Real Estate Agents

Real estate agents and brokers are licensed professionals who act as intermediaries between buyers and sellers of property. They are responsible for handling the procedural, legal, and even interpersonal aspects of the sale, whether they're representing a buyer or a seller. Real estate agents will research the area, calculate a fair price, and negotiate offers for the property when acting as a seller's listing agent. When representing a buyer, agents will research and show properties, as well as present offers to the listing agent. Real estate professionals should be familiar with current business practices and property laws in addition to maintaining a comprehensive knowledge of neighborhoods in their area. It is also important that real estate agents be personable and demonstrate a keen sense of what will fit with a client's needs and budget, whether dealing with residential or commercial properties.

To obtain a broker’s or sales agent associated license, more than half the states specify special education and/or experience or their equivalents.

Stephanie SingerManaging Director of Media Communications for the National Association of Realtors

Getting a Real Estate License

Because of the important financial and legal aspects of real estate transactions, all states require agents and brokers to be licensed. In order to prepare for licensing, prospective agents and brokers must meet certain education requirements as mandated by their state. Many schools offer programs in real estate, and though these are mostly certificate programs, there are some bachelor's degrees available as well. Additionally, courses in business, economics, finance, law, and marketing are also helpful when pursuing a career in real estate. Because of the complex legal dealings and paperwork real estate brokers handle, most will either have bachelor's-level training or several years of experience in the industry before becoming licensed in this capacity.

Licensing requirements differ from state to state, but typically, an applicant must be at least 18 years old with a high school diploma and 30 to 90 hours of specialized classroom instruction in real estate. "Some states allow students to take pre-licensing educational courses accredited by the state licensing agency before they qualify to sit for the exam," explained Stephanie Singer, managing director of media communications at the National Association of Realtors. "In other states, students can take these educational courses within a specified time after being licensed." However, all prospective agents must pass a written exam covering the basics of real estate transactions, financing, and property laws. Some states, such as Texas, may also require background checks and fingerprinting for new and renewing agents.

Even after receiving their license, a real estate agent must work under a broker. Real estate brokers are licensed not only to represent buyers and sellers in real estate transactions, but also to run their own firm with other agents working under them. Brokers in turn will pay their agents a portion of the commission on properties the agents sell. When first starting at a real estate firm, new agents will often work under a more experienced salesperson or the broker themselves.

Those who are attempting to gain their broker's license typically have higher eligibility requirements, including 60 to 90 hours of specialized classroom instruction, one to three years of experience or a bachelor's degree in real estate, and the successful completion of a more extensive written exam.

"To obtain a broker’s or sales agent associated license, more than half the states specify special education and/or experience or their equivalents," noted Singer. "However, states are upgrading their license laws and prerequisites for both brokers and sales associates constantly. The most current information would be available from the real estate license commission in each state."

Maintaining a Real Estate License

The real estate market is constantly evolving. Changes in financial markets, local, state, and national laws, as well as buyer preferences, make it important for agents and brokers to stay up to date with industry trends. For this reason, real estate agents and brokers must renew their license every one to two years, according to the laws in their state. They are not usually required to retake the licensing exam; however, evidence of continuing education is typically an important part of renewal. This ensures that agents are able to meet their clients' needs and all transactions are handled through the appropriate legal channels. "In Virginia, the state requires eight hours of mandatory education for agents two or more years in the field," explained Maggie Mueller-Tyler, the chief operations officer of the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors. "The required topics are fair housing, legal updates, contracts, ethics, and agencies, but there are many more topics that we offer as a full service school."

Many online courses are offered through the National Association of Realtors and local affiliated associations, as well as private online colleges. These courses can help agents at all levels of experience enhance their careers and cover topics such as property management, negotiation, green building, generational marketing, and social media. "Through NAR, realtors have access to advanced educational opportunities and training in real estate specialties and can raise their professionalism and skills with specialized knowledge and expertise including designations and certifications," said Singer.

Real estate agents and brokers often have demanding and irregular schedules. With the possibility of being called away to show a property or negotiate an offer at any time, it is important to stay flexible. Online courses offer this adaptability and provide an excellent way to enhance professional skills vital to providing the best possible service to clients. Because each state has their own regulations, we recommend you check with your state licensing commission for specific education, licensing, and renewal requirements.

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