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.
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.
There are variety of ways you can choose to complete your real estate prelicensing education requirements, from live classroom locations at local real estate schools, some realty firms, universities and technical schools offer real estate licensing programs, home-study, and online real estate education. This is an important decision in your journey. Make sure you enroll with a school that has a good reputation, offers quality content and instructors, and is focused on positive student outcomes. Your real estate licensing education will be difficult and comprehensive, but it will also be the springboard to a successful career as a real estate professional.
Your passing grade on your state real estate licensing exam doesn’t quite mean you have a license yet. A real estate salesperson (agent) is licensed to act on behalf of a broker and may not act as a real estate agent independently. Consider finding a real estate broker early in your licensing process. Once you have completed your prelicensing education requirements and passed your exam, you and your broker will both need to complete final paperwork with the state. Once the form is accepted, your license will be issued, and you may practice real estate under the sponsorship of the broker. Keep in mind that there are a number of items to consider when finding the right real estate brokerage.
Don't expect to waltz in and collect an hourly salary: Most brokerages pay their agents only by commission. In other words, you get paid only when you complete a transaction, and you typically won't receive benefits. Due to this pay structure, brokerages are typically eager to welcome new agents, since it comes at no cost to the company. So be sure to find a brokerage you like, one that is open to taking you on so you can receive some on-the-job training.