If you have a passion for architecture and design, you might consider getting a job in real estate. If successful, you’ll get to tour houses, help people find the perfect home for their family, stage and decorate homes to make them more appealing, and even get first dibs on new properties when they first enter the market.

That said, not everyone is suited for a career as a real estate agent. Do you have what it takes to make the cut? And is this really the right career move for you?

How to become a real estate agent

There are several ways to become a real estate agent, though they vary slightly by state. Generally, you’ll need to be of age — usually 18 or 19 years old — and be a legal resident in the United States.

Then, you’ll need to meet a series of state-level requirements for education, often taking courses related to real estate law and logistics. When done, you’ll need to pass a real estate license examination.

This process is somewhat straightforward, but the classes and the exam can be challenging. These days, it’s possible to take most of your classes online, making real estate licensure a more realistic option for people currently working another full-time job, taking care of children, and those who are otherwise occupied.

If that seems simple, that’s because it is. Although the courses themselves are challenging, the high-level process is straightforward.

Characteristics of successful real estate agents

Not everyone is well-suited to be a real estate agent. Even if you’re passionate about architecture and you know a lot about houses, being a real estate agent is a demanding position.

The best real estate agents tend to have the following qualities:

  • Hard-working: This could be said of almost any career, but it’s especially important for real estate agents. You’ll be responsible for selling properties that just won’t move and helping extremely picky buyers find the “perfect” home for their family. Accordingly, you need to be willing to put in the hours and extra effort to find good fits.
  • Good with people: You also have to have exceptional people skills. People want to work with real estate agents who are kind to them, and empathetic with regard to their needs. They want to have friendly conversations and feel like you’re on their side. Even if you know everything there is to know about real estate, it’s on you to present that knowledge in a way that people enjoy.
  • Talented at landing sales: At the end of the day, real estate is mostly a sales career. If you have trouble negotiating or if you never seem able to close the deal, real estate might be especially challenging for you. You’ll need to be persuasive and capable of meeting various sales challenges along the way.
  • Flexible: Real estate is rarely predictable, and you’ll usually have to work around other people’s schedules. For example, you might have to frequently work nights and weekends, because that’s when most of your clients will be available after their day jobs. This can make it hard to serve your own needs and priorities.
  • Tolerant of instability: Real estate careers can be feast-or-famine, especially if you’re operating independently. You might have a hot period, where you sell multiple homes back-to-back, and a cold period, where you don’t seem able to sell anything. The best real estate agents can take this in stride and keep building a career around it.

You’ll notice that many of these qualities aren’t immutable. In other words, if they don’t apply to you currently, you can work to incorporate them into your life and work. Because of this, it’s possible for anyone to succeed as a real estate agent if they’re willing to put in the work.

Major career decisions

The career path for real estate agents isn’t fixed, and it doesn’t only take one direction. Depending on your goals and needs, you might work as part of a real estate agency, or you might try to operate independently.

You might specialize in a given neighborhood, or in selling a specific type of home, or you might decide to work more as a generalist. There are many decisions to be made, and you’ll need to understand them before you commit to this career path.

So are you cut out to be a real estate agent? Almost anybody can become a real estate agent with patience, hard work and training, but not everyone will want to put in those extra hours or make those extra sacrifices.

Think carefully about where your passions truly lie, and what type of career route you might take if you decide to sell homes in the future.

Anna Johansson is a freelance writer, researcher and business consultant specializing in entrepreneurship, technology and social media trends. Follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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