If you have a disability, meeting the requirements for a traditional job can often be challenging. You likely have the skills and experiences that make you a great employee. However, you may have physical limitations or a chronic medical condition, making it difficult to work in a more conventional environment. However, there are many employment opportunities available that can be an ideal fit and will give you the satisfaction that often comes from using your abilities and skills. If you are a disabled job seeker with a passion for helping people and an interest in housing, you might want to consider a career as a real estate agent.
In addition to highlighting the many perks of becoming a real estate agent, this guide will help you figure out how to get started in the field and how to use your disability to empower you in the market. With the proper information and preparation, you can find a successful and rewarding career in real estate.
The Perks of Being a Real Estate Agent
There are many benefits to the real estate game. To start, real estate agents often set their own schedules. Because you’ll often be working with clients who have jobs during regular business hours, your hours will need to be flexible as well. This can give you much-needed freedom during the day to run errands or schedule appointments.
You can also opt to work full- or part-time. Full-time employment can give you financial security and employee benefits. However, if you’re primarily looking for supplemental income (or an excuse to get out of the house), you can work part-time. It can be an excellent way to keep you busy and give you a sense of career fulfillment while still leaving plenty of flexibility. As your needs or preferences change, you can make the shift to a full-time position later on.
The workspace in the realty game also tends to be flexible. Depending on the company you work for, you may need to have a certain amount of “floor time” at the office each week to meet and speak with potential clients, as well as attend any team meetings. Aside from that, much of the work outside of showings can be done at home. Realty jobs are also available no matter where you go, so should you ever need to relocate, you will likely have little trouble finding work.
You Offer a Unique Perspective
As someone with a disability, you also offer a unique perspective to any clients who have specialized needs. A 2015 survey found that nearly half of homebuyers with disabilities report having trouble finding a home that suits their needs. 83 percent said having an agent familiar with accessible housing would be beneficial. Anyone can study ADA requirements and accessible housing, but an agent with actual first-hand experience in this area gives you a remarkable edge. You may even be able to spot the need for accommodations to make day-to-day living easier that your client may not have considered.
Becoming a real estate agent gives you the opportunity to be an advocate for those with disabilities. As an agent, you’ll be able to help create more valuable listings with information that makes it easier for disabled homebuyers to find their dream home. You’ll also have a keen eye for listings that will actually work for those with specialized needs and eliminate those that don’t, making the process quicker and easier for your buyer.
In addition to the required education, there are classes and programs that specialize in accessible housing training. These kinds of classes can help you gain a more thorough understanding of loans and programs available to your disabled clients. They can also provide additional training on finding the perfect home for every need as well as potential home modifications that can dramatically increase accessibility. Taking this extra step can make you a highly sought expert in the housing market.
Steps to Becoming a Real Estate Agent
Understand and Meet Your State’s Requirements
The requirements to become a real estate agent vary from state to state, so it’s essential that you start by researching and understanding the requirements specific to yours. Typically, the minimum age is 18 or 19, however, some states require that you’re 21. You’ll also need to meet the minimum education requirements. It’s common that you need your high school diploma or your GED to be considered eligible.
Beyond these basic requirements, other state-specific requirements can include: background checks and/or fingerprinting, pre-licensing and post-licensing courses, exam scores, continuing education, etc.
Take Pre-licensing Courses
No matter where you’re located in the country, you’ll need to start with pre-licensing real estate courses. Pre-licensing schools offer classes that will prepare you for the licensing exam. Some states require a certain number of courses to be completed. While others may go by a set number of hours completed. There are a variety of ways you can complete your pre-licensing requirements, from in-person classes at local real estate schools to various online education options. So choose the way works best for your time, schedule, and learning style.
It’s important to know that these courses aren’t free and can sometimes be costly. However, there are real estate scholarships available as well as scholarships specifically for those with disabilities. You can choose to find a trade school in your area, or attend a local college that offers a major or courses in real estate. Quite a few schools and websites offer online courses, giving you the freedom to work around your own schedule right from home.
Pass the Real Estate License Exam and Apply for Your License
The next step in becoming a real estate agent is to take and pass the real estate license exam. While your pre-licensing courses should provide you with the necessary information to pass, it’s important that you take the time to study and prepare for the exam. Typically the exam will be split into two components: a section on general real estate concepts and principles, and another on your state’s specific laws. In order to pass the exam, you’ll have to receive a passing grade on both components. There are various exam prep courses or free online resources, such as Real Estate Exam Scholar or Real Estate Express, that will help as you begin studying for the real estate exam. Don’t worry if you don’t pass on your first try as most states allow you to retake the exam.
All applicants with disabilities are entitled to having a fair and equal chance of passing the exam, so you will receive any needed testing accommodations. Whether you need a distraction-free room, a wheel-chair accessible testing area, or any other special accommodation, the arrangements will be made so you can take the test comfortably. However, it’s your responsibility to get in contact with either the testing center or personnel in charge to ensure you are given the necessary testing accommodations.
Once you’ve passed the exam, you’ll then need to submit an application for your real estate license to your state, as well as any other required documents and/or fees.
Finding a Real Estate Brokerage to Work For
In order to practice real estate, you must hang your license with a brokerage. Between national real estate brokerages and smaller boutique brokerages, there are many great options to choose from. Many people spend time during their pre-licensing courses checking out brokerages to find the best fit for them.
When the time comes to find a brokerage to officially start your career with, it’s important to be familiar with the equal employment section of The Americans With Disabilities Act. A company can’t refuse to consider you for employment based on your disability alone. Employers also can’t refuse to make reasonable accommodations in the workplace.
Whether you are a first-time job seeker or hoping to make the change to a new career, real estate is certainly worth considering. The flexibility of becoming an agent, combined with your unique perspective for clients with specialized needs, can pave the way to a rewarding and flourishing career.
Redfin is currently looking for real estate agents; you can check out open positions at Redfin.com/careers.