While becoming a real estate agent can be a lucrative career affording financial freedom and work/life balance that is not all you need to consider. There is also a cost to become a real estate agent as well as a cost to be a real estate agent.
Cost to Become a Real Estate Agent
There are many things to consider when becoming a real estate agent. The investment in the education and application process is one of those things. There are many different steps to take into consideration when becoming a real estate agent.
Each of these steps has a cost associated with it. A common question prospective agents have is “how much does it cost to become a real estate agent?”
The cost to become a real estate agent does vary from state to state but this section will give you a general idea of how much you should budget to start out.
Pre-Licensing Course Cost
The first cost associated with becoming a real estate agent is the pre-licensing course. This price can vary depending on the hours it will take to complete the course. Whether or not the course is in person or online will also make a difference.
In general students should expect to pay a minimum of $150 with some courses exceeding $400 in some circumstances.
In person classes do cost more than online courses. There are a few reasons for this.
In-person classes require the overhead of the building as well as paying for an instructor. This drives the price up. Online on-demand classes don’t require a live instructor and are completed from a students home.
This is how online real estate schools stay budget friendly. Regardless of the mode by which the class is delivered, they have the same content that is required by the state.
The courses are only part of the cost to be a real estate agent. There are several other steps that require other fees to be a real estate agent.
Background Check and Fingerprinting Cost
Nearly all, if not every, state does require a background check and fingerprinting to apply for your real estate license. This is one of the more affordable fees to be a real estate agent.
Real estate agents have to be trusted with information that the public typically does not have access to. They also go into people’s homes and are instantly trusted. That is why a background check, on the federal level, along with fingerprinting is required of all real estate agents.
Typically the cost of a background check and fingerprinting is not more than $100 together. However, there are states where it could cost slightly more, but this is one of the more mild fees to be a real estate agent regardless of the state.
Licensing Exam Cost
Once the pre-licensing courses are completed students can apply or register to take the state and national licensing exams. This is combined so the cost for both sections will depend on the state.
This is one of the most important among the cost to become a real estate agent. Without taking and passing this exam, there is no real estate license.
The fees associated with the licensing exam include the application, this costs varies from state to state but is generally between $25 and $50. However, this is just to apply to take the exam.
There is also a fee for taking the exam. This can range from $25-$150 depending on the state.
This can be a costly step for students who don’t pass the test the first time. It is possible to take the test more than once however, students will need to pay the exam fee again. This can be costly.
License Application Fee
There is the exam application fee but also the actual license application fee. If you pass your state licensing exam it will be time to apply for your actual license.
There are some states who roll this into the exam application fee or even the exam fee. In this situation, the license will be issued directly up passing the exam.
If that is not the case for your state then you will have to fill out an application, prove you passed the exam, and submit your fee.
The fee for the license adds to the cost to become a real estate agent by around $150 depending on the state.
MLS and REALTOR Fees
In order to be able to access more detailed information about properties, real estate agents will need to be a member of the MLS. This is a database organized by area. Each area MLS page will require its own membership.
This is a fee that will need to be paid once you are licensed so you can start working and accessing properties immediately.
There are other professional membership organizations such as REALTOR that you can elect to become a part of. However, there are fees associated with it.
These fees to be a real estate agent come with a yearly cost and start at around $200 a year depending on state and organization.
Ongoing Costs to Be a Real Estate Agent
The cost to become a real estate agent is only part of the story. The ongoing costs to be a real estate agent are the rest of it.
There are fees and expenses that a real estate agent should expect to pay during the course of their career. Some of these will be yearly dues while others may be business expenses and health insurance.
Many states require a new real estate agent to be licensed under a broker. This is a mentor or apprenticeship but the brokers don’t do this for free.
While mentoring a new real estate agent doesn bring business to the firm, it also costs money in administrative fees, business supplies, and time.
Because of this, there are brokerage fees that play into the cost to be a real estate agent. It is the norm for real estate agents to pay a percentage of their commission to the broker.
How much that is depends on the broker and what they have decided to take as their share. There are also occasions when a broker will require the real estate agent to pay a monthly amount to have a desk in the office.
This helps the broker take care of the overhead associated with running a real estate firm. This is one of the numbers that can vary greatly from broker to broker.
However, the real estate agents should expect to pay anywhere from $25 a month to $500 a month depending on desk fees and commission percentages.
Real Estate Agent Advertising Costs
People need to know that you are a real estate agent. They also need to know what firm you are with and what you look like. That is where advertising and marketing expenses come in.
In addition to business cards, there are things such as car magnets, decals, swag, and larger billboards or signs on local businesses. These are the most common types of advertising for real estate agents.
If a real estate agent is with a broker, they might send solid leads to the real estate agent to help get them started, however, this isn’t always the case. This cost to be a real estate agent is not something an agent can do without.
Word of mouth is important but it won’t take the place of strategic advertising.
A new real estate agent can expect to spend upwards of $1,000 a year to market properly.
Errors and Omissions Insurance Cost
An important cost to be a real estate estate agent is errors and omissions insurance. There are states that don’t require errors and omissions insurance but it is always a good idea to incur this cost to become a real estate agent.
If an agent is with a broker then this expense may be covered as part of the brokerage fees. It isn’t unusual for the broker to handle this expense.
However, if a broker isn’t required, then real estate agents are responsible for this cost. Agents should expect to spend $300 to $400 a year to protect the license they worked hard to obtain.
Continuing Education Costs
Real estate agents are required to keep up with their professional development through continuing education courses.
These are often offered online. The frequency and requirements will vary by state. But agents should budget for $100 to $300 or more annually.
After the first year some states only require continuing education every two years. This part of the cost to be a real estate agent is one of the more varied expenses.
While this expense varies, it is usually one of the lowest expenses.
Real estate agents drive often. Not only do they drive to the office but they drive a large area to show clients listings. This can really wear on a car.
Gas expenses are only a small part of the overall transportation expenses. This can include repairs, oil changes, new tires, tire balancing and rotating, and anything else required to keep your car in top condition.
It is estimated that the average real estate agent spends around $1400 a year on car maintenance. That isn’t including gas.
The amount of fuel you use will depend on your vehicle and the size of the area you are willing to work. Tracking mileage and fuel costs will be imperative when it is time to file taxes.
Health Insurance Costs
Real estate agents are considered self-employed and often do not get health benefits even when they work with a broker.
This means they either go without health insurance or supply it themselves. Health insurance for an individual can range from $350-$1000 a month conservatively. This doesn’t include children or spouses.
A real estate agent can choose to forego this cost to be a real estate agent. However, it is not advisable.
This is a cost to be a real estate agent that is easily written off on your taxes. Since being self-employed has many out of pocket expenses, having health insurance to receive a tax credit will pay off in the end.
It is customary for real estate agents to give their buyers a gift upon closing. It doesn’t have to cost a large amount of money but it does need to be thoughtful.
This amount of money will vary with the number of closings a real estate agent has a year. It will also depend on what gift the agent decides to give. It will likely be around $100 a closing.
Making your clients feel special and valued is an important cost to be a real estate agent and stay a real estate agent.
Cost to Become a Real Estate Agent in Each State
Now that we have gone over the general numbers associated with the cost to become a real estate agent we will talk about each state. Because the states vary so widely, it is important to focus on the requirements for your particular state.