If you’re interested in housing and you have a passion for helping people, you might want to consider a career as a real estate agent. Before you get started, you’ll want to look into how to get licensed as a real estate agent in your neighborhood, and then decide which brokerage you want to work for. Here are a few things to keep in mind when deciding if a career as a real estate agent is right for you.
Getting a Real Estate License
Getting your real estate license is the very first thing you will need to do to become a real estate agent. Each state has its own licensing requirements, so you should do some research to find out what you’ll need to become a real estate agent in your state; most states require a pre-licensing course, which could take a few weeks to almost a year to complete before you are able to take the state licensing exam. Once you pass the exam, you may need to complete other tasks depending on your state. Be sure to check your state’s licensing website.
How to Choose a Brokerage to Work For
Once you are licensed to practice real estate, you’ll have to decide which real estate brokerage you want to work for. Between national real estate brokerages and smaller boutique brokerages, there are so many choices to pick from. You should start interviewing brokerages as soon as possible.
The benefit of working for a national brokerage as a new real estate agent is that you have the support of a company that is most likely already a well-known brand, giving you instant credibility. Bigger brokerages will also have a plethora of resources to offer to their agents, such as additional training once you get started.
Larger companies also have technology support for their agents, making it easier for an agent to work quickly and efficiently throughout the transaction. Not only will you have access to technology, which will help you better serve clients, but these companies often have tech support in case your computer crashes mid-closing process.
As a new agent, you have the option to choose a large, traditional real estate brokerage with the standard commission-based salary, or you can go with a company like Redfin, which pays its agents a salary and offers bonuses based on customer satisfaction surveys. “Redfin’s salary model made it comfortable for me to build a client base. I could really focus on what my clients needed, instead of worrying about closing a deal. That’s why I chose to work with Redfin,” says Redfin real estate agent Nikki Kilmer.
Smaller boutique brokerages certainly have a more personal feel than the larger companies, and can offer individual attention to their agents. There is also a lot more flexibility at a smaller company, allowing agents to make decisions quickly without needing to wait for the approval from up the chain.
Smaller companies often give a new agent some creativity liberty when it comes to marketing, since an agent won’t have to adhere to big company rules in terms of branding materials. So there is certainly a lot more wiggle room for an agent to own their business tactics instead of falling in line with rigid rules at a more established firm.
Consider a Company’s Online Presence
The online presence of a company is important, because this is one of the ways an agent is able to find those leads. If a company doesn’t have a great online presence, you won’t have access to as many leads as someone who works for a company with a lot of traffic to its website. For example, Redfin.com is the most visited brokerage website, so Redfin agents have that added support from the company’s website and don’t have to do any lead generation of their own. Smaller boutique brokerages won’t be able to bring an agent the same steady flow of clients because they will not be top of mind for many homebuyers and sellers.
Advice for First-Year Real Estate Agents
Be a Local
The only way for a real estate agent to successfully obtain clients is through trust, which means potential clients have to believe you’re not only an expert in homes but an expert in the area where they are moving to. “Homebuyers want to know how the neighborhood has changed in the last five years and they will want to know how it might change in the next 10,” says Kilmer. “An agent needs to be able to communicate information about the local transit system, what time the cafe down the block opens and what time the bars close.” An agent will be more successful if their clients feel like they are atrusted source of information.
Have a Mentor
Having someone you can trust as mentor will make your first year as a real estate agent a little easier (but not easy!). This should be someone you can call or email with the silliest questions; it helps to be able to lean on an experienced person while you are navigating that tough, first year.
It’s OK to Say “I Don’t Know”
“A lot of agents are afraid to say ‘I don’t know,’ and will make up an answer to a question out of fear of not looking like an expert. An agent will gain a client’s trust by admitting to not knowing something. Just say ‘I don’t know but I will find out for you,’ which is way better than lying,” says Kilmer.
Work-Life Balance: Be Realistic About Your Schedule
Real estate agents need to have a flexible schedule since they need to be available when their clients aren’t working, which usually means being available on evenings and weekends. A real estate agent has to always be “on,” which means checking email and always being available by phone if a client has a question. “This is why I chose to work for a company like Redfin, which has a huge support team to jump in if I am not available,” says Kilmer. “Despite having an amazing team, I still need to be in constant communication with my clients so they know I am handling their concerns.”