Take a second to think about the glamorous life of the Hollywood real estate agent: fast cars, million dollar deals, and plenty of days off to spend time with friends and family. The truth is that these kinds of elite real estate agents do exist, and they're scattered all over the world. Achieving this level of success will take years of hard work and dedication, and only those who completely commit themselves to excellence will enjoy the money and luxurious lifestyle that the most famous real estate agents are known for.
If this kind of lifestyle excites you, you're not alone. Every year, tens of thousands of Americans choose to start a career in real estate and it's not difficult to see why. Real estate agents are in constant demand, they live a self-employed lifestyle while working under the protective umbrella of a large brokerage, and their income is limited only by their work ethic and determination to succeed.
If you're ready to go all in, this article will teach you how to become a real estate agent in three basic steps, and will provide you with valuable resources for further education and research.
Step 1: Understand the World of Real Estate
For the right kind of personality, a career as a real estate agent is the perfect fit. For others, the independent lifestyle, unpredictable hours, and competitive nature of real estate may not be exactly what they were looking for in a career. Before spending months studying for your state department real estate licensing exam and hundreds of dollars in tuition fees, it helps to first understand exactly what being a real estate agent is all about. This means spending a few days hanging around a brokerage, having discussions with anyone you know in the real estate industry, and reading books written by real estate professionals.
By far the most popular and widely-read introduction to the world of real estate is Break Into Real Estate, written by licensed Realtor, Wayne Jordan. It's full of real-life case studies and offers an excellent overview of all the different kinds of real estate agents, as well as valuable strategies to get you ahead of the pack once you've landed your first job at a brokerage.
Step 2: Get Licensed
All 50 states require that you pass a real estate exam in order to become a licensed real estate agent, but each state will have different requirements and material that they will test for on the exam. What you'll need to do is visit your local real estate board's website and find the requirements for your particular state.
For example, in Alabama, you must be at least 19 years old and complete a 60-hour licensing course in order to become licensed. In Texas, the minimum age is 18 years old and the required licensing course is a whopping 180 hours. Some states run a background check and will deny your application if you have a criminal record; others won't run a check at all.
This is also a good time to mention that one of the greatest benefits of being a real estate agent is your freedom to live absolutely anywhere you want. Since a real estate license is only valid in the state you received it in, now is the time to decide where you want to live for the next few years of your life.
Always wanted to live in New York or California? Now's the time to make the move.
Regardless of your state's requirements, you must make sure your licensing course is pre-approved by your state's real estate board. Yes, there are plenty of expensive courses out there that are not approved by the state and will not satisfy your education requirement. Contact your state for a full list of pre-approved licensing programs in your area.
Once you've completed your education requirement and studied for your licensing exam, it's time to take the test. The format of the test is multiple-choice and you will be given approximately 90 minutes to complete the test. In most states, a passing score is 70% or above, so don't feel pressured to answer every single question correctly. On top of that, you can re-take the test if you don't pass the first time.
The most important part is to relax....you're going to pass. And once you do, it's time to start your career as a real estate agent.
Step 3: Find a Brokerage
All states require that new agents sell real estate as part of a licensed brokerage. However, not all brokerages are created equal. It's up to you to find a brokerage that fits your personality and desired work environment.
Entire books can be written on what makes a brokerage excellent and what doesn't, but for the purpose of this article, it's important to keep one thing in mind.
You shouldn't just be working hard for your brokerage; your brokerage should be working hard for you. Remember, the brokerage won't make any money unless you go out there and close sales. Therefore, it's in your brokerage's best interest to make sure you're a well-equipped agent and you've been given all the tools necessary to make a living selling real estate. (a real living, not minimum wage or a part-time salary).
When you walk into that interview, always remember that you're interviewing them just as much as they are interviewing you.
Surviving The First Three Years
Make no mistake....getting your own desk and territory while working at a real estate brokerage is exciting, especially if you found a brokerage that is willing to devote time and resources to helping you excel.
But landing that first job is the easy part. Keeping it for 3, 5, even 10 years down the line? That's where things get tricky. Due to many reasons--lack of motivation, lack of guidance, stiff competition--the harsh truth is that many real estate agents don't make it past Year 3. The good news for you is that the greatest rewards--both financial and personal--lie mostly in that third year and beyond.
The key to surviving those first three years is picking a niche and sticking to it. No matter how hard you try, you're not going to succeed by jumping from one niche to another year after year. Are you particularly drawn to commercial real estate? Do you get a sense of satisfaction from helping young couples find their first home? Perhaps you are intrigued by the advent of the "online brokerage" (such as Redfin) and you feel like you can excel in that kind of digital environment.
Whatever your niche may be, your best chance at surviving in this field is to pick one and stick with it for at least a few years. You'll be in a much better position to change your niche once you've established yourself and achieved some degree of financial success. You don't want to have switched your focus three times in three years and have nothing at the end to show for it.
As long as there are people, there will be property. And as long as there is property, those properties will need agents to serve them. If you take the time to master this industry and learn your craft, your services will always be in demand.
There has never been a better time to start your career as a real estate agent. If treated with respect and with focus, it can be everything you imagined and more.