The Pathway To Real Estate
The school year is upon us, and I can’t help but reflect on those start of the year questions that seemed to make their way into every English class: What did you do on your summer break? What three things should the class know about you? And, the ever popular, what do you want to be when you grow up?
That last question was and continues to be…what’s the technical term? Oh, I know – a doozy. Some students (and adults) know immediately what occupation is for them—doctor, lawyer, teacher, YouTube star (I still can’t believe that’s a job IRL). Others are less sure—nurse? computer programmer? zookeeper? Regardless of choice, most people have some idea about the direction they want to explore as an occupation; the destination is relatively clear. What is less clear is the pathway to get to that destination.
If you’ve been a person who struggled to answer the “what do you want to be” question – whether it is a struggle in your early years or you’re looking for a career change – and “a real estate agent” was one of your answers, this post is for you. I can’t create a clear path for you to all of the professions above, but for real estate, I can help light the way.
What It Takes
There are three areas to focus on when completing the steps to become a real estate agent: education requirements, personal research, and a financial plan. Now, let’s get to the brass tacks. (Side-note: Do you know where the term ‘brass tacks’ comes from? I didn’t either, but apparently it is derived from furniture making and the little nails used in furniture. ) Now that we’ve solved that mystery, let’s get to the…well, let’s get started.
To become an agent, there are a few different learning opportunities that will require about 90 hours of in-person or online work in addition to the work and studying you will do on your own. Completion of the courses will cost around $600, but the courses are there to help you understand the information that will be on the proctored exams as you make your way through the academic work. The courses also ensure that you are following and meeting the state and national exam requirements.
While completing the coursework, networking with a few local agencies and finding a person who might be willing to mentor you is helpful. A good mentor or two will help you create a business plan, develop goal setting, understand budgeting and taxes, and other important initial steps for success in the business.
The second step toward the start of a successful career in real estate is personal research. Interviewing brokers and real estate teams will help you decide if you want to be an independent agent or want to be part of a team. When interviewing brokers, it is important to ask about the brokerage costs, what the fees are for, what training is provided if you are joining a team or brokerage, what electronic platforms are used in the brokerage, what the MLS fees and commission splits are for a sale, and so on. If you don’t know these answers ahead of time, you will want to ask them while interviewing prospective employers.
As you begin to understand the nature of the work through interviews, explore and familiarize yourself with different business apps and systems. As you begin to feel more comfortable with the programs and tools, ask agents if you can shadow them during showings and sales. Be open and coachable during these experiences as veteran agents will have a lot of practical advice that might prevent you from repeating their early mistakes. While shadowing and researching, request materials from which to learn. The more you expose yourself to a variety of resources, the better set up for success you will be when launching your career. The MLS – or Multiple Listing Service – is a system to help make the tracking of available real estate more efficient for real estate agents. You will have access to the MLS once you start working with a broker.
A Financial Plan
Lastly, when beginning a career in real estate you will want to have a financial plan for yourself. As a general rule it is important to have about three to five months worth of living expenses saved prior to starting as there is some lag time between the first sale and closing. In addition, a phone, computer, printer, and business planning tool or tracker will help you manage the paperwork aspects of becoming an agent. When you get your first sale and commission, understand how you have to pay taxes on the sale, so there’s not an unpleasant surprise during the tax season.
Feeling a little overwhelmed? Rest assured knowing many successful people have chosen the path of real estate, and with a little personal research, a foundation of good coursework, and a solid financial plan, you can take your first step into this exciting career!