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How to Become a Real Estate Agent in 8 Steps: A Guide for New Agents

How to Become a Real Estate Agent in 8 Steps: A Guide for New Agents

12 min read
How to Become a Real Estate Agent in 8 Steps: A Guide for New Agents

Launching a career in real estate is appealing for a number of reasons: the ability to control your own hours; the opportunity to make a great living while helping people solve a problem; and the chance to invest in your own future through real estate, to name just a few. In 2024, real estate as a profession might be still enticing.

But how do you become a real estate agent? Is it hard? How much does it cost? Some of those answers are going to depend on where you live. The process is regulated by each state’s department of, well, regulatory agencies, so each state has a slightly different path to becoming a real estate agent. Generally speaking, though, you’ll have to jump through the following hoops to get your license and start selling real estate.

8 quick steps to becoming a real estate agent

1. Figure out your state’s requirements

Every state is going to ask for slightly different variables to become an agent. You’ll typically have to be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma. Beyond that, you’ll want to do some research into what your state will ask you to do. 

Google “how to get a real estate license in (state)” — you may even want to add “(state) department of regulatory affairs” or “regulatory agencies” to come up with the official state’s page outlining the process.

Most states are also going to require a background check, fingerprinting, continuing education, and possibly more, so be aware of what you’ll need to do both before and after taking your licensing exam; it’s more complicated than passing a test!

2. Find your pre-licensing course and take it

Another thing that every state is going to ask you to do is take an exam, and this will require you to study for the exam. Pre-licensing courses are considered a given if you want to become a real estate agent; it’s not easy to know what to expect on those tests, and they’re not cheap to take, so you’ll want to make sure you can pass!

Look up pre-licensing courses in your state to see what’s available. You might ask friends or neighbors who are real estate agents what course they took and whether they’d recommend it. Pay attention to any company reviews you might find in conjunction with the courses so that you can ensure you’re getting a level of support and information that works well for you. 

Pre-licensing courses can cost anywhere from $200 to $600, depending on the state and the level of support and guidance offered in the course. They’re typically available both in-person and online.

3. Take and pass your licensing exam

After your pre-licensing course, you’ll need to pay for the state’s real estate exam, which will allow you to apply for a real estate sales license in your state. Depending on reciprocity laws (which might or might not allow you to practice real estate sales in other states), this is where the ball really gets rolling; it’s a make-or-break step!

Find out where and when you can take your exam, and submit your fee (which you can expect to start at $200 and climb upwards of $400, depending on the state). Then show up on time and ready to pass the test!

4. Submit your application (with fee) to become an agent

After you pass the test, you’ll need to pay a fee and submit it with your application and completed exam to the state in order to get your real estate sales license.

In many ways, it’s kind of like getting licensed to drive a car, only more expensive, and the financial consequences can be bigger, too! Licensing fees also vary by state.

5. Get your E&O insurance lined up

By the time you’ve finished these steps, you’ll already know what this is, but in case you’re reading ahead: E&O insurance stands for “errors and omissions” insurance, which will help to legally protect you as you work on your new career path. Most brokerages are going to require you to have it, so you might as well get it now!

6. Think about joining NAR

What is NAR? It’s the National Association of RealtorsⓇ, which also happens to be one of the oldest and most prominent trade associations in the United States. A RealtorⓇ has to abide by the organization’s code of ethics; in exchange, they get access to educational, business, and networking opportunities that aren’t available to just any agent.

Some brokerages ask that their agents be active RealtorsⓇ. There is an additional fee involved to join NAR, and some agents choose not to do so. Talk to agents you know to ask what they decided to do and why so that you can feel good about your choice.

7. Find a brokerage to join

As a new agent, you’ll need to work underneath a managing broker, who will help oversee your deals and give you the support to help provide excellent service to your buyer and seller clients (and, it probably goes without saying, take a portion of your commission). 

Different brokerages offer different levels of support, and will ask for a different level of your commission as a result. The brokerages that take more commission often offer a lot more support, so don’t be afraid to consider them; a higher level of support means you may have the capacity to take on more clients and be more productive, which is not an insignificant trade-off!

This is another step where knowing real estate agents in your market can be an invaluable resource. Ask them about their personal experiences with different brokerages and what they’ve heard to help you make a high-level comparison between your options. 

Ask the brokerages, also, what they expect when you join; some might ask you to complete a new agent training boot camp to help you get further oriented in this new career, while others will expect you to generate your own leads right away. Try to make sure you’ll be receiving the appropriate level of guidance for your own self-comfort.

8. Start your work — solo or on a team

You’ve done everything except for find your first client. This is the biggest hurdle for many agents — it’s not always easy to get buyers (or sellers!) to trust you with an enormous decision that will require a ton of guidance and support on your end if you’ve never worked on a real estate deal before.

Some agents might want to start off on a team, where you may learn different parts of the transaction process, before trying to oversee an entire deal on your own. That’s a valid way to learn the ropes, especially if your brokerage isn’t giving you a lot of new-agent support or guidance.

Whatever your path, once you’ve found a buyer or seller and helped them close a deal, you’re officially a producing real estate agent. Congratulations!

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How long does it take to become a real estate agent?

You can expect the process to become a real estate agent to take anywhere between four and six months, depending on the state where you live.

How much does it cost to become a real estate agent?

The amount depends on which state you are in and whether you decide to join NAR, among other variables. In some states it will cost a total of between $300 and $400, while in others it can climb as high as the $800s or even higher than $1,000.

Understanding the requirements in your state (and the fees) will help you budget for the expenses of the exams. Be aware that sometimes it also takes a little while before you will have a client and close a sale, which is when you can expect to receive your first commission payment—so you might want to talk with your household, consider what this means, and save up a nest egg accordingly!

How much time should I spend studying for the real estate license exam?

The pre-licensing courses take anywhere between two and four months to complete, so you’ll want to brush up on course material regularly. Plan to carve out an hour or two, three or four nights every week, to review past weeks’ content and add what you’ve learned to your pile, which can help you avoid “cramming” before you take (and pass!) the real estate license exam.

What do you need to start selling real estate?

Generally speaking, once you’ve got your license, you’ll need the following lined up in order to start working on home sales:

  • A supervising broker to oversee your work as a new real estate agent
  • A “sphere” of people you know who might want to buy or sell a house in the future, and who might be able to use your help
  • A way to keep track of those people (typically via a customer relationship manager, or CRM)
  • A strategy to market your services to those people, and eventually market any homes you might be listing to buyers as well
  • A way to keep in touch with former clients
  • A place to keep sending your clients for more information, keeping them engaged (websites and email newsletters are amazing tandem tools for this kind of job!)

Real estate is a popular career because it’s so rewarding, financially and beyond. We hope this quick guide inspired you to start researching how to become an agent in your state and learn more about whether it could be the right path for you!

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