A real estate agent is an intermediary who brings real estate sellers and buyers together. A real estate agent helps a property seller find a buyer and buyer to find a seller. In return for the service, the agent earns a commission, a percentage of the property transaction price. The job of a real estate agent involves being aware of properties for sale and helping buyers and sellers connect and complete the transaction. If you are interested in becoming a real estate agent, you need to have a license from the state where you operate.
It is estimated[i] that there are around two million licensed real estate agents in the US. On average, a real estate agent can earn $46,000. The top agents earned more than $100,000. It is a lucrative career option that is easy to get into. A college degree is not mandatory. All you need is interest to learn about the real estate market and a readiness to help buyers and sellers.
Becoming a real estate agent
It is not difficult to become a real estate agent. You need to obtain a license from your state before you start. Here’s how you can do it.
1) Understand the license requirements
Each state has different requirements to be a real estate agent. The first thing you need to do is understand what the requirements are in your state. You need to understand the procedure to obtain a license. In general, the following are the requirements to get a license.
- You must have crossed 18 years of age. You must be 21 to get a license in some states.
- Some states insist that you should have completed a high school diploma.
- You may even need experience in real estate sales before getting a license.
- You must be a US citizen.
- You may need to submit fingerprint data and get a background check done. Check the website of your state’s real estate commission for details.
- You need to complete coursework for the licensing exam and then pass it. You can take a course that includes modules for agent conduct, real estate financing, property management, title transfer, etc. The course has to be completed from an accredited licensing school. The duration of the course varies from state to state. You may even be able to take up this course online for your convenience.
- Usually, the examination contains objective-type questions. The number of questions and pass marks varies from state to state.
2) Complete the examination and get licensed.
Once you confirm your eligibility, you need to first complete the pre-licensing course. On completion of the course, you can register for the examination. Ensure you complete all the requirements before taking up the exam. If you take up the coursework seriously, you should be able to pass the exam. It is estimated[ii] that less than half the people taking up an exam pass it on the first attempt, so you need to work hard for it. Once you clear the examination, you can apply for a license that allows you to work as a real estate agent.
3) Work with a real estate broker
Most states mandate that a real estate agent should work with a real estate broker for a minimum period of two years after obtaining a license. You may find it convenient to start working with the broker even before taking up the exam. This will be helpful in states where prior sales experience is a requirement to take up the exam.
Look for a broker who is experienced and has a good market reputation. The real estate broker’s job is to monitor your work and ensure you comply with all norms. A real estate agent will not be paid a salary but will get a part of the commission that the broker gets from their clients. So effectively, you will be paid only if you complete a sale.
You must note that there could be expenses associated with your work. You need to renew your license on an annual basis. You also may have to attend continuing education programs. The broker may charge you a fee for the expense they incur on you. You need to factor these expenses before deciding if the career will work out for you or not.
4) Start working
Once you register with a real estate broker, you can start working. Your job is to scout for people who want to sell properties and those who are interested to buy them. You can find your clients and promote your business through a website. Since it is not a salaried job, it is usually flexible. You can decide how much time you want to work. If you earn sufficient commission in the first week of the month, you can afford to take the rest of the month off.
If you want to be a professional real estate agent and make it a career, then you need to work hard for it. With experience, you can become a real estate broker yourself. You need to complete additional licensing requirements for this. To be a successful real estate agent, you can become a member of real estate associations like the National Association of Realtors, National Trust Real Estate Association, Women’s Council of Realtors, etc.
Why be a real estate agent?
The reasons why you can choose a career option as a real estate agent are:
- You can be an independent professional who earns money based on the effort you put in.
- The harder you work, the more you can earn. With a little effort and good customer service skills, you can look forward to earning a six-figure salary.
- You can work as per your convenience. It is a career option that allows you to take breaks, like regular vacations.
- You can start off solo and as you grow can start your own real estate brokerage firm and employ people.
- If you are good at marketing and convincing people, a career as a real estate agent can prove to be very lucrative.