How to start a real estate business

Build it from the ground up

When I was a young man in my early twenties, I always stayed up at night watching those late-night real estate shows. You know, the programs that showed people flipping houses all over the country and making a pretty good living. (This was after the days when you stayed up to watch Carleton Sheets talk about buying real estate and then selling or holding that property for income.) Like many other people, these TV shows got me excited about how to start a real estate business.

Today, I’m excited to share what I know about how to start a real estate business — from an agent’s perspective. After years of experience in real estate, I believe that going the agent route from day one will deepen your knowledge of the business because you’ll be dealing with both buyers and sellers.

First, download the free worksheet

Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of how to start a real estate business, check out the “Getting started in real estate” worksheet. Then read on for all the details

Why become an agent

One of the main questions I’ve gotten over the years is, “how do I get into the real estate game?” I start off by asking a few questions to see which route is best for whoever wants to learn how to start a real estate business:

  1. Do you have a credit score of 700 or above?
  2. Have you had any experience in real estate?
  3. Do you love searching for properties?
  4. Are you willing to work for months without getting paid?

If they answer “no” to at least three of these questions, I always suggest starting off as a real estate agent.

Starting as an agent allows you to get your feet wet without jumping into the business head-first.

How? As an agent, you’ll get help from your broker as you learn the business. You’re still in control of your success, but instead of being alone as you start out, you’re within a support group of other agents.

Getting your real estate license

 How to Start a Real Estate Business Keys

It takes a real go-getter to become a real estate agent. You will have to make tons of contacts, forming relationships with people from all walks of life. You must be organized like no other if you want long-term success. You’ll need to market your brand as a real estate agent. And first, you’ll need to complete pre-licensing courses and take the real estate licensing exam.

While precise licensing requirements vary from state to state, you’ll need to go through four basic steps:

  1. Complete the required pre-licensing courses. Depending on your state, you can expect a time investment of anywhere from about 60 to 180 hours to get schooled in the real estate fundamentals.
  2. Pass the real estate licensing exam. Check out this practice resource.
  3. Submit your license application to your state real estate board. Fees vary by state.
  4. Join a brokerage firm. You can’t start working as a real estate agent until you associate your license with a licensed real estate broker (aka “sponsoring broker”). Kaplan offers some excellent tips for choosing the right real estate brokerage.

Overall, starting on the path to becoming a real estate agent boils down to taking whatever actions are necessary to meet your state’s qualification requirements, investing a few hundred dollars, and doing your due diligence to find the right sponsoring broker.

Then comes the part where you start to think, “how much money can I make?” and “how in the world can I stand out in a crowd of thousands of real estate agents?”

Estimating your income

I’m always careful not to oversell what you can make from a real estate career. There are so many levels of income — primarily determined by your city size and housing market.

Let’s take an average city of 500,000 people in a stable market, with tons of great branding (I’ll talk about this in a minute). You can easily make at least $50,000 to $200,000 a year if you go out and hustle your butt off. (These are just estimates so don’t hunt me down if you’re not making these numbers — I’m just saying this is reachable if you’re able to close deals.)

Want to make a good living in real estate? Be willing to do what others don’t want to do.

Most real estate companies collect a 6-percent commission on the sale of any property. The company takes 3 percent and the agents take the other 3 percent. This is the average here in my state, and it may vary in others, but you get the idea.

If you want to make a good living as a real estate agent, you must be dedicated and willing to do what others don’t want to do. What I’m about to talk about next will make the difference between being successful or just spinning your wheels as a frustrated agent.

The key to success — branding, branding, branding

No matter how much knowledge you have in real estate — whether you’re a broker, agent or investor — if you can’t build your brand, then you don’t have a chance. You must know how to get leads to hunt you down versus you hunting them down.

To be successful as an agent, you need three main things:

Your own website

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve met agents who don’t have their own websites. My stomach just turns when they give me their business cards, and all I see is a company website address and email contact.

As a guy who has been doing online marketing for more than 15 years, I understand you need that dedicated website of your own (with a personalized website address, or domain). It’s the best way to look professional, connect with your local market, and provide value to prospective clients. A personal website is an absolute must for agents who want to:

  • Collect their own leads online, rather than paying Zillow and Trulia for them.
  • Advertise on Facebook, as some ads require a web URL.
  • Enlist search engines in directing homebuyers and sellers to their agencies.

The content on your website could be blog articles, video walkthroughs of your listings, a calendar of local events, information about schools and churches, moving tips — whatever you think would be useful to buyers and sellers in your area. If you’re able to put all these together, you’ll have a chance to dominate your market.

Editor’s note: You can build a real estate website that’s fully optimized for mobile, in under an hour, with GoDaddy’s GoCentral.

How To Start A Real Estate Business GoDaddy GoCentral
GoDaddy GoCentral makes it easy to build a real estate website.

An active presence on social media

The motto I like to use is “be everywhere online” if you want success. Start thinking like a marketer if you want to gain leads on autopilot. If there are thousands of agents in your market but few of them are living by this model, you have a chance to claim a piece of the market.

What does this mean? Establish an active presence on the social media channels where you potential clients spend their time — Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and others. This will help you gain a competitive edge. Share content that your target audience will find valuable, and include a link back to your website to learn more. If you’re able to do this effectively, then you’ll get your hands on more leads.

Offline branding

My final tip on how to start a real estate business is to dominate offline as well. Offline marketing is one of the most effective forms of marketing due to the fact that we hear and see radio, newspaper and TV ads all day long. Personally, I think we’re used to them, but they’re still effective if done right.

One of my favorite ways of doing this is through postcard marketing. The postcard should direct readers to your website for helpful content on buying and selling. Distribute postcards door-to-door to educate all the homeowners or buyers in your given market.

I send out USPS Direct Mail cards inviting people to come to my website for exclusive content. If done right, you should be able to get people to opt-in as followers of yours. Over time, they might become buyers and sellers.

How to start a real estate business? Brick by brick

If you’re serious about starting a real estate business, take my advice. Build a website, develop a larger online presence via social media, and pay attention to offline promotions. Doing these three things — even on a small scale in your local market — will build your brand massively while your competitors sit and wait for people to walk through their doors.