Things to Know Before You Become a RealtorBaltimore Post-Examiner

Want to Become a Realtor? Here’s What You Should Know

If you’re interested in finding a new career path, you might consider becoming a realtor. Realtors have a relatively high median salary. The work is accessible to most people. The demand for real estate agents is going to remain high indefinitely. And these days, it’s possible to get your real estate license online.

However, before you decide to start your path toward becoming a realtor, there are some things you should know.

Realtors and Real Estate Agents Aren’t Interchangeable

First, you should know that while most people use the terms “real estate agent” and “realtor” interchangeably, these aren’t the same thing. The word “realtor” is actually trademarked, and is a term that refers to someone who’s officially registered in the National Association of Realtors (NAR). You can register to be a realtor for a variety of reasons; for example, real estate agents who have gotten their license, home appraisers, property managers, real estate brokers, and real estate counselors can all apply to be an official “realtor.”

Not all realtors are real estate agents, and not all real estate agents are realtors, though there is significant overlap here.

There Are Many Career Options in Real Estate

If you want to become a real estate professional, you should know that there are many possible career paths available to you. The most common path is to become a residential real estate agent with a broker, helping people buy and sell their homes on the market. However, you could also become a commercial real estate agent, or work independently as your own broker. You could also become an appraiser, work with banks to assist in foreclosures, or even become a real estate lawyer. It all depends on your personal interests and goals.

State Requirements for Real Estate Agents Differ

Oftentimes, the basic formula for becoming a real estate agent is the same; you’ll sign up for coursework, study for a few dozen to a few hundred hours, then take an exam. If you pass, you’ll earn your real estate license, which allows you to oversee the buying and selling of real estate. From there, you’ll likely need to undergo continuing education, and you’ll need to renew your license periodically.

However, the exact requirements vary by state. In some states, you’ll be required to undergo more hours of class time, or you may be required to renew your license at different intervals.

You’ll Face Significant Competition

If you’re planning on offering independent real estate services, or if you’re trying to get hired by a local firm, you should know that you’ll face a lot of competition. Real estate is a popular career field, due to its unlimited upward potential and accessibility; there are currently more than 2 million licensed real estate agents in the United States.

If you’re passionate about the career, this shouldn’t deter you. Instead, you’ll need to use this as motivation to distinguish yourself. What is it that sets you apart? Why should someone hire you, instead of someone else? Specializing in a specific type of real estate, or in a specific neighborhood could be just the way to differentiate yourself.

Sales Are Volatile

Most real estate agents work on commission; their salary depends on their ability to close new sales. Accordingly, the industry is “feast or famine” for most active agents. You might see a major increase in sales during a hot streak, collecting significant income, then see weeks of practical inactivity. Real estate market fluctuations are out of your control.

If you’re not careful, this could put a massive burden on your personal finances. If this is going to be your household’s primary income, you’ll need to put cautious measures in place, establishing an emergency fund and distributing your income to be more even throughout the year.

You’re More of an Advisor Than a Salesperson

If you decide to become a real estate agent, you may have a misconception that the role is about closing sales. While there are some elements of sales in the position, it’s better to think of yourself as an advisor, rather than a salesperson. This isn’t about pressuring someone to buy the right home; it’s about finding the right properties for the right buyers, and providing advice along the way. If you push too hard to finalize deals, you’ll end up compromising your client relationships, and you won’t be as successful.

Is Becoming a Realtor Right for You?

Real estate offers significant, open-ended career opportunities to anyone passionate about real estate. However, it’s not a viable career path for everyone. Consider your options carefully, understand the licensing requirements in your state, and talk to some active realtors to get their unique perspectives before deciding to move forward.

About the author

I'm a single mother of 2 living in Utah writing about startups, business, marketing, entrepreneurship, and health. I also write for Inc, Score, Manta, and Newsblaze Contact the author.

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