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How to Become a Real Estate Agent

Updated on October 14, 2009

A Profession Open to Almost Anyone Willing to Work

Real Estate Agents are the people who broker the sale of real estate. In some states they are even called real estate brokers. Their primary function is to bring buyers and sellers together to facilitate the sale of the property.

In addition, competition has forced them to provide additional services such as helping to arrange financing, referring home inspectors, assisting with property insurance and other things to make the buyer's purchase and move easier.

The increasing number of laws and regulations issued by both the state and federal governments in the area of real estate transactions has greatly increased the amount of paperwork that the real estate agent is expected to complete in order to be in compliance with these laws and regulations. The job has thus become much more than a sales job although sales are still their primary focus since, without sales, they receive no income.

A License is Needed in Order to Sell Real Estate

Real estate agents, like doctors, lawyers, beauticians and other professions are licensed and regulated by their respective states. These professions are closed to all except those who hold a license from the state in which they operate. The licensing process is intended to protect the public by having the state insure that real estate agents (as well as doctors, lawyers and other licensed professionals) are competent and trustworthy. However, the real reason for the licensing, which real estate agents and other licensed professionals support, is to regulate the number of people entering the profession and thereby ensure a greater volume of business for each individual in the profession.

In most states it is relatively easy to become a Real Estate Agent.  Most, if not all, states require that a state administered test be taken and passed. The tests generally cover the rules and regulations governing real estate transactions within that state.

Upon passing the test and paying the required fee, the person is awarded a license to sell real estate. The license generally has to be renewed at periodic intervals and this usually involves simply paying a fee and filing a renewal application. Many states require that the renewal also show evidence of continuing professional education and will also deny a license renewal if there is evidence of the applicant having engaged in unethical practices.

Depending upon the state, unethical practices can be practices that are generally agreed to be unethical in the classic sense in that consumers of real estate services are harmed by the practice, or they can be what are normally considered competitive practices in any other business, such as reducing a commission, but are seen as a threat to the incomes of their fellow real estate agents. This is common with government regulations which, while they claim to protect the consumer, actually work to protect members of the profession from competition and result in greater expense for the consumer.

Many states go further in attempting to protect local real estate agents. Arizona, for one, requires that, before being allowed to take the real estate exam the applicant must complete an approved training course. This, of course adds to the cost of becoming a real estate agent thereby discouraging some potential applicants. It also raises the question of the value of the test since the test is supposed to test the knowledge of the person.

Requiring a course for everyone (including those who have had years of experience in another state) is more of a barrier to limit entry rather than professional preparation. But Arizona doesn't stop there, as it has a couple of more rules. The first being the requirement that the school be approved by the state agency that regulates real estate agents and, you guessed it, the only approved schools are those physically located in Arizona. The second is the real clincher, in that, not only must the school be located in Arizona, but the student also must attend class physically in Arizona – on line and other forms of self study outside of Arizona are not allowed.

There is something about Arizona real estate that knowledge of it can only be obtained if you have passed the sign on the highway that says Welcome to Arizona. The obvious intent of this rule is to make it difficult for a licensed real estate agent in another state to move to Arizona and immediately enter the profession. By placing these hurdles in the path of out of state real estate professionals we effectively limit the number who decide to come here and add to the competition.

However, despite these obstacles, becoming a real estate agent is not that difficult or complicated and it remains a profession that is open to anyone, with or without a college education, who is willing to take the time to learn what is needed to pass the test and is willing to work hard to build their business. Most real estate agents work strictly on commission and are, with few exceptions, independent, self-employed professionals. While the failure rate among new real estate agents is high, with a large percent of new real estate agents failing in their first year, it can also be a very rewarding business in terms of both personal satisfaction and financial success.


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    • profile image

      alfred1507 5 years ago

      hey guys im a 15 years old boy who wants to be a real state agent , but i dont know i what carrer i can become a real state agent need some help please!!!

    • profile image

      JeffH 6 years ago

      Getting your license definitely isn't easy. Here is a great resource I found that might help.

    • Glenda Kvale profile image

      Glenda Kvale 6 years ago

      You definitely can become successful, but given our market, you may experience some tough times to start with. Stick with it, and you WILL make it!

    • fdoleac profile image

      fdoleac 6 years ago from Hollis, New Hampshire

      Valuable advice. In this new real estate economy, if you become licensed, have proper training and the advice of an experienced Broker or mentor, you can become a succesfful agent.

    • Chuck profile image

      Chuck Nugent 7 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

      colorado Mortgage leads - license requirements for real estate agents vary from state to state and I imagine the number of hours of class time varies as well.

    • profile image

      colorado Mortgage leads 7 years ago

      How long as the classes for this license?

    • profile image

      propertydealing 7 years ago

      Thanks for giving such good information about the property agent and tips to become good real estate agent. Karmic greens new residential project is offering apartments with all the amenities for living luxurious life for the People, who like to buy home in Noida. People can get the more details of these apartments at this site or can call at 9891870097 or 0120 – 4228333.

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      Premier Ohio Homes Realty 7 years ago

      I just got my real estate license about 4 months ago (although I took the classes several years ago). I just kept putting off taking the test. It amazes me that more people don't get their real estate license. Its an easy process and the earnings potential is huge. I found a great brokerage that is with a franchise that pays out a 10% sponsoring bonus for every agent you recruit into the company. So that's a potential extra $10K per year per person you recruit into the company. I have already recruited 2 agents using my website. Recently I joined up with two other Realtors and formed the team where we put together an extensive marketing plan for selling homes and feed all of our buyer's agents (agents we sponsor into the company) handle all of our buyer leads.

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      Lauren 7 years ago

      Great post! I am always encouraging more people to become realtors!

    • profile image

      Realtor 7 years ago

      I think becoming a realtor is the "better" way if you want to sell real estate. I mean come on after I've learned that there is a difference between a real estate broker and a realtor I now will look carefully if the vendor is a realtor the next time a purchase a home or something like that.

      You can also get more information about how to become a realtor on my website about small business ideas:


      Stefan Johne

    • profile image

      manish 7 years ago

      i am a very big fan of hub pages, u have all the info on your site to make us a good reader

    • Chuck profile image

      Chuck Nugent 7 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

      movearoundus - I don't exactly know how to answer your question. You're correct in stating that the two are in basically the same business since most people only use the services of a mover when they buy a new house and move.

      The big difference, as I see it is that real estate agents are basically independent sales people. Even when they are associated with a real estate company or brokerage firm, each agent is usually a separate business that is affiliated rather than employed by the real estate company (there may be exceptions to this, but, in general, I think this is true). Also, real estate agents' main assets are their knowledge and contacts - one usually doesn't have to invest in a lot of physical capital to go into this business and the business can be done alone.

      Movers, on the other hand do need physical capital (trucks and other equipment) and muscle power. They also usually need one or more employees to assist with the labor part of the business.

      I hope this answers your question.

    • movearoundus profile image

      movearoundus 7 years ago from Miami, FL

      Very nice post, but i have found Realtor have lot of similarities with the moving industry, actually office or organizations, which are included in the real estate business in a true sense, what is your view on that? can u explain me please?

    • Cheeky Girl profile image

      Cassandra Mantis 8 years ago from UK and Nerujenia

      An interesting hub on real estate here! Great job!

    • sarah84 profile image

      sarah84 8 years ago from vietnam

      any website that i can put their products on my website in affiliate program?

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      andywilliams 8 years ago from Laguna beach

      Hi Chuck,

      Great Stuff! Thanks for guide on how to become a real estate agent.

    • profile image

      lil omar 9 years ago

      lei says:4 weeks ago

      Hi Chuck -

      I kno i want to work in this business...i just googled it to see people's comments if I decide to change careers...and I MUST say you did a beatiful job with your explanation...I personally think that experience is what people need to hear to get a feeling of what its like out there....

      I think you should write a book! :)

    • Chuck profile image

      Chuck Nugent 9 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

      lei - thank you for visiting and for your comments. As to the book, I am flattered that you feel I am a good enough writer to do that but for now my full time job and HubPages is about all I can handle in terms of time.

      Good luck with your new career if you decide to change.

    • profile image

      lei 9 years ago

      Hi Chuck -

      I dont work in this business...i just googled it to see people's comments if I decide to change careers...and I MUST say you did a beatiful job with your explanation...I personally think that experience is what people need to hear to get a feeling of what its like out there....

      I think you should write a book! :)

    • christinekv profile image

      christinekv 9 years ago from Washington

      You brought up valid, admirable things for her to consider was what I was attempting to express.

      I have seen one single mom do very very well in a very short period of time here...and she heavily marketed herself which does cost a pretty penny. It's not in my budget to do this on a similar level. Real Estate has been a bit more challenging for me in Wa. than it was when I was in Hawaii...I do work hard and I'm about the person(s) and doing the job in both a timely and correct fashion before I'm about the $. Alittle more consitency in terms of 1-2 closed transactions each month sure would be nice. I have about the same amount of connections yet more disappointments, with lots of time invested. My husband does have a good job and I'm thankful we can count on that. It's also refereshing to see that you understand, respect and appreciate what goes into being a successful Realtor as so many do not... I recently have had a few people express to me how they did not realize how much is involved in doing Real Estate...thinking it was much easier/simpler than it truly is. For sure it doesn't compare to selling cars.

    • Chuck profile image

      Chuck Nugent 9 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

      Christinekv - thanks for visiting my HubPage and for your comment. I began my career in the mortgage department of a Savings and Loan and in those days loan officers and others in the department were salaried employees with a regular paycheck and benefits. However, I did get experience working with and talking to realtor's who brought us most of our business and did learn a little about the real estate business from them.

      My real experience upon which my reply to Tahira was based came from a two year experience attempting to begin a new career selling life insurance and mutual funds. I learned a lot, especially about sales, but as a single parent at the time whose only other source of income was some part-time college teaching and occasional computer consulting for small businesses, it was a disaster financially. I learned later that I should have done the deep investigation beforehand that I recommended that Tahira do. The suggestions that Tahira listen skeptically to both those who appear to be succesful and those who have thrown in the towel, listening for the off hand comment about having to stretch the spouse's income, observing the condition of their car, clothes, etc. for clues as to how much they are really making, etc., were things I ended up doing after I had entered the profession and which ultimately convinced me that this was not the career for me at that time.

      Don't get me wrong, there are many in both insurance and real estate (as well as other commission sales jobs) who are very successful financially but they have not only had to work hard to achieve this but, more than likely, did not jump in to the profession with family financial responsibilities and no other sources of income. I have the utmost respect for people in these professions and know that the work itself can be very rewarding in other ways beyond the potential financial rewards.

      Now remarried with a wife who has a steady income to augment my salary from my full time job, I am again trying my hand at commission sales with a relatively new network marketing company that has an excellent product and great income potential. However, this is being done on the side, part time, and my family and I are in no way dependent upon the income from this at this time. The mental attitude and other skills I learned as a result of my stint in insurance sales is coming in very handy with this business and my hope is to build this business up to where I can retire early and my wife and I live off of both this business and our pensions and income from our IRAs. My suggestion is that, if Tahira really wants to get into real estate she/he should go for it but first make sure there is sufficient income from other sources to provide support until such time as the income from being a Realtor can support his/her financial needs.

    • christinekv profile image

      christinekv 9 years ago from Washington

      Hey Chuck, I thought this was really well done and I'm also impressed by your detailed and heartfelt response to Tahira. I agree with all you've expressed!

      Good info there on what it takes to get licensed in AZ...I had no idea. I have family there (and they've done some RE investing) that keeps trying to talkme into moving there and working in the industry....i"m a tree and mountain kind of gal though so it would have to be Flagstaff or Prescott....doubt it will happen though and definitley not anytime soon!

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      TampaBayRealtor 9 years ago

      Chuck, I can tell you it's been very easy to get into the business in Florida however now it's a lot harder to stay in.

    • Chuck profile image

      Chuck Nugent 10 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

      Tahira - thank you for visiting my HubPage. Selling realestate can be a tough job considering that it is all commission based and you are responsible for most of your own marketing and other business expenses as well as the cost of the mandatory training needed to obtain and maintain your license. It is not the type of business to enter full time if you have no other sources of income and have to support yourself individually or yourself and a family. The present depressed market is also not a good time to enter the field if you need a steady income.

      On the other hand, if you are married and have a working spouse or are a young adult still living at home with your parents with few if any financial responsibilities, today's depressed market can be a good time to embark on a career in realestate. The same is true if you are retired and receive a monthly pension check. With sales down and many people exiting the industry, now could be a very good time to learn the ropes and begin building a business for yourself (even though many states require agents to affiliate with existing firms, such agents are still independent business people). Since it is also possible to work part-time in realestate you might consider begining that way while continuing to earn a living from a traditional full time job.

      Before you invest any money in training or obtaining a license, I suggest that you give careful thought to why you want to enter this profession. If it is just a job and money you are looking for, you will probably do much better looking for a 9 to 5 job with an hourly wage or salary that is paid regularly. Realestate is pure commission selling which means that you only get paid when you sell a home (or find the right home for a buyer if you work on the buyer's rather than the seller's side of the market). To be successful you will need both a knowledge of real estate as well as a passion for both realestate and for helping people to buy or sell a home. I suggest that you not only study up on what training and knowledge is needed to sell realestate in your state and what the market is like for agents but also talk to agents to get a feel for what the profession is really like.

      Unsuccessful agents who are getting ready to leave the industry or who have left recently will almost certainly paint a dark but realistic picture of the difficulties you will face in the industry. Successful agents will paint a very positive picture stressing not only the large amounts of money that a good agent can potentially make, but also the emotional rewards which include the satisfaction that comes from helping people to realize their dreams of homeownership as well as the freedom and independence that comes from being your own boss.

      Take both views, but especially the successful agents' views, with a large grain of salt. There are many successful agents so the job and industry is not as bad for everyone as the unsuccessful agents will paint it to be. However, the rosy picture the successful agents will paint will gloss over the failures and other hardships that these agents have to deal with and many will describe their experience in terms of what they are working toward rather than their current circumstances. This is because successful sales people have to be very optmistic or they will fail. So the agent who had only a few listings last month and failed to close on any of them will start this month truly believing that he or she will get at least twice as many listings this month and close all of them. And, no matter how many people they show a home to without any of them buying, the agent will remain convinced that the next person or couple to see the home will buy it. While this mindset is important and necessary, it can often mislead the listener into thinking that success comes easy with the job. The key here is to cultivate a relationship with a successful sales person (but not the top seller in the office) and try to get a realistic impression as to what that person's personal and professional life really is like. Look for clues revealing just how hard that person has to work, how long it takes them to get a listing, how long and how many showings it really takes to make a sale, how heavily they and their household rely on the non-realestate spouse to pay the household bills, how old their car is, how often they wear the same outfit for work, etc. These people will probably be successful personally and professionally in time but, between now and then, they will have to work hard and be able to mentally deal with a lot of failure and rejection. If you still feel passionate about the job and are prepared to deal with the obstacles that must be overcome in the business, then this could be a career for you. If not, then you should save your money and save yourself the agony and find another profession. Good luck.

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      Tahira 10 years ago

      I am trying to make money. I am discouraged because I don't make to much money and this form of schooling will come out of almost barren pockets. I feel helpless sometimes. I want to work, but it seems now you need money to make money and whoever does not have will continue to not have.

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      Rental Property 10 years ago

      Extremely thought provoking hub page you have here, it does sound like a lot of hard work though. I know because i've been buying rental property for some time now and met many realtors.