the UK whose dishonesty, as Josh says, “sort of ruin it for the rest of us”. Little wonder that honest, hard-working agents bemoan the fact that rogue agencies can set up easily. @vixfarrar pointed out via Twitter that in other countries, being an estate agent was considered a ‘high class job’ for which you often needed a degree. Agreeing with the sentiment, @StevenHWayne said: “I just think that seeing as you are dealing with people’s biggest life purchase, you should have to pass a test!”

It’s evident from the comments above that most estate agents are proud to work in the industry, taking their work seriously and genuinely trying hard to help people buy/sell/let or rent a home. It’s hard work and it’s challenging but the pleasure derived through handing over the keys or confirming an offer can make it all seem worthwhile.