What is a Real Estate Leasing Agent?
Recently, we talked about the surge in rentership and why anyone interested in a real estate career should consider property management.
The road to becoming a property manager can be long, however. A good way to get your feet wet and decide if this field's for you is to work for a property manager as a leasing agent.
What is a Leasing Agent?
In most cases, a leasing agent's job is to find and secure new tenants on behalf of a property owner or manager. They're also sometimes called property leasing agents, leasing assistants, lease agents, or leasing consultants. This job typically doesn't require a real estate license.
Sometimes, though, a leasing agent works for a prospective renter, instead. In this case, the role is referred to as an apartment locator, residential rental locator, or something similar. Since this calls for licensed activities, this kind of leasing agent typically isn't an entry-level job.
We'll focus on the first definition below.
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What Does A Leasing Agent Do?
A leasing consultant's duties vary by location and employer. Some real estate commissions limit the activities that unlicensed individuals can perform.
Generally speaking, a leasing assistant's duties may include:
- Pre-qualifying potential tenants with credit and background checks
- Showing rental units to prospective tenants
- Preparing, executing, and processing rental applications
- Confirming references and other application information
- Collecting fees, security deposits, and rental payments
- Coordinating move-ins and distributing move-in packets
- Creating and distributing marketing materials to advertise available units
- Acting as the first line of contact for existing tenants
Leasing agents typically work in a leasing office when not on-site at a rental property. They often work a fixed schedule but may be asked to work outside traditional hours in order to accommodate prospective tenants' schedules.
Leasing Agent Requirements
The requirements for becoming a leasing agent vary based on the rules in your jurisdiction, the type of property (example: residential vs commercial), property or company size, and employer preferences.
It's always a good idea to check your local regulations and examine local job listings for common prerequisites, but here's a general idea of what you can expect.
Lease Agent Education
Typically, leasing agent jobs have a minimum requirement of a high school diploma or the equivalent.
Employers may have stricter preferences for your education level, like an associate degree or at least some education related to real estate, sales, and business.
Professional certification may also be required by particular employers or jurisdictions, instead of or in addition to your education.
Legal Requirements and Leasing Agent Licensing
In most jurisdictions, you don't need a real estate license to be a leasing agent.
Some states place restrictions. Most allow you to perform at least some leasing activities as long as you're under the supervision of a licensed real estate professional, but the specifics vary.
A few require leasing agents to get a particular type of professional license. Illinois is a prominent example – you need to earn a leasing agent license by completing 15 credit hours of approved pre-license coursework and passing a state licensing exam.
There are a lot of "soft skills" related to leasing agent work.
- Communication skills
- Being Detail-Oriented
- Time Management
- Computer Skills
- Sales and Marketing Experience
Even without relevant education or work experience, you can strengthen your job application if you can explain how you've learned and demonstrated these skills in other jobs.
How To Become A Leasing Agent
The first step for becoming a leasing agent is to learn about the rules where you live, scout the job listings, and figure out your local opportunities.
Make sure you meet any licensing requirements before you start applying for jobs. It can also be helpful to take related classes or to do reading on the subject.
Leasing Consultant Training
In most cases, leasing offices will provide on-the-job training for new agents. This training period can be a few weeks to a few months long, as part of the onboarding process.
During lease agent training, you'll learn the specific skills, tasks, and technology for the role. Typically, you'll shadow an experienced agent for a time, then you'll begin to perform your duties under direct supervision.
Lease Agent Certifications
Professional certifications are a good way to validate your knowledge and skills to an objective standard. The most well-known certifications in this residential leasing come from the National Apartment Association (NAA).
The most entry-level is their Certified Apartment Leasing Professional (CALP) designation. Previously, this was called NALP, where N stood for National.
The CALP credential requires completing seven CALP courses and then passing a certification exam. The curriculum covers topics like legal considerations, marketing, assessing the competition, market surveys, finding new tenants, and meeting the needs of current tenants.
To earn the full CALP designation, you need at least six months of experience under your belt. However, you don't need to any experience to take the exam. If you pass, you'll hold a provisional CALP credential until you qualify. This means you can use CALP as a resume-building tool to help you secure a job.
The NAA's next step up is called the Certified Apartment Manager (CAM) designation. To earn a CAM credential, you need a least a year of experience, 40 hours of CAM coursework, and to pass a certification exam. The curriculum is more in-depth and includes advanced concepts.
Career Advancement Possibilities for Leasing Agents
Becoming a leasing agent can be a great way to get a working knowledge of real estate while making a living. It's also a job that lets you decide if you like the industry before you commit to the real estate licensing process.
As a result, it's the gateway to a real estate career for many people.
Even though leasing agents focus on rental properties, you'll gain a lot of experience relevant to real estate purchases, as well. You can apply what you've learned – about salesmanship, rapport-building, marketing, relevant real estate laws, and much more – to all kinds of sales niches.
You may also choose to stay focused on the rental market.
In most states, becoming a full-fledged property manager can be a long road. In most cases, it requires a broker's license, which is a level up from a real estate agent. As a result, it can take years to earn.
However, in some big metro areas, there's demand for agent-level licensees in the rental market. Once you have a real estate license, you'll be qualified to handle tasks that unlicensed leasing agents can't – that's why some REALTOR Associations have special designations for licensed leasing specialists. For example, in Texas, you can earn Texas Residential Leasing Specialist (TRLS) certification.
If and when you decide it's time to earn your real estate license, consider online pre-licensing coursework. It costs less and lets you schedule learning at your own pace, on your own schedule. Studying online allows you to keep your day job (as a leasing agent, perhaps) and spend as much time on difficult topics as you like. Just make sure you choose a state-approved, well-respected real estate school to put your trust in.