Deciding to become a real estate agent is a major move in anyone’s career journey. People enter the field of real estate from various occupations and careers, and at various stages of their lives. Everyone has different reasons why they think real estate is the correct career choice for them. But, one question consistently comes from people looking to enter the real estate industry: “Who are Real Estate Professionals, and How do I become a real estate agent?”
Real Estate Professionals are individuals and companies who know the laws and regulations pertaining to real estate – individuals you can trust with your confidential information. They aim to promote peaceful ownership and effective passing of the title from one person to another.Real Estate licensing for Real Estate Brokers and Salespeople has evolved in order to protect consumers while they buy and sell real property. These agents act like catalysts between the various parties involved in a transfer of title to real estate. The Real Estate Broker License or Real Estate Salesperson License indicates that the person has what it takes to help consumers through the maze of finding, evaluating and financing real estate.
By becoming a Real Estate Agent, an individual can provide hundreds of different, creative options for a person to purchase a home, land, or business and commercial property. The consumer truly benefits because Real Estate Agents are not employees of any particular company or financial institution, but instead have a working relationship with a broad range of companies that serve the public by helping them buy or sell real estate.
Being a realtor is great if you like houses and enjoy working with people, but it’s not always the dream job some imagine it to be. It’s a common misconception that real estate agents earn a ton of money for doing practically nothing.
Selling real estate is more work that you might imagine and, although there are some very successful real estate agents, there are many who struggle just to make ends meet.
The first step in this process is making sure that real estate is right for you. As a real estate salesperson, each day is spent working for you. This means handling your own office management, paperwork, prospecting leads, developing relationships, managing contacts, and dealing with buyers and sellers. Reach out to local real estate agents and brokers and ask them questions about what the day-to-day work is like. Ask questions about real estate as a long-term career. Starting a full-time career as a real estate agent can’t be treated like a hobby. It requires a full commitment. Make sure real estate is the right path for you.
From somebody in the business, here’s what it takes to become a real estate agent — and what you should consider in detail before starting down the path to selling homes.
Questions to think before starting to journey:
Do you have the time and cash to get licensed?
The first thing you have to do if you want to sell houses is get your real estate license. Go to the website for your state’s Department of Real Estate or Bureau of Real Estate and find a list of approved online or in-person real estate courses.
Some people prefer the flexibility of online classes where others focus better out of the house in a classroom. Either way, you can count on studying for at least several months and up to year.
Once you’ve finished the classes you can take the state’s official test to become a licensed real estate salesperson. The test isn’t cheap, so be sure to study hard before signing up.
Where will you work?
New real estate agents almost always work under the supervision of a broker. Real estate brokers offer agents marketing support and legal protections. When deciding where to hang your hat, interview at at least three different brokerages in order to get a feeling of how they work.
Some agents prefer big brokerages because the well-known company names help give them credibility. Other agents like the mom-and-pop shops because they’re more flexible about working from home and choosing your own vendors.
Can you afford the start-up expenses?
Even though you’ll be working under the umbrella of a broker, real estate agents are independent contractors. You may put Coldwell Banker or RE/Max on your business card, but you have to buy those business cards yourselves. Other common expenses include sale signs, open house signs, and a basic website.
Budget about $1,000 for these advertising start-up expenses (various fees, exam costs, etc.), and as you grow in business you can advertise more. Plan for annual real estate association and board dues as well as membership fees to be part of the local Multiple Listing Service (MLS). Most new agents start working with buyers rather than taking listings. All that house-hunting will mean a lot of gas burned driving across town.
A rookie Realtor could easily spend up to $5,000 on business cards, direct mail, advertising and other overhead expenses his broker doesn’t cover. And, since you likely won’t be paid when you don’t have deals to close, you’ll need enough savings to cover about six months of living expenses while you get started.
How are your boundaries?
It can be tough to manage time as a new real estate agent, especially if you have another job or small children.
Showing houses is largely done in the evenings and on weekends, so unusual hours go with the territory. That makes real estate appealing as a side hustle or for working parents, but remember that it’s not uncommon for buyers to call up asking to see a property on a few hours’ notice.
I recommend setting boundaries clearly. You can record an answering message on your cell phone that says something like,
“Hi, This is [your name]. If you’re calling on a Monday through Saturday from 8am to 6pm, I’m on the other line and will call you back as soon as possible. If you’re calling on a Sunday or an evening I will return your call the next business day.”
Even then, you may have to make exceptions during negotiations. Be prepared.
Okay, so how much can I earn as a real estate agent?
Real estate is a commission-only business. And commission-based based jobs are feast or famine.
You can — and will — go months without getting a paycheck. You’ll need to learn how to budget for variable income.
But unlike W-2 jobs, a commission-based job like real estate agent or broker has limitless income potential. Some agents make over a million dollars a year. You get back in income what you put into it in effort and time. So how much can you really make? Commissions are typically paid by the property sellers and are negotiable by law. Some listing agents get 2.5 percent of the contract purchase price and offer out the same to buyers’ agents, but it varies. For example purposes, we’ll use 2.5 percent.
If you sell a $300,000 home, 2.5 percent of the purchase price is $7,500.
Then you’ll have your brokerage split (this is how the broker makes their money for letting you use their offices and branding). New agents typically have to give more to their brokers because they require more training. Let’s say you have a 70/30 split with your brokerage. That leaves you with $5,250.
$5,250 for one house, you’re thinking. Not bad. But don’t forget how long it took to earn that money. Escrows are typically 30 days and, assuming you represent the buyer, you may have spent weeks driving them around all day to look at properties. If you want to earn a modest $60,000 a year, you’ll need to sell an average of one $300,000 house every month.
Can I really sell real estate part-time?
Yes. In fact, I recommend everyone start this way.
The hardest part of building your real estate business is developing clients. It takes a long time. If you dive into real estate full-time — putting up all the money for training and start-up necessities — you may find it takes six months to sell your first house.
Selling real estate part-time is a good way to get into the business without going broke while also supplementing your income.
Being a real estate salesperson can also be a great career for mothers of young children because it’s somewhat flexible. You can work from home part of the time (doing emails, making calls, performing online marketing, and other tasks), then have your spouse or a babysitter watch the kids while you go out to showings.
Finally, some people maintain their real estate agent’s license simply so they can buy and sell their own properties and represent a family member every now and then.
OK, you decided to be a Real Estate Professional. What’s next?
Determine the general requirements for becoming a real estate agent in your state.
Though there is an exam you’ll have to pass that may differ in every state, the general requirements to be able to take that test are the same. There are actually just a couple basics. You must:
- Be at least 18 or 19 years old (depends on the state)
- Have legal US residency
- Complete your required prelicense education(number of hours required depends on the state)
- Pass your state real estate license examination
Consider getting your college degree
To be a real estate agent, you don’t need a degree from a four-year university, keyword there being need. However, it’s important to know that because degrees are becoming more and more common, it’s good to have one to cover your bases. Those with degrees generally are regarded a bit higher and may see more opportunities for advancement.
You can major in real estate at some schools, which starts you well on your way to becoming a broker (the one who manages all the real estate agents). Even a few classes in real estate may let you waive the course requirement below, depending on regional law.
It’s a good idea to have some knowledge of business, marketing, economics, and law. To succeed in the field, this is a good starting point to learn what you’re going to be dealing with.
Practice relevant skills
Real estate work is essentially a sales job. You’ll need excellent communication and negotiation skills, and the ability to use them with people from all backgrounds. Most real estate agents end up running their own business, so strong business sense and organization skills are vital. You must be able to manage a high stress job, on call 24/7, with an uncertain income.
As a real estate agent, your name and face will represent your business and the broker you work for. If you can’t be reliable and helpful to your clients, you’ll lose clients faster than Bruce Willis went bald.
Look for entry-level work
You can get started in the real estate industry even before you have a license. Contact real estate brokers in your area and ask if any of their agents are hiring an assistant. Your apprenticeship may involve office work or sales negotiation. Either way, you’ll learn more about the real estate world and network with people who can give you career advice.
Sign up for a real estate licensing course
The uniqueness of the real estate licensing laws of each state is expressed in the diversity of laws, rules, and regulations that each state adopts. The states differ on every aspect of the licensing: how much education is required to obtain a license, the type and depth of the examinations, and whether education courses are required once an agent becomes licensed. Fees vary tremendously in the various states, as does the valuable potential of reciprocity with other states.
Search your state’s website for a list of accredited real estate programs. These are relatively short courses aimed at passing the real estate license test. In-person courses are generally the fastest, but online modular courses are available for people who need a more flexible schedule.
This will take somewhere between 30 and 200 hours of classwork, depending on your locale.
If you are working as an assistant in real estate, your employer might sponsor this course.
To further the protection of the consumers, and to provide a voice for the Real Estate Professional, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) was formed. Members are pledged to a strict Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice. The association has over one million members. The NAR also provides continuing education courses, an annual requirement for maintaining a Real Estate license in some states. The association also promotes the most effective government regulations. All states have members in the NAR.
The National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB) was formed to bring together the nation’s Real Estate Minority Professionals in order to promote a meaningful exchange of ideas about the real estate industry – always searching for better ways to serve their clients.
Take the real estate license test
In most areas you can register for the test online and download study materials from the government licensing board’s website. Study hard and show up ready to answer questions on everything your coursework covered.
Timing is important at this step. Make sure you are following the application process with your state so you can sit for your real estate agent exam soon after you finish your real estate licensing classes. This process will be state-specific and include a fee. Check with your state’s real estate regulatory authority for complete details.
Some states require you submit fingerprints and pass a background check. This can take weeks to process (Complete this part of your application in advance of your test to save times.). In many states, the application process must be complete before you can register or schedule your exam date.
Depending on your location and the specific charges, a criminal record will not necessarily prevent you from earning a license.
Don’t let the paperwork become a roadblock to getting started in your new real estate career.
How Hard Is the Test?
Why do states require real estate exams? Sandrina Taraszki, former president of The Association of Real Estate License Law Officials says exams and licenses prove an agent has mastered a minimum amount of necessary information about the real estate process. They also give states something to revoke if an agent isn’t honest.
Passing the real estate exam takes more than finishing the educational requirements—it takes preparation. Not everyone passes the exam the first time. Preparing yourself to pass the state exam takes additional study time. I highly recommend enrolling in an exam prep class.
Taking practice exams, measuring your strengths and weaknesses, and working through comprehensive topical review will sharpen your knowledge and prepare you for exam day.
Show up to the exam location with a positive attitude, answer the questions using the massive knowledge bank you accumulated in your studies, and walk out with a passing grade on your state real estate exam!
Extend Your Reach
If you live near the border of several states, Taraszki recommends seeking more than one license. A portion of most states’ tests include national real estate law, so to pass an exam in more than one state, the extra studying would involve state law only.
Work as a licensed real estate agent
As soon as you pass your test, you’re qualified to work as a fully-fledged real estate agent. A real estate salesperson (agent) is licensed to act on behalf of a broker and may not act as a real estate agent independently.
You must work under the umbrella of a licensed broker, who will charge you a fee and take a percentage of your commissions. (Brokers have at least three years additional real estate training, and can guide you through questions you have when it comes to working in the field, as well as listing and selling homes.)
Consider finding a real estate broker early in your licensing process. Once you have completed your prelicensing education requirements and passed your exam, you and your broker will both need to complete final paperwork with the state. Once the form is accepted, your license will be issued, and you may practice real estate under the sponsorship of the broker.
Good luck on your journey to becoming licensed, as well as your eventual successful career as a real estate agent! Each day can be unique and different for a real estate agent, and it can be a very rewarding and exciting career!
If you want to become a real estate agent, make sure you research what is involved in your state. Some states have easier requirements than others, but it is not difficult to get your license in most places. It costs a lot of money to become a real estate agent, but it is well worth it in my opinion. Becoming a real estate agent can save a ton of money and allow a better opportunity to buy properties below market value.
- You may need to complete some post-licensing education, depending on your state.
- Depending on your state, your active license will be good for anywhere from two to four years. Don’t forget to renew it in time to avoid a gap in your work.
- Real estate requires a lot of self-promoting. Dropping your own name has to be as simple as reciting the ABCs.
- You do not have to specialize in buying or selling. Although working with a home buyer brings you the big paycheck, listing properties for sellers takes much less time. Attracting a constant flow of sellers can be a profitable tactic.
- You may be able to find a mentor who will pass on clients in exchange for a cut of the sales. Even if you’re not that lucky, someone who can pass on career advice will help a great deal in the early years.
- Make the Realtor/Real Estate Agent Decision: In order to utilize the title “realtor,” you must join the National Association of Realtors(NAR). This is done by choosing an affiliated brokerage as well as attending a set number of meetings designated by your local chapter.