April 24, 2010

New Housing Sales Jump 26%. Is Now the Time to Become a Real Estate Agent?

With the federal housing tax credit set to expire at the end of this month, the sale of new homes broke out of their winter slump and hit a two-year high in March.

Sales jumped more than 26% over February’s numbers as home buyers rushed to take advantage of an $8,000 credit for first-time home buyers and a $6,500 credit for anyone else buying a home for the first time in three years or more.

You might be thinking about trying to take advantage of all this activity in the housing market by becoming a real estate agent. Perhaps you are wondering: Is now the right time to make your fortune? Unfortunately, the short answer is: Probably not, unless you are already an established agent. Many people mistakenly think that real estate is a field that requires little training or skills. This couldn’t be further from the truth! Not only is extensive training required to take your real estate licensing exam, you also have to take continuing education courses to keep your license active.

While real estate can be an incredible career path for the right people, myths such as this one abound. Before you take the leap into the real estate business, let’s take a look at three other commonly held myths about selling and buying houses.

1. Real estate agents make a ton of money.

Some do. But many others don’t. In fact, in January 2008, the average annual salary for a real estate agent was just under $35,000 — hardly a six-figure income! The good news is that in real estate, the most important factor in your income is YOU. If you work hard, are good at what you do, and happen to live in an area with relatively high property values, you can easily earn $100,000 per year or more. So while the notion of all real estate agents earning a ton of money is definitely a myth, the potential for a high income definitely does exist in real estate.

2. To do well in real estate, you have to be willing to bend the rules.

Just like used car salesmen, real estate agents often get a bad reputation for being willing to do almost anything to make a sale, including lying about a property. Sure, there are always a few bad apples, but don’t forget: Real estates agents are strictly regulated by state law. Plus, agents get most of their work based on word of mouth advertising, and a disgruntled client can do far more damage than the benefit of any quick sale.

3. Real estate agents set their own schedules.

To an extent this is true, especially if the agent works for himself or herself. Certainly there is no one making you punch a time card or stick it out in your cubicle until 5 p.m. sharp. However, that freedom also demands a great deal of flexibility. Houses need to be shown at all hours of the day — and all days of the week. There is no such thing as “Happy Hour” when you are trying to make a sale or close or deal. Evenings and weekends are part and parcel of the job, and when a deal is in the final stages, work can and often will need to be down around the clock.

Want to learn more about working in real estate? Check out the JobMonkey section on jobs in the real estate industry, where we cover everything from licensing requirements to prospecting for clients and more. And for more on how economic news affects real estate jobs, check out this post on the Foreclosure Crisis & Real Estate Careers.

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