Contrary to what many people think real estate agents do not sell or buy property. They simply help people to acquire or sell their property. Due to the complexities of a real estate transaction, the legal ramifications and the attendant last minute hitches are enough to decide many people to enlist the services of a real estate agent. He is a facilitator in the deal, helping people in what is mostly the single largest financial transaction of their lives. Not to mention the emotional impact of selling or buying a house, changing homes or simply relocating. A real estate agent plays many roles from a facilitator, friend, counselor and at times even a loan manager. This is basically a service, a business, not a profession. You build on the skills you have and keep learning on the way. Careers in real estate demand diligence, flexibility and hard work but it also offers great rewards and potential for growth.
To become a real estate agent you need to fulfil some basic criteria. You should be a high school graduate, above 18 years of age and should appear and pass the state’s licensing exam.
An important fact that prospective agents should keep in mind is that you should have sufficient savings to cover the following costs
Pre-licensing school cost
Licensing exam fee
Required business license
Fees to join a Multiple Listing Service (MLS)
Fees to join a local Board of Realtors
Expenses for conducting business
A dependable vehicle for travelling and fuel costs
Fees for optional training to acquire additional certifications
Most importantly, need enough savings to cover at least 6 months living expenses as earnings take a long time in coming.
A real estate career requires commitment and investment of time and money to build a successful career. Once you are licensed you can choose to work under a real estate broker or chart out an independent course.
Real estate agents, who provide their services to a licensed real estate broker, do so on a contract basis. In return the broker pays the agent a commission from the monies earned from the agent’s sale of property. Brokers are usually independent business people who sell real estate owned by others. They may also rent and manage property for a fee. A broker usually has a number of agents working under him.
If you decide to work on your own as an independent contractor, you are your own boss and control your own business. Your income is not limited and depends on your skills and work ethics. You can set your work schedule and working hours. The downside is that there is no one to guide you and the path is lonely and hard. Income takes a long time in materializing and the failure rate is more for new agents. Always be available for clients, your time is not yet your own.
The main source of income is commissions from the sale of the property by the agent. The rate of commission varies according to agent and broker agreement, the type of property sold and its value. Although agent’s share varies it generally is half the total amount received by the firm. Agents who list and sell property maximize their commissions.
Income also increases as a real estate agent gains experience but is mainly dependent on individual skills and even the prevailing economic conditions.
Since what you are doing is a service you need to be a good communicator with excellent conversational skills. You need also to be a good listener and be able to translate the client’s desires into reality.
Your attitude must exude confidence, your entire persona, your card, your clothes, your talk must inspire trust in a client, enough for him to do business with you.
You should be self-motivated, as this is not a salaried job. You have to work hard, devote yourself to the profession, and be willing to make necessary sacrifices. Listings do not drop into your lap you have to go out looking for them. You also need to be outgoing and gregarious. Agents who are active in community service, local real estate associations can broaden their contacts and increase their earnings.
Flexibility is an important trait of agents. You should be willing to accept change and work under challenging conditions. Flexible enough to work with all types of people and adjust to frequently changing minds of buyers and sellers alike. More importantly flexible schedules to accommodate your clients.
Be a total professional in every aspect of the business, with a high degree of work ethics. People who have been successful in the real estate business have consistently maintained the highest standards of commercial fair dealing in their business transactions.
The level of service you provide will reflect on future work. Excellent service generates referrals, which are the lifeline of a real estate agent.
You also need to be good in Math, have the ability to research title deeds, legal documents, ability to organize and plan,as also to be proficient in computers.
Last but not the least are your negotiating skills. To be able to negotiate a fair deal on behalf of your client, is an invaluable asset.
Real estate pre-licensing classes teach you about real estate laws but they do not teach you to manage and promote your business or work effectively. For this purpose you require ongoing education that focuses on agent skills. One way to obtain additional training is to enroll in special designation classes for real estate agents. Some teach specific skills pertaining to certain fields whereas others have a wider approach.
Council of Residential Specialists (CRS)
This CRS program offers agents the best education in residential sales.
Graduate Realtor Institute (GRI)
GRI is another real estate designation. You receive your GRI after completing three groups of four-day courses. Topics include sales, marketing, legal issues, communication and technology.
Accredited Buyer Representative (ABR)
The Real Estate Buyer’s Agent Concil manages ABR. This designation is awarded after 2 days of course work and proof of minimum number of completed transactions as a buyer’s agent.
Certified Exclusive Buyer Agent (CEBA)
Agents who hold this designation work only for buyers or firms that represent buyers. This designation is awarded after completion of a three-part course focusing on experience.
Certified Buyer Representative (CBR)
This is a designation focusing on buyer agent skills.
Seniors Real Estate Specialist (SRES)
This program focuses on the housing needs of seniors who are investing in real estate. It also covers tax issues and other financial matters that affect seniors.
Accredited Land Consultant (ALC)
This designation is obtained after completion of prescribed course work and proof of successful land sales. Two of the four courses are on Land Investment Analysis and Tax Deferral 1031 Exchange, which is helpful to most agents.
Consumers do care about your expertise, so continuing education is a good idea. Renew your license every two years and upgrade your skills.