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Becoming a Broker: Guidelines and a Day in the Life

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Curbed University delivers insider tips and non-boring advice on how to buy, sell, or rent a home or apartment. Additional questions welcomed to tips@curbed.com. Up now, how to become a broker?and what you're in for.

If you’re thinking of becoming a real estate agent, it’s definitely worth it to look into every aspect of the job before you make the decision:

Some of the pros include the freedom to not work 9 to 5, and of course, unlimited earning potential. Real estate agents enjoy talking (and sometimes arguing) with people, and the most common job description for brokerages looking for agents is the classic: “people person.” Do you enjoy interior design, architecture, history? How about reading market reports, charts, and graphs? To succeed as a real estate agent, you have to have a huge market knowledge base and be extremely dedicated. The best real estate agents work crazy long days and are constantly on their feet or on the phone, looking for new business or following up with clients.

There are also many possible cons to the job. Since it is an entirely commission-based pay structure, going months without any income is a possibility. For every wonderful buyer or seller, there is another who will try to ruin your life. New agents don’t make a lot (if any) money to begin with, and starting from the bottom can be very frustrating. You’re on call basically 24 hours a day. You’ll work nights and weekends.

So rack your brain, do some soul searching, and if the outcome seems positive, take the following steps:

1) Make sure you’re 18 years old.

2) Find a class (either online or in a classroom setting) where you’ll have to take 75 hours of class time. These classes usually cost around $300. You’ll cover topics like License Law, Fair Housing, and Liens and Easements. If you completed a course before July 1, 2008, you’ll only have to finish 30 hours. You’ll have to take an in-class exam to pass this section of your hours.

3) Register at the NYS Department of Licensing to complete the state test as well. The test costs $15, and your actual license costs $50. For more detailed info, check out the DOS site. You have to pass the test with a 75 percent score?and according to many agents, the test itself isn’t too difficult. It’s the next six months that are the troubling times.

A Day in the Life of a Sales Agent
An agent wakes up every day with a big smile on their face and a jig in their step, ready to face the world and hang out with their appreciative clients. Just kidding. While some people might think that agents make a lot of money for seemingly little work, the job is very demanding and often comes with little acknowledgement for services rendered. Sometimes an agent does hit the jackpot, perhaps grabbing an exclusive listing from a rich friend and then having an all-cash buyer walk into the first open house without a buyer’s broker representing them. But that rarely happens. A complete deal takes months of back and forth between the cooperating broker, the attorneys from both sides, the mortgage broker, the seller, the buyer, and many other bit players.

Real estate agents can be working for a buyer or a seller, which are very different jobs and require various skills. Many agents work on both sides of the spectrum. A seller’s agent concentrates on marketing the property, which they can do themselves or through their company’s marketing department. They also negotiate on the seller’s behalf, so they have to know by heart the state of the market and comparable properties in the area to get the best price for their seller. Seller’s agents can take a sigh of relief knowing that they sometimes have less running around, since the buyers' agents have to come to them. And no board packages for that listing?that’s the buyer broker’s job. Phew.

Buyer’s agents work around their clients’ schedules, which could mean trying to schedule early morning showings (and begging other agents to go along with them) or scheduling late night showings (and begging other agents to meet them there). Since most of the sales listings in NYC are “exclusive” listings, meaning that they are only accessible through a scheduled appointment with a broker, making appointments is a huge part of a broker’s day. If an agent is part of a team or has an assistant just for this purpose, this headache can be calmed a bit. But if a broker has a busy schedule, finding time not only to make an appointment but to also accompany a client and be on time can be a very intense experience.

When an agent is actually out on appointments, they have to concentrate on a lot of different tasks. This can begin with simply making appointments for the right kinds of apartments so as not to waste anyone’s time, which could mean previewing properties to check out the views and state of the renovations. They serve as a shrink to counsel the buyer through the pros and cons of every property.

Many aspects of a real estate search are contingent on specific demands from a client (“I need a washer/dryer or else!”) but also their personality. A client can come in especially for a day of appointments, but if they’re notoriously late, an agent has to plan that out ahead of time. Not wasting someone’s time is important to everyone?if an agent completely blows off an appointment, that might reflect badly on them for the rest of their career. For real estate brokers, everything is about reputation. If an agent has a reputation for being late, being obnoxious, or being extremely difficult, other agents might not even want to work with them. Unfortunately for their clients, they might not know until it’s too late that they picked a dud broker. Of course, if that obnoxious buyer’s broker has a $10 million all-cash buyer....things might change. Such is NYC real estate.

Since a real estate agent is an independent contractor to a brokerage, their day doesn’t usually include meetings with the management unless they need guidance on a deal or they’ve done something wrong. The busy agents are out all day on appointments and only make visits to the office to organize themselves on various things. The bored agents put up ads on Craigslist or some other website to try and scrounge up some clients. Other parts of an agent’s day can include putting together a client’s board package for their purchase or following up with current clients. Smart agents also call their contacts to see how they’re doing on their home search?“warm calling” people they know and even “cold calling” random people.

Being a real estate agent is what you make of it. If an agent is really into their business, they can be working 18 hour days?and a lot of them do. Partnering with a serious buyer is basically a marriage?it takes commitment and perseverance...and long days of counseling. As a seller’s broker, an agent has to be accommodating to schedules and negotiate shrewdly for the sellers. It’s a rough life, but somebody’s gotta do it...and reap the eventual rewards.
· How to Choose an Agent as a Buyer and as a Seller [Curbed]
· Buyer Concerns: Why Brokers Hate Buyers and Vice Versa [Curbed]
· How to Not Get Screwed Over by a Rental Broker [Curbed]
· Curbed University [Curbed]