Does the idea of hosting an open house or staging a home for sale sound exciting to you? A career in real estate is suited to professionals from many different backgrounds, and may offer you a refreshing new career that builds on your sales and people skills.
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If becoming a real estate agent sounds like an interesting career to you, the next step is to become licensed. Although the requirements for licensing vary from state to state, you will need to plan for these 5 basic steps in a real estate career.
1. Sign up for a licensing course
Most US states require you to study their real estate laws and regulations before you can sit for your licensing exam.* Time requirements range from 30 to 99 hours of classroom instruction, although some states allow for online licensing courses as well. You can visit your state’s real estate commission website for the particulars, including a list of authorized schools. Prices will vary, so do your research. There are some brokers who may offer to pay for your licensing education, but only if you sign an exclusive contract to work with them for a number of years after receiving your license. Be sure this is what you want to do before you make that commitment, as signing a non-compete contract will hinder your ability to work elsewhere in your home market.
2. Pass your state licensing exam
After finishing your licensing course, you may take the state licensing exam. Exam fees and test schedules can be found on your state’s real estate commission website. Once you pass the exam, you may then apply to the state for your real estate license, which requires a separate fee. Each state also has requirements which may include additional paperwork and wait time for things like criminal background checks and proof of high school graduation or GED.
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3. Choose a broker
Most states require real estate agents to work under the license of a real estate broker. Choosing a broker to affiliate yourself with is an important step in beginning your new business. Different brokers will offer you higher or lower commission split schedules in accordance with the differing amounts of support you require. Weigh your business opportunities carefully, comparing your split against your expenses and how much support they are offering you for running your business.
4. Run your business
Real estate agents are independent contractors, running their own businesses in affiliation with a broker-partner. As a business person you are responsible for your own expenses, but these can be negotiated with a broker. Your broker makes money when you make money, so many brokers will offer to cover some of your business expenses when you sign on with them. Office expenses, business cards, signage, advertising, continuing education, and support for computer and mobile technology are all items you will want to consider in your negotiations with brokers. You will also be responsible for your own accounting and for paying your taxes in accordance with your state’s laws, so make sure you educate yourself about what is required of you when you consider becoming a real estate agent. Some general estimates of expenses to become a real estate agent run in the range of $1,500–$2,000 to start your business, and at least another $1,000 a year going forward.
5. Stay up-to-date
Real estate agents are required to participate in continuing education programs for a certain number of hours every year in order to keep their licenses current. Requiring Certified Educational Units (CEUs) guarantees that agents will remain up-to-date in such areas as real estate law, local economics, fair housing laws, types of financing, mortgages, and government programs.
A career in real estate has many benefits. As an independent professional, you’re in control of your own workload. How much money you make will depend on how many clients you choose to take on. It’s also a career that can move easily with you—no matter where you live in the world, there will always be real estate to sell, buy, manage, or rent if you choose to stay in the profession.
(*There are some states that will allow you to get your license first, then take the required educational courses within a specified period of time.)
What questions do you have about a career in real estate?