Every month, millions of Americans think about joining the lines of professional real estate agents chasing their dream of success. After all, who wouldn’t want to have a job as dynamic and exciting as selling gorgeous houses in exotic locations or world-famous cities?
But life as a realtor is not all glitz and glamor. In fact, only a few real estate agents (out of the entire guild) get to work with healthy clients who own property in exotic locations. And before you can even dream about getting to that level, you have to build a portfolio and earn the trust of customers (which is not easy).
You should also consider that, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of real estate agent and broker jobs is not growing as fast as other niches. True, there is still demand, but it also means the industry will get even more competitive than before.
So if you are determined to build a career in real estate (as a realtor), here are some of the things you should focus your efforts on, as a beginner:
1. Joining a Real Estate School Online
Because there isn’t a nationwide real estate license exam, you have to figure out the pre-licensing educational requirements for your state or the state where you plan to be active as an agent. According to jurisdiction, the number of training hours will vary – for instance, California requires aspiring agents to take 135 hours, while in Virginia you’re good with 60 hours.
To make sure you get the right information, go to your state’s real estate regulatory office website or check out the regulatory agency directory from the Association of Real Estate License Law Officials.
The pre-licensing training must be performed by a certified institution, but you can take the classes in-person or online. However, with everything that’s been going on, most candidates usually opt for online classes.
Plus, if you’re working or have a family to care for, online classes are more convenient. To find the right one for you, check out these online real estate schools.
2. Taking (and passing) the licensing exam
During pre-licensing education, you will learn a lot of new information that’s mostly technical and factual in nature. These are concepts like real estate principles, legal aspects, how to use the tools specific to the industry, and more.
Once you’ve completed the required class hours and you feel confident in your knowledge, it’s time to sign up to take the licensing exam.
Quick tip: Don’t let too much time pass between the time you complete the educational requirements and the exam. You have about two years from the time you complete the pre-licensing course before you will be required to retake them.
The exam usually has two sections, and each section has 60 to 100 multiple-choice questions. And yes, there will be a few math questions, but you are allowed to use a calculator.
Now, given that time is rather limited, it’s best to do a few sample exams (available online) before the real deal. This helps familiarize yourself with the system and build a method that will allow you to answer as many questions as possible.
Will I pass my real estate exam on the first try?
It depends on how well-prepared you are. Of course, other factors may influence your results, but the good news is you can take the exam as often as you want within a two-year period.
3. Becoming a True Realtor & Joining a Brokerage
Passing the exam doesn’t automatically make you a realtor – you’ll have to first activate your license. This happens via your state real estate commission’s website and will set you back around $200 to $400.
Next, you will need access to the local multiple listing service (MLS), which is the core of any realtor’s activity. Lastly, you can’t call yourself a realtor until you are a member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR). For this, you will be asked to pay an annual membership fee and subscribe to their strict Code of Ethics.
Once all these steps are done, you have one more before you can start working with clients – joining a brokerage.
According to US law, real estate agents cannot supervise and facilitate transactions without the help and support of a brokerage or agency. Brokers are licensed real estate agents who have the authority to oversee transactions and make sure all the parties involved adhere to the legal and ethical standards in place.
As a newly minted real estate agent, you will need a sponsor (a broker) who is willing to teach you the ropes of the job and support your efforts.
Otherwise, you have no credibility in the market, and no reliable customers will want to work with you. So you can take the first few years spent under a broker as an apprenticeship.
At first, you’ll probably be in charge of office work, such as adding listings to the MLS database, website and social media content, and research. Once you start learning how to work with clients and how to find the right people for the right type of property, the broker will give you more room to grow.
Overall, it’s important to choose a brokerage you like since your only reward until you get a client is going to be knowledge and experience. That’s because real estate agents are paid on commission (in most cases) so if you don’t have customers, you also don’t have income.
At the end of the day, real estate is rather easy to get into, even as a college student, but you need determination and passion for the job to climb the ladder to success. Of course, you also need the initial investment for classes, memberships, license activation, and seed money to start the business off the ground.
However, you don’t have to spend years studying the niche – you can go out there and practice as soon as your license is active. This lets you learn the job while doing it, which is extremely useful.