When folks think about Realtors, they often think about real estate agents and the buying and selling process. However, that’s only the beginning of the professional path for those who are interested in real estate. If you want to take on a leadership role in a brokerage or create your own independent brokerage brand, becoming a real estate broker is an important goal to set.

What does a broker do?

In the context of real estate, a broker may serve in a variety of roles. In some cases, they may work directly with buyers and sellers; supervise the work of agents under their management; and perhaps even run their own independent brokerage. Unlike an agent, who must work under the supervision of someone else, a broker is authorized to manage every aspect of a real estate transaction independently.

Some brokers own their own brokerage, while others serve as managing brokers, overseeing day-to-day operations, recruiting agents and ensuring that the transactions completed on their behalf are in compliance with their state’s rules and regulations. Other brokers may prefer to operate much the same way as an agent, continuing to provide client services and manage their own transactions.

Becoming a broker

The path to becoming a broker goes through a role as a real estate agent. Whether you’re currently an agent or are just starting out with your first licensure class, it pays to set your sights on where you want to end up.

Taking real estate courses

When you first start out on the path to becoming a real estate broker, you’ll begin by studying to become a real estate agent. The time it will take for you to take your initial licensure courses depends on the course schedule for the training school you use, how much time you put into studying for the exam, and how long it takes for you to pass the exam and complete the requirements for obtaining your license.

Some people choose to attend an in-person class and work with an instructor, while others may choose to take an online course and study independently. How do you know which one is right for you?

Independent study may work well for you if:

  • You are a good student, with solid reading comprehension skills and the ability to master complex and unfamiliar topics on your own.
  • You are currently working in a different job and need the flexibility of fitting your studies into your schedule.
  • You would prefer to spend more time at home instead of attending in-person classes.

An in-person course may work well for you if:

  • You enjoy the interaction between students and between students and teachers.
  • You learn better with the help of an instructor and struggle to master new concepts without explanations.
  • You struggle to set boundaries and schedule time to focus on your studies when you’re at home and would benefit from dedicated learning time away.

Getting your license

Besides the coursework required for your real estate license, you’ll generally have to complete a background check and pass your state’s licensure exam. Make sure that you research the overall process for obtaining your license so that you can set aside sufficient time and money to complete all of the steps.

Finding a job as an agent

You may hear people talking about “hanging their license.” That is because, as an agent, you are required to work under the supervision of a licensed real estate broker. You’ll need to talk to brokers in your area and determine which brokerage will work best for you.

As a new agent, you’ll have a lot to learn, so look for a broker who provides mentoring and training as part of their value-added services. You may find that there is a trade-off between your compensation and the help a brokerage will provide in getting your real estate business off the ground. Remember, this is your time to lay the foundation for the rest of your career, so it’s worth it to pay a little more in fees or commissions in exchange for truly useful tech and education. 

Getting certifications

Once you’ve become an agent, you’ll want to spend as much time as possible improving your skills and learning everything you can about the industry. Certifications and designations through NAR (National Association of Realtors) provide the training you need so that you can develop expertise in a variety of niches, property types and professional strategies. 

Taking broker courses

Once you’ve been a real estate agent for a few years (your state will determine how long) it’s time to begin taking your courses for the real estate license exam. This will be a similar process to the one you undertook to become a real estate agent. Just like then, you’ll need to decide whether you’d benefit from in-person or online independent studies.

Passing the broker exam

It’s important for you to put in the time and effort it takes to pass the broker exam. Even though you will have learned a lot in your time as an agent, remember that the broker exam will require even more of you. As a broker, your job is to be the expert that your expert agents come to when they have questions or concerns, so it’s vital for you to really know as much as possible.

Frequently asked questions about becoming a real estate broker

If you’re thinking about becoming a real estate broker, you’ve probably got plenty of questions and maybe even a couple of concerns. Here are some of the most frequently asked so that you can begin to plan your professional journey.

What education is required to become a real estate broker?

A real estate broker must start out as a real estate agent, then spend a number of years (which varies by state) as an agent before taking the broker coursework and exam. In addition, if the broker wishes to develop expertise in a specific niche or type of property, there may be additional training and education necessary, on top of the state’s continuing education requirements.

What skills do I need to become a broker?

Not every great agent has the skillset to become a great broker. However, these skills can be developed. Here are some of the things that great brokers seem to have in common:

  • A great broker is a leader, providing guidance for both agents and staff members under their supervision.
  • A great broker is detail-oriented, seeing errors and compliance problems that others have missed.
  • A great broker is motivating and inspires agents to grow their businesses so that the brokerage can grow as well.
  • A great broker is honest, understanding their fiduciary duty to clients and their professional duty to their agents and employees.

How long does it take to become a real estate broker?

Generally, depending on the state where you’re licensed, you’ll need to spend one to three years as a real estate agent before you can begin the process of becoming a real estate broker. The coursework itself generally takes anywhere from one to four months, depending on the time you’re able to devote to it and the number of hours required by your state. 

What is the average salary of a broker?

The most recent median salary for real estate brokers provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics was $62,010 in May 2021. The average salary can vary widely depending on a huge number of factors, including:

  • The broker’s role
  • The broker’s personal production
  • The broker’s market
  • The size of the brokerage
  • The brokerage’s production levels

Are there different types of brokers?

There are many different types of real estate brokers, including the following:

  • Broker-owners own either an independent real estate brokerage or a franchise office for a large brokerage company.
  • Managing brokers manage the day-to-day operations of a real estate brokerage, providing supervision, training and support for the agents on their roster.
  • Some brokers simply want the additional training and expertise that comes with a broker’s license, but operate in an agent role within their brokerage.

In addition, some managing brokers and broker-owners maintain their own book of business, continuing to serve clients while also providing oversight for the agents within their brokerage. Others may adopt a teamerage model, serving in much the same way that a team leader would and providing leads to the agents under their supervision.

What is the difference between a real estate broker and an agent?

Long story short, a real estate agent generally represents a real estate broker, and, as the name would suggest, acts as an agent or representative of the broker and the brokerage. 

The broker provides oversight and help with compliance, ensuring that the real estate agent always has someone to provide oversight and assistance as they complete the elements of a real estate transaction — creating contracts and agreements, marketing their business and steering the sale or purchase through to the closing table. 

If you want to maximize your impact as a real estate professional and gain exceptional expertise, a role as a real estate broker may be right for you. By becoming a leader in the industry, you can help to shape its direction and perception for years to come.

Christy Murdock is a freelance writer, coach and consultant and the owner of Writing Real Estate. Connect with Writing Real Estate on Instagram  and subscribe to the weekly roundup, The Ketchup.

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