With the advent of HGTV and the torrent of advertisements that promote get-rich-schemes of house flipping, the term “getting into real estate” has become a glamorous term. The networks mercilessly parade images of high-powered real estate agents negotiating million dollar deals and ordinary couples buying mere shacks and making a fortune following a seemingly short and uneventful renovation. Hasn’t everyone thought about some aspect of “getting into real estate” at some time or another?

I’ve looked back at old pages of goals that I’d written throughout the years. Aside from the proverbial “Save more money” and “Lose more weight” items, every now and then I would find a line that would say something like “Get real estate license” or “Sign up for a real estate course” or “Get more information on getting into real estate.” It wasn’t until years and years later after being under constant stress and harassment in the corporate world of politics that a real possibility of “getting into real estate” was in clearer view on the horizon. Then, one day, it DID happen. A slight of hand and I was out of a job. Well, not really. The job was out of me. Because, fortunately, much of my success did not depend on a job. I was smart. I was educated. I was resourceful, ambitious, and entrepreneurial minded. This situation had become an opportunity for a new level of success.

I wanted to be my own boss, set my own hours, and not have to ask for time off or squeeze my leisure into three weeks a year. I knew that I wanted to be more in control of my income, which would allow me to be able to accelerate my saving and pay off my house. I also knew that starting a business, any business, would not be easy and that failure in business is ALWAYS an option. However, being a determined and optimistic risk-taker, I willed my introspect, my resources, and the support of my family to embark on this journey.

So, if you also have jumped from the precipice of ‘thinking about getting into real estate’ into actually choosing real estate as a bona fide career, here are seven things you should know going in:

  1. You will have to take a course and pass both a class course and a state test to get your license. It will take a combined hundreds of hours of education, study, testing, and training to become a competent real estate agent. If you already have a job, even part-time, it will be tough to find the time to do this. In addition, the real estate examination is not impossible to pass, but it is challenging and statistics show that nearly as many people who pass it, fail it.
  2. The real learning starts after you’re licensed. It will take you at least two years to really know the business, and perhaps even longer if you’re not business oriented, don’t attend training meetings, workshops, or classes or don’t set and meet education and training goals. The real estate profession requires you to know the law and to stay abreast of them. Earned professional designations show your commitment to core competencies and ethics.
  3. If you don’t hunt and kill, you don’t eat. You will need to know how to find prospects, persuade them to do business with you, and then to service them well. There are some exceptions, but for the most part, real estate is a commission-based profession. You can find 100 leads (the hunt), but if they don’t do business with you (the kill), it means nothing. And if they don’t give you referrals and/or repeat business, eventually you will starve to death. This means that you will have to learn a continual healthy and effective cycle of finding and converting new leads to business.
  4. As with starting any business, you will need some resources stashed away or a partner who is willing to work to help support you while you learn the business and create a base of clientele. Without this, it will be IMPOSSIBLE for you to survive for very long. That is why most real estate agents do not survive the first five years in the business. You must be relentless — particularly early on — in building your database and sphere of contacts to get referrals and repeat business.
  5. You need a team and network to grow. Some agents are opposed to this. However, if I gain a new client who speaks Spanish, and I don’t, how will I be able to serve the client well? My colleague, however, who is bilingual, will be an asset to both me and to my new client. If a potential client wants to buy a house, but doesn’t know where to find a reputable lender, having a bevy of professionals at hand, that I’ve gained through networking, will benefit us both.
  6. With freedom comes responsibility. You will need to learn how to manage your time and money. No one is going to tell you when to work or when to stop working. If you don’t work, you don’t eat, and if you don’t know when to stop working, you will burn out. No one is going to withhold taxes for you, or pay your health insurance, or put money into a retirement account for you. You will be responsible for this and you will need to do it consistently. Beside your family, you will definitely need three people on your side in business: an attorney, a tax expert, and a financial advisor.
  7. You will work harder for yourself than you did for ‘the man’. Many people think that being an agent is just about showing houses and writing offers. However, there is much more to being a real estate agent; that is why we are paid a percentage of a home’s selling price. Real estate agents have to do many things to close deals and generate business. The National Association of Realtors outlined 230 tasks that a real estate agent may provide in a typical, successful residential real estate transaction. Of course, this doesn’t include all the things that an agent has to do first in order for the transaction to take place.

Despite these seven caveats, let me say that, for me, they pale in comparison to having to fight traffic each and every morning, strap into a cubicle farm for 60 hours a week, and listen to people who wish for Friday every day. Being in control is hard work, and can be uncertain and stressful, but in the bigger scheme of things, it’s pretty damn worth it.

Valencia Martin is a real estate professional in Orlando, Florida and has been offering training in business and personal finance for more than two decades. You can contact her via email at destinyoforlando@aol.com or connect with her via social media.

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