You live for the HGTV schedule. You physically cried when Tarek and Christina broke up on “Flip or Flop”, because you figured it would be the end of the show.
You love to figure out the square footage of friend’s houses. You calculate how much houses are worth by looking at the front of the houses. Your friends are tired of you going on and on about houses, or condos, or apartments and how you could sell them for more than they were worth. You love people, and you love finding people a perfect place for them. Perhaps you might make a good real estate agent.
But how do you go about it?
Know how much you should charge.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average salary for a real-estate agent is around $47,000 plus commissions. The average commission for a real estate agent is 3% per agent, or 6% overall. There are times that real estate agents can earn more on commission, and there are also times real estate agents earn less, because commissions are to some extent negotiable. While $47,000 is the average salary for real estate agents, some agents work on commission only. In addition, top producers within a real estate agency can earn over $100,000 plus commissions. Luxury real estate agents who have made a career out of selling multi million dollar houses, can make commissions in the millions. In addition, commercial property real estate agents can earn higher commissions.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics also noted that the growth rate for real estate agents is around 6% through 2026, which means that the job field is expected to grow as fast as the average job within the labor market. However, you should know that real estate agent jobs rise and fall with the economy. When the economy is good, there are plenty of houses to sell and plentiful real estate jobs. When the economy is bad, the housing market stalls, and real estate jobs aren’t so plentiful.
Figure out if it’s right for you.
Before you begin to take the journey towards becoming a real estate agent, you need to make sure that this career is right for you. Real estate agents are essentially their own business owners: they have to manage an office, or help to manage an office; they have to keep up with the paperwork that is volumes long, and can become unwieldy if not managed. Real estate agents have to find potential clients, which means they have to continually connect with the community. Agents also have to work with buyers and sellers of homes, which means they have to be really good at time management.
If you are not sure about whether you want to become a real estate agent, try talking to people in the real estate game. Ask them questions about their day-to-day workload, and what kinds of activities they do in a typical day. Ask them about the length of time they have worked in real estate, and whether or not they would recommend the career to a friend or a relative. If possible, ask if you can shadow the real estate agent for a day or two to see what a typical day looks like for them.
After you have shadowed an agent, it might be time to make a decision about whether or not you might want to take the steps you need to take in order to become an agent.
Understand licensing requirements.
There are a few real estate licensing requirements that do not vary from state to state. First, you must be at least 18 years old to be a real estate agent (in some states, it is 19). You must be a legal resident of the United States, which means that you are in the country as a natural-born citizen, or that you have paperwork that allows you to be in the country/state legally, such as an immigration visa. Once you know that you have met the requirements for residency, you need to figure out what your state requires for pre-license education.
Here is an example of a particular state’s requirements for pre-licensing qualification. In Georgia, there are specific requirements for licensing of real estate agents. Georgia’s requirements are typical of many states’ requirements, although some of the states have less strict guidelines, while other states are more restrictive.
In Georgia, the first step of the pre-licensing process is that you are able to pass a background check. If you are able to do that, Georgia then requires 75 hours of real estate sales coursework, which means that you have to take classes in real estate sales. In Georgia, you can take the classes online or from places which offer courses, such as technical colleges, two year and four year colleges, and community centers.
Be sure that you check out the school that is offering the coursework. Most states will not accept coursework from institutions that were not accredited, so make sure your coursework is coming from an institution that is accredited by the state. Each state has a list of accredited schools on their websites. You want a school that is not only accredited, but that is student-focused with understandable content and has received good reviews from real-estate agents.
Take the real estate exam.
After you complete any necessary coursework, you will need to take the real estate salesperson exam. Try and schedule your exam to happen as quickly as you can after you finish your coursework, while everything you learned is still fresh. Most of the state real estate exams have 75 questions, and take about an hour and a half to complete. Several states, such as Georgia offer test prep classes or courses free or for a small fee, so you may want to check and see if your state offers that option.
Find a mentor.
Once you have passed the exam, you will need to find someone to work with. You are called a real estate salesperson, not a real estate broker, which means that you can’t act as an independent agent yet. Instead, you have to work for someone under their sponsorship. When you apply for your real estate license, they will also fill out some paperwork for you to turn in to the state.
When you are looking for a real estate broker to work with, as with any job, check out your potential boss and the agency. Look at reviews of the agency, and ask other real estate agencies to determine if this agency is the right fit for you. If you want to move up the real estate ladder, and eventually become either a broker or a commercial real estate agent, you need to make sure that the agency you are thinking about will support you.
Start building out your business.
If you find out that you like real estate, and you want to move up the real estate ladder, there are ways you can do that. First, you would want to move from a real estate salesperson to a real estate broker, which means not only could you work for yourself, but you could hire other people to work for you, which sounds like a good way to work up the ladder.
Before you can become a full-fledged broker, you have to become an associate broker first, and continue to work under a licensed real estate broker. To become an associate broker, you need to take an additional 60 hours of coursework. This coursework includes lessons on advanced property law, property management and management of large, multi-family housing developments, how to minimize risk with property investments, rental law and tenant-owner relationships, equal opportunity law, ethics and enforcement, mechanical liens and construction liens, and how to spot property issues that might impact the sale of the property.
As with the real estate sales license, you also have to take an examination for the associate broker’s license as well. The exam has a few more questions, and takes a little longer than the sales examination, which makes sense because both the property law and financial aspects of property management become more complicated.
Some states give you the option of applying for a broker’s license three years after your sales license, while in other states, it is five years. You will need to check with your state to figure out the requirements. There will also be continuing education courses, just as there are with real estate sales.
If you want to really go for the gold, you can continue and get your broker’s license, which means you will then be able to own your own agency and manage other agents. It’s always nice to be your own boss, after all. As with the other licenses, states require coursework, an examination, and continuing education courses. Specialization in property management also requires additional certification, so if you want to add that to your resume, you need to check with your state to see what you will need to do in order to get certification in property management, or in commercial sales.
Real estate agents are magicians. They are somehow magically able to sell houses, transform property, handle difficult clients, advise families of their options, and manage to somehow be in more than one place at one time? Not sure how they do it, either. If you are thinking that this sounds like a great job choice for you, why not go to your state website, look up the requirements for real estate agents, and get moving? Real estate work can be a profitable way to maximize your skills, flexibility and strategy to work in your favor.
Who knows... maybe one day you’ll get your own show on HGTV!
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