What is a Real Estate Agent?
A real estate agent is a licensed professional who facilitates the buying, selling, and leasing of properties. Real estate agents serve as intermediaries between buyers and sellers. They help market properties find buyers, negotiate transactions, assist with paperwork, and guide clients through real estate. This comprehensive article will guide you through how to become a licensed Real Estate agent.
Why Become a Real Estate Agent?
There are many benefits to becoming a real estate agent:
- Earn attractive incomes: Successful agents can earn $100,000 or more per year.
- Flexible schedules: Agents often set their hours and schedules.
- Help people: Agents positively impact lives by helping people buy and sell homes.
- Career advancement: Agents can progress to broker, REALTOR®, appraiser roles.
- Low barriers to entry: Getting licensed is quicker than many other careers.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that real estate agent jobs will grow by 8% from 2020-2030, faster than the national average. Overall, it is an attractive and meaningful career path.
Licensing Requirements to Become a Real Estate Agent
The specific steps to get a real estate license vary by state. However, these are the core requirements nationally:
- Meet your state’s age and education requirements
- Complete pre-licensing education
- Take and pass the real estate license exam
- Apply for your license
- Find a real estate brokerage
- Consider joining the National Association of REALTORS® (optional)
Now let’s explore each of these key steps to becoming a licensed real estate agent in more detail.
1. Meet Age and Education Requirements
Most states require you to:
- Be 18+ years old
- Hold a high school diploma or equivalent
Some states may have additional prerequisites, like Texas, which requires agents to be citizens or permanent residents. Be sure to verify your state’s exact prerequisites.
2. Complete Pre-Licensing Education
You will need to complete an accredited real estate pre-licensing course approved in your state. Required course hours range from 40 hours (South Dakota) up to 240 hours (Florida).
Typical topics covered include:
- The basics of real estate transactions
- Laws and regulations
- Contracts and paperwork
- Valuations and appraisals
- Listing practices
You can complete pre-licensing education through local real estate schools, community colleges, or online courses. Expect costs from $200 to $500+. Shop around for course options that fit your schedule and budget.
3. Pass the Real Estate License Exam
Each state requires you to pass a real estate licensing exam to demonstrate your understanding of core real estate concepts and laws.
The exam has two parts:
- General real estate principles and law
- State-specific real estate laws
You must pass both sections to qualify for your license. Failing either part means you will need to retake that section. Exam fees range from $100-$300.
Be sure to allot time to study and prepare for your exam to boost your confidence and chances of passing on the first try.
4. Apply for Your Real Estate License
Once you pass the exam, you can apply to your state licensing board for an active real estate license. Submit the completed application, fingerprints, fees, and required documentation. If approved, you will be officially licensed as a real estate agent.
5. Join a Real Estate Brokerage
Newly licensed real estate agents must affiliate with an established real estate brokerage firm and work under their supervision. The broker oversees transactions and provides guidance to agents. Do your research to find an ideal brokerage in your local market.
6. Consider Becoming a REALTOR®
You may also choose to become a REALTOR®, a real estate agent who is also a member of the National Association of REALTORS®. Although optional, membership provides benefits like professional development programs, +100 business tools, and the REALTOR® Code of Ethics.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Real Estate License?
The timeframe to get licensed as a real estate agent ranges from 1-9 months, depending on these variables:
- State requirements – More education hours equal a longer process
- Study time – Prepare thoroughly before attempting licensing exams
- Exam dates – Wait times for available exam slots
- License processing – States process applications at different paces
With diligent work, most candidates get licensed within 4-6 months. Accelerated options can cut this to 6-8 weeks for urgent licensing needs.
How Much Does It Cost to Get a Real Estate License?
Budget $200-$500+ to cover core real estate licensing expenses:
- Pre-licensing course: $200-$500
- State exam fees: $100-$300
- License application fees: $100-$500
- MLS fees: $300-$1,000
- Materials (signs, business cards, lockboxes, etc.): $500+
You may also incur costs for exam prep materials, brokerage fees, continuing education, professional associations, and more throughout your career. Building savings can help offset initial licensing and job transition costs.
Getting Started as a New Real Estate Agent
If you make it through the licensing process – congratulations! Here are some tips to launch your real estate career:
Complete Post-Licensing Education
Some states require that new agents complete post-licensing coursework focused on practical aspects of real estate transactions. Even if optional, post-licensing can help reinforce knowledge.
Establish Your Business Brand
Create logos, graphics, signs, business cards, emails, and websites to market yourself. Professional branding attracts clients. Some brokerages provide branding for agents.
Learn About Brokerage Systems and MLS
Get training on your brokerage’s preferred systems for listings, transactions, forms, and Multiple Listing Services (MLS). These tools are vital to your business.
Shadow Top Agents
Ask to shadow the top agents in your brokerage on showings, open houses, negotiations, and closings. Hands-on learning is invaluable.
Tap Your Sphere of Influence
Leverage your inner circles—friends, family, past colleagues, social networks, and community groups—to get your first clients. Offer special incentives for referrals.
Attend real estate association meetings, charity events, open houses, conventions, and anywhere you can meet prospective clients. Business cards and conversations convert contacts into clients. Develop your farming territory.
Consider a Real Estate Team
Some new agents join real estate teams to benefit from lead sharing, group marketing, pooled expenses, mentoring, and tactical support. The tradeoffs are usually split commissions and less autonomy.
Map Future Goals
Create 1-year, 3-year, and 5-year business goals. Target number of transactions, revenue, expenses, operational processes, broker responsibilities, team expansion, awards, designations, community service, and other objectives to advance strategically.
Consistency, hard work, continuous learning, and providing exceptional service are keys to success as a real estate agent.
Real Estate Agent Career Advancement Opportunities
Real estate offers diverse career growth options, including:
- Broker – Oversees agents and transactions with increased pay
- Team leader – Manages a group of agents under a broker
- Referral agent – Focuses solely on recommending clients to other agents for commissions
- Recruiter – Works for brokerages to hire talented real estate agents
- Commercial agent – Specializes in commercial properties like office buildings, retail, or industrial
- Luxury property agent – Focuses solely on high-end luxury residential properties
You can also earn advanced professional designations like Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS), Graduate REALTOR® Institute (GRI), and Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES). Ongoing professional development opens more career doors.
Becoming a licensed real estate agent offers meaningful work, flexible hours, attractive incomes, and opportunities to grow your career over time. By following the step-by-step licensing process, leveraging available tools and resources, investing time upfront to establish your business, and delivering excellent service to clients, you set yourself up for success in this exciting field.
Real Estate Agent FAQs
How much do real estate agents make?
Real estate agent income is primarily from commissions earned facilitating property sales. Typical commission splits with their brokerage range from 50/50 to 80/20. Commissions are usually 5-6% of a home’s sale price.
So income can fluctuate substantially based on economic conditions, sales volume, and property values. The median annual pay for agents is $48,340. Top agents earn over $100,000. Those just starting out may earn much less in their first years. Patience and persistence pays over long-term careers.
Can you be a real estate agent part-time?
Yes, it is possible to work part-time as a real estate agent while keeping a separate full-time job or managing other obligations. This flexible arrangement allows you to slowly build your real estate business while still earning steady income elsewhere. However, growing a strong client base requires significant effort, so consider if you can balance both commitments.
Is it hard to become a real estate agent?
The barriers to becoming a licensed real estate agent are lower than many careers. Consider:
- No college degree required
- Pre-licensing education is just weeks or months
- Low exam pass rates (60%+)
- Exam retakes are allowed
- License processing is straightforward
- Minimal financial investment
However, succeeding as a real estate agent and running a profitable business long-term does take substantial effort. Key challenges include earning clients’ trust, extensive paperwork, market volatility, long hours, and commission-based incomes.
Still, virtually anyone willing to learn, work hard, and provide great service can thrive as a real estate professional.
Should I work at a brand name brokerage?
Major consumer-facing brokerages like Century 21, Coldwell Banker, RE/MAX, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, and Keller Williams do offer new agents great training programs, ample leads, recognizable branding, and national networks. However, you may pay higher monthly brokerage fees and sacrifice more commission income.
Less recognized regional or local brokerages can still provide the mentorship and resources you need, sometimes at lower upfront costs. Weigh factors like training quality, commission splits, office culture, support services, lead generation support, fees, branding, and productivity requirements.
The right brokerage for any agent depends on their experience level, business model, personality fit, resources available, and more. Don’t assume big brand brokerages are necessarily the best. Visit broker open houses and interview multiple options before making a decision.
How can I get real estate leads?
Lead generation is essential for new real estate agents to build a sustainable business. Some proven tactics include:
- Search your brokerage MLS for expired or withdrawn listings to convert
- Call FSBO (For Sale by Owner) properties to offer services
- Door knock neighborhoods to connect with homeowners
- Host first-time homebuyer seminars
- Send mailers and newsletters to targeted neighborhoods
- Get referrals from past clients and professional networks
- Attend open houses to meet potential buyers
- Utilize social media and online marketing to connect with local buyers and sellers
Some brokerages also provide new agents with buyer and seller leads directly. Ultimately, successful real estate professionals build their pipelines by nurturing a strong local network and reputation.
In another related article, The Complete Home Inspection Checklist for Buyers and Sellers