What You Need to Know Before Starting a Real Estate Career

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“What do I need to know before becoming a real estate agent?”

Reality television shows like Million Dollar Listing, House Hunters, and Love it or List it make the real estate industry appear glamorous and lucrative. For some people, it is. However, the reality can be quite different.

Real estate agents, commonly referred to as realtors, are independent contractors in a competitive, referral-driven business. The days are long and the hours are inconsistent. A vacation can mean losing out on a listing, or you may be keeping up with your clients while trying to spend time with your family. Sick leave and company-paid benefits are almost always non-existent.

Yet, being your own boss has its perks. For those who are passionate about real estate, the sacrifices are worthwhile. As a realtor, you can set your own schedule, make your own business decisions (most of the time!), and earn an income that is directly related to the amount of effort you are putting into the job.

In a thriving market such as Charleston, there are a number of opportunities for motivated individuals. And, the real estate market truly is thriving. A recent statistic cited in Fortune states that “the average 30-year fixed loan has dropped 22 basis points to 4.06%, while 15-year fixed loans are down 14 basis points to 3.57%.

The industry is booming. Are you ready to follow your dream of becoming a real estate agent?

Download our Guide for Prospective Realtors

Getting Started

To become a real estate agent, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Be a legal resident of the United States (citizenship is not required)
  • Possess a high school diploma or GED


To be licensed in South Carolina, prospective agents must:

Prior to obtaining a license, prospective agents must also pass a criminal background check and demonstrate satisfactory credit history. Upon activating the “First Year/Provisional” license, new agents are given one year in which to qualify for the “Final Sales” license. While no state test is required, agents must complete an additional 30-hour post-licensing class.

how to become a real estate agent

Know Your Numbers

Before you get started, you want to make sure that you are financially ready to commit to a career in real estate.

Add up your monthly expenses to determine the income level you will need to sustain your livelihood. Include projected income tax. Then, multiple that number by 12.

Commission checks may be slow to hit your bank account at first. Ideally, you should have sufficient funds in your bank account to cover at least six to 12 months of living expenses.

Keep in mind that you will most likely be splitting the commission with an agency. You may be responsible for some start-up costs as well. Budget at least $2,000 for these start-up costs.

If you’re going to be responsible for doing all of your own marketing, then you will need to budget an additional several thousand dollars.

When signing with an agency, ask about marketing expenses, administrative tools, lead generating services, and other business items to see what the agency will cover and what you will be responsible for covering.