Author of "How to Become an Apartment Locator" and licensed in real estate since 2006, Sydney hopes to help new agents.
Getting Started in Real Estate
I am not Lawyer nor do I provide legal advice. Everything I share with you here is public information and you are capable of finding it all online. I just put it all together in a nice, easy to understand package for you because it took me many years to learn or research it all. I didn’t want you to have to take as long as I did.
So who am I then? My name is Sydney Spence. I’ve been in Sales and Marketing since 1997 and became a licensed real estate agent in the State of Texas in 2006. I’ve been writing all my life but professionally since 2007. I’ve written for real estate agents from California to Singapore and everywhere in between.
Steps to Getting a License
Step One: Enroll in a Real Estate School and Take Core Classes
In the State of Texas, you will be required to take mandatory real estate classes in order to obtain your real estate license as regulated by the Texas Real Estate Commission. (Referred to as TREC throughout this guide). As of 2016 the core courses, 30 hours each, required are as follows:
1) Principles of Real Estate I
2) Principles of Real Estate II
3) Law of Agency
4) Law of Contracts
5) Promulgated Contracts Forms
6) Real Estate Finance I
Be sure to check out the website for TREC to determine their authorized list of providers and to find classes. If you don’t find a school on their “Qualified Education Providers” that you are interested in, find another school.
The initial education is just the beginning. You will also have continuing education requirements following licensing to ensure you stay up to date on the ever changing real estate world.
STEP TWO: Submit Your Application and Pay Your Fee
Once you have completed your core educational requirements, the school will send your certificates to TREC in most cases. You will then submit an “Application for Inactive Salesperson License” to TREC along with the appropriate fee. A new license is around $205 (this amount can change as regulations change). There is also an additional $29.75 for the background check that requires fingerprinting, see Step 3.
The entire licensing process, following completion of your courses, completely depends on how busy TREC is but shouldn’t take more than a couple of weeks.
STEP THREE: Complete Fingerprinting Requirements
Texas now requires all real estate agents have fingerprints on file, in accordance with the Real Estate License Act, so you will be responsible for getting your background check completed.
Contact TREC for a FastPass to schedule your appointment.
STEP FOUR: Take Exam
Once you have completed the educational requirements, filed your application with TREC and obtained your background check; it is time to take the Exam.
While you are preparing for the exam your application is being processed. Background checks are done, previous education is verified and TREC will verify if you owe student loans or are in default of such loans. This could hurt your chances of getting your application approved so be sure you are on top of your student loans and especially your taxes.
STEP FIVE: Find a Broker to Hold Your Active License
Upon completing all of these steps to just obtain a license, you will then find yourself a Sponsoring Broker. This is the person or entity that will “hold” your license so that you may begin legally working real estate transactions.
DO NOT practice real estate if your license is not active. It would be like practicing law without the degree. Keep that in mind. We’ll cover avenues in real estate that do not require a license later on.
Real Estate School vs. Community College
You have a lot of options for obtaining your real estate license. There are dedicated real estate schools throughout Texas or there is the local community college for a two-year degree in real estate.
With a real estate school you will obtain your license in much less time and spend a lot less money. Classes on average run about $150 and you will need six classes to begin. That is $900. The good thing is you can typically pay for each class as you take them so it's less all up front. Of course that can extend the time it will take the get the license but it still shouldn't take you longer than one to three months.
With community college, you will spend a minimum of two years and thousands of dollars to obtain your license. At which time you still have to take the same state exam administered to the students of a local real estate school.
Characteristics of a Real Estate Agent
The main reason most people don’t succeed in real estate is because they don’t realize you have to have the personality for it. It takes a special kind of person to become a successful real estate agent. The first thing you have to realize in this industry, you are selling a client on YOU before you ever sell them on a place to call home.
Selling homes, or helping people buy a home, is not as simple as placing a sign in the yard and filling out a lot of paperwork. There’s a lot more to it.
Your personality, professionalism and demeanor play a large part as well.
- Do you have an outgoing personality? Is it easy for you to talk to people? Real estate sales require you to be personable. Developing relationships not only gains you clients but will increase the chances of referrals and future business.
- Do you like sales? Whether you are an apartment locator, buyer’s rep, or seller’s agent you must still “sell” your client on you. After all, there are thousands of other agents out there that are able to assist them so why should they choose you?
- Are you organized? There’s a lot of attention to detail in building your pipeline and being organized will help ensure you don’t let anyone fall through the cracks.
- Are you dependable? Being a real estate agent means you work for yourself. Do you have enough motivation and control to manage your own time? Showing up to appointments is the most important aspect of being an agent.
- You will become a workaholic in every sense of the word because real estate agents don’t maintain banker hours. If that’s what you are looking for, be a banker. As a real estate agent, what you put into your business is what you’ll make out of it.
- You have to be comfortable living on a strictly commission basis. Which means, if you have no sales one month then you have no income; some real estate agents learn to save early on. Are your finances going to allow you to do that? If money is tight right now, consider starting out on a part time basis.
You are licensed, now what?
Now comes the hardest part. It is a common misconception that once you have the license, the money starts rolling in. This just isn't true and no one should be leading you to believe otherwise. Becoming an established real estate agent takes time and patience. Unless you've already created a pipeline that will keep you busy for the first six months, there’s a lot of work ahead of you. But not to worry, there are areas of real estate you can begin working immediately to start earning money while you learn your way around the real estate world.
For example, apartment locating is a great way to get started and doesn't typically require additional memberships. You can begin apartment locating with business cards and an ad on Craigslist. Talk with your sponsoring broker about splits and desk fees.
Property management is a way to get into real estate and provides a more stable work environment because you are typically hired by companies to manage their properties.
Manufactured home sales are in high demand and though those types of home sales don’t require a real estate license, it doesn't hurt.
Expect to spend a lot of money if you go straight into home sales. There are dues, lock box fees, etc associated with just getting started. Also expect to spend the first six months without an income while building your client list.
Real Estate Agent Expenses
It is unrealistic for anyone to tell you that you can get started in real estate without a lot of money. There are cheaper ways to break into the real estate world, covered in the next section, but let’s focus on the initial expenses. For example, classes in Texas cost around $150 per class and you are required to start with a minimum of five classes.
Initial application fee will run you about $150 as well as a $10 fee that every agent must pay that goes into a trust for agents. There are also board fees to pay. For example, to become a seller’s agent or a buyer’s agent you are required to join the MLS in Texas which will run you about $1500 to get started.
You will also face expenses for business cards, yard signs, lock box rentals, online advertising and more. Think of this as your own business because it is.
What is the Difference Between a Licensed Agent and a Realtor®
Despite the fact that both are required to complete the educational requirements, there is a big difference between a real estate agent and a Realtor® . You cannot legally call yourself a Realtor® unless you have joined the National Association of Realtors and your local board. A real estate agent is legally authorized to handle the same transactions but there is a level of trust associated with joining the National Association of Realtors.
What most agents don't realize is that you are not required to become a member of the board unless you just really rather prefer to call yourself a Realtor and not an Agent. So long as the Broker holding your license is not an active member of the board then you don't have to be either. This saves you a lot of money upfront.
Continuing Education for an Agent
Once you are licensed, keep in mind that you will be required to keep up with your education. Initially you will take a class every year until you reach so many hours.
After that you'll then be required to take less hours but you'll always have continuing education requirements for as long as you have your license active.
Who Regulates Real Estate Agents and Realtors® in Texas?
The Texas Real Estate Commission, otherwise known as TREC, is the entity that regulates and monitors all real estate agents in the State of Texas.
You can also visit their website for requirements to become and work as a licensed real estate agent in Texas.
What career path do you want to take in real estate? Need help deciding? Check out my hub "Careers in Real Estate" to see what options you have! Apartment locating is always a great option to getting your feet wet in the real estate market while building a pipeline of clients that may someday want to buy a home.
- Texas Real Estate Commission
TREC- Home Page
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2012 Sydney Spence