If you’re thinking of getting started in real estate, be sure to go into it with your eyes open. Use this guide to avoid the most common mistakes and take the most direct route to career success.
Quiz: Do you have what it takes to be a real estate agent?
Are you thinking about a career in real estate? Take this quiz to see if you have what it takes to be a real estate agent.
5 steps to getting started in real estate
Take a strategic approach to starting your real estate career by following these steps:
Lay the groundwork.
Write your business plan.
Choose a brokerage.
Get the right tools.
Shore up your support system.
Ready? Let’s go!
1. Lay the groundwork
As with any new venture, doing your homework before you dive in will put you in a stronger position for success. Real estate is sometimes referred to as a “game,” but this is a serious business that requires a bit of preliminary research and legwork.
Learn the difference between a real estate agent, broker and REALTOR®.
Decide which career path you want to pursue over the long term, as this will affect requirements and fees. Gain insight here.
Find out what’s required to sell real estate in your state
Requirements vary from state to state, so be sure to check your state’s licensing requirements. Then:
- Fulfill pre-licensing requirements. Coursework can take 60 to 180 hours to complete, depending on the state.
- Pass the real estate exam.
- Submit your license application to your state real estate board (fees vary by state).
- Pay for membership in your local Multiple Listing Service (MLS).
Identify learning opportunities
When you’re getting started in real estate, the pros recommend classes or workshops on lead generation, lead conversion, contracts, negotiation, and listing and buyer skills. Check out Kaplan Real Estate Education for an overview of topic areas.
Start building your network
Real estate veterans say personal contacts are the most valuable asset a new agent has. This isn’t a career for introverts (but shy people can still network). Use these tips to build your network as you’re getting started in real estate:
- Let your personal networks know about your impending career change.
- Join and/or follow professional organizations like the National Association of Real Estate Brokers, National Association of Realtors® and your state’s real estate association.
- Get involved with local / civic groups like Rotary and BNI.
- Participate in online groups for real estate professionals, like the Agents Online forum and Raise the Bar in Real Estate Facebook group.
2. Write your business plan
Set short- and long-term business goals
Make sure these goals fit with SMART model — specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.
Set financial goals and targets
Be sure to include these financial projections in your business plan.
Estimate expected expenses and income
Depending on your market and cost of living, you need at least 35 to 50 percent of your annual budget already reserved in savings before your first year in real estate. Many agents report working for one to two years before making a profit.
- How much money do you have saved?
- If less than 35 to 50 percent of your current annual income, how will you come up with the difference? Options include loans from family, friends or your local bank, a part- or full-time job (while building your real estate career), and a working partner who can make up for the missing income.
Define your ideal clients
3. Choose a brokerage
New real estate agents are required to work under a broker for a period of time. Ideally, this will provide you with a mentor who can show you the ropes in your local market. A few things to ask about while shopping around for a brokerage:
- Commission split (expect to pay more for better mentoring)
- Training provided?
- Office space provided?
- Support staff provided?
- Advertising provided?
- Team structure
Need help choosing the right real estate brokerage? Find tips here.
4. Get the right tools
There are a few key tools that all the best real estate agents swear by. You’ll need all of them when getting started in real estate — and to keep your business growing.
A website with a blog
Learn more about domain names that are perfect for real estate pros.
Next, build a website.
While real estate is still a face-to-face transaction, clients will want to search for houses on their own before reaching out to you. Make it easy for them by including an easy-to-use search tool on your website. Read these articles to learn more:
- Overview of real estate website builders
- Tour of the best real estate website designs
- WordPress real estate plugins
- WordPress real estate websites that work
Finally, add a blog to your website. Long before they actually call a real estate agent, buyers and sellers look online for helpful articles. Blogging on topics related to buying and selling puts you squarely in their path.
Active social media accounts
Social media is an invaluable tool for building your networks and getting the word out early and often about your listings. Set up profiles on networks including:
Pros say Facebook can be especially useful when getting started in real estate.
A large personal network
Yes, we’re back to the network. That’s how important it is.
- Create a list of close friends and colleagues who trust your work ethic. Aim for 200 contacts, including their physical addresses and emails.
- Come up with a plan for communicating your real estate news and opportunities, including email marketing using a professional email address that links to your website or blog.
Newsletters can be an effective way to communicate with clients and prospects. Find an easy-to-use email marketing tool that works well on mobile (may I suggest GoDaddy Email Marketing), and start creating share-worthy real estate newsletters.
Get a dedicated phone line
Now that your network is larger, you’ll be getting phone calls from clients. If you don’t want to mix your personal line with your business line, you’ll have to get a second, dedicated phone line for your business. A simple way to do this without a major investment is SmartLine from GoDaddy.
With SmartLine, you can make and receive calls and texts with a dedicated business phone number, all from your existing smartphone — just download the app to get started. You’ll also get a customizable voicemail box, so all of your messages will go to the right place. You don’t have to invest in a new phone or any other equipment. And, it only takes five minutes to set up, so you’ll be ready to take on new business.
Veteran real estate agents say this is one of the most important skills you can develop. Drive through the neighborhoods in your town, looking at available homes and the neighborhoods they’re in. The more you know, the greater your value to buyers and sellers.
5. Shore up your support system
When you’re just getting started in real estate, you might need to put in some long hours to get your enterprise off the ground. If you’re a parent of young children, that means a strong support system will be critical. Make sure you have reliable help at home so you can give your all in the evenings and weekends when you’re called to show houses or write offers.
Real estate agents who are willing to put in the work can make a comfortable living. What’s more, they really enjoy what they do. According to REALTOR® magazine, real estate ranked No. 2 in a 2016 study that examined employee satisfaction across 13 industries. Isn’t it time you loved your job?