According to the National Association of REALTORS (NAR), the pandemic that began in early 2020 was responsible for more than record rising home sales; it also spawned the “Great Resignation,” when workers took time during quarantines to re-evaluate their happiness and satisfaction with their current employment. Many job seekers turned to real estate sales for the opportunity to become self-employed and build unlimited futures.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) puts it all in perspective. During the Great Recession of 2007-2009, the unemployment rate reached 10 %, before dropping to 3.5% just before the pandemic. But following the onset of the pandemic, the unemployment rate reached 14.7% in April 2020. Since then, it fell back down to 3.8% in February 2022.

What makes this phenomenon interesting is the “quit” rate, which the BLS found reached new highs from 1.6% in April 2020 to 3.0% in November and December 2021. What this means is that those who quit their jobs found new jobs or exited the labor force. From January 2021 to January 2022, the top trending Google career search entry was “how to become a real estate agent,” says NAR. Those entering a career in real estate rose 60% compared to the previous two years.  In 2019, NAR membership was 1,403,128. By September 2022, members numbered 1,599,135. (It should be noted that a licensed real estate agent is not required to become a member of local, state and national associations of Realtors, and that the number of actual real estate practitioners is larger than NAR membership. NAR, a trade organization, maintains that only its members should be called “REALTORS®,” as the appellation is a registered trademark.)

The reasons the pandemic was pivotal in attracting workers to the real estate industry is the desire for a better work/life balance with increased income potential. The top four reasons given for pursuing a career in real estate, as taken from a NAR infographic, were listed as flexible hours (67%), interest in real estate (64%), working with people (54%) and becoming an entrepreneur (50%.) NAR’s 2022 Member Profile statistics found that the typical Realtor is a 56-year-old college-educated female (66%) who own their homes (84%) as well as a second property (37%) which suggests that the education, training and experience of becoming a real estate professional is also helpful to become a real estate investor.

So, what does it take to become a real estate sales agent? To list for sale or lease commercial or residential real estate in the U.S. requires a state-issued real estate license in the state or territory where the sale or lease is taking place. State licensing requirements vary, but typically require that applicants are 18 years of age or older and have a high school diploma. Most states require finger-printing and criminal and civil background checks. Applicants with felony or misdemeanor convictions are subject to review and approved or denied by the state’s real estate commission on a case-by-case basis.

Each state requires a number of pre-licensing courses and continuing education hours to obtain and maintain a real estate license.  In California, 135 hours are required vs. 63 hours in Florida. Some states have reciprocity. To find an accredited pre-licensing school in your state, click here.

There are two levels of real estate licensure, one for sales agents and one for brokers. While most sales agents work as independent contractors, they can’t operate alone and must be sponsored and supervised by the broker of record of the firm they want to join. Brokers must have several years of experience as licensed sales agents. They can do everything sales agents do, plus operate their own firms or serve as managing brokers for firms of their choice. Many brokers continue to sell and lease properties in addition to their managerial duties overseeing the ethics of agents and legalities of transactions. Many sales agents choose to remain as agents of the broker because they don’t want the added responsibility, liabilities and education requirements to become brokers.

There’re good reasons to be careful about selecting the right firm to join. As an independent contractor just starting out on commission, you’ll want to join a busy firm with a great reputation that will actively help you and train you in how to get business. Some people enter the profession believing that the broker will give them leads, and that’s true to a small degree if you greet walk-ins at the office or answer the brokerage’s phones. But the reality is that you’re the broker’s agent and you join the firm to bring business to the broker. To find out more about joining the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices network, click here.

As the rainmaker, your job is to contact as many people as you can every day. Tell each person you meet what you do and offer to help them with their real estate needs. Create a comprehensive database of contacts with as much detail as possible about their current living arrangements, household members and their names, ages and interests. Keep on top of your market’s conditions by reading multiple listing service data. Track employers and opportunities entering your market through business news so you can quickly tell buyers and sellers of the latest developments. Ask your contacts their preferred method of communication – text, phone, e-mail.  Most of all, take advantage of the chance to develop clients through schools, church, professional networking organizations, and chance encounters.

Don’t pre-judge anyone’s ability to buy a home. The cashier who takes your lunch order or waitressing college student could become the next manager or store owner. Or they may know someone who has a real estate need. Introduce yourself and ask if they’d like inbox information about real estate. Ask for their email and put them on your newsletter list. Contact them occasionally to see if their needs have changed and ask how you can help.

Real estate is a people-person career that’s most successful if you can get repeat business and referrals. If your family, friends, acquaintances and people you meet for the first time feel your sincere desire to help them meet their goals, they’ll let you make their dream of homeownership come true.