The Ultimate Guide to Startup Financing for Real Estate Agents

Welcome to real estate, where money is tight and Zillow leads don’t matter. Really, don’t fall for it.

We see that starry look in your eye when you hear the words, real estate. There’s a sense of magic about it and the illustrious tale of riches tantalizes and teases those seeking another career. They imagine an easy life of simple pleasure and time to themselves when they want. No one would be looking over their shoulder, telling them what to do. Those dreams are what fuels them. What doesn’t is bankruptcy.

Around 87%-95% of real estate agents quit within their first two years of being in the business. Many different matters affect why these people fail, but the one source of failure is a failure to plan and budget. Most get into real estate because of the life they imagined having, freedom from a boss looking over your shoulder constantly. Yet what most new agents don’t account for is the amount of capital needed in order to make the right start into their real estate career.

Here’s an honest look at what money you need in order to make a career in real estate.

We’ll break this down into the following sections: Association/Broker fees, Insurance, Marketing, Technology, Training/Continuing Education, Initial Certification and Licensing, and finally Vehicle and Personal Expenses. It’s much to consider, but with this comprehensive list and guide, the information provided here will give a complete picture of what to expect to spend within the first month or two of starting and throughout the first year of your new career. If you’re looking for the excel sheet that was used in the live FB event, please click here. It’s already preloaded with the formulas so you can substitute as needed to give yourself a more accurate picture.

INITIAL CERTIFICATION AND LICENSING

Many people tend to look at the prospects before they think about any that certification. Again, the dreams of six figures dance in their heads but forget the first step in any kind of career: the training. A great resource that can help with more in-depth information about any and all aspects of starting in real estate is TheBalanceSMB.com. There, the authors give thorough and complete articles about everything anyone needs before setting out on their career. Another source that I’ve found quite informative is RealEstateExpress.com, where they help anyone who is just starting on their real estate journey – from just thinking about it to after certification.

This is simply if you want more after this primer. But let’s talk numbers. Please remember to check with your own local associations and brokers for more accurate numbers specific to your location. They could vary drastically in either direction, and they are an estimation ONLY, not an end-all-be-all invoice. These are simply the factors that you must consider when starting out.

The class is of course one of the most important aspects. These can vary widely from the ones listed on 360Training.com for $76 to ones I’ve seen on Groupon as low as $45 (for the local Tampa, FL area). READ THE STINKING REVIEWS BEFORE SIGNING UP!! Or even asking around other successful agents which one they used.  

Fingerprinting and background check are general over all platforms. Your real estate school should be able to recommend a specific one or point you in the general direction of a Pearson Vue center near you that can perform this action (at least down in FL, those are the people that will want to be fingerprinting you). This should actually be first before you even look at a class. Apparently, they want to make sure you’re not some zoo thief that set all the animals free one night back in college. It’s only after they get the all clear, that you get the all clear. That is not to say that anyone with a record can’t become a real estate agent. There’s a this site that addresses those concerns here at HelpForFelons.org, which states what real estate commission board you need to address and what to say.

After the green light and after the course, there’s the exam fees and the application fees to pay. Elsewhere a simple Google search can have the information for your state. But overall, estimations top out around $450 in total just for the licensure and registration. Still not a heavy price tag but hold on as we’re heading for more.

ASSOCIATION AND BROKER FEES

This will invariably change from locale to locale, so the REALTOR® to be will have to do some hunting at their local organization to get an idea on the dues that will be paid at the end of every year, depending on their signup date. In our locale of Bradenton/Sarasota, Florida, RASM (REALTOR® Association of Sarasota/Manatee) includes all the fees due to them including the MLS, NAR, and their own fees all in one sheet. Whether your specific association will spell it out like this or not needs to be in your knowledge base.

This will also be important when looking for a sponsoring broker. What’s more are the questions concerning what to ask a potential broker. Lucky, though, we have an infographic that you can find here alongside the YouTube video Tanya Eldert (Managing broker of SW Florida Realty Partners) recorded a little while back on the top 4 questions any REALTOR® should be asking before joining any brokerage. REALTOR® and brokerage must answer all these questions (and more!) when trying to decide on a brokerage. It’s much bigger and deeper than just the commission split they offer especially for the fees that you will be paying your broker. Some agents get so hung up on the commission split that they lose sight of everything else that a brokerage offers them.

Another thing to keep in mind are the key fees for the houses as well as the lockboxes. I listed the lockboxes in the tech section of the spreadsheet but do be aware that those things are not cheap to begin with. Used ones cost around $60 each on eBay. And even then, getting a used one just sounds a little sketchy to me. Unsolicited opinion. These fees could be the biggest chunk of your expenses to first start out. But wait! There’s more!

INSURANCE: E&O, HEALTH, AND VEHICLE

Because they all want their piece too. E&O covers the REALTOR®’s kiester if someone decides to take their bad day out on them for whatever reason. This ensures that the entirety of someone’s wealth does not become destroyed due to a lawsuit – unfounded or not. Some brokerages’ E&O will extend to the agents, and sometimes, they will want the agents to get their own in addition.

Health insurance is currently (as in 2019) is in a weird state right now, where no one is required to have it. While I did include this as a well-rounded aspect, this is a heavily debated topic that you will have to address in your own personal affairs.

In real estate, the car will be the mobile office. Invariably, that office with wheels needs to have insurance according to all levels of the law, and that expense will be monthly. In Thomas Heimann’s YouTube video about the 3 most essential tools a REALTOR® will need, he states that without a car, don’t even consider being in the profession.

MARKETING!!

One of the most important expenses that ANY business has to include in their budget. If marketing is not involved, then neither will the business and end up in failure. It is that serious. Take a look at any of the famous REALTOR®s on the popular social media platforms. From Bill Gasset, Kyle Hiscock, and Kristina McCann, these people have made not only social media marketing their game, but also have aced the marketing aspect of their business. They understand all what is needed in order to become THE local expert as well as the specialist for all the new agents out there that need some help with marketing their business.

It would not be unusual for an agent to spend up to $1000 a month. However, when cash is strapped and spending that kind of money isn’t possible, that is when the agent would need to get creative with SEO and social media marketing.

However, the two most important tools that anyone can use is their business card and their sphere of influence (SOI). People work with people they know and trust. It is now your job to earn their trust, and many times face to face contact will be the best way to establish that connection. There are two sites I would say for business cards that are NOT Vistaprint. Moo.com and GotPrint.com.

Whatever anyone does, though, a website is absolutely essential. Go ahead and pay someone to do this if you lack the technological skills to create one. Please stay away from Wix. Don’t go near Wix. They are a pain to transfer over to an actual WordPress site later on.

A great CRM is essential as well. Without one of these, good luck trying to keep in touch with everyone unless you have a super photographic memory that is able to take care of all those things.

Every other tactic that is listed is up to your discretion. This includes any of the other tech that you could employ to be a part of your overall marketing strategy. Use wisely though.

CONTINUING EDUCATION

After all is set up and done, breathe a slight sigh of relief, but not for long. There are still continuing education classes, mentorships, and conferences to invest in yourself as a salesperson. Most agents have already made this investment so far with their own money and can spare the expense of investing further. This may not be possible in the first 3-6 months, and that is perfectly alright. Depending on your market and the competition, this could take a while before it comes to fruition. Don’t despair just yet. But the continuing education hours need upkeep. Without those, the license you worked so hard to get will simply be for naught. However, there is a way to get these CE credits for free. As I mentioned in the FB live event, there will be some builders that hold FREE CE classes for REALTORs. These classes were held all the time when I had my post as the marketing specialist at Real Estate Newsline in San Antonio, TX. I would have to understand fully the bylaws and regulations here in the Florida real estate scene in order to see if that’s a thing that they could potentially do here or not… but to any of the builders out there… there’s your marketing idea. You can send me a check.

Mentorship is another thing to keep in mind as REALTOR®s graduate from school. Being new to the game is not bad: but inexperience can spell out mistakes later in the future. Most people need a guiding hand to ensure that they give the best quality for their clients and pave the way to a successful down the road. Getting a mentor does not mean anything about the quality of service you can provide. It’s more like a failsafe and someone to ensure that those rare situations that didn’t get covered in the books, there’s an experienced person that can serve as a guide. This is important for those first few fragile months where mistakes would be the most common.

MISCELLANEOUS EXPENSES

This would include your own personal expenses (e.g. your own mortgage, rent, food, cell phone bill, etc) and various vehicle expenses, ranging from routine maintenance to gas (LOG YOUR MILES. Here’s a handy app for that: MileIQ. Can be found on Google Play and iTunes). Those expenses need to be counted as well. Without those, you’re providing an incomplete picture for yourself and what to expect. If you come up under, then awesome! The one thing that you don’t want to do is come in over budget – and that can and does happen. But you don’t have to be one of them. Add all that up and you would get your grand total.

Were there any that I missed? Comment below!

Here’s the TL;DR Infographic:

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