Getting into real estate
Hi. Me again. I forgot to add that I have been studying real estate for quite some time now. I was curious how hard it would be to become involved in the islands? What I would like to do is work for a real estate agency for a while and see if it is really my thing. I love what I have learned so far and would like any input (good or bad) on this being a realistic goal. Thank you again.
Pink - Real Estate can be a great career choice for some and a total wash-out for others. It depends a lot on your personality and also on your organizational skills, attention to detail, and the ability to keep a LOT of balls in the air. It's kind of like juggling eggs sometimes... each egg is someone's life that can hatch into something wonderful or smash into a mess depending on how carefully it is handled.
There is a licensing process to go through, but no current requirement for education about real estate to become a Realtor in the islands. The Board of Realtors is working to change that and to add both initial education requirements and continuing education for Realtors in the future. This won't happen overnight, unfortunately, so for now and indefinitely new Realtors don't always get off to a good start as the training provided varies by office with some offices having no training offered at all to new agents.
New Realtors need to be able to support themselves financially through other sources of income for at least 6 months and often for up to a year before they are likely to see significant income from commissions. A few new agents do make it in the industry a bit quicker, but it takes a while to learn how the process works here and to find buyers to show homes to or sellers to represent as a listing agent. If you have never worked in outside sales and don't have experience at generating clients and customers from scratch, there will be a sharp learning curve. Once you have someone to work with, you are only just beginning. There are many steps to complete before a transation can be put together and closed. The reality is that most new agents walk away from the industry in less than a year.
I was an experienced agent before coming to St. Croix, but there were still new things for me to learn about how real estate transactions are conducted in the islands. Life is different here! Getting licensed took me just 17 days in Washington State, including taking a training course and passing the state's exam. In St. Croix it took about six months just to get my "temporary license" approved and another month to gain access to the Board of Realtors and the MLS. THEN I could begin working with buyers and sellers... and it was another 4 months to close the first transaction and several months more before I had regular property sales. (It is common for agents to have several sales in a single month and then nothing for a couple of months. You have to be able to budget for lean times and not expect constant cash flow.) Sometimes licenses come through much quicker than mine did, but you can't count on it. The Real Estate Commission (a body appointed by the Governor) has to hold a meeting at which enough of the members show up to have a quorum or they can't vote on new licenses. Sometimes they go several months without reaching a quorum. Ouch!
Once you are licensed by the government and then later approved by the Board of Realtors to gain access to the MLS, it still takes a while for many of the long-time agents to accept new "temporary licensees" and to return your phone calls and set up showings for you and your buyers on their listings. After beating your head against a wall for a while, you may eventually sell a property or two despite the lack of cooperation. Then you might also pass your real estate exam and get a permanent license. If you make it that long, more of the Realtors will start returning your phone calls and you can get down to serious business. It is common in the industry for most new real estate agents to fail to break into the business and leave within the first year. It takes tenacity and a solid bank account to survive long enough to gain experience.
You said in your post that you have "studied real estate" for a long time. That can mean a variety of things, so I'm not sure if you mean that you've studied the course material to pass a real estate exam in your home state or if you've explore the industry through other means or something else. There is some basic info required in most states for new Realtor candidates to know to pass an exam. Most of that info has nothing to do with the process of buying or selling real estate, but is more about real estate law and definitions. You learn theory in the classroom or online and then you have to learn how to actually be a Realtor once you have a license. Some offices mentor new agents and make an effort to show you the ropes so you have a greater likelihood of achieving success. Others toss you out into the general public and expect you to bootstrap yourself up or fail and walk away. This is a terrible thing to do both to a new agent and to the general public! It partially explains why so many buyers have a poor experience when they seek to connect with a real estate agent prior to their planned visit to the island.
If you are brand new to the island, the best thing you can do while waiting for a license to come through is DRIVE AROUND EVERY SINGLE DAY AND LEARN ALL THE BACK ROADS AND NEIGHBORHOODS. This will come in very handy once you are able to start taking buyers on property tours. The lack of street signs and the badly written driving directions on most listings make every day an adventure when you are out showing property. You should also start learning where the various government offices are located that you will need to access as a Realtor. These include the tax assessor's office(s) on your island of choice, the Cadastral plat map office, the recorder of deeds office, and others. Start learning where you apply for a Title Search & Insurance on your island and talk to people about real estate attorneys and mortgage brokers who actually do their jobs and don't kill transactions. You will need to gather a list of appraisers and home inspectors and surveyors and contractors of all types to recommend to buyers and sellers. As the Realtor, you will be expected to be a clearing house of information far beyond what condos are for sale in a particular complex.
Until the islands adopt standard real estate contracts, you will also need to be able to write up contract clauses and addendums to tailor an offer to purchase to the requirements of a buyer. If you have access to a real estate attorney who is willing to give you a list of standard clauses from which to pick and choose what to insert as needed, you will be ahead of the game compared to most new agents and many of the experienced ones. The STX Board of Realtors is working on generating standard contracts, but it will likely be many months before those are ready and ratified.
Oh.... and one final point.... you don't really work "for" a real estate agency. You work as a licensed independent contractor, even when you work "out of" an agency. Some agencies might give a new agent a chance to earn a little $$ through assisting other agents or by working in property management while the new agent gets a few sales under their belts and a more reliable income coming in, but that is not something you can count on being able to find. When you calculate your potential earnings through commissions, bear in mind that you will be splitting the commission with your Broker/office and that the commission split for new agents usually isn't all that great compared to what it can become a few years down the road.
Having read your post several times I tend to think it would be good for a new realtor to work part time as a realtor and full time as something else, until things pick up. Has anyone been known to do something similar?
The reason I ask is I have been thinking about realty myself.
Thnak you HC for your response!
Thank you sooo much for all of the info. Most of the things you mentioned I have thought about. When I started my company years ago, I was on an island where I knew nobody, didn't know my way around, etc. etc. I drove around days on end learning the roads (also, not much in the street sign dept.), finding where everything was, and lastly took a job in the public to meet people. I had to SELL myself and my abilities on a daily basis as well as learning as I went. As far a studying goes, I had a real estate owner take me under his wings and teach me a few things on the side. Yes, I have studied the exam books and many others. I do relize I would need other means of income duing the learning process and maybe many years to follow. Not saying I know a whole lot or that I am going to go into the business, but it is a career that fasinates me! You are a very helpful person on this board and seem to have alot of experiance and I am so greatful to you! Would it be o.k. to contact you once I arrive in the islands? Nice to know someone else is there from Washington! How do you like the change in scenery? Thanks again for all the help from all of you on the board!!!!!
Pink - definitely feel free to make contact when you get here, or even before. The change of scenery from Washington is fine for me. It's beautiful in both places, but it's WARM here year around... and that earns a lot of bonus points. I can still go back to visit now and then and absorb the beauty of the PNW without having to shiver there through the gray murky skies for 9 months of the year.