The simple answer is, “it depends.” It mostly depends on where an individual wants to practice real estate. Becoming a real estate agent requires a state license. Each state regulates their own real estate licensing process, and each state’s regulations or rules are slightly different. But, there are a few basic requirements that are always consistent.

A real estate agent is a licensed professional who arranges real estate transactions, putting buyers and sellers together and acting as their representative in negotiations. Real estate agents usually are compensated completely by a commission—a percentage of the property’s purchase price—so their income depends on their ability to close a deal. In almost every state a real estate agent must work for or be affiliated with a real estate broker (an individual or a brokerage firm), who is more experienced and licensed to a higher degree.


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A real estate broker is a step up the professional food chain. Brokers have additional training and education that have qualified them to pass a higher licensing exam; most states also require them to have a certain amount of recent experience as an active real estate agent. Brokers handle the technical aspects of the real estate transaction. A client signs a contract with a brokerage, not the individual agent. In many states brokers' additional certification authorizes them to handle other legal and financial aspects of a deal, such as handling the earnest money deposit and establishing the escrow account.

Do you know how to calculate the fair market value of a house? What about the capitalization rate or real estate conversion? Do you know what is the right type of appraisal for the house? The situs definition, as well as the replacement cost or income approach, may seem foreign to you. Moreover, as a real estate investor, do you know how to convert a warehouse into a loft? Or what novation in real estate means? Real estate agents are like copilots - they help home buyers, sellers and renters navigate through all the real estate documents they need to sign explaining all the unfamiliar real estate terms. And business gets a lot more complex as we dive into commercial real estate.
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