If you’ve ever considered starting a career in real estate, you’ve probably imagined what this might look like for you. Maybe you’re excited at the prospect of showing houses to first-time home buyers and giving listing presentations to interested sellers looking to upgrade. Maybe you’ve watched some of those drama-filled real estate reality tv shows and can picture yourself as the next top luxury agent in your market. Or maybe it’s the joy you’d provide your clients when closing a transaction that sets your heart on fire. Either way, most new agents quickly realize that real estate involves so much more than their initial perceptions suggest. While there’s a lot that you should be aware of before jumping in, it all goes to show that real estate can be an incredibly exciting and rewarding career.

Here are six need-to-know tips that will prepare you for a successful career in real estate.

1) Licensing Comes First

Before you start your career as a real estate agent, you must be licensed in your state. The licensing process varies by state, but generally, the first step will be to take a licensing course at a real estate school. These courses can be completed in as little as a week and could stretch as long as eight weeks. While they have traditionally occurred in a classroom setting, today it is also possible to complete these classes online. Be sure to check with your state board to find specific class and hour requirements. It’s also important to remember that taking a licensing course is an investment, but in most cases, this is a few hundred dollars. After you complete the course, you must also pass the course exam.

Once you have passed the course exam, you’re well on your way to becoming an official agent! The next step is to take and pass both the state and national board exams. Fortunately, these two exams can be taken at the same time at a real estate testing center. Once you pass, you’ve got your license! While you will have to pay for the exams, fingerprinting, a background check, and the license itself, these are typically smaller fees in comparison to the online course. At the end of the process, you shouldn’t have to spend more than $1,000 to receive your license.

2) Your Brokerage Matters

Upon receiving your license, you’ll be given a certain number of days to choose a brokerage. This isn’t a decision that you should take lightly; your brokerage is going to be one of your greatest assets when starting out in real estate. Therefore, you should take the time to meet with a variety of brokers, see what they have to offer, and understand the costs associated with each one.

As a new agent, you’ll want a brokerage that can help you get started from the ground up. They should provide you with transaction assistance, technological tools and continued training so that you have the resources to grow in all areas of your business.

You should also understand the different ways that brokerages collect payments. One way that you may have to pay your brokerage is through fees. Many brokerages charge technology, marketing and desk fees, to name a few. Some 100%-brokerage models, like HomeSmart, only charge a transaction fee and a low monthly fee. And then there are the many traditional brokerages that require commission splits; generally, you can expect to take home 60-70% of your commission, while the brokerage keeps the remaining 30-40%. While it’s hard to budget for all of these costs, they can end up costing you hundreds or thousands of dollars. This all goes to show the importance of being intentional when researching different brokerages so that you get your money’s worth.

3) Always Be Learning

Many people can become an agent, but what differentiates successful agents from the rest of the pack is their dedication to learning even after they’ve passed their license test and chosen a brokerage. Once you decide to be an agent, it’s imperative that you go all-in and seek out training to help you build your business. If you choose the right brokerage, you should have access to educational courses and resources as well as mentorship programs to guide you through the basics–like building a business plan or navigating your market, for example. It’s also helpful to attend networking events to meet other agents and learn new strategies to implement in your business.

Also remember that as an agent, your state defines a certain number of continuing education hours that you need to keep your license each year or recurring time period. Continuing education courses add more value than simply keeping your license active; they’re meant to keep you updated with the ever-changing real estate industry and give you the tools you need to be successful in your market. If you take these seriously and understand the importance of continuous training, your real estate career will be much more rewarding.

4) How You Brand Yourself Counts

It’s a common misconception that once you’re an agent, leads will instantly come running your way. While your brokerage should give you the tools to be a successful agent, getting the business is ultimately up to you. Competition is high––over 1.3 million agents are registered with the National Association of Realtors (NAR)––and it’s only increasing. But don’t let this get you down! One of the biggest parts of your job as a real estate agent isn’t working with clients, but rather building your own brand. While your commitment to real estate is itself a factor that will set you apart, your level of success will ultimately depend on how you choose to market yourself. Decide what you want your brand to look like, and stick with it.

5) Your Income Will Change with the Market

Even if you’ve established a stellar brand and close more deals than any other agent, your real estate income isn’t always going to be consistent. When starting out in real estate, you might be surprised to see how much your income fluctuates each month. And while the uncertainty of your earnings can be disconcerting, it’s important to remember that this is normal. Many factors can change the real estate market, from changes in season to an unexpected national disaster. These factors shift consumer demand to buy and sell, which in turn will affect your business. It might be hard to see in the beginning, but in the long run, your low-income months should be balanced out by the high-income ones, keeping you in a stable position.

6) Real Estate Isn't Your Typical Sales Job

On the surface, it might seem like real estate is all about sales. You’re selling yourself to get clients, and once you get clients you have to sell them on a transaction. So yes, you certainly have to get comfortable with selling as an agent. But you also have to realize that your job is more than just giving a hard sell to secure the deal. While a typical sales job has one end goal, your real estate career should focus equally on the relationships you form with your clients and on the sale itself. If you don’t put your clients’ needs and wants first, you won’t complete the sale–or if you do, you may not be as likely to get referrals. The foundation of any successful real estate business is strong agent-client relationships, so focus on these first and the sales will come naturally.

At the end of the day, we understand that starting a career in real estate is a big commitment and a tough decision. Here at HomeSmart International, we’re dedicated to easing our agents’ fears by providing them with all of the resources they need to succeed from day one. Not only do we provide one-of-a-kind technology, extensive training and an accessible agent services team, but our agents also walk away with 100% commission from every transaction they complete. So if you’re looking to make the smart move, HomeSmart is the brokerage for you. Join us today and jumpstart your real estate career.

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