Since about 2009, the most popular articles on my decade-old real estate blog are the articles I have written each January about how to get a real estate license in Minnesota.
In fact, I have become a kind of go-to person, and at least one real estate school has benefited from being mentioned on my site. Readers have asked me to write more about what it takes to succeed as a real estate agent, and maybe when I figure it out, I will.
As the housing market began to improve, more people became interested in getting a real estate license. The number of real estate licensees continues to grow while at the same time the number of homes on the market remains low.
There are people who figure they will try out selling real estate, and those who figure if their current gig doesn’t work out they can get a real estate license. After all, they like houses and people, so why not?
The questions people ask me about getting a license give me some insight into how people feel about real estate agents and the job we do.
The article that gets the most traffic is about the least expensive ways to get a real estate license and how to take the classes online. Most of the people who call or write with questions seem reluctant to spend money taking classes and don’t want to sit in a classroom.
The total cost for the classes and the fees associated with testing and licensing are usually less than a grand, and the process can take less than a month.
Most of those who call don’t understand that they have to work under a licensed broker and that they will have to share those commissions with the real estate company.
For some reason, no one wants to share. I mention that there are other monthly fees even if there is no income and that we wake up unemployed each morning and must constantly look for work.
Breaking into the business
Some callers want a license so they can make a little extra income part-time. Others are close to retirement or have already retired and think that it would be fun.
Then there are some who want to enter the world of property-flipping and want me to share any deals I find with them so they can get started. They have often had some experience fixing up a house and selling it.
Occasionally, a young college grad who is looking for a career calls — but those calls are rare.
When I recently asked one woman how she would support herself while she established herself as an agent, she told me about her husband’s substantial income and how he was encouraging her to do something different.
He was willing to support the two of them indefinitely if the real estate thing didn’t work out. She said that she practically sold her own home and thought she would be good at selling houses.
A few first-time homebuyers have contacted me with plans to get a license so they can buy their first home without paying a commission.
To date, I don’t feel as though I have been able to reach these people when I try to explain that working with a real estate agent should save them money — and if it doesn’t, they should be working with me.
Some of the people who call tell me a lot about themselves and are looking for career counseling or guidance that I am not qualified to give them.
But sometimes I give it regardless because I enjoy doing it, and it’s more fun than some of the boring tasks I need to complete each day.
Most assume that once they get a real estate license they will be able to jump right in and write contracts and list houses. Usually, more training is needed before a new agent can navigate a real estate transaction.
The other thing they don’t understand is that it’s hard to find someone who needs a real estate agent when there are so many.
People tell me they want to try it out for awhile. I am not looking to add that kind of real estate agent to my company, so I often recommend that they contact the larger real estate companies in town.
I tell them that they will have to pay some fees, and they will have to pay for their training.
Love for my job
My job doesn’t seem easy, but it’s the best job ever. Sure, my clients drive me nuts and sales fall apart. Sometimes I have to work on weekends.
But it all seems like a lot more fun than sitting in a putty-colored cubicle and taking orders from the clueless person in the corner office who happens to be the boss’s son.
And it’s better than worrying about getting laid off during the holidays so that some soulless money-grubbing corporation can have a better bottom line to show shareholders and still have money to give the top executives fat bonuses.
Sure, I could have a job that I am just passionate about, but most of the people I have worked for in my life had ways of killing any spark of joy I felt in my career.
‘Cheap’ is a bad word
So far I have had no interest in recruiting any of the people to my company who are looking for what they call the cheapest way to get a real estate license. I know plenty of companies that will take anyone with a license. I don’t like the word “cheap” — or the attitude.
I am interested in people who need and want to work and who are interested in more of a permanent gig or a career. I am even more interested in agents who have experience and who are not afraid to try something new. I want those who can work in a virtual environment that isn’t like the traditional real estate office.
Clearly, we will never run out of real estate agents, and it is unlikely that there will ever be a shortage. There will always be people who want to go into real estate because they like people, and they like houses. After all these years, I have to admit I still like houses.
Teresa Boardman is a Realtor and broker/owner of Boardman Realty in St. Paul, Minnesota. She is also the founder of StPaulRealEstateBlog.com.