How To Become A Real Estate Agent

When you ask most people how to become a real estate agent, they will tell you that you need to take a course, pass an exam, submit an application to the state, pay fees, and then you will receive your license. That’s a great overview, but being a real estate agent necessitates a lot more. It entails determining whether the real estate industry is suited for you, growing and scaling your business, and always seeking to improve.

This guide will show you how to become a real estate agent and help you decide if it’s the right career choice for you.

Key Takeaways

  • It takes around 2-3 months to obtain your license depending on where you live
  • The majority of states require a certain number of hours of specific courses to be completed at an approved, accredited real estate school.
  • Only real estate agents that join NAR can be called RealtorsⓇ
  • In most cases, you will be an independent contractor, you will have to pay for your own health insurance.

First of all, what is a real estate agent?

A real estate agent is someone who represents buyers or sellers of real property. They are licensed by the state and usually work with a real estate brokerage or homebuilder.

How much do agents typically make?

As of 2021, the median income for US real estate agents was $51,000. Now, there are some agents that make millions of dollars every year. And you have some agents that make nothing.

What are the hours?

Most agents get into real estate for flexible hours and think they are getting a 9-to-5 job. That’s a mistake. You have to work your butt off. Most likely, you’re going to be working more than 8 hours a day when you first get started.

The hours also vary. You may work from 7 am to 7 pm one day while showing houses to an out-of-state buyer and then work from 9 am to 6 pm going to listing appointments. Unless you work with a homebuilder or with a team that has set hours, yours will probably vary day-to-day.

How to get started?

From one state to the next, educational requirements can be rather varied. The amount of coursework required to sit for the real estate examination in some states is significant. Some may even need a college diploma, but this is not usually the case. The majority of states require a certain number of hours of specific courses to be completed at an approved, accredited real estate school.

In Florida, for example, 63 hours of pre-licensing courses are required to begin. To take the state exam, you must first complete the pre-licensing course. Then you must submit an application and paperwork to the state, as well as pay a fee. You’ll also have your fingerprints taken and pass a background check. The approval process for the state exam takes about 2-4 weeks. After passing the state exam, you’ll acquire your license and be able to begin practicing right away (or after signing up with a brokerage or a homebuilder).

That being said, you’re looking at an average of around 2-3 months to get your license.

What is the difference between a RealtorⓇ and a real estate agent?

First off, the term “Realtor” is trademarked by the National Association of RealtorsⓇ (NAR). This means that only real estate agents that join NAR can be called RealtorsⓇ. RealtorsⓇ have access to the MLS (which is how you can look up properties that are listed or sold within your market area) and belong to a local board. There is a “Code of Ethics” that you have to abide by and also agree to regular training and continued education – no matter what state you reside in. To become a REALTORⓇ, your first step is to join your local board. Not everyone has to become a RealtorⓇ in order to sell real estate, but it sure makes your job a lot easier.

What is the cost of being a RealtorⓇ?

Check with your area, but it could end up being around $800 to belong to a board. Usually the initial start fees are quite higher, around $1500 is pretty typical.

After that, you have monthly dues to your local board (usually for your MLS system) and yearly board dues to your local board and NAR. This doesn’t include your personal marketing costs, clothes, vehicle maintenance and gas, brokerage fees, referral fees, office supplies, and much more. Fortunately, a lot of these costs are associated with doing business and can be tax deductible. Check with your accountant.

What will help me get started?

The biggest thing is to work on your mindset. This business isn’t for the faint of heart, nor is it as easy as people think it is. Some people you deal with on a daily basis can be difficult and emotional. You have to learn to handle all personality types.

You have to constantly feed your mind—either by reading more or learning how to meditate. This is how you grow your mind and your business. Continuous learning is key.

Also, learn how to save money. Most likely, you won’t be making money in the first few months. Now, you can join a team as either an admin, buyer or listing agent, or even an ISA (inside sales agent). Joining a good team is a great way to make money faster. Being part of a team might also help you shorten the learning curve. Many team leaders will cover the cost of your training, and some may even provide coaching and/or mentorship.

What are the pros and cons of this business?

There are many upsides and downsides to this business, depending on how you look at it. We will go over a few:

  1. Money can be unlimited: Some months, you can make thousands of dollars. In other months, you may make zero. It’s really up to you. How hard you work and the hours you put in depend on how much you earn. The good news is that you can control how much you learn.
  2. You don’t need an office: You can work from home if needed. Or the local coffee shop. It is common for most real estate agents to work out of their cars. Showing property and going on listing appointments is where you will spend the majority of your time when you’re just starting out.
  3. You can wear whatever you want: In cities like Atlanta and New York City, you’ll find some agents dress professionally and wear suits. Other markets like Florida and California, especially near coastal towns, tend to be more casual. It depends on your market area and how you want to present yourself. Just remember, some clients will connect with you depending on what you wear.
  4. You don’t need a college degree (in most states): Just taking the pre-licensing course and passing the state exam is usually all that is required. Most states do require that you be 18 years old and be able to pass a background check. Again, check with your state for what they require.
  5. You are your own boss (unless you work on a team): You can make all the rules, including when and where you work. However, most people need structure, so they end up failing. This can be an upside or downside. It depends on how motivated you are and what your goals are. Working for a team can be beneficial if you feel like you need more training and structure. When working for a team, you have to follow their hours, their rules, and their business model. When working as a solo agent, you ARE the boss.
  6. You get to start from zero every day: You get to start fresh every day. If you have a bad day one day, the next can be fantastic. Some days, you show property and work your tail off only for your clients to put in an offer with another agent. Then you make zero. Other days, you may have multiple offers for multiple clients, and they all get accepted. You have to be prepared for the ups and downs. But the bottom line is, every day is a new day.
  7. Health insurance and other benefits are usually not included: Since, in most cases, you will be an independent contractor, you will have to pay for your own health insurance. This can be very costly. Very rarely do some teams or brokerages offer health insurance or other benefits. That being said, the National Association of Realtors sometimes offers discounts on health insurance for their members. Also, some big box brokerages like Keller Williams and Century 21 have a list of vendors that also offer discounted health insurance for their agents. If this is important to you, shop around with brokerages and research what benefits – if any – they offer.

Now that you have a better understanding of the real estate business, what should you do once you’re licensed?

How Do You Choose The Right Brokerage?

Go to different brokerages and see what they have to offer. Any broker will take you, usually. Some may be picky, but most will take you on. So, it’s important to take a look at what they can offer YOU. Commission structures are important, so make sure you have what you need. Make a list of questions that you have before you go in for an interview. List the things that are important to you, like training, coaching, mentoring, commission structures, office space, etc.

Keller Williams, ReMax, EXP, and Century 21 are a few national brokerages you can check out. I would interview at least five of them, including local smaller brokerages. Training and support are important, so ask them what they provide. Again, getting a mentor or coach is also very important if you wish to succeed in this business.

What are the daily activities you should be doing?

When you first start out as an agent, there are many lead generation activities you should be doing every single day. As a matter of fact, most of your time as a new agent should be concentrated on doing lead generation and lead follow-up.

Consider:

Door Knocking

This is one thing you can do to generate leads. It’s a tough task, but if you do it on a regular basis, you may end up with a new listing or two. Pick the neighborhood you live in or start with one that you are familiar with. Print up some flyers with recent market activity in that neighborhood and knock on doors to introduce yourself. It’s how most successful agents get their start.

Cold Calling

Pick up the phone and start dialing. REDX is a company where you can get phone numbers for your market area. Calling FSBO and expireds is another great way to get started. Or calling people in the neighborhood—also called your farm area or GEO leads—is a good way to do it as well.

Online Leads

It’s all about online leads these days. Realtor.com and Zillow are two sites where you can purchase leads. Depending on your market area, they can be expensive to buy. However, if you have good scripts and know how to follow-up, it may be worth it to you. Also, going on Facebook and Google to get leads is pretty hot right now. You can expect to get paid from $12 to $20 per lead.

Your Sphere of Influence

This is also a great place to start. And it doesn’t cost anything! Your cell phone has everyone that you know. You can download and export to any Excel sheet with an app called MCbackup. Then you can inform everyone on your contact list that you are in the real estate business. This app makes it simple to do.

Wrap It Up

Becoming a real estate agent is not as easy as some people think. While the process can be challenging, it is worth it in the long run if you crave being your own boss and having no ceiling on the amount of money you can make, and you genuinely want to help people achieve the American dream of home ownership.

If you haven’t already, join Lab Coat Agents on Facebook if you are brand new to the business. This is a great community where you can ask questions and get to know other real estate agents in the business.

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