8 Steps to Becoming a Real Estate Agent

by Wayne

It’s here at last. The recovery of the real estate market, promised for the past five years, has finally materialized. Real Estate headlines in California and other major markets read:

“Sales Bounce Back as Prices Continue to Grow”
“Dollar Volume Up 25.3% in 2013″
“Building Permits Up in 2013″

This is good news for home sellers, home buyers, and home builders. And, it’s good news for those giving thought to starting a career in real estate. The market is on its way up, and whenever markets go up, sales agents incomes go up. That’s true whether the agent is a stock broker or a real estate agent.

For those of you who would like to “cash in” on this upward trend, here are the eight steps to becoming a real estate agent.

Step 1: Read up on state licensing requirements
Each state has its own set of laws governing real estate transactions. Since agents and brokers are the catalysts that make real estate transactions happen, it’s important that agents are familiar with the laws in their state. Your state will have an application procedure that may include various fees, background checks, credit checks, status of other licenses, child support payments, and more. Not every state requires every type of background check, but if your state requires a check that you know you can’t pass – say, if you have a felony conviction – then it’s a waste of your time and your money to apply for a license.

Step 2: Research licensing schools
Real estate licensing schools abound; some offer classroom-only instruction, others offer online instruction, and some schools offer both. Each school’s curriculum must be approved by a state before it can be offered in that state. If potential agents take an online course that is not approved, they will have to re-take an approved course before they can be licensed.

When researching courses, you will find that there are courses for “pre-licensing education” and “post-licensing education”. The “post” courses are those that agents must take to maintain their license. Agents who wish to become licensed for the first time must take the “pre-licensing” courses. The number of classroom hours required will vary with each state.

Step 3: Enroll in licensing school
You’ll find a wide variety of study options. In each state there will be schools that offer back-to-back, Monday-through-Friday 9AM to 5PM classroom study, weekends-only classroom study, evening classes, and online courses. In each case, the length of time needed to complete a course will vary according to the number of classroom hours required by your state and your preferred learning style. If you want to “blitz” the study and get your license quickly, you can complete the necessary pre-licensing training in about two or three weeks. If you study online in a leisurely fashion, it can take up to six months to complete the basic education.

You’ll find that the cost of a course will vary according to the type of instruction. Since classroom study requires a physical facility and an instructor that must be paid, classroom courses are usually the most expensive, and online courses the least expensive. Before enrolling in a course, check with the large real estate brokerage offices in your city; many of them offer instruction for new agents and offer jobs to students who perform well.

Step 4: Pass your school’s pre-test
Each real estate school will issue a Certificate of Training when the course is complete and you have passed their test. Generally, a school’s test is very similar to a state’s licensing test. If you can pass the school test, chances are good that you can pass the state test. The amount of material covered in basic real estate licensing course is huge. Acquiring a license is not for the faint of heart; students must have good reading skills, attention to detail, and good retention. But, anyone who diligently applies himself or herself can pass the test.

Most schools will cover the course material a section at a time, and then administer a written quiz. Quizzes are reviewed in class, and if you miss a question on the quiz don’t be shy about asking for clarification in class (or via email if you’re studying online). You can be fairly certain that the quiz questions will be on the final exam and that the final exam questions will cover material that will be asked when you take the state exam. Don’t be shy! You are paying for this education, and you can only get your money’s worth when you have all your questions answered.

Step 5: Study!
Passing your school’s test is a good start, but you’re not there yet. Your next challenge is to pass the state licensing exam. Most real estate schools offer some sort of study guide for each state’s licensing course. The guides will prepare you for taking the state test by offering sample questions and reviewing the material. One tip offered by most agents is to memorize the real estate terms that are offered in the glossary of the study material. Confusing real estate terms is the number one reason that applicants have difficulty with the licensing test.

Step 6: Pass the state licensing exam
Curiously, state licensing exams aren’t administered by the states. States generally contract for this service with a professional testing company. Information on who administers your state’s test and where you can take the test will be covered in your pre-licensing course. These tests require your physical presence; they can’t be taken online. To avoid fraud, you must present valid identification when you appear to take the test. You will be photographed, and you will pay the testing fee. Once all that is done, you will be ushered into the testing area, where you will sit in a cubicle with a computer.

The test format is simple, consisting of a series of multiple choice questions. It’s a timed test, but there is usually plenty of time. Here’s where your purchase of a study guide will come in handy: you will have learned the question formats and know how to proceed through the questions in a confident manner. Your test results will be mailed to you. If you failed the test, you can take it again within a certain amount of time. The testing fee must be paid every time you take the test.

Step 7: Get your license
Once you have passed your test you may then complete the state license application and apply for your background checks. If accepted, your license will be mailed to you. If not, you will receive a denial letter.

8. Find a broker to hold your license
New licensees aren’t free to begin selling real estate. Until they are experienced enough to acquire a broker’s license, new agents must work under the auspices of an established broker. Brokers are almost always hiring, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find an agent’s position. When you are hired by a broker, the broker is required to take your license and publicly display it in his office. In the parlance of the trade, this is called “hanging your license”. If you leave one brokerage for another your license will follow you. If you leave the business, break the rules, or don’t keep up with your continuing education requirements, your license will be cancelled by the state.

It’s as simple as that. The learning curve is steep, but compared to many other trades and professions it’s a pretty simple process. Becoming a real estate agent can be accomplished in a matter of weeks or months, rather than years as in other professions. And if you play your cards right, becoming a real estate agent just might be your ticket to financial freedom.

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