The Guide to Becoming a Real Estate Agent
If you’ve landed on this article, there’s a strong chance that you’re interested in becoming a real estate agent. Who could blame you? From showcasing the perfect open house to helping families find their dream home, the life of a real estate agent doesn’t seem too bad. Hopefully once you’re done with this guide, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a real estate agent in the state of your choosing. Throughout this guide, we will cover the skills you need, the steps you should take, and some tips and tricks to use along the way. All that’s left is for you to put the work in and execute.
Is Real Estate Right for You?Before we discuss the steps you need to take, let’s first see if real estate is the right career choice for you. Before investing thousands of hours and dollars, it’s important to ask yourself, “How bad do I want it?” Many are drawn to real estate by the unlimited earning potential, flexible working hours, and the idea of selling mega-mansions to the global elite. However, many people don’t realize you first have to travel down a long, rocky road before you get to the promised land. Successful real estate agents are not born overnight. They are products of passion, hard work, and, at times, good luck. The top earners in the real estate game don’t rest on their laurels when they passed their real estate exam, instead they continue to study the market, invest in post license courses, and constantly look for the next opportunity to build their brand. If you’re willing to endure the rejections, long hours, and steep learning curve in the early stages of your journey, then a career in real estate could be right up your alley.
What Skills Do You Need as a Real Estate Agent?It’s important to note, there are certain skills you must nurture and fine-tune before you can jump into your real estate career. It’s a common misconception that real estate agents must be great with people or must have a professional sales background. In reality, anyone can make it if they study the material and work on the skills that can positively impact their career. We’ve taken the time to break down these core skills below:
MarketingMarketing is one of the most essential skills that every real estate agent must-have. An agent’s ability to effectively market themselves will determine how many leads they generate, how many homes they sell, and, ultimately, how much money they make. To break it down, real estate agents make money off commission. Marketing is about telling a story, earning trust, and showcasing your skills. Why should strangers choose you out of hundreds of other agents to find their dream home? What sets you apart from the other agents in your region? How will you show it? Effective real estate marketing includes many things, such as:
- Creating a website
- Investing in signage and ad space
- Sending email campaigns
- Promoting yourself through various social channels.
SalesWhile you need a sales background, it’s important to acknowledge that basic sales skills are extremely important in this industry. Sales is about so much more than just getting the best offer for a home for clients. It includes:
- Going through the entire negotiation process
- Getting clients on board with your strategy
- Picking up new business
- Finding ways to cut corners and limit expenses
Customer ServiceAt the end of the day, real estate agents don’t sell a physical product. They don’t sell food, t-shirts, or computers. In actuality, they don’t even sell homes. What they do offer is their services, their knowledge of real estate contracts, pricing, negotiation, law, regulations, contracting, and more. In most cases, the client will rely on you completely to handle the finite details of their property transaction. Customer service entails that you keep them in the loop, explain the process clearly, and keep in constant contact during and after the sale. Not only will customer service skills improve the relationship between you and your clients throughout the process, but they will also significantly help drive business through referrals from past clients.
Prepare for the Licensing ExamUnderstanding the skills you need to become a successful real estate agent won’t get you far unless you pass your real estate license exam. Many wonder how hard the test is, but real estate agents agree that if you put the time in to studying, you won’t have much trouble passing the test. At the same time, it’s incredibly important to take the test seriously, or you run the risk of spending more money to retake the test.
Prelicense RequirementsEach state has different real estate pre-license requirements that determine the minimum number of hours of course work individuals must complete before taking the exam and getting their license. One common requirement you will see across almost all states is that you must be at least 18 years old. As part of their pre-license requirements, many states have imposed a minimum amount of training hours an individual must complete before becoming a real estate agent. These hours will mostly be spent taking courses that cover everything from basic real estate information, to high level details about complicated topics. This number can vary dramatically from one state to the next, so it is important to research your state’s specific requirements before moving forward. Click here to view the pre-license requirements of your specific state.
What to Expect from Your Real Estate ExamThe real estate license exam is unlike many exams you may have taken in the past. For starters, the majority of states only offer in-person testing at a remote facility. These facilities are often spread out across various cities within the state, so finding one close by should not be an issue. With that said, as technology continues to advance, online test taking is becoming more logistically viable. When it comes to exam day, it’s important to show up at least 30 minutes early. Make sure to bring two forms of identification: one government I.D. card (e.g. driver’s license or passport) and one document with your name and signature (e.g. credit card). Here are some other things to keep in mind:
- The testing facility will more than likely have a strict ‘no cell phone’ policy
- Exam will be timed, typically around 2 hours but it depends on your specific state’s laws
- Exam will consist of roughly 120 multiple choice questions
- Exam will consist of both national and state-specific questions
Finding a Brokerage for SponsorshipIf all goes according to plan, you’ll pass your real estate exam with flying colors and be one step closer to becoming a real estate agent. Before you can sell homes, however, you must first find a brokerage. There are hundreds of brokerages out there that would be more than happy to have you onboard. Unlike a typical job interview, in real estate, the power is in the hands of the job seeker, meaning that brokers will be trying to sell themselves to you. Some of the most popular, nationally recognized, brokerages in the United States are Keller Williams, RE/MAX, Century 21, Sotheby’s, and Caldwell Banker. In addition, there will also be various regional brokerages in your city that you can also consider.
What to Look ForThe role of a brokerage has changed significantly over the past decade, as emphasized in a recent Forbes article. According to Tamir Poleg, CEO and co-founder of Real, “In the past, the brokerage provided an office and desk, a secretary to prepare documents, a fax machine to send them and walk-in clients to service.” But this is not the case anymore. With technology advancements, agents have more freedom, and brokerages are being more liberal regarding where their agents to perform tasks, conduct meetings, and drive business. With that said, it’s important to remember that you’re still just starting out. You will still want to find a brokerage that is known for its agent retention and satisfaction rates. Just because a brokerage is recognized around the country, does not mean it is the right one for you to partner with. Shop around, ask questions, do your research, seek advice, and be thorough in your search for a brokerage.
Questions to AskWhen you meet with various brokerages on your journey to finally becoming a real estate agent, it’s important to be prepared with questions that will uncover whether or not the brokerage can offer you the tools you need to be successful. These questions will depend on you and your preferences, but here are some basic one’s to get you started, taken from Inman:
- What forms of training and continuing education do you provide?
- What structure of business entity formation is typical?
- What costs will I incur?
- What marketing materials are available?
- Do you have a company policy manual?
- What are the commission splits?
- Do you provide an independent contractor agreement?