Real Estate Careers by Mariwyn Evans

Well, the real estate market certainly is in a state of flux right now (early 2008).Is it still a good time to get into real estate?

While there's no doubt that the real estate markets have been slower for the last year and will probably continue to be slow through 2008, I think that real estate is still a great career choice. It's true that the easy money is gone, but with that so are the people who aren't really professional and who don't see real estate as a career so there may not be quite so much competition for clients. If a new real estate licensee is willing to work seriously a slower market gives you more time to learn the basics of real estate--marketing, prospecting, and negotiating. Also, when the market is less frenetic, a more experienced agent is more likely to be willing to let you work along side them and learn the ropes. Since it may take a new agent longer to close a sale today than two years ago, I'd suggest having some financial reserves or keeping your current job and trying real estate part time for a while. At the same time, I've also talked to a lot of agents who say they're doing very well. Real estate has always been a cyclical business with ups and downs, so if you're in it for the long haul instead of just trying to make a quick buck, any time is a good time to start.

Can you name two or three excellent benefits of getting into real estate?

Real estate is a great career for an entrepreneur. Since most real estate agents work as independent contractors, you are your own boss. There's really no limit on what you can earn, you can sell as many houses as you want to. Some successful agents even hire a team of assistants and other agents and develop their own businesses. Real estate is also great if you need flexibility. You may have to work weekends but you can also take time off in the middle of the day if you need to. A third advantage is that there is very little barrier to entry. Most states require agents take one or more real estate courses and pass an exam, but the cost and time involved is much less than for many other jobs with this much earning potential.

What characteristics might indicate that a person is a good candidate for a career in real estate?

Real estate really requires two sets of skills. First, you need to be a people person and a good communicator. You have to care about your clients and be able to listen to their needs and concerns and guide them without being overbearing. You also need people skills to get business since you have to sell yourself to each client. On the other hand, the best real estate agents also have good organizational skills so that they can make the best use of their time and achieve a higher level of earnings. Real estate transactions involve a lot of details so real estate agents need to be able to keep good records and multitask.

Do you recommend getting training at a college or university, or some other means?

I think it depends a great deal on the individual and on the type of real estate he or she wants to practice. While a college or university degree, whether in marketing, computers, or real estate and finance, is always a plus, many successful real estate people don't have college degrees or study real estate at the university level. On the other hand, if you want to work in real estate for a bank, insurance company, or large commercial real estate company, a degree in real estate, finance or urban planning is probably much more important.

Is there much out-of-pocket expense in getting the training and the license?

The amount of education you have to take as well as the licensing fee varies from state to state. Education costs can range from none to some 160 course hours. Many community colleges offer real estate licensing courses at low cost, and if you sign up with a real estate company, they will sometimes offer you coures for free.

Where is there more pressure -- commercial real estate or residential?

I guess it depends on what you consider pressure. Both have the pressure of working as independent contractors where you don't get paid until you make a sale. Because commercial deals are often complicated, it can take more than a year to close, so waiting that long for a payday is obviously a pressure. Residential real estate sales usually close faster, often in 60 days after the sale, but the money for each sale is less. Residential creates pressures because it requires lots of work at different hours so it may be stressful from some people with families. Commercial is usually about business so it's much more 9-5. Property management, on the other hand, often requires you to respond to tenant problems whenever they occur.

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What is real estate counseling and how does a person get into this field?

Real estate counseling is not really a specialty for those just getting started in the field. You need to understand all your options and have a wide experience in financing, land use, and property operations. And most practitioners who work primarily as consultants are in the commercial arena. With that said, consumers always look to their real estate agents as a source of advice on market conditions, good areas to live in, and reliable providers of real estate mortgage, title, and other services.

Can you tell us about a couple of specific real estate careers and what the job entails?

The demand for title, mortgage, home inspection, and many other services are closely tied to to real estate sales. When there are more sales, you need more people researching titles, processing mortgages, and conducting closings. But there's always business for each of these specialties, just as there's always business in real estate sales. The volume may go up and down, but some people will always need to buy or sell a home regardless of the market.

What area is most interesting to you personally and why?

I personally find commercial and investment real estate interesting because it is more financially oriented. If you like numbers, commercial is probably your best bet. If you love being around people, residential is probably the area of real estate you'll prefer.

Can you tell us a little bit about the field of property management, and how do most people get started in this? How are the skills necessary for success in property management different from those in real estate?

Like commercial brokers, property managers need both people and financial skills to be successful. Managers must be able keep complex records of payments, lease terms, and equipment repair schedules. They should also be able to do analyzes of a building's future income and expenses. Often, they are responsible for supervising staff that includes leasing personnel, security officers, and maintenance and cleaning staffs. There's also a tenant relation component, which is particularly important for managers of apartment properties who tend to interact with tenants more frequently. However, since they don't usually sell properties, managers don't need the same selling skills as brokers. The skills a real estate manager needs also vary to some degree depending on the type of property he or she managers. Shopping managers often do extensive promotions for their properties and assist merchants in merchandising, so they need to understand the retail business and its trends. Multifamily managers often do leasing as well as management, if the property is not large enough to have a separate leasing agent so they need more in the way of selling and people skills and perhaps less in-depth financial knowledge. Office managers need financial skills to analyze the value of leases as well as knowledge of space planning to oversee the construction of tenant spaces. Facilities managers, who perform management functions for corporations often oversee productivity and space usage issues as well as those related directly to real estate.

Like other forms of real estate, property management doesn't usually have any specific requirements for entry beyond a real estate license. However, a manager responsible for portfolios of multimillion properties is almost certainly going to need college-level knowledge of finance and accounting.