How to Become a Real Estate Broker or Sales Agent
Real estate brokers and sales agents often find new clients through referrals.
Real estate brokers and sales agents need at least a high school diploma. Both brokers and sales agents must be licensed. To become licensed, candidates must complete a number of real estate courses and pass a licensing exam.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
In all states and the District of Columbia, real estate brokers and sales agents must be licensed. Licensing requirements vary by state, but most have similar basic requirements:
- be 18 years old
- complete a number of real estate courses
- pass an exam
Some states have additional requirements, such as passing a background check. Licenses are typically not transferrable among states. However, some states have reciprocity agreements and will accept licenses issued by some other states.
To obtain a broker’s license, individuals typically need 1 to 3 years of experience as a licensed sales agent. They also must take additional formal classroom training. In some states, a bachelor’s degree may be substituted in place of some experience or training requirements.
State licenses typically must be renewed every 2 to 4 years. In most states, brokers and agents must complete continuing education courses to renew their license. To verify exact licensing requirements, prospective brokers and agents should contact the real estate licensing commission of the state in which they wish to work.
Real estate brokers and sales agents must have at least a high school diploma or equivalent. Although most brokers and agents must take state-accredited prelicensing courses to become licensed, some states may waive this requirement if the candidate has taken college courses in real estate.
As the real estate market becomes more competitive and complex, some employers prefer to hire candidates with college courses or a college degree. Some community colleges, colleges, and universities offer courses in real estate. Some offer associate’s and bachelor’s degree programs in real estate, and many others offer certificate programs. Courses in finance, business administration, economics, and law also can be useful.
Brokers intending to open their own company often take business courses, such as marketing and accounting.
In addition to offering prelicensing courses, many real estate associations have courses and professional development programs for both beginners and experienced agents. These courses cover a variety of topics, such as real estate fundamentals, real estate law, and mortgage financing.
Work Experience in a Related Occupation
To get a broker’s license in most states, real estate brokers must have experience working as a licensed real estate sales agent. Requirements vary by state, but most require 1 to 3 years of experience.
Real estate sales agents improve their skills though practice and repetition. Because of the sales environment and the complexity of real estate deals, new agents typically observe and work closely with more senior agents. For example, new agents in some real estate firms may work with mentors and split commission on their first few homes sold. In addition, some of the larger real estate companies provide formal classroom training for new agents as a way to gain knowledge and experience.
In larger firms, experienced agents can advance to sales manager or general manager. Sales agents who earn their broker’s license may open their own offices.
Business skills. Because most brokers are self-employed, they must manage every aspect of their business. This includes reaching out to prospective clients, handling their finances, and advertising their services.
Interpersonal skills. Strong interpersonal skills are essential for real estate brokers and sales agents, because they spend much of their time interacting with clients and customers. To attract and keep clients, they must be pleasant, enthusiastic, and trustworthy.
Organizational skills. Real estate brokers and sales agents must be able to work independently, managing their own time and organizing, planning, and prioritizing their work.
Problem-solving skills. Real estate brokers and sales agents need to be able to quickly (sometimes immediately) address concerns clients or potential customers may have with a property. They also mediate negotiations between the seller and buyer.