Commercial real estate is a different world from selling residential properties. Instead of handling single-family homes, you're dealing in hospitals, malls and apartment complexes. Residential buyers look for a dream home; commercial buyers look for a dream return on investment. Whether you sell homes or become a commercial real estate agent, you go through the same steps to get your license.
Getting a Commercial Real Estate License
Whether you're working for real estate companies in Los Angeles or Maine, getting a license requires passing a state exam. Even though the questions are multiple choice, you can't just sign up and guess; you also have to take extensive real-estate classes. Texas requires 180 hours, for instance. North Carolina's course runs 75 hours. If you've completed the real estate coursework in a different state, you can request a waiver from your current state. If you get it, you can take the exam without repeating the classes.
Getting a Commercial Realtor License
Real estate professionals operate under a variety of titles, but the licenses aren't that difference. A commercial real estate agent doesn't have a commercial real estate license, she has a regular real estate license. A realtor who specializes in commercial real estate doesn't have a commercial realtor license; a realtor is an agent or broker who belongs to the National Association of Realtors. If you're a commercial real estate agent, you can become a realtor without any extra licensing. The only requirement is that agents can't join NAR until the boss of their firm does.
Commercial Real Estate License Vs. Broker License
Unlike becoming a realtor, becoming a broker does involve licensing. Qualifying as a broker requires another round of courses, followed by a brokerage license exam. If you pass, you can open your own real estate office and hire a staff of agents. Typical course topics include appraisals, escrow, office management, real estate finance and real estate law.
What Makes a Commercial Real Estate Agent
A commercial real estate agent has the same education and takes the same license exam as an agent specializing in residential homes. It's the choices the agent makes after the license exam that shape his career.
The first step is typically to find a job with an established commercial brokerage or one that handles both residential and commercial properties. That gives you a chance to get your feet wet and build connections in this section of the market. Like any job hunt, this can take a while. After you gain experience, you can try to build a career and perhaps start your own brokerage.