Change of plans • Defining Homes

So you want to be a real estate agent. Just be sure you know what you’re in for

By Rich Lopez

Dan FlynnNo one needs to remind you that these are tough economic times. Sometimes that means calling for serious measures like a career change. Real estate is an attractive industry because the rewards can be great for the bank account and you get to be your own boss. But before you dive head first into the waters, there is some information to know and consider. Hey, it’s a new career — what did you think?.

“Those not in the industry have some great idea that you walk into a real estate office and clients walk through the door and you make giant commissions,” Realtor Dan Flynn of Dave Perry-Miller Intown says. “The reality is nothing drops into your lap.”

Flynn has been in the real estate industry for 16 years, switching over from the telecom industry. When getting into real estate, he followed all the right steps, but had to face the realities of going into what he calls a very expensive career option. According to him, that is the one piece of information, people need to know.

“You pay for everything yourself,” he says. “You pay the broker to allow your license to hang in their office and you pay a portion of your commission to the broker as well. There are some very large expenses and you must have income to offset those in addition to earning income as you go.”

Don’t let that scare you. Flynn wants only to guide those interested in joining the industry and provide the information and insight he could have used when he began. That insight actually comes in handy even before getting your agent’s license.

“When thinking about getting a license, you want to consider the ultimate goal.  People can become a broker after becoming an agent. Also, consider transferable college credits when applying for real estate classes. You will want those credits behind you when the time comes to sit for that exam.”

Before any exam, there is study time and coursework is necessary to get to the test.
However, classes are available either online or in classroom form for those who can benefit from peer review. Accelerated plans are an option for those eager, like Flynn, to begin selling homes.

“The required courses came easy to me because everything seemed logical and natural,” he says. “I do understand getting through the coursework and tests through school can be very arduous for many.”

So you got your license — now what? Flynn emphasizes the money issue because there are fees and costs to be easily missed. Plus, if you are planning this as your day job, more financial planning is needed. National, state and local associations will have fees. MLS charges, for electronic key usage to get into homes will rack up, as will self-employment taxes, marketing materials (i.e. business cards). Brokers may require more education so they are up to speed and insurance is a must to cover any mistakes made. And even your clothing.

“You will be expected to dress and present yourself in a certain way,” he says. “Make certain you have one full year’s expenses tucked away in a bank account somewhere to pay the rent, car, whatever. It can be overwhelming. Just be prepared.”

Now you can head out into the field. If people aren’t going to drop in your lap, then you start hitting up the people around you. Flynn says this is the best way to start getting the word out about your new career and how you can help those who know you.

“You must go out and find all of the clients you work with,” he says. “You start with your personal sphere of influence and work outward.”

One thing Flynn brings up is somewhat of a surprise. Hanging your license isn’t like hanging up your diploma. A strong broker can shape a new career into a successful one and where you hang it is a crucial decision. Your new real estate license is indicative to potential clients of your reliability.

“Interview with many agencies,” he says. “Unlike looking for regular employment, you are not trying to get them to take you on so much as they are trying to convince you to come their way. My experience tells me there are extremely few options for new agents so when interviewing, look for those places that encourage you to come to the office to work and for free or low-cost education and have someone assigned to you for help.”

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First, know this

Before heading into the real estate world, the least you need to know are the requirements set by the Texas Real Estate Commission. Meet all these and you are on your way.

• You must be a U.S. citizen who resides in-state and be 18 years old.

• Texas law requires 210 hours of coursework to be  completed.

• Before applying for the state exam, proof of course completion is required.

• Apply for the state examination for your inactive salesperson license. This is done online at the TREC website.

• Pass the state examination.

• Filing an application authorizes a background check.

• Obtain sponsorship from your broker to activate your license. You are unable to practice prior to active licensure.

This information is from eHow.com under How to Become a Real Estate Agent in Texas and at the TREC.state.tx.us.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition of Defining Homes Magazine October 8, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens