Careers: What Does It Take to Become a Real Estate Agent?

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Now that the real estate market is on the upswing, there’s a huge opportunity for people to get back into the industry as a real estate agent, or to enter it for the first time. But many people who were burned by the bubble are getting cold feet, and for many young graduates, the idea of being an agent doesn’t sound appealing. Let’s face it: when we think of modern, tech-focused, opportunity-rich, exciting career fields, real estate agent isn’t the first thing that comes to mind for college students.

But what is it really like to be an agent, and what does it take to become one? We spoke with six Redfin Agents from very different backgrounds to get an inside look at real estate as a career option. Below is our first agent profile – Liane Parness – who came to Redfin after raising her kids.

Among all the interviews, one thing was clear; Redfin’s mission is to reinvent real estate for consumers and in the process, it’s reinventing it for real estate agents too. Thanks to the popularity of, agents spend their time working with clients – not looking for them. Redfin pays its agents a salary (with bonuses based on customer satisfaction), and agents work in teams, turning what used to be a lone-wolf sales job into a far more balanced team effort.

We’ll post a new Redfin Agent profile each day this week. Click here to read other profiles in the series. If you’re interested in learning more about jobs at Redfin, visit

Liane ParnessLiane Parness – Senior Agent – Boston

Liane stayed at home to raise her kids and help her husband with their family printing business. She decided to get into real estate after her kids left the nest. She is currently a Senior Agent in Boston.

What did you do before you joined Redfin?

I started out as a paralegal, which helped me in real estate down the road. I stopped being a paralegal to take care of my three kids. I always considered myself a stay-at-home mom, but my husband and I ran a successful printing business, which we started when my son was a baby. I did the invoicing, accounts payable, vendor management and other activities for 16 years. Staying at home allowed me to be with my kids when they were little, and when they got home from school.

What made you want to pursue your real estate license, and what was the process like?

When my son was a junior in high school, he didn’t need me as much anymore, and even though I was working, it was at home, and I needed to be with people. I love houses, I love decorating; I’ve always had a passion for it. I’m definitely a people person. I needed to get out of the house, so I started working as an assistant at Ali International, a company owned by Ali Brown – a woman who started a mentoring and coaching business for women getting into business. I realized it wasn’t what I wanted to do full-time. It was a good first step; it let me know that I could get out of the house again and back into the work force. When you’re home all the time you forget that part of yourself.

After a year, I left and decided I wanted to start in real estate. I took a three-day intensive course to get my license. I was very comfortable with the contracts and legalese from being a paralegal, so it came easy to me. I passed the test the first time.

How did you hear about Redfin, and why did you decide to apply?

I had a friend at Ali International who had worked at Redfin, and she convinced me to apply.

Do you worry about the market going up and down?

I have been busy since the day I started at Redfin; the market changes haven’t affected me. It could be a scary jump to leave a steady income and go into real estate, but having a husband that makes a salary helps.

What’s the best part of your job?

Clients and other agents – I’ve worked with some amazing people. I may not have gotten into real estate if it wasn’t for that team model. You can do your own thing, work your own deals, but you are part of something bigger. For someone who wants to get out of the house and into the world, it’s the most wonderful thing. I meet people on my tours, I meet listing agents, and I work with people at my company. The flexibility is also important. I didn’t want to go to an office from nine to five. When you have kids, no matter what stage they’re in, the best thing is to have flexibility. If my son has a big game, I can go to it at two in the afternoon. When you work nine to five you can’t do that.

What skills do you think are important to be successful as a real estate agent?

You have to be organized, detail-oriented, outgoing and friendly. You also have to be comfortable with technology, including a smartphone, computer and GPS. That’s not to say a stay-at-home mom can’t learn those things, but you have to be open minded to learn things that aren’t on your radar right now. Multitasking is key, which is why it works so well for mothers. As a mother you have to juggle so much between school, doctor’s appointments, and all the kids’ activities.

What would you tell people who are thinking about becoming an agent?

I’d say for people who have been at home – don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone, you can do it! I was a little nervous at first, but you pick it up as you go. I learn something new every day; every deal is different, the people are different, the situation is different…it never gets old!  Stay-at-home moms have a lot of experience that they might not necessarily think about. All the volunteering, all the committees, that’s a wealth of experience that’s relevant.

At Redfin our motto is “keep it weird.” What’s something “weird” about you?

I LOVE Devil Dogs made by Hostess Cakes and have been eating them since I was a little girl. Ever since Hostess went out of business a few months ago, I have been devastated that I’ll never have another Devil Dog again. If I had known they were going out of business I would have stockpiled them in my freezer!

To get in touch with Liane or read her reviews from Redfin clients, check out her profile page on

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Christin covers a variety of topics for Redfin Real-Time, ranging from “best places” lists, to Redfin client stories, to celebrity news and everything in-between. Her dream home would have an enormous walk-in closet, a home theater and a room dedicated to her cats. Redfin is a full-service real estate brokerage that uses modern technology to make clients smarter and faster. For more information about working with a Redfin real estate agent to buy or sell a home, visit our "Why Redfin?," page.

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