How to Get Started in Real Estate

Real estate is a rich and complex field of employment with several career directions. Unlike most lucrative careers, getting started in real estate does not require extensive education. Most people start their career as a sale agent. Some aspire to be a broker. The difference is that real estate sales agents are licensed to work for someone else – a broker – and brokers are licensed to manage a team of sales agents.

Brokers and sales agents perform similar tasks: buying, selling, and renting commercial and/or private properties. There is extensive investigation and paperwork involved when selling a property. The agent is required to arrange a title search to verify ownership, negotiate a price between seller and buyer, guide both parties through the sales agreement process, and often help arrange financing. Other duties include finding properties to list and advising the seller on the optimal asking price based on analysis of market factors, such as what similar properties have sold for most recently. This requires up-to-date knowledge of the area, the property, and the market itself.

Education, Training, and Skills

Only a high school degree is required to obtain a real estate license. However, some brokers prefer to hire agents with college degrees due to the increasingly complex nature of the transactions. Most colleges offer courses in real estate, and some offer a bachelor's degree program or a certificate program. If your aspiration is to become a broker, business management and marketing courses are also helpful.

Some large real estate companies offer low-cost certification courses taught in-house and will walk candidates through licensing. Practical training is done alongside a more experienced agent via on-the-job training.

Real estate agents need certain skills to be successful that can't be taught but might be developed over time. Personality, confidence, and the ability to close a sale are crucial. Even when making a fairly inconsequential decision, like choosing a television, people need incentive to buy. A skilled salesperson knows how to match the person with the property that best fits his needs to close the sale. Local knowledge is particularly helpful. Sales people will be expected to know about area schools, demographics, crime rates, public transportation and convenient roadways, businesses, and attractions, like nearby parks and recreation areas.

Organization and attention to detail are key skills for real estate agents. An agent must have the answers at the ready and be able to recall a property that fits a client's description immediately to make a good first impression and inspire confidence.


Every state has license requirements for both sales agents and brokers. To obtain certification, prospective agents must take between 30 and 90 hours of course instruction and pass an examination that covers transaction details and laws governing the sale of property. Broker's examinations are more comprehensive and require 60 to 90 hours of course instruction plus up to three years of experience in the field. The experience requirement can be waived in some states with a bachelor's degree in real estate.

Realtors are expected to uphold a standard of ethics designed with the best interests of the client in mind. They are expected to be honest and behave with integrity at all times.

Finding a Job

As a general rule of thumb, the more complete your resume, the more likely you are to find a job quickly. To build your resume, take a related position while you attend school. Some entry-level positions include administrative assistant or receptionist in a real estate office, mortgage office, title company, or an aide in a real estate law firm. Join an organization for professional real estate agents and attend seminars, meetings, and conventions to build a professional network.

Your resume should reflect a well-rounded mix of school, experience, and professional ties, with references draw from the industry. With the economy already on the road to recovery, the real estate industry is expected to grow at a rate faster than most over the coming years.

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