(PREFACE NOTE: Some brokerages will reimburse you for getting your license (which is a five to seven-hundred-dollar process), so you may want to mix up the steps of this process. Establishing which broker you want to work with before you get your license is semi-unconventional, but what we wholeheartedly recommend.)
(PRO TIP: Castles Unlimited, a member of the Greater Boston Association of Realtors, offers full tuition reimbursement to any new agents getting their license. The price you pay for classes is repaid to you after your first sale. You get a healthy, fat first commission check, and get to start your career off strong!)
How to Become a Realtor
Whether you're looking to work full time, part-time, or for 30 minutes every second Tuesday, getting your real estate license is a great way to develop a lucrative career or side hustle. Taking the next step up to become a Realtor is both simple and wildly beneficial.
Every top brokerage in the nation is affiliated with the NAR, which is a membership-based association. If a brokerage is affiliated with the NAR, then every agent working there has to be a member as well.
Although this blog post focuses on acquiring your license, which only makes you a licensed real estate agent, it's highly recommended that agents take the next step up to join Realtor-affiliated brokerages. They're flat out better, and" Realtor" sounds better than "real estate agent," partially because of the credibility and recognition behind it.
That said, let's get into it! How do you become a Realtor?!
1. Know Yourself
The first thing to ask yourself before you start on the path towards becoming a realtor is self-reflective, and it may trigger an existential crisis. What do you want to do? Is real estate it, or is it at least going to propel you forward to your goals? We all need a strong "why," and staying alive in this highly competitive industry requires serious willpower.
There are plenty of blogs that will explain what kind of people do best as Realtors, and even more personality quizzes, like 16personalities, to find out if you're one of those people. However, statistics are only that, and all of the people who are best at what they do, by definition, are outliers anyways.
If after self-assessment you decide you want to become a Realtor, CONGRATS! You've completed the first step!
2. Find the Right Class for You
So you're going to go through with it. Nice, we're proud of you. Your next steps (see preface note) are taking the licensing test and the prerequisite 40-hour class. You want to do your research and find the right class for you.
Now, listen, we'll be blunt here, alright, and we're doing it for you. Don't skimp yourself by not researching thoroughly. The class you pick plays a large part in how effectively you'll learn the information you need to know-- and there's A LOT of (useless) minutiae you'll need to know if you want to pass. While we're being blunt, and we'll make sure to emphasize this more later on: studying is not an option; it is a requirement.
There are online and in-person classes, both with their obvious comparative benefits. It boils down to preference here. Most states require online students have at least 20 hours completed via live-streamed classes. People all log on at the same time and watch an instructor for the given time slot (typically 1 - 2.5 hours). The other half of the classes can be done on-demand-- anytime, anywhere.
When researching classes, look at the reviews of your top choices. It's common for real estate schools to do crafty nonsense to get one-up on the competition. (It's training you to go into one of the most competitive fields in the world, after all.)
An example of this is how some schools offer refunds if you fail your first test. This is for PR: you'll like getting your money back, and they can say "100% of the people who take our class pass the test first time." Do your research, and do it well.
After you're done with the classes...
3. Pass the Test
Easier said than done. Nearly half of everyone who takes it fails on their first try. This exam is something you're going to put a fair deal of money into. You don't want to waste $200 to fail an exam you've worked hard to even gain access to, so understand you will have to work hard for this. Overcoming evermore difficult challenges makes the champagne taste that much better anyways.
(PRO TIP: Have money to work with in the beginning. There's a learning curve to the industry and most professionals recommend starting with a couple of thousand dollars at your disposal. Again, research and develop a personal plan, but we recommend a bare minimum of $1500.)
Again, just don't skimp yourself. Real estate is highly entrepreneurial. Your success can only reflect your work, and it often doesn't even do that. Clients are only human, and some deals fall through. You'll end up wasting a fair deal of time and money on poisonous clients. You have to be durable and tenacious to survive, especially in the beginning, so you might as well start with your studying.
(PRO TIP: This blog's author found an online class that included various amenities. Among the study materials was an all-encompassing digital PDF study guide. The self-assigned study consisted of copying all 140 pages in longhand and then copying the 350 vocab words out of the back of the notebook onto flashcards. It sounds sadistic, borderline masochistic, but the point is this: study the material as if 50% of everyone who takes the test fails.)
Onto the test.
There is a state section of the exam, and a national section. The national is notoriously harder than the state. Once you pass a section, even if you fail the other section, you're done with it forever, so that's some consolation. If you listen to this author and actually study, you'll pass both first try anyways.
Here's how the test day goes.
You walk into the testing center and fill out paperwork. The administrators take your photo, seat you in the waiting area, and call you when it's your time to go in. Your photo is used on your license, but nearly nobody will see it. AKA, this isn't the MET Gala, but we do recommend looking professional.
The state section consists of 40 questions, the national is 80, totaling 120 questions. You need a 70% on both sections to pass.
It may ease some anxiety to know that in total only 8-10 questions involve math. Also, some of the questions you get are "experimental." They don't lower your score if your answers wrong, but they raise it if you get it right.
The test room is full of computer work stations that are all individually partitioned. You have a four-hour time limit, which is 2 minutes per question. It's plenty of time. If your body is prone to obscure grumbles in test environments, there are usually a lot of people in there who are all incredibly focused on their work. The ambient sound is neither awkwardly quiet or distracting, so no anxiety needed.
Once you pass, you go talk to the admins. They print your shiny new real estate license right then and there, and you're officially a licensed agent! CONGRATS! (You can check and see what we mean about the champagne tasting better later.)
4. Find a NAR Affiliated Brokerage
This step is a lengthy process as well and can kill the momentum from getting your new license, which is partly why it's recommended to figure this step out before or while you take classes. If you're lucky and already aware of Castles Unlimited, the best brokerage, then you're already off to a strong start!
There are different types of brokerages you can work with, and your self-awareness is required again to figure out which type is right for you.
There are three main classifications for brokerages: National (franchises, broad markets), Boutique (niche markets), and Virtual.
The general view is that national brokerages are good for training and having a big name backing your brand. Your brand is the critical focus in this field because you're not a businessman/woman, you're the business.
Your brand is what brings clients in, and your brand is your you. It's your person, your personality, how people remember you, and how you present yourself. A franchise title next to your name can both add credibility and damage reputation. It depends on your goals, target markets, etc. Again, choosing the right type of brokerage is a highly personalized process and depends on how you've schemed up your future success path.
Boutique brokerages have niche foci. An example is a broker in New York that exclusively handles multi-million dollar SoHo condos. Another may specialize in waterfront properties, affordable housing, etc.
Where boutiques typically fall short are with training and leads. Your success is on your shoulders, and it's why most agents choose a franchise as their first brokerage-- for structure. Boutiques are recommended for genuine self-starters (and you can lie about this, but numbers won't).
There is a learning curve to the field, especially when you're training yourself with little or no structure. It's critical to have a good lump of starting capital so you don't run out of money before you start making it.
Virtual brokerages come in a wide variety. They usually have bigger commission splits than boutiques or franchises, and, as the name suggests, they often don't have physical locations. These types of brokerages are an uncommon choice for new agents. They vary greatly in operation and many of them are scams or sketchy, so you'll have to do your own research for this one.
All of these options fall on a spectrum, and every spot on that spectrum has a brokerage on it. It's up to you to find where you would work best on the spectrum and match yourself to the most relevant brokerage.
(PRO TIP: Remember to go in and ask these brokers questions. This is a two-way interview. You both want to make sure you're a good fit for each other. This is not an industry that favors shyness, so, as Robert Green advises, enter action with boldness! Ask questions, negotiate your commission, do what you have to do for the life that you have to have. You're not getting a license for a job, you're getting a license to start your own business. Act accordingly.)
5. Launch Your Business
If you're here, you're probably considering becoming a Realtor. Contact us here at Castles Unlimited for any reason all your real estate needs, including guidance through the process we've outlined above. Feel free to contact us here. We'd love to hear from you, so we hope we get to speak soon!