How To Start in Real Estate
Updated December 5, 2023
The Golden Gate Bridge with the city of San Francisco is the background.
A career in real estate can be a rewarding one, with a number of paths and job opportunities to choose from. Real estate agents usually have flexible hours and can work on their own or as part of a group. Getting started in real estate involves undergoing a program and earning a license.
In this article, we discuss the steps you need to take to get started in real estate and how long the process takes, the qualifications required to show or sell property and the job outlook and salary expectations for real estate agents.
7 steps to get started in real estate
Here are the steps you should take to get started in real estate:
1. Review your state's guidelines
Since there's no national regulatory body for real estate agents, each state has different guidelines for real estate licensure. You may need to submit proof of training, undergo a background check and meet certain age requirements. Research your state's requirements to make sure you take the right steps to earn your license.
Related: Listing Agent vs. Selling Agent
2. Complete a real estate pre-licensing course
To take the licensing exam, you first need to complete a real estate course. These courses teach you about the fundamentals of selling and buying real estate, including:
Titles, deeds and ownership laws
Zoning and environmental laws
Appraisals and market analysis
You can take these courses at community colleges, dedicated real estate schools or online. Each state has different requirements for how many hours of coursework you need to complete, though you can expect anywhere from 20 to 200 hours of instruction. In a traditional classroom setting, it can take four to six months.
Read more: How To Get Your Real Estate License
3. Pass the state real estate exam
To earn your license, you need to pass your state's real estate licensure examination. Though each state exam varies, you'll complete two sections: a national real estate portion and one that's specific to your state's laws and regulations.
Exams are multiple-choice and computerized. You'll need to register and complete your exam at an approved testing site. You can usually retake the exam after a waiting period, though there's typically a limit to how many times you can retake the exam.
4. Apply for a license
Once you pass the exam, you can apply for a license. Requirements vary by state, but you'll likely need to submit proof of completing a real estate course and a passing grade on the exam. You may also need to submit proof of errors and omissions (E&O) insurance, per the National Association of Realtors. Once you submit your application, it could take one to two months to process.
Most states also require you to renew your real estate license by taking continuing education courses. These courses help you stay up to date on any changes in real estate laws and regulations. In some states, you need to complete an additional training course within a certain amount of time after receiving your license.
Related: 15 Certifications in Real Estate
5. Find a brokerage
Real estate agents usually need to operate under a broker who oversees all transactions. Search for local brokerage companies and find the best one for you.
Usually, brokers complete real estate transactions, then give agents a certain commission based on the sale, so check to see what the usual percentages for each brokerage are. Many brokers also help agents learn the various aspects of their local real estate community.
6. Consider joining the National Association of Realtors
Though they're often used interchangeably, there's a difference between real estate agents and Realtors. Realtors are professionals who are members of the National Association of Realtors. These agents often have better networking opportunities and easier access to continuing education programs. To become a certified Realtor, you'll need to pay an annual membership fee.
7. Become a broker
Once you earn enough experience, you can become a real estate broker. You'll need to hold a valid real estate agent license for a period of time before taking the steps to earn a broker license.
Depending on the state, you may need to work as an agent for several years. Similar to becoming a real estate agent, brokers need to complete a pre-licensing course and pass an exam.
Related: Building Rapport: Tips and Examples
How long does it take to start a career in real estate?
Since states have different rules regarding coursework and applications, the amount of time it takes to become a real estate agent varies. Courses can last anywhere from 20 to 200 hours, which could take one to eight weeks to complete.
Once you pass the exam and submit an application, you may need to wait one to two months for your official license. The minimum amount of time to earn a real estate license is about five weeks, while the maximum is five months.
Requirements for real estate agents
All real estate agents need to be licensed in their state. Additionally, most states require agents to work under the supervision of a broker. To maintain a real estate license, agents need to complete several continuing education hours and submit a renewal application.
Some states allow agents to work without brokers. Check your state's requirements to see if you can operate as an independent real estate agent. Being an independent real estate agent means that you may be able to set your own commission prices, potentially increasing the amount you earn from each sale.
Brokers can provide valuable services throughout the sales process, including listing and advertising the property and negotiating sales. In some cases, their services are worth the cost.
Real estate agent salary and job outlook
Real estate agents make $104,256 per year on average, though salaries can range from $19,000 to $205,000 per year. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the salary link.
Demand for real estate agents is expected to grow by about 4% from 2020 to 2030, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Real estate agents who work in states with higher housing prices usually earn a larger salary.
For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the link provided. Also, please note that the organization mentioned in this article is not affiliated with Indeed.
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