Five Free Tools that will Increase any Real Estate Agents Productivity

What are the best free tools available to increase productivity?

As you progress forward in your real estate career it will become more and more important to stay organized. Without mastering a few select tools it becomes very challenging to stay on top of everything that will be thrown at you as a real estate agent. If you are a beginner or looking for ways to stay more productive you may want to consider the tools I’ve outlined below. While they certainly aren’t the only productivity tools available, these are the tools I use personally. Best of all they all feature free versions or are have premium versions that are very affordable. Most of these tools are included in my technology guide for beginning real estate agents that explains easy ways to fit these costs in your starting budget.

Shift

The idea of shift is to bring all of your emails, apps, and extensions into one dedicated browser. After using Shift for almost two years now I truly don’t know how I would go back to another platform. It did take me a little while to adapt to the interface, but once I was able to, I’m not sure how I could ever go back to the way I used to work on my desktop. Not only can you combine emails, you can also streamline popular services from Google, Microsoft, and others all in one place.

Why I Use Shift

I own several businesses and have a separate email address for each company, along with a personal Gmail account. Shift makes it possible to keep all of these open at the same time without overwhelming my desktop. It also allows me to search all of my inboxes at once, which saves a ton of time. All of the other productivity apps I have listed below are also available at all times in the same Shift browser. It has really simplified my workflow and allowed me to be more productive. The custom workspace feature is new but is also a great way to organize things like Google Sheets or specific websites open in one place.

One Idea on How to Use Shift for Real Estate

Create a custom workspace that already has your MLS and prospects open. This will allow you to quickly go through and identify new properties that may be an ideal fit for clients to email them immediately. Also, include your calendar application in Shift for quick access to your schedule (Better yet, if you are a Gsuite user, send your client’s open slots that they can quickly choose from).

Evernote

Evernote has been around for a long time and is still the king of organizing notes and thoughts in one place. There are some other applications that will do the job, like Google Keep, but in my opinion, nothing compares to the simplicity of Evernote.

Why I Use Evernote

For me, organizing my notebooks and notes in Evernote each night has become a cathartic experience that also helps me relieve stress while I stay organized. I also really enjoy the ability to save web pages or articles I’m reading directly to a relevant notebook to reference later. The web clipper allows you to just save text from a specific area of a web page, add a few notes, and save it to the note of choice. On top of that, you can easily take a picture of virtually anything (including handwritten notes) and import it into Evernote with one click.

One Idea on How to Use Evernote for Real Estate

If you are doing real estate correctly, you should be meeting a ton of people, especially when you are just beginning your career. I always recommend new agents set quick face to face meetings with other agents in the office, loan officers, title reps, and others in the industry that you will come to rely on. Use Evernote to organize details about every meeting. Label people that you meet by industry, and then take real notes about the meetings you had with them. Categorize different people that you meet with things you believe they can help you with in the future. For instance, did you meet a lender that does a good job with grants, or a title rep that will close anywhere? These are good things to know in the future and if not cataloged properly, they can be easy to forget.

Todoist

I juggle way too many things at once, and have a lot going on. This becomes obvious to people in my life, and they often wonder how I am able to stay on top of everything going on. Unfortunately, I do miss things from time to time, but one way I eliminate mistakes as much as possible is by using Todoist to keep track of what I need to do.

Why I Use Todoist

This is somewhat repetitive, but creating lists really is the main function of todoist. What makes it better than a plain old sheet of paper is the ability to organize your tasks in a dynamic way. They even have a karma system that can make completing tasks more enjoyable and rewarding.

One Idea on How to Use todoist for Real Estate

Set up a routine in todoist that will take you through specific tasks you want to perform each morning. Perhaps you would like to set up a routine each Monday morning where you update sellers about their listings, alert buyers to new listings, and send out five hand written cards to people in your sphere. With todoist, you just set these as repeatable tasks and make notes on what you accomplished as you finish. That way you will be able to go back to your notes the next week to see what you accomplished.

RoboForm Password Manager

There are a few different password management software applications on the market that I like, such as LastPass. However, I personally use Roboform and believe it offers the most bang for the buck (especially if you just use the free version). It does a lot more than just manage your passwords and keep them safe. Roboform also allows you to store credit card information, addresses, and other information so that you can quickly fill them in while you are browsing on any device or browser.

Why I Use Roboform

Its almost hard to believe, but the amount of hackers and criminals trying to get access to your information on the web is simply out of control. After dealing with a few personal incidents where crooks were able to steal from me, I’ve been adamant about keeping sensitive information about myself private on the internet. Roboform is just one of the ways I’ve been able to do that. It is also a huge time saver and keeps a lot of data in one place. How many times have you had to go through the “forget password” link on a website in the last few months? With Roboform, that issue is all but eliminated.

One Idea on How to Use Roboform for Real Estate

This would be applicable to any profession and is fairly strait forward. However, real estate agents do have a lot of places they need to log into. Typically they have email, CRM, local MLS, Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com, and a variety of other websites that they will need to log into regularly. Use Roboform to keep passwords very safe and also easily accessible.

Airtable

The best way to describe Airtable is that it is essentially spreadsheets on steroids. They describe it as having the ability to create your own app, which in some ways is very true. It is very easy to create complex and dynamic spreadsheets to help you keep track of just about anything. People use it for everything from tracking their pets medical records to their social media calendars.

Why I Use Airtable

I like Airtable because it allows me to make production schedules and calendars for things like blog posts, social media, and listing marketing. Not only can I create these tasks to remember for the next time, but I can also easily share them with my team so that they can understand the process I want to follow and I can easily track their progress.

One Idea oh How to Use Airtable for Real Estate

There are a variety of templates available on Airtable for real estate agent users. One that I particularly like is the real estate transaction management template. With this template you can keep track of all of your listings and buyers in one place with easy to use labels. If you use this template I would recommend reviewing it each evening or morning to make sure you don’t miss any important dates.

Summary

I truly hope you found this article about free productivity tools helpful to your real estate business. Even if you are not overly busy when you are first starting out, it is important to get in the habit of utilizing tools like these. If you try to learn all of them when you are already busy they can seem overwhelming. Staying productive is all about creating good habits and staying organized. If you have any questions about these products please don’t hesitate to reach out, I’m always happy to help.

Our Favorite Books for Real Estate Agents

Recommended Real Estate Books

I have read all of these books and would highly recommend reading them a few times, then leaving them at your desk and referencing them often.  There is a ton of great advice in all of these books for real estate agents.  I tried to pick a wide variety of topics than can help you in different aspects of your business, from your marketing efforts, to Youtube channels, to organizing your day. 

Recommended Business and Motivational Books

There are a ton of valuable business books available that are not necessarily in the real estate genre. I’m absolutely obsessed with reading or listing to just about any book I can get my hands on, and there are a ton I would recommend.  However, I tried to pick out the top three that I thought would help someone that is just in the beginning stages of setting up their real estate business.

Study Materials

Here are a few study materials that may be useful if you are prepping for your exam.  I have provided links to online courses on other pages, but sometimes people learn better with physical books and flashcards. 

Financial Guide to Getting Started in Real Estate

Create a Clear and Organized Financial Strategy

One of the hardest things I see real estate agents struggle with is their finances. Financial woes are typically a big issue at the beginning of and agents career, but once a bad habit or big debt is acquired, it can be nearly impossible to get rid of. That’s why it’s important to set yourself up for success at the beginning, and understand that being a real estate agent is more than likely not going to lead to a huge financial windfall right away.

It takes some agents years to develop a consistent income, and even veteran agents go through rough patches. This can lead to stress and depression that can have a big impact on an agent’s career, which just manages to deepen the downward spiral. So the real question is, what can you do to avoid the pitfalls and how do you develop the financial habits necessary?

Create a Budget and a Plan

This may sound simple enough, but it is surprising how many agents do not take this as seriously as they should. I’ll often hear them say they have prepared or understood it may take a while for their first commission. Unfortunately, many times I don’t think they really grasp how serious they need to take this aspect of being a real estate agent.

Some of the most successful agents I have come across employ a 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 strategy when they receive a commission check. This is a simplified version of what could be a very complex budget, but sometimes the simpler the better. With this plan they put one-third of a commission check in there general checking to use for regular expenses, one-third in a savings account, and one-third in another account that will eventually pay their yeard end tax bill. This is just one example of many ways you can handle your finances.

Consider a Separate Legal Entity for Your Real Estate Business

Consult with your accountant or do your own independent research, but it may be a good idea to set up your real estate business in a separate entity such as an LLC. We will get to having your own E&O insurance later, but for now lets talk about the benefits of having a separate legal entity to run your business finances through.

It creates an extra layer of protection if you are involved in a law suit or other legal issue such as a divorce.

Easier to keep track of your business expenses and tax liabilities.

Allows you to build business credit that is separate form your personal credit

Build Business Credit

If you follow my advice on creating a separate LLC or S Corporation for your real estate business, you should then start building your business credit. You will need to begin by obtaining your unique EIN from the IRS. This will allow you to file your entity with Dun & Bradstreet and obtain your D&B number. After you have this, you can begin by starting small with some lines of credit through specific service providers and then moving onto business credit cards.

Open Separate Bank Accounts

Regardless of whether you decide to set up your business as an LLC or other entity, you should absolutely establish three banking accounts right away to help you stay organized and on budget. Especially if you like the idea of the 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 plan that I mentioned above.

  1. Spending Account (Checking)
  2. Taxable Funds Account (High Interest Savings)
  3. Investments and Fun Money (High Interest or Robinhood Cash Account)

Understand Your Specific Tax Situation

I cannot tell you how many real estate agents I have known that forgot to save enough of their commission payments to pay all of their taxes at the end of the year. It can seem wonderful to get a huge $10,000 commission check. However, what many agents often do not consider is that Uncle Sam is going to want his share at the end of the year. Believe me, you do not want to be in debt to the IRS.

As I mentioned above, use one of your bank accounts to set aside your taxes for the end of the year. Always overfund this account, it is never a bad thing to have too much money saved to pay taxes. Any extra funds can be used to invest or to get a head start on the next fiscal year.

Have a Basic Understanding of Tax Rates

Below are the 2020 Federal tax brackets and rates just to give you an idea of how much you will need to save.

2020 Rate Individuals Married/Joint Heads of Housolds
10% $0 $0 $0
12% $9,875 $19,750 $14,100
22% $40,125 $80,250 $53,700
24% $85,525 $171,050 $85,500
32% $163,300 $326,600 $163,300
35% $207,350 $414,700 $207,350
37% $518,400 $622,050 $518,400
Source: Internal Revenue Service 2020 Federal Tax Brackets

Remember that you will also need to save for state and local, which can vary quite a bit based on where you live. States like Florida and Texas have no state income tax, whereas New York and California are fairly high. Be sure to research the tax rates in your state. There is also the standard deduction and many other factors to be aware of. I would advise using software like Quicken or _________________ to keep track of your taxes in real time or consult with a professional CPA.

Track Your Expenses and Use Deductions

Speaking of taxes, don’t forget to begin tracking all of your business expenses right away. There are several programs out there that will help you track mileage, office supplies, software, business lunches, and a variety of other deductible expenses. It is important to keep receipts and deduct items that actually have to do with your business. As of now, you cannot deduct things like clothing or country clubs, but you can deduct business meals or trips.

Remember, if you are in real estate as an agent you are more than likely operating as an independent contractor. That means all of your business-related expenses can be deducted directly from what you make as an agent. Always consult with a CPA to ensure you are following the tax laws appropriately while also keeping every penny you are entitled to.

Make the Proper Investments

Invest in Yourself

Don’t forget to invest in your own professional development. I don’t just mean a fancy cars and clothes. Many agents believe these are important steps to becoming a successful agent, and that really couldn’t be less true. Invest in yourself with proper marketing, coaching, and education to continue your professional development. These items are also deductible for your business and are incredibly important if you want to have a successful career.

Invest in a Real Future

Do not forget to invest in financial assets that will also begin to generate wealth for you in the future. Being a real estate agent is hard in the best of times, but when deals are scarce it is nice to have a few investments that can help cover your bills. There will also come a point where you want to work less. For agents that are just beginning their real estate career, you may want to consider investing in something like Fundrise. This allows you to invest your money in real estate with a lot lower starting capital that buying an actual property, while also learning about different types of real estate investments.

Now for the Final Piece of Advice and Encouragement

After all of this talk of financial planning, I’m sure you could use a little bit of encouragement. Remember, you are much closer to being a millionaire than the likes of Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffet, and Bill Gates. Now that is saying something!

How to Choose a Real Estate Brokerage

How to Begin Looking for the Right Real Estate Brokerage

HINT :: GET MY FREE INTERVIEW TOOL AT THE END OF THIS ARTICLE


Every agent begins their career trying to find the right brokerage for them. When you consider the incredible range of options offered into today’s real estate brokerage environment, that can be a challenging objective. In fact, you may have even noticed that many agents you know have jumped from brokerage to brokerage more than once. Many times that’s because circumstances change, but more often than not I believe it is because the agent did not do their proper homework.

While you are completing your course work, it is just as important that you begin meeting with different brokerages and teams. In the current brokerage market, it will not be hard to set up these meetings with most brokerages of any size. Large franchise brokerage models rely on recruiting as many agents as possible, while smaller, local brokerages often do not spend a lot on recruiting and are also normally thrilled when someone reaches out to them professionally for a meeting. With that being said, do keep in mind that even as a new agent, you have more leverage than you may think.

Finding the right brokerage or team to join can set the stage for a long, prosperous career in real estate. The real question is, how do you find the right brokerage?


What to Look For

As someone who has been in the industry for a long time as both an agent and a broker, I tried to think through all of the things I believe agents should consider before they agree to sign on with an agency.

Size

Does the size of the brokerage make sense for your goals and the way you work? Some people may prefer a larger brokerage where they can network with a lot of other agents and blend in, while others may prefer a smaller brokerage where there is more opportunity to stand out. Neither small, medium, or large brokerages are necessarily better than the other. Whether it is classes at school, sports, friends groups, or something else, carefully consider the types of environments where you have thrived in the past.

Technology

If you are not up to speed on technology, then I would highly suggest that you become familiar (consider reading my getting started tech guide for real estate). Technology is becoming more and more intertwined with the way we live by the day, and the real estate industry is no different. When you are speaking with brokerages ask them a lot of questions about the technology they offer and what the cost to the agent is for this technology.

I have found that a lot of brokerages will use buzz words like AI, CRM, the Cloud, etc, but then when you actually look at what they offer it isn’t anything all that special. On top of that, they will charge you a monthly fee just to have access to the technology that you may end up not even using. It is not at all uncommon to see agents at big brokerages using independent software platforms that they have to pay for themselves AND paying the brokerage for software that they never use.

Training (Hint: It May Not Matter!)

Another brokerage selling point you will here touted quite often from many brokerages is ‘training’! They will shout it from the rooftops as if they are going to mold each and every agent that joins them into the ultimate agent. I hate to be negative or the bearer of bad news, but most of this training is just more classroom or CE work that will seem incredibly similar to the classes you just went through to get your license in the first place.

The truth of the matter is, training and real estate coaches are everywhere. The web, Youtube, independent coaches, your local board, etc all offer tons of valuable training that may even be more tailored to your specific needs than what a brokerage will offer. All of this learning is absolutely very important, however, none of it will make up for actual work in the field. Regardless of where you hang your license, you need to find mentors in the industry that will allow you to help with open houses, showings, writing contracts, mailings, or anything else you can help with. This is how you will learn, and by the way, you’ll probably have to do it for free.

Cost and Splits

I’m going to say this first because it is very important, commission splits do not matter when you are starting your real estate career. Let me say this again, commission splits don’t matter when you are starting your real estate career! (haha, ok, sorry, you get the point). Be realistic about what kind of split to expect if you are just starting out in real estate, the monthly fees may be more important than the split itself anyway.

commission splits do not matter when you are starting your real estate career

There are many low-cost brokerages out there, but those aren’t typically the best place for new agents to start out, even if it may be something to consider as your career progresses. If you are considering starting out on a team, you will definitely be relegated to a much lower split, but you will more than likely make up for that with the extra leads and exposure you receive if you choose your team wisely. It’s important to balance the compensation you will receive, with the access to the variables you will need to start your career in real estate.

Also consider your personal financial status, and consider reading my financial guide to beginning in real estate.


The Do Not’s

Don’t Join Because of a Friend or Relative

I know it can be tempting to join a brokerage because you already have a friend or relative telling you how great their company is. While that advice definitely shouldn’t be ignored, don’t let it dissuade you from doing some research of your own. As I have discussed throughout this article, there are plenty of reasons one brokerage may work for one person and not for another.

There are also crucial relationship pitfalls to consider. If you are going to work somewhere because of a person you know, be sure to set some ground rules on how you are going to interact with that person before you join. Are they going to help you? If so what does that mean exactly? What happens if you are both competing for the business of a common associate? It’s important to consider these items and have a serious conversation before you are forced into an awkward situation.

Don’t Fall for Fancy Brochures

I’ve seen the fancy recruiting material that many brokerages hand out. Please remember, they spend an inordinate amount of time on their recruiting efforts because in reality, you are their product. They need to jam their rosters full with as many agents as possible to pay monthly fees, which in turn, covers their overhead. Many brokerages are so good at selling their brokerage to new agents that their turnover rate is nothing short of remarkable. New agent joins after being promised the moon, then they leave after realizing it’s not true, then another new agents joins and the cycle continues to repeat itself. Please believe me when I say that you need to look past it and focus on what truly matters to you.

Don’t Believe the Hype

This sort of falls into my last point, but is important nonetheless. It is very common for recruiters to pump agents up into believing they will do $3 million plus in sales their first year, but they “only have room on their roster for one more agent”, or they “only have leads available for one more agent”! 99% of the time this is not true, don’t let them pressure you into making a hasty decision.


The Do’s

Do Talk to Successful Team Leaders

If they will take a meeting with you, definitely consider meeting with team leads that are open to taking on new agents. Working with a team may be a great way to start in real estate. The splits are usually lower, and the time commitment is probably going to be higher. However, the opportunity to quickly learn the ropes is going to be much greater in a team environment than on your own. Just like the brokerages, however, be sure that they are a good fit for where you want your career to go.

Do Your Own Research Before Joining

We already discussed this briefly, but don’t just listen to friends or relatives about how great a certain brokerage is. Talk to people, read reviews, call random agents at the brokerage, etc. Do your homework on any brokerage you are seriously considering. Remember, this is YOUR business and its important what brand/company you choose to align yourself with.

Do Consider Your Goals

This is the first homework I have given out in this entire article, and you almost made it to the end, sorry about that! Now is the time to put pen to paper and really begin setting realistic goals for yourself. Here is a link to an exercise that may help to set your goals and how to identify if a brokerage is the right fit for them. Its just a google spreadsheet that I made, but it may be of use.

Do Work Hard

My last piece of advice, no matter who you decide to partner with, please remember that this is your real estate business. The only way you will be successful if you are willing to work incredibly hard for your success. It is easy to fall into the trap of believing that life is all glitz and glam for the most successful of agents. While its true that many agents lead a comfortable lifestyle, what is often hidden from sight is all of the hard work they had to do to get there.

Regardless of the brokerage you choose, at the end of the day, your effort will determine whether you sink or swim. I wish you nothing but the best of luck!

Getting Started with Real Estate Technology

What Technology Does a Real Estate Agent Need?

Mastering technology has become an incredibly important part of being a successful real estate agent. Whether you are still working on obtaining your license, you are new to the industry, or you could still use an upgrade to your current business, this article is meant to deliver a common-sense approach to boosting your real estate businesses technology. I’ve tried to suggest ways to start on a budget, with some total cost figures at the bottom of this page.

Step by Step Guide to the Technology You Need in Real Estate

As a new real estate agent, sometimes knowing where to begin is a challenge. Follow these steps for a practical guide on everything your real estate business will need to succeed:


#1 Buy Your Domain Name

Your broker may provide you with a website that has search available. I still think it is smart to create your own website with your own content. If you switch brokerages there is no guarantee your current broker will allow you to take your content with you. In fact, they probably will not and I have seen this have a drastic impact on agents in the past. Regardless of what you decide to do with your website, buy your own domain name! Do not let your broker buy your domain name. If you are able to purchase your full name that is a good place to start.

Recommended: Bluehost

Bluehost is a very popular domain registrar and hosting company. They have become so popular for being reliable and are also very budget-friendly.

Try Bluehost Now

Alternative: Namecheap

This is actually the service I use most of the time to purchase domain names. I’m only putting them second because they don’t have quite the product offering of Bluehost for beginners to do everything in one place. Most importantly Namecheap has a wonderful tool called “Beast Mode” for domain name searching.

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#2 Get Your Own Email Address

Just like your website, you want to control your email address. Most brokerages will provide you with a company email, but I would highly recommend also using a personally branded email that matches your domain name.

Try to refrain from using a free gmail or yahoo account for business. You want a real email that matches a domain that you use to look professional.

Example:

Correct: [email protected]

Incorrect: [email protected]

Recommended: G Suites

I use G Suites for my business and can’t imagine using anything else. The interface is exactly like gmail and it also gives you access to a ton of other tools I find myself using nearly every day now. Google Drive (cloud storage), Google Docs (Word), Google Sheets (Excel), and Slides (Powerpoint), just to name a few, have really caught up with Microsoft and I find myself preferring them at this point. Sign up using my link https://refergsuite.app.goo.gl/JttC and get a free 14-day trial, and message me to get an exclusive discount when you try G Suite for your business.

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Alternative: Bluehost

If you purchased your domain at bluhost, namecheap, or any other domain hosting manger, the odds are good they also offer an email service. This will work fine and is a cheaper alternative to G Suites. It just will not have all of the bells and whistles you may wish you had later on.

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TIP :: After you set up your email, use this free email signature generator by Hubspot https://www.hubspot.com/email-signature-generator


#3 Customer Relationship Manager (CRM)

No matter where you store the information, you will want to begin storing your contact list immediately. I would recommend always keeping a backup of your database in something like Excel or Google Sheets. If something were to happen with the data stored with your brokers CRM or a 3rd party provider, that could be devastating to your business. On top of that, you will find that many other software platforms you use will allow you to upload a .csv file, which will save you a lot of time. In fact, it may be best to start with a simple spreadsheet.

Recommended: Google Sheets (Because its free with G Suites)

If you are using G Suites this is a great way to start your database and understanding the actual point of a good CRM. Eventually, you will work your way into more complex CRMs, but this is the fundamental way to begin. I know several veteran agents that still just use a spreadsheet to manage their client database.

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Alternative 1: Keap

Once you are ready for something more complicated, Kaep is an incredible option. The ease of use and automated follow up tools are second to none. While they are not a real estate specific platform, if you do any research you will find that it is utilized by quite a few of the top real estate agents. Its also a great complement for those that are building their own IDX websites, which we will get to shortly.

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#4 Website Hosting

As mentioned above, I would recommend starting with your own website in addition to anything your brokerage gives you. It can be as simple as a one page introduction to yourself, to as complex as your very own real estate lead generation site (which may be very profitable if done correctly).

Recommended: Bluehost

For the same reasons as above, if you have your domain name here, then this is a great option to get started with a simple website. I would still recommend WordPress when starting. For the cost and ease of use, it is hard to do much better on a beginners budget.

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Alternative: WPengine

If you are going to get serious about creating a real estate search site with IDX using WordPress, then WPengine probably going to be the way to go. I have personally used WPengine for 10 years now and it is incredibly reliable with fantastic support. They also acquired Studiopress, which will give you access to Studiopress and all of the amazing themes that are offered with the Genesis Framework (don’t worry if you don’t understand what any of that is yet).

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#5 Website IDX

If you are going to take my advice and have your own website, you may want to include an IDX feed on your site. This is probably the most expensive thing on my list, but it may net you some valuable leads for your business. I have many training videos and articles on how to set this up for yourself at AgentCrammer.com.

Recommended: IDX Broker

IDX Broker Platinum is the product I use, and I like it due to the Widget feature, which allows me to build multiple Niche websites that filter back into one main website. A good example would be my downtown lofts and condos blog at ColumbusLoftsandCondos.com that feeds into my ColumbusRealEstateSearch.com website. If you use my IDX Broker Link you will save the initial deposit and I will also personally provide you additional support with building your website.

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Alternative: iHomefinder

I did use iHomefinder for a while and I liked it a lot for just one website. The optima mapping tool is really nice and its easy to build links. I stopped using it due to the widget feature that IDX Broker has, but its still really nice.

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# 6 Internet Safety

Wire fraud has become one of the biggest scams in existence. Its more important than ever that you protect your clients and yourself from unnecessary theft. I’ve seen these types of scams hold up deals from closing, and even worse, lead to lawsuits against agents. Here is an informative video about real estate wire fraud if interested. There are three things below that you can do to help protect yourself.

Get a VPN

Recommended: Nord VPN

Nord VPN is a great company that allows you to work from a virtual server. This keeps your data and location information safe, even in a coffee shop. Scammers and hackers are everywhere, this just makes it a lot more challenging for them to access your information. For the price its a no brainer. (You may need to have Chrome translate to English for you just FYI.)

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Purchase Additional E&O Insurance

Recommended: Hiscox

More than likely your broker will provide some sort of blanket E&O insurance. However, many times this won’t cover everything, including wire fraud (be sure to check). Also, if you make a mistake that goes against brokerage policy, your own broker may be forced to turn against you to save their own business. It’s always a good idea to have your own insurance just in case. Hiscox will give you a quote online and is a simple place to start. I would recommend calling around to a few insurance agents for quotes if you want the best price.

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#7 Make Your Life Easier

These are not absolutely necessary, especially if you are trying to cut back on costs, but will all make your life a little bit easier. Many of them start as free plans that allow you to grow over time.

Email Automation & Landing Pages

This is not mandatory, but definitely fits in the category of “make your life easier”. Yes, you could go through and email everyone individually, or figure out some kind of email merge (but that never looks professional imo). Some CRMs will offer these tools, but I find that dedicated software for email campaigns is easier. Both of my suggesteions are free to start

Recommended: Mailerlite

I really can’t recommend this product enough. Especially if you are just starting with a spreadsheet as your CRM to save on your monthly budget, this will take the place of what a lot of CRMs offer (and honestly it makes it easier than most CRMs). Your first 1000 subscribers are free and you can send up to 12000 emails per month! This is a perfect beginner tool that will allow you to upgrade over time as you grow your client list. You can also create very nice landing pages, websites, and forms.

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Alternative: Mailchimp

This is another option that is completely free to begin with. I would only recommend this if you are fairly tech savvy, as it can be a bit more complex to begin. However, there is a ton of functionality and its a great product.

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Password Manager

Recommended: Roboforms

This is a free and easy way to store your passwords in one place. There is an upgraded version that allows for multiple devices. If you decide to go with NordVPN, they also offer a password manager for a little more per month.

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Separate Business Phone Line

Recommended: Grasshopper Virtual Phone System

Right now Grasshopper is offering 7 days with no commitment, so you can try it out and see if you like it. I provide Grasshopper phones for all of the agents at my brokerage and also use it for a construction business I am a partner in. Its a very nice way to seem professional even if you are on the go (which hopefully you are!). It also has texting, fax, and a variety of other helpful features. The best aspect of having Grasshopper is that you can keep your business line separate from you personal line, and you can direct it strait to VM during off hours.

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Actual Mail and Greeting Cards

Recommended: Send Out Cards

You will often hear real estate marketing people say that regular mail is dead and that you should focus on web/email lead generation. I tend to disagree and still think that regular mail can have a big impact on your business if done correctly. There is also no reason you can’t make it simpler by using a product like Send Out Cards. They even have a print that looks like handwriting, which can save a ton of time.

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Note Taking

Recommended: Evernote

There are multiple tools to take notes, but I haven’t found anything I enjoy using more than Evernote. For a real estate agent, it can be the ultimate time-saver. Quickly store business card information with your camera, auto-create text from print, speak to text while driving, etc. Organization is very important in real estate and this will help you stay that way.

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Example Monthly Budget

Here is an example monthly budget if you added something from every category on my list. As I have mentioned, your brokerage may provide some tools that will take the place of a few of these, and you may not need a few of them when you are just beginning. If you believe you can comfortably afford it, then great, if not just choose wisely!

Personal domain name is a one time cost of $10-20/year so I did not include it in the budget**

ServiceService ProviderCost/Month
Email HostG Suite for Email$6/month
CRMGoogle Sheet (CRM)Free
Web HostBlue Host$3.95/month
IDXIDX Broker Lite $50/month
Web SafetyNord VPN$3.71/month
E&OHiscox$35/month
Email AutoMailerliteFree
Pass ManagerRoboformsFree
Phone LineGrasshopper$29/month
Greeting CardsSend Out Cardsper card
NotesEvernoteFree
Total/Month$127.66
This is just an example budget, there are a variety of ways to begin*

Obviously, you can pick and choose your services, and some of these costs may change over time. However, this gets your real estate business started on the right track for around $125-150/month with nearly everything you will need. Even better, most of these providers will allow you to scale the cost over time as your business grows, which will also offer more services from these providers at higher price tiers.

Finally

Thank you for taking the time to read this article about the best technology for real estate agents that are just getting started in the business. Please make sure to do your own research and to make sure that each product is a good fit for you and your business. Some brokerages may provide software that will take the place of some of these items.

Most importantly, a lot of this advice is centered around building your own business’s brand, so that you can take it with you anywhere you go!

There are a million and one software platforms out there, and there are new offerings on the daily. I did my best to come up with a budget-friendly list that I think can help any agent get off the ground without spending a fortune. Most importantly, a lot of this advice is centered around building your own business’s brand, so that you can take it with you anywhere you go!

State of Arkansas Real Estate License Requirements

Arkansas Real Estate Requirements 

Article Summary: Within the contents of this article, there is information involved for anyone who wants to understand the requirements to obtain a real estate license in Arkansas. Knowledge provided may include licensing requirements, laws, education, renewals, continuing education, and broker requirements. 


When it comes to Arkansas, The AR Real Estate Commission is responsible for all real estate matters within the state. This includes serving and protecting public interest through examination and licensing requirements along with regulating real estate brokers and all salespersons. They aim at serving the public and ensuring the real estate marketplace has integrity and fairness as its core values.

In order to obtain a real estate license in AR, one must be at least 18 years of age. There are 60 hours of required education at an approved school that must be achieved and the final course exam needs to be passed before someone can apply for Arkansas salesperson licensing exam. Half of those hours should be in the basic principles of real estate.  AREC has detailed information including approved schools on its website

Each person is obliged to have a background check and provide fingerprints in order to take the real estate exam. The Arkansas and National portions of the Pearson Vue Salesperson Real Estate Exam need to be successfully passed at one of the five exam locations within AR. After completing the exam, an applicant must send the appropriate forms and fees to the AK real estate commission no later than 90 days after passing the exam for their real estate license. 

There are 18-hours of completed AREC post license courses required by a new salesperson by the end of the 6th month after the date of licensure. This course is only offered in person currently. Additionally, the state requires 7 hours of CE every year by December 31st. This includes 3 advertising hours, 3 elective hours, and 1 safety hour which can be viewed here.

Broker applicants must also be 18 years of age and complete 60 hours of real estate education. Out of those hours, 45 hours need to be Broker Pre-license education courses provided by the commission. These hours should be within 36 months before applying for the broker’s exam. Each person should also have been licensed and an active salesperson no less than 24 months within the previous 48 month period before the application. A new broker is required to finish 30 hours of classroom AREC post-license course hours within 6 months of the licensing. 

Arkansas Real Estate License Requirements

Arkansas real estate agents have to go through a series of pre-license requirements before they are permitted to become a licensed real estate agent. These requirements are put in place by the Arkansas Real Estate Commission, and they are designed to help you make the most of your potential new career. You have to meet a number of requirements before you are issued a license, and it’s not always easy to obtain one if you can’t meet these requirements. You must be at least 18-years-old, and you must be a U.S. Citizen, and that’s just, to begin with.

Education

All new real estate hopefuls are required by law to complete 60-hours of real estate coursework prior to taking the exam. This includes 30-hours dedicated to the basics of real estate, and the rest includes the law and other applicable items. These classes have to be taken in a school or through an online portal accredited and approved by the AREC. You must pass the class, and obtain proof of your successful completion.

Examination

Once you complete the coursework required to obtain a license, you must then take the state exam. The exam is given weekly at all locations throughout the state, and the fee to take it is $125. This includes a $50 application fee for the exam as well as the $75 exam fee. You can take the exam as many times as it takes to pass, but you have to pay for it every time you take it.

Application

Now that you’ve passed the real estate exam, it’s time to submit your application for a license. This includes sending all the proof you need, such as a form of identification, proof you took and passed your classwork, proof you passed your exam, and permission for the AREC to run a background check. You must pass this, or you will be denied a license. You have 90 days to submit your application once you pass your sate exam. The fee is $85.

Post-License Education

You’ll be required to take an additional 18-hours of education following the receipt of your license. You have one year to do this. You can’t take this class until after you have your license, but you must complete the education prior to the 12-month deadline or your license becomes invalid, and you have to begin all over again to become an active real estate agent.

Disclosure :: Please be aware that these requirements change from time to time, we do our best to monitor the changes but it is always best to go to the source to confirm the requirements!

State of Arizona Real Estate License Requirements

Arizona Real Estate Requirements 

Article Summary: This article provides guidance and steps a person should take in getting their Arizona real estate license. There is information  pertaining to the State of Arizona’s education, laws, license requirements, renwal information and more..


The Arizona Department of Real Estate or ADRE for short, is located in Phoenix, Arizona. They are responsible for overseeing the activity of all licensees within the state along with investigating any complaints filed along with the Dispute process. The ADRE also approves pre-licensing instruction, continuing education courses, and necessary testing. Their goal is to make sure the schools and courses have quality and accurate material. 

In order for an applicant to be qualified for an original real estate license, they must show acceptable character including honesty and truthfulness. Moreover, a person is required to be at least 18 years old at the time of applying for a license. Also, an individual must not have had a real estate license denial within a year or revoked for any reason within two years of the application. 

There are 90 hours required in classroom or online training for pre-licensing coursework at an approved Arizona real estate school. One must pass the examination at an ADRE approved real estate school, college, or university. Another license requirement involves a Fingerprint Clearance Card. These are issued by the AZ Department of Public Safety and the process can take as long as eight to ten weeks to receive. A person needs to attend a 6 hour Contract Writing class and receive a certificate before the license application. 

After the 90 hours of approved pre-licensing education is complete along with passing the final course exam and submitting the other required documents, an applicant must schedule and pass the Arizona Real Estate Exam. This is all done through Pearson VUE. A Fee schedule and more information is listed on the ADRE website. The Examination application and Examination Fees combined currently are $75 for a salesperson. The License Fee itself is $50. 

Applying for a license must happen within one year from the date of passing the national and state-specific portions of the AZ Real Estate Exam. A salesperson needs to hire on with a broker at the time of application or get hired on after licensing online. 

In order to qualify for a broker’s license, a salesperson with a real estate license must have proof of three years of full time experience within the five years after an original application. Completion of 90 hours of pre-licensing education through an ADRE approved school and passing the school’s final Broker examination in person is needed. They then should register and pass the Broker State Exam through Pearson VUE and apply for a license within one year of passing the state licensing exam. 

There is a convenient license renewal checklist provided by the AZ Department of Real Estate along with continuing education credit requirements frequently asked question guides provided. In each 24 month period, a licensee must go online and submit 24 hours of approved CE courses. 

Arizona Real Estate License Requirements
Becoming a real estate agent in Arizona is a bit more difficult than it is in other states. While most states allow students to take their pre-license coursework online if need be, that is not an option in Arizona. In addition to those coursework hours, all applicants must meet certain requirements. There are no exceptions. You either meet them all or forgo applying for a real estate license in Arizona.

Requirements

Before you begin the process of becoming a real estate agent in Arizona, you need to meet the basic requirements. You must be at least 18. You must issue your fingerprints for review, and you must disclose whether or not you’ve ever been convicted of any crimes or felonies, civil judgments, and whether or not any of your previous professional licenses have had any action taken against them. You must also pass a background check. It’s a stringent process.

Education

Anyone interested in taking the Arizona real estate license exam must be present for 90-hours of classwork called pre-license education at an approved facility. This must be taken at an approved real estate school in Arizona, and online courses are not permitted for this portion of the education requirements. You have to pass this class to become eligible to take the state exam.

Exam

Once you’ve taken the class, you have to pass the state exam. The fee is $75 each time you take the exam. Once you pass, you have to submit the real estate agent application, which is available online at the Arizona Department of Real Estate. The fee to apply for a license is $60. Before you can submit that, however, you have to take an additional 6-hours of education called the Contract Writing Class. You have only one year to submit your application for a real estate license following the successful completion of the state real estate exam. If you don’t, your exam score is no longer valid, and you’ll have to begin the entire process once again.

Before your license is approved, you must show proof that you’ve been hired into a broker’s office to work as a licensed real estate agent. Your new broker must approve your hire with the Arizona Department of Real Estate before your license is issued. This is something to discuss with the broker you want to work with to ensure they’re aware.

Disclosure :: Please be aware that these requirements change from time to time, we do our best to monitor the changes but it is always best to go to the source to confirm the requirements!

State of California Real Estate License Requirements

California Real Estate Requirements

Article Summary: This article provides useful information about the real estate licensee process in the state of California. It will help anyone who has interest in knowing how to become a real estate licensee or Broker. There is insight provided on license requirements, approved education, examination and specifics on the department responsible for overseeing the industry within the state. 


The Governor of California appoints the Commissioner who served as the chief executive of The California Department of Real Estate (DRE). This department located in Sacramento, is responsible for the administration and enforcement of the Real Estate Law. This also includes all real estate matters of regulation, licensure,  and education. Under the department’s mission statement, it states their aim of being “an effective consumer advocate by monitoring and regulating industry practices while promoting public awareness.”

When it comes to basic eligibility, a person needs to be 18 years or older when they are applying for the state exam and be a U.S. citizen. Honesty and truthfulness are also listed under the requirements of the DRE’s website related to approval of a license. 

First-time licensee candidates are required to take 135 hours of pre-licensing education through an accredited school. These courses must be completed in three categories for 45 hours in each: Real estate Principles, Practice and an elective within 12-course options. One can take these courses either in person or online for the state of California.

After course materials are done, there are final course exams that need to be passed in the presence of a proctor. For an applicant, these 100 question exams are required to have a score of 70% or higher to pass. 

Once the course exams are passed and complete, the DRE manages state licensing exam scheduling and facilitates the licensing Application process on their website. The state exam is $60 to take and can be done at one of the California Department of Real Estate offices. These tests are held 3-4 times a week. More information on dates and availability are found here. A person must have a score of 70% or higher as well to pass. There are no limitations on how many exams a person can take in a 2 year period if they do not pass. Before receiving a license, each person must verify identification through an electronic finger-printing program called Live Scan and have a background check submitted with an application to be approved by the DRE.  

A salesperson is required to be sponsored by an Active Licensed California Broker before any transactions are done. A real estate salesperson licence is good for four years until it needs to be renewed. In order to renew, 45 hours of approved continuing education courses and the renewal fee are needed. These hours can be completed any time within the 4 years but the certificates should not be turned in until 90 days before a license expires. 

For someone wanting to have a Broker’s license in CA, they are required to have at least two years of full time licensed salesperson experience within the previous five years. In addition, eight specific college-level courses that are listed by the DRE have to be complete.  A score of 75% or higher is necessary on the state’s Broker Examination.

California Real Estate License Requirements

Passing the California real estate license exam takes time and dedication. Unlike many other states that require several hours of education to become eligible to take the state exam, the California Bureau of Real Estate requires all applicants to complete a staggering 135-hours of pre-license coursework in addition to meeting other stringent requirements. If you are interested in becoming a realtor in California, it’s imperative you become familiar with the requirements beforehand. You must be at least 18-years-old, a resident of California, and you disclose any criminal history you have.

Education

All applicants must take 135-hours of coursework from a BRE-approved higher education facility. These courses include Real Estate Principles, Real Estate Practice, and one course from a long list of other subjects including:

– Common interest developments
– Real estate appraisal
– Computer applications in real estate
– Property management
– Mortgage loan brokering and lending
– Real estate finance
– Escrows
– Real estate economics
– Business law
– Legal aspects of real estate
– General accounting
– Real estate office administration

You get to choose the third course per your desires. Only attorneys who have previously passed the California State Bar are exempt from this education. You must pass each course to move on to the next step of the real estate license process. The cost of each course varies depending on where you take it, how you take it, and the additional materials you purchase.

Examination

Once you pass your coursework, you get to take the California state exam to become a licensed realtor. You can take this exam at any of the BRE-approved locations, and you can take it as many times as you need to pass. The fee for this test is $60, and you have to pay each time you take it if you don’t pass the first time.

Application

When you pass the state exam, it’s time to send in your application. The application is found on the BRE website, and it must be 100 percent factual and complete. The fee to send in your application includes all the smaller fees for things such as your background check, and it is $245. Once your application is approved, you’ll receive your license in the mail and become eligible to work for a broker. You will take continuing education classes as required by your license every few years prior to your license’s expiration.

Disclosure :: Please be aware that these requirements change from time to time, we do our best to monitor the changes but it is always best to go to the source to confirm the requirements!

State of Alabama Real Estate License Requirements

Alabama Real Estate License Requirements

Article Summary: This article provides contents on real estate requirements in Alabama. Information on license eligibility, training requirements, school information, tests and exams, and license renewals, along with links to necessary forms. This will help any person looking into information in regards to real estate licenses in Alabama or anyone who has a desire to become a real estate agent in the state.  


The Alabama Real Estate Commission, located in Montgomery,  serves the state through licensing and regulating of all real estate licensees. Their vision is to ensure all real estate professionals in Alabama have excellence and integrity throughout the industry. They have nine governing leadership commissioners across the state to ensure integrity is upheld. 

Eligibility for a real estate license in the state of Alabama is charged by law that people engaging in the business have not been convicted of a felony or crime involving moral turpitude, and they have a reputation of honest, trustful, and truthful conduct. If someone does have any sort of criminal offense, they are able to apply for a Determination of License Eligibility to address a record with the Commission and receive a decision of eligibility before completing any education and examination requirements for a license. 

Other requirements for eligibility to obtain a Salesperson license in Alabama include being a U.S. citizen, be at least 19 years of age, proof of residency in a U.S. State, proof of high school graduation or the equivalent, and not have had a real estate application or license rejected or revoked in another state within a 2 year period. 

All applicants are required to successfully complete 60 hours of approved pre license course and pass the State exam within 6 months of completing the coursework. They also must finish 30 hour post license courses within the first 12 months of licensure to be issued a permanent (original) license. The original license must be issued and the course must be complete within the first six months in order to have an active license maintained. 

In order to obtain a Broker License in Alabama, a person must meet the requirement above. In addition, they must successfully complete 60 hours of pre license course work that is approved and must have had an active real estate salesperson license for a minimum of 24 months of the 36 period after the date of application in any state. 

The Alabama Real Estate Commission provides a course search tool to look for either classroom courses or distance education. They also provide the pass rate of over 100 options for schools that provide real estate coursework within the state. 

The requirement for license renewal can be found online. To remain current, both active and inactive licenses need to be renewed. Every two years, Continuing Education of a total of 15 hours (9 hours of approved courses and 6 hours of Risk Management) prescribed by the Commision is required for renewal. On every even year by September 30th, these hours must be completed. Electric Course Evaluation is provided on the Commision website

The Real Estate Licensing Examination is administered by appointment only at one of five exam centers in Alabama. The exam fee is $73. An exam can be scheduled online, by phone or by mail.  All the necessary forms you need can be found online.

Alabama Real Estate License Requirements

The requirements to become a real estate agent in Alabama make for a long list. Every salesperson who wishes to work in the real estate field must meet each requirement. The Alabama Real Estate Commission does not make exceptions for anyone who doesn’t meet the eligibility requirements. Before you pay for courses to become an active realtor in Alabama, you want to be sure you meet the requirements and know what all is involved in obtaining a real estate license.

Requirements:

Anyone hoping to become a real estate agent in Alabama must meet the following requirements:

– Be a US Citizen OR
– Be a permanent resident alien
– Be at least 19-years-old
– Be a US resident
– Have a GED or high school diploma
– Never been convicted of a felony
– Never had a real estate applications denied or revoked in any other state anytime in the past two years

Education

No one can become a realtor without taking the pre-license coursework. These courses are offered at various locations around the state, but they have to be approved by the AREC to qualify you for a license. These courses must contain 60-hours of coursework, but those you take online can take as much or as little time as you need so long as the 60 hours of coursework are present. Once you pass this class, you have 6 months to take your state exam. The course fee is dependent on a number of factors, such as taking it in person or online, the location, and the materials you purchase.

Exam

You have six months to take you exam, and you have to pass. The fee for the exam is $73. You can pay at the approved testing center the day you take your test with a credit card, cashier’s check, or money order. If you do not pass the exam the first time, you can retake it as you need. However, you do have to pay for the test each time you take it.

Application

Once you’ve passed your state exam, you submit your application for a license to the AERC. This must be filled out in its entirety. It’s available on the AERC website, or you can pick one up at your local testing center upon completion of your exam. You’ll send in $235 with your application. Of that, $25 is for the AERC to perform a criminal record search on you, $30 is a research fee, $30 is a recovery fund fee, and the other $150 is the application fee. Once your application is approved, you receive your license.

To keep your license active, you are required to complete 30-hours of post-license education within one year. Your first license is a temporary one, and you won’t be issued a permanent license until you complete this coursework.

State of Georgia Real Estate License Requirements

Georgia Real Estate Requirements

Article Summary: In this article, there will be specific details outlined on requirement to obtain a Real Estate License in the state of Georgia. Below, there will be information provided including who administers the license law in Georgia, educational requirements and approved schools, examination, continuing education, renewals and more.


The Georgia Real Estate Commission and Appraisers Board (GREC) is responsible for administration of the license law, which regulates brokers and salespersons within the state. This regulatory body makes it clear on the fact that their role is to protect the public interest fairly and impartially. 

Georgia’s general requirements to obtain a Real Estate License include being at least 18 years old, having a high school diploma or GED, and passing a background check. 

In order to satisfy the educational requirements, a person must complete 75-hours of Salesperson Pre-licensure Courses at a school approved by the GREC. As a replacement, they can instead complete a minimum of 10 quarter hours or six semester hours of coursework from a U.S. or Canadian accredited college or university. There is also a 25-hour salesperson post-license course required within the first year of a license to be sure it does not lapse.

The Georgia Real Estate License Exam is administered by Applied Measurement Professionals (AMP). Before taking the state exam, one is required to obtain a Georgia Crime Information Center (GCIC) report of a person’s criminal history. This can be received at any local police department or sheriff’s office. This report needs to be turned into AMP before receiving a license. 

The examination fee due of $121 covers all fees due during the first four years of a license. The minimum score to pass the exam is 72%. After the exam is passed, it is necessary for an applicant to apply for a license within 12 months of taking the exam to avoid having to take the exam again. The GREC’s website provides more information on the exam such as scheduling information and what to expect in regards to exam formatting. 

Another important factor in the license application includes a completed Sponsoring Broker Statement form in order to have an active real estate license in GA. When it comes to license renewal, an individual is required to complete 36 hours of Commission approved continuing education within each four year renewal period. Out of the 36 hours, 3 hours must include the topic of License Law. 

A Salesperson applying for a Broker License, must be at least 21 years of age. They are also required to successfully complete a 60-hour Broker’s Pre License Course at an approved school or complete a minimum of 15 quarter hours or 9 semester hours from an accredited college or university within the U.S or Canada. The necessary experience to obtain a Broker License includes an active status for at least three of the five years before the application. More information on applications and fees can be found here

Georgia Real Estate License Requirements

The Georgia Real Estate Commission allows any Georgia resident who is at least 18-years-old with a valid Social Security Number and a high school diploma or equivalent to obtain a real estate license. There are a number of requirements a person must meet to be eligible for a Georgia real estate license, and each one is relatively easy to understand. The requirements are stringent, but it’s for the protection of other agents, buyers, and sellers.

Education

No one can obtain a Georgia real estate license without first meeting the Real Estate Education requirements. This includes successful completion of 75-hours in a classroom or online. This is the salesperson pre-license course. These courses must be completed at a school or through a program approved by the GREC. Fees vary by location and available options.

You can skip this class if you have passed 6 semester hours/10 quarter hours of coursework at an accredited university while working on real estate major. Official transcripts are required proof for this. You can also use the 75-hours of pre-license coursework from another state if you can prove it’s been approved in said state.

Background Check

All applicants are required to go through a background check to see if they have a criminal history. Only those who pass the background check are eligible to receive a real estate license in Georgia. It’s recommended you submit permission for this prior to taking your courses. Some criminal background check notes are eligible for appeal, but those are handled on a case-by-case basis.

Examination

The Georgia Real Estate Examination is the most important part of the licensure program. You cannot practice real estate without a license, and you have to pass this exam to obtain a license. You can take the test as many times as you want until you pass, but it costs $115 each time you take it. You have to submit your application following the exam, which is available on the GREC website. The fee to apply for the exam within 3 months of completing your pre-license education is $170. The fee goes up to $340 if you wait longer than 3 months. If you wait longer than one year to apply for your license, your state exam scores become invalid.

Post-License Education

Once you are license, your license expires every four years. Before you can renew, you have to take 36-hours of continuing education. Without this, your license cannot be renewed. You can activate your license right away by working with a broker, or you can list it as inactive and find work when you decide it’s time to activate your license in Georgia.