July 21, 2010

Is Now a Good Time to Become a Real Estate Agent?

I love hearing from our readers, and today I got a quick email from a regular reading asking:

Is now a good time to become a real estate agent? I’ve wanted to for a while, and I hear that the housing market is coming back. What do you think?

Thanks for your question!

It’s true that the worst of the housing nosedive seems to be over, thanks in large measure to the record low mortgage rates and Congress’ new home owners tax breaks (which are now expired).

But even with these plusses, houses are still taking a long time to sell. According to Altos Research, the average home takes 150 days to sell, up 43% from 2008. In some areas of the country, this average is as high as 290 days. The longer a house takes to sell, the longer until you get a commission.

Additionally, the economic climate has caused most buyers to be wary of taking the leap into new home ownership. As a result, sales traffic on houses is super slow, which can be exceedingly frustrating to the best of real estate agent. Let alone the newbie ones.

Even still, the field of real estate is seeing a lot of new interest from prospective agents. According to this article from the Wall Street Journal, real estate licensing applications are up in Texas, Michigan (one of the worst housing markets in the U.S.) and New York by around 10% over last year. This alone would indicate that many, like our reader, are thinking that now is the time to make the move into real estate.

Beyond the statistics, however, one must ask himself is he or she is well-suited to the field of real estate. Cathy Sharp, a seasoned real estate agent in a metropolitan Midwestern city was interviewed recently by the JobMonkey (to see the full interview, check out the JobMonkey newsletter on launching a real estate career).  Ms. Sharp says that you really have to be willing to put in the time to get trained and certified, and to keep up that certification:

Most states demand that you take somewhere between 60 and 90 hours of continuing education coursework before you are eligible to take your licensing exam. Then, even after you have passed the exam, you have to keep up with continuing ed classes in order to maintain an active license. In my state, that means 22 hours of courses every two years and then I renew my license biannually.

The schedule of a real estate agent is also intensely demanding. You are never off work. Ultimately, though, Ms. Sharp says the most important thing about being a real estate agent is that you are a people person.

Beyond your training and licensure, the most important thing really is that you enjoy working with people. It’s also helpful if you are entrepreneurial, technologically savvy and very organized. And you must be a self-motivated person, because no one is paying you salary if you don’t sell houses!

So, ask yourself: Does this describe me? Am I willing to do what it takes? If the answer is yes, then I say go for it! Now is as good of a time as any. In fact, there is never a bad time to follow your dreams!

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