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How to Get Started in a Real Estate Career

Justine Rabideau

A career in real estate can be exciting, fulfilling, and financially rewarding. However, it's not always easy and it doesn't happen overnight. To become a real estate agent, pre-licensing training and credentialing are required.

To get started down this path, you need to spend some money first. In this article, you will learn the necessary steps to launch your career in real estate.

1. Know what's required

Before you take any steps toward getting started in real estate sales, you need to learn what the job entails and be honest with yourself about whether or not you can handle it. Here are some requirements you will need to become a successful realtor:

  • Savings: You will need to be able to support yourself as you're starting out. Your education, real estate licensing exam, application, background check, and professional membership can run into hundreds of dollars. Once that's completed, you will need to join a brokerage, which will cost you more fees. Even then, there's no guarantee that you'll get clients right away, and even when you do find clients, there's no guarantee of a steady income. You need a cushion of savings to support you during the lean times, especially when you're just starting out.
  • Flexibility: You will need to work outside of normal business hours. Primarily because most of your clients will be working 9-to-5 jobs, so you have to adjust your schedule to accommodate them. Working a flex-schedule means showing houses on weekends and during the evenings. You'll also need to be available to talk to clients and colleagues by phone at virtually all times of the day or night.
  • Motivation: While you'll need to join a brokerage when you're first starting out, you won't be considered an employee. Technically, you're an independent contractor, and with the freedom that provides comes responsibility for your success or failure.

2. Get your education

Once you've decided that a career in real estate is right for you, next, you need to work towards obtaining your license. The first step is taking a pre-licensing course. Requirements will vary by state, but typically this will involve approximately 60-90 hours of university-level course work.

You can take this course from a traditional postsecondary educational institution, or you can find a private real estate school. The institution you choose is up to you, but before you sign up for anything or pay a dime in tuition, verify the state licensing authority approves the program, or you might as well just be throwing your money away.

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3. Locate a broker to sponsor you

While you're looking forward to passing your licensing exam, keep in mind that passing the exam and becoming licensed are two different things. To complete the licensing process, you will need a broker to sponsor you (that is, to allow you to work on their behalf once you are licensed) and file the last of the paperwork with the state.

Start looking for a sponsoring broker early in the process, while you're taking your pre-licensing course or even slightly before. The sooner you get through the licensing process with your sponsoring broker after passing the exam, the sooner you can start working.

You can choose either a large brokerage or a small one; both have their strengths and weaknesses. The important thing is that you pick a reputable brokerage with which you feel comfortable.

4. Take your licensing exam

Each state has different guidelines setting a specific timeframe in which you must take your licensing exam after completing your pre-licensing course. Take the exam as soon as possible after completing the classes so that the information will still be fresh in your mind. The test will probably be more challenging than you expect, but you can give yourself an edge by taking advantage of any supplemental study materials or practice tests available to you.

5. Complete your application

When you've found a sponsoring broker and passed your licensing exam, you are reading to complete your application. Here are the documents you'll need to complete the licensing process:

  • Your social security number
  • Your state-issued identification (typically a driver's license)
  • Transcripts from your pre-licensing course
  • Evidence that you successfully passed the licensing exam
  • Your broker's identification number
  • Application fees

The amount that you'll have to pay in application fees varies from state to state but typically runs anywhere from 50 to 250 dollars. In some states, you will have to undergo background checks and fingerprinting, which add to the costs.

6. Join your area's multiple listing service

The multiple listing service (MLS) allows you to list your properties to the system so that other agents can see them, as well as allowing you to see other listings, analyze property tax data, and follow trends in the market. It is an invaluable tool, but you must pay a membership fee to get access.

Success in the field of real estate doesn't come easily, and it doesn't happen all at once. However, with patience, perseverance, and commitment you use these steps to set yourself on a course for a brilliant real estate career.

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