At some point in your life, whether it was while buying and selling your own home or watching friends go through the process, you may have wondered what a career in real estate would be like. It’s a thought that many midlifers return to when considering new careers. A real estate career is well suited to professionals with many different backgrounds and offers independence and flexibility. If real estate interests you, find out if it is the right career choice for you and the steps you’ll need to take to get there.
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If you think you want to be a real estate agent, these 6 steps will help you get started.
- Ask yourself “Am I the right person for this job?” Many “people who love people” are drawn to real estate because the social interaction part of the job seems right up their alley. The truth is that driving around with happy home-buyers to match them up with their dream houses is only a small fraction of what real estate agents encounter in their careers.
Real estate agents are essentially running their own businesses under the banners of licensed brokers. Finding clients, advertising, paying office expenses, maintaining your license, and meeting ongoing education requirements are just some of the things you will need to manage as a real estate agent.
You must also be comfortable dealing with the other players in a real estate sale, including home inspectors, property assessors, bankers, lawyers, town officials, and competing real estate agents, as well as buyers and sellers who are often under stress and not always happy at the same time.
In their recommendations for the Top Ten Traits of a Real Estate Agent, the experts at Kaplan Real Estate Education sum it up this way: “A good real estate agent is similar in nature to a conductor of a symphony, coordinating the different players to make a successful transaction a reality. At different points in the process, the real estate agent is a salesperson, a buyer’s advocate, an analyst, a business manager, a consultant, a negotiator, and a marketer, just to name a few.”
- Do your research. There is plenty of material on the Internet that describes what it’s like to be a real estate agent, but eventually you should go out and talk to real estate agents(It’s going to be part of your job, after all). If you don’t know any real estate agents, or even if you do, visit some agencies and talk to a number of agents before you make up your mind about the job. You will get different opinions from different agents depending on how happy or successful they are, what brokers they work with, and what markets they cover. A real estate agent who is thinking of leaving the job will give you a different point-of-view than one who is happily making a successful career of it, but both opinions are equally valuable. Also, it’s the perfect time to realize a real estate career fact-of-life—some agents are intensely competitive; they may purposely try to discourage from you entering their market, which is another good reason to gather multiple opinions.
While you’re visiting real estate offices, start researching brokers as well. Once you have a real estate license, you will work under a broker. Find out who is hiring, what their requirements are, and what help they will offer you with your business if you join them. Planning ahead will streamline the process of being hired once you have a license.
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- Consider the start-up costs. As a real estate agent, you will work on commission, not salary, so make sure you have enough money set aside to live on while you get started. Be prepared to invest in the start of your real estate career before you see the financial rewards that come later. Some estimates indicate you will spend anywhere from $1,500–$2,000 to begin your real estate business and invest a minimum of $1,000 a year to keep it going. Remember, it could take a few months or longer before you make your first sale, the closing process takes a minimum of 30 days, and deals can still fall through after all your hard work. Having a nest egg or another source of support will make starting your new career less stressful.
You also should consider how much time you want to devote to your real estate career. People who describe a agent’s hours as flexible really just mean that it’s not a 9–5 weekday job. You need to be available on your clients’ schedules to enjoy the most success—that often means working evenings, weekends, and holidays.
- Work through the licensing process. Pre-licensing requirements for real estate agents vary by state, but all involve a set number of hours in an educational course (anywhere from 30–90) followed by a licensing exam. You can visit your state’s real estate commission website for the particulars, including information on where to take courses, the state exam requirements, and schedules and fees.
Real estate licensing courses are offered independent of the state, so prices will vary. Some states allow real estate courses to be taken online. Shop around, get reviews, and ask the brokers and agents you talk to for their recommendations. Choose a course with a good track record for preparing students to pass their exams.
After you pass the exam, you may apply to the state for your license. This requires a separate fee, and each state has its own requirements, which may include additional paperwork and wait-time for things like criminal background checks and proof of high school graduation or GED.
- Affiliate with a broker. Once you have your real estate license, you may buy, sell, lease, or manage real estate on behalf of a broker. If you haven’t already found a broker to work with before or during the licensing process (which is highly recommended), now is the time to begin your interviews.
Are you interested in residential or commercial real estate? Do you want to work where you live, or is there a more lucrative market nearby—in a large city, perhaps? What does each broker require from you, what do they provide, and what is the commission split? How busy is their office and how satisfied are their customers? These are some the questions you need to answer before making your choice. The broker you work with will have an impact on how much money you make in your new job.
- Find a mentor. Even when you pass a real estate course and hold a license, that doesn’t mean you know everything you need to know to start selling real estate. Finding an office with other agents who are willing to mentor you is the best way to start on the road to a successful real estate career.
If you have the drive to make your business a success along with the personality to enjoy it, then the road to a real estate career is open to you!
What attracts you most to becoming a real estate agent?