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Consider a Career in Real Estate

Real estate agents achieve personal satisfaction and financial rewards based on a combination of luck, the real estate market and productivity. The work hours for an agent are flexible, and the initial investment in time and money is minimal. However, real estate positions are commission-based only, so if you don’t make sales, you don’t receive a paycheck.

Real estate brokers and sales agents assist clients in buying, selling and renting properties. Although brokers and agents do similar work, brokers must have a license to manage their real estate business, and sales agents must work with a real estate broker.

Every state requires real estate brokers and agents to have a license. Requirements vary by state, but all states require candidates be at least 18 or 19 years old, have a high school diploma, complete a number of hours of real estate courses and pass a licensing exam. Visit the Department of Labor Military Spouse License Recognition Map for up-to-date legislation and licensure information for your specific state.

Most real estate brokers and sales agents are self-employed. Although they often work long and irregular hours, many are able to set their own schedules.

Becoming an agent

It is relatively easy to enter the field of real estate, but getting listings often depends on the local real estate market and overall economic conditions. As a new agent, you'll face competition from established agents and brokers. However, if you have strong sales ability, are self-motivated, make good community connections and are willing to work hard, your chances for success are good. Your earning potential is unlimited, but there are no income guarantees either.

Your initial investment to become an agent is typically under $2,000. Real estate classes take around 60 hours of class time to complete and should cost less than $500. Exams cost around $150, and licensing fees are approximately $1,000. To keep an active license, you can expect to pay $2,000 in dues, fees and expenses annually.

When you enter the real estate field, you will probably start as a sales trainee in a brokerage firm. Other job possibilities may include office assistant, listing or rental agent, department assistant in a large real estate agency or assistant in a mortgage division of a bank or savings and loan organization.

When you are ready to start your job search, visit the Military Spouse Employment Partnership Job Search to search for positions with organizations committed to hiring military spouses.

Many opportunities for continuing education to increase your knowledge, skills and earning potential are available. You may want to consider specializing in one or more of the following areas:

  • Residential – assisting people in buying and selling homes
  • Commercial – specializing in income-producing properties, such as apartment and office buildings, stores, warehouses and office parks
  • Industrial and office brokerage – developing, selling or leasing property used for industry or manufacturing
  • Farm and land – focusing on land for farming and acquisition of rural land by cities for residential, commercial and industrial expansion
  • Real estate appraising – determining the values of all types of properties
  • Property management – maintaining properties to protect the owner's investment
  • Land development – turning land into profitable and marketable residential, commercial or industrial developments

Professional organizations and networking

Consider joining a professional organization in your chosen field to gain a better understanding of current industry practices and policies surrounding the real estate industry. Professional organizations are great ways to continue your education through workshops and conferences, which will add to your transferable skill set as you move. Networking with other professionals in your industry will give you an edge in meeting the right people who may have the connections you need to obtain an interview at your new location. Read The Value of Professional Associations for more information on how becoming a member can help enhance your career.

Mentors are a key to success in real estate. More experienced agents and brokers can be great mentors to assist you in learning the ins and outs of becoming a successful real estate agent. You may also find mentors to guide your success in your new career.

If you're seeking job flexibility, enjoy meeting and assisting people and don't require a set salary to pay your bills, real estate might be a viable career choice for you. Financially, you should be prepared for at least three months, some experts say a year, without money coming in, because you aren't paid until the deal is closed. Hard work and knowledge of an area can pay off, particularly if you find ways to network on your installation to assist military families with their relocation needs. Providing superior service, building connections and gaining referrals can aid you in building a flexible, lucrative business.

Register your real estate business, promote your services and find potential clients through MSEP partner The Rosie Network, which highlights military family-owned businesses to the American public on their no-cost website. You also receive valuable business support, resources, online entrepreneurial training, mentoring and more.

Before jumping into a real estate career, you may want to consider the following:

  • Income requirements
  • Time to build familiarity with a new area, make connections and obtain referrals
  • Licensure requirements and costs
  • Training requirements and costs
  • Business start-up costs
  • Length of your current assignment

Next steps

If you are considering a career in real estate, review the Research Occupations tool on MySECO and visit Real Estate Agents and Real Estate Brokers on O*Net Online. Make sure to take self-assessments to ensure your skills and interests align with a career in real estate.

If you decide to move ahead with a real estate career, investigate your options for classes and training. Some real estate companies provide classes to potential agents; others require you to attend classes and obtain your license before joining their team. Investigate whether you are eligible for My Career Advancement Account Scholarship assistance and use the Scholarship Finder to see if money is available to help fund your classes and certification.

If you move due to a PCS, your service branch can now help reimburse licensure and certification costs up to $1,000. Each service has its own procedures for reimbursement, so be sure you know what your branch requires. Learn more.

Visit the Small Business Administration website to find information on owning your own business since most real estate agents are considered independent contractors. Make sure you understand the tax implications and other aspects of owning a business before you get started.

Call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 and speak with a SECO career coach for assistance with choosing a school, finding scholarship funding, searching for a job or overcoming challenges. You can also use the Live Chat feature on the MySECO website for additional guidance.

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