Real estate agents represent buyers and sellers and help them navigate the real estate process. The U.S. real estate market is worth about $16 trillion. So there’s plenty of room for agents to make good money in the industry. If you’re interested, here’s a guide to help you get started.
What is a Real Estate Agent?
A real estate agent is a professional who helps facilitate the sale of real estate properties. They can represent buyers and/or sellers of residential, commercial, and industrial facilities. Day-to-day duties include going with clients to showings, negotiating sales prices, coming up with real estate marketing ideas, creating listings, completing contracts, and finalizing details related to titles and closings.
There are a few specific careers within this industry. A real estate agent helps facilitate the buying and selling of properties. And they must be certified by their state. A realtor must meet these qualifications and be an active member of the National Association of Realtors. Brokers complete extra certifications and can own their own firms.
Realtor Vs. Real Estate Agent: What’s the Difference?
Realtors and real estate agents perform very similar jobs. They both help buyers and sellers navigate the real estate sales process. However, to use the title of realtor, you must be an active member of the National Association of Realtors.
Real Estate Agent Vs. Broker: What’s the Difference?
A real estate broker must complete additional training beyond that of a real estate agent. This training deals with things like legal issues and property management. They must then pass an additional test to become a certified broker. Brokers can own real estate brokerage firms, though some simply work under other brokerages or independently.
A real estate agent must work under a certified broker. They are contractors who earn income based on commission. But the brokerage covers standard business expenses like liability insurance and office supplies.
How to Become a Real Estate Agent
The exact qualifications for becoming a realtor vary from state to state. But there are some standard steps that pretty much everyone can expect. Here’s your go-to guide for learning how to become a real estate agent.
1. Meet the Pre-License Requirements of Your State
Pre-license requirements are the qualities you must have or tasks that must be completed prior to getting a real estate license. These vary by state. But the following list includes some common requirements for most real estate professionals.
- Be at least 18/19 years old: This varies by state, so check the age requirements for your desired program.
- Be a legal US resident: You must have clearance to work legally in the United States.
- Earn a high school diploma or equivalent: Most programs require a high school diploma or GED.
- Pass a background check: Some states also require a criminal background check or fingerprinting.
- Enroll in a state-approved program: Find a real estate school in your area. There’s generally a fee of a few hundred dollars to enroll.
- Pass a real estate exam: This comes after you take the course, which usually lasts a few months. But you can take practice exams to prepare.
- Connect with a broker: You may not need a broker to enroll in a course. But most states require one to sponsor your license. So it may help to look for one in your community beforehand.
2. Work Through a Pre-Licensing Real Estate Agent Course
Real estate school is run through private businesses that are approved by each state. Courses generally take a few months to complete. They can be offered in person or online. During this time, you’ll learn about real estate law, contracts, and types of estates. It usually takes between 4 and 6 months to work through the course.
3. Pass Your State Real Estate Agent Exam
Once your course is complete, you’ll need to take a state-approved real estate exam. This generally covers laws, market calculations, and different types of properties. There’s usually a fee to take a state real estate exam. And you’ll need to pay for extra attempts if you don’t pass the first time.
Some states have additional requirements. For example, many states require fingerprints and background checks.
4. Submit an Application for a New Real Estate License
Once you’ve passed the exam, you can officially apply for a real estate license with your state. The exact process varies by location. But you can generally do it through your state directly or through your accredited school. There’s usually a fee of between $100 and $250. The exact amount varies by state.
5. Become a Member of the National Association of Realtors
Once you’ve completed the above steps, you’re able to work as a real estate sales person. However, to use the official title of realtor, you must join the National Association of Realtors. This is the main professional organization in the real estate industry. They provide education, resources, and special offers to help your real estate career take off.
To join the NAR, you must first join an affiliated real estate association in your community. There’s an application fee of about $400, along with annual dues of $150.
6. Join a Real Estate Brokerage
Real estate agents act on behalf of a broker, rather than independently. The broker is the professional who carries insurance and takes legal accountability for the business. So to become a real estate agent, you must have a broker sponsor your license.
There are several large real estate franchises with brokers throughout the country, including RE/MAX, Coldwell Banker, and Keller Williams. Or you can reach out to independent real estate offices in your community to ask about working for them.
How to Become a Realtor in Texas
Texas’s real estate market is one of the most active in the country, with active markets like Austin and Dallas. Here’s a rundown of the real estate licensing requirements in Texas:
- Be at least 18 years old: The age requirement to become a real estate salesperson in Texas is just 18.
- Take at least 180 hours of education: You can take any state-approved, college-level real estate courses in Texas.
- Apply with the Texas Real Estate Commission: This is the agency that facilitates the licensing exam. Forms are available online.
- Find a broker to sponsor you.
- Get fingerprinted.
- Take your exam: Once all the other qualifications are met, you can prepare and take the state’s real estate exam. Then you’ll receive your license from the TREC.
How to Become a Realtor in Florida
Florida’s real estate market has been hot through all of 2020 and 2021. And the average pay for realtors is above $80,000 per year. If you’re interested in becoming a real estate agent here, these qualifications must be met.
- Be at least 18 years old
- Complete 63 hours of approved education: This can be with any approved school in the state.
- Pass the Florida Real Estate Salesperson Exam: This is a 100-question multiple choice exam administered via computer at a testing center.
- Submit fingerprints to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
- Connect with a broker: In Florida, your broker applies for your real estate license on your behalf.
How to Become a Realtor in California
California boasts some of the highest value real estate markets in the country. And prices continue to increase in 2021, leading to higher commissions for realtors. To become a realtor in this state, follow these steps.
- Meet all the pre-qualification requirements: Be at least 18 years old, reside in California, and have no criminal record.
- Complete at least three college-level real estate courses: Each course must be at least 45 hours long.
- Pass the real estate salesperson examination: You apply to take this real estate license exam through the California Department of Real Estate, and there’s a $60 exam fee. You must get a 70 percent or higher to pass.
- Get sponsored by a broker licensed in California.
- Apply for a California Real Estate License.
How to Become a Realtor in Ohio
Ohio boasts several markets with tons of amenities and relatively low cost of living, making it an attractive destination for young professionals. More people moving to the state means more opportunities for realtors. To get started, follow these steps.
- Meet the pre licensing requirements: You must be 18 or older, have a high school diploma or equivalent, have no felony convictions, and have no real estate-related civil rights violations within the past two years.
- Complete 120 hours of approved education.
- Pass the school exam with at least 70 percent.
- Find an Ohio broker to sponsor you.
- Apply for your real estate license.
- Pass the state exam.
What Qualifications do You Need to Become an Estate Agent?
Real estate agents must attend a training course and pass a state-sponsored exam. It’s generally easy to qualify for a program. You just need a high school diploma or equivalent and the ability to legally work in the US. Some states have additional qualifications like background checks.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Realtor?
It usually takes between 4 and 6 months to become a realtor. The exact amount of time varies by state and individual. But you normally have to take a course for a few months, then pass an exam that may require some additional study time.
How Hard is it to Become a Realtor?
Becoming a realtor requires taking a course and passing a test. This involves learning about complex legal issues and mathematical equations. You also need to find a broker to sponsor your license. And there are also fees for school enrollment, testing, and joining the National Association of Realtors. All of these can add up to $1,000 or more.
How Much do Realtors Make?
Realtor earnings vary dramatically since they’re based on commission. The average commission for each transaction is around 6 percent. But you also have to pay broker fees and marketing costs. Someone who has just become a real estate agent may earn around $40,000. But those who have built up a network over time may earn $120,000 or even significantly more.