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Real estate is rapidly becoming one of the hottest employment opportunities around. With the economy reversing and the housing market rallying, it's a great time to get a real estate license. However, a lot of people come into real estate thinking it's a simple job. Sell the house, make the money, and have no worries. There's a little more to it than that, and prospective real estate agents need to understand that. Related: 15 Questions To Ask Before Making A Career Change In this article, we will discuss five things every prospective real estate agent or Realtor should know and plan for before getting started, starting with real estate courses.

1. Why Do I Need To Take Real Estate Courses?

Real estate courses are designed to ensure applicants are conversant with local, state, and federal regulations regarding every facet of a property sale. Some typical items these courses cover include:
  • Your rights and responsibilities as a real estate agent
  • How to sell a property correctly
  • Understanding zoning laws and regulations
  • The importance of continuing education
  • Consumer advocacy so you can represent your clients professionally and ethically
These courses are generally state-specific, which means you may have to take a similar course if you relocate or want to practice in a multi-state region.

2. How Do I Get My Real Estate License?

After you complete any real estate classes and studies required in your jurisdiction, you then take a test and apply for licensing. Criteria for successful completion of the course varies by jurisdiction, and you may have to take additional courses even after you receive your real estate license. Some brokerages, particularly large national brokerages, require this to ensure you get all the instruction you need to work with their particular systems.

3. Why Do I Need A Brokerage? Can't I Work As An Independent Agent?

Most jurisdictions require real estate agents to be affiliated with a brokerage for consumer protection purposes. Brokers carry an additional three years of real estate education and training, which makes them valuable resources for newly minted agents. However, all brokerages are not created equal. You should always check the following criteria at a minimum to ensure your brokerage is a good fit for you and your style:
  • How much experience does this broker/firm have?
  • What is the broker's reputation?
  • How do agents and clients who have worked with this broker previous found the experience?
  • How long will it take for me to start earning commissions?
  • Does this broker require additional coursework, and will I have a brokerage-assigned mentor while in training?

4. How Much Can I Expect To Make?

A lot depends on where you're practicing, what the market is like in your area, and your own personal attributes. Strong salespeople can expect to make six figures and up per year, while weaker agents or people who are engaged in real estate as a sideline may only make a few thousand dollars per year. Be sure to keep up with trends in your market, as well as more "upscale" markets that may be nearby.

5. But I'm Working For Myself, Right?

Technically, each real estate agent or Realtor is independent, so you do have the option to set your own hours depending upon your brokerage's requirements. You should keep in mind that the harder you work, the more commission you're likely to see. Before starting on real estate licensing, you should make sure you have a nice wardrobe and at least six months' living expenses put away just in case things are lean at first.

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