How to Become a Real Estate Agent

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When you have young children, work-time flexibility is very important, and few jobs provide more flexibility than real estate. A real estate agent sets her own hours, accomplishes some work at home, and earns income based on home sales, not punching a clock. That means that if you are good at selling properties, you can earn a good salary while arranging your hours to give you the time at home you need. You'll have to jump through some hoops to get going as a real estate agent, and they will be different hoops depending on where you live.

Job Description

If people want a new home or want to sell their old home, they turn to a real estate agent. Real estate agents help people buy and sell real property, mostly homes. A real estate agent is licensed by her state to determine the value of a property, list it for sale, schedule showings of the property and negotiate the property's sale. Agents generally operate under the supervision of a real estate broker, but they are their own bosses, setting their own hours.

Education Requirements

You'll definitely have to take some course work to take the real estate licensing exam, but it doesn't require a degree in many states. Individual states license the real estate agents who work there, and state laws set the licensing requirements. Needless to say, these requirements differ from state to state.

But in all states, a person desiring to take the real estate license test must take pre-licensing courses. Some states require three college-level courses, some require two courses. Contact your state's real estate licensing agency or commission to learn what your state requires. Depending on the time you have to invest in studies and the state you are in, your classes can take weeks, months or years.

After you have passed the licensing coursework, you sit for the licensing exam that tests you on state-based real estate laws and federal issues, like fair housing laws. In most states, you have a specified time frame to pass the test after you complete the pre-licensing courses. If you don't pass, you can usually take the exam again. Once you pass the licensing exam, you may have to take a criminal background check as well. You will have to pay fees in the hundreds of dollars to get licensed.

In some states, new real estate agents are required to work under a broker's sponsor. Brokers have additional real estate training, and guide new agents through their first years of working in the field. This helps new agents learn the ropes and avoid unethical or unlawful activities. Some real estate agencies have specific education requirements, so you may have to take an additional course after being hired on with an agency.

Many states impose continuing education requirements on real estate agents as well. These rules are intended to keep agents up to date about real estate law and rule changes.

In terms of salary, real estate agents earn commissions on their sales. Generally you share the commissions earned with your broker, at least during the first years on the job. The median annual real estate sales agent salary is $40,462, meaning that half of the agents earn more than this, while half earn less. The salary range is usually between $39,527 and $51,466. However, the average earnings are much higher in some states than others. For example, in New York, the median earnings for agents is $103,490.

Relevant Industry

Real estate agents generally work in a real estate agency or brokerage. A brokerage is an agency or office in which real estate agents and brokers work selling property. Some agents also work in residential building construction and lessors of real estate.

Years of Experience

Top-producer agents are usually those who have been working some years. They earn a lot more than beginning agents, usually at least $100,000. Some can earn $500,000 or more per year.

But you don't necessarily earn more every year that you work as an agent. Part-time agents sometimes hold a full-time day job in another profession and simply use real estate to supplement income. They likely will never become top-producer agents given their other time commitments.

The amount an agent makes depends on how many sales she completes, the percentage commission charged by the brokerage and the agent's split with the broker.

Job Growth Trend

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 3 percent job growth for real estate sales agents over the next few years. However, since home purchases and sales are dependent on the economy, it is not possible to predict the growth in this profession with precision.