So you’re considering a switch to the real estate field, but you’re not ready to dive in full time. We totally get it. Many agents successfully pursue real estate part time. Ready to get started? We’ve put together a step-by-step guide that will take you from getting your real estate license all the way to the closing table.
If you’re looking to get started right away, the first step is getting your real estate license, and for that, you’ll need a real estate school. After reviewing the best online real estate schools, we chose Real Estate Express as the best option for new agents. They make it easy to get your real estate license fast with comprehensive exam prep and live chat Q & A.
A Super Quick Overview of How the Real Estate Business Works
Before we jump in, let’s talk for a second about how the real estate business actually works.
In order to sell real estate, you must become either a real estate agent or a real estate broker. What’s the difference? An agent focuses primarily on selling real estate, while a broker focuses primarily on managing agents.
Brokers can still buy and sell, but most of their time is spent recruiting, supporting, and managing the agents within their brokerage. Think of brokers like the managers of a baseball team in the 1920s. Those guys were wearing uniforms, so technically they could play if they wanted, but they were better at facilitating the other players’ success.
As a Realtor® (the official title of members of NAR, the National Association of Realtors), you work with buyers and sellers to facilitate their homebuying or selling needs. In exchange for this work, you’re paid a commission on each sale you facilitate. There is no set commission, but typically, that rate is about 3% for a buyer’s agent and 3% for a seller’s agent.
From that 3%, you give a piece to your broker as a compulsory thank you for allowing you to be a part of their brokerage, a chunk to Uncle Sam for taxes (you’re an independent contractor, so nobody is taking taxes out of what you make for you), and the rest goes to you as the agent of record.
With us so far? Awesome, we knew you were smart.
Part-time Real Estate Agent Salary: How Much Can You Make?
Like we said before, there is no salary for a real estate agent—all your income is based on commissions. A recent survey done by Real Estate Express shows that the average annual income for real estate agents working less than 20 hours a week is $24,556.
How much you will make depends on a number of factors, but we’ve built a handy calculator into this article for you to use to figure out exactly what you can expect from your efforts as a part-time real estate agent. Check it out below, or head there right now.
Can You Be a Part-time Real Estate Agent? 15 Steps for Getting to Your First Day
Now that we’re all on the same page about how the business works, let’s dive right in to what it takes to get you to your first official day as a part-time real estate agent. We know, 15 steps sounds like a lot, but it’s actually pretty straightforward. We’re going to get into each of these steps in detail, but in case you just want a quick overview, here’s the process from start to finish:
Getting Your License
- Find Out & Complete Your Prelicensure Requirements
- Decide on a Brokerage
- Find Out & Complete Your Prelicensure Requirements
- Sit for (& Pass!) Your Real Estate License Exam
- Join Your Local Board
If you’re looking for more information about getting your license, we’ve got a fantastic guide all about getting your real estate license—check it out!
Protecting Your “Part-time” Status
- Protect Your Full-time Job & Decide What You Can Devote to Real Estate
- Pick Your Real Estate Schedule
- Set Aside Some Intentional Non-work Time
Answering the Questions That Will Make You Successful
- What Are the Costs at the State Level for Maintaining Your Real Estate License?
- What Are the Costs for Maintaining Membership in Your Local MLS?
- What Are Your Broker-related Costs?
- How Much Are You Going to Spend on Marketing & Lead Generation?
- How Much Are You Going to Set Aside for Operating Costs?
- What Is the Median Sales Price in the Area You Are Operating In?
- What Is the Average Commission You Expect to Receive?
- What Is Your Split With Your Broker?
1. Find Out & Complete Your Prelicensure Requirements
Most states require real estate agents to take some sort of class prior to sitting for their licensing exam. This class gives you a good idea of the sort of things you will see on the test itself, but is also a valuable tool for acquiring the knowledge base necessary to being successful in this industry.
Since you are going to be a part-time real estate agent, usually the most convenient way to take this class is online. Our favorite spot for this sort of online learning is a website called Real Estate Express from McKissock. Select your state and choose your course—they make it super easy to get exactly what you need.
Different states have different requirements for prelicensure. Real Estate Express’ home page has a drop-down menu where you can select your state and get all the information on what you will need to do to get ready for the test.
2. Decide on a Brokerage
As mentioned before, you need a broker to work for. In the real estate business, we often call this a “place to hang your license,” a saying derived from the practice of real estate agents literally hanging a paper copy of their license on the wall of their office.
When deciding on a brokerage, your market will almost certainly have a LOT of options, but finding a place that is great for part-time real estate agents is key.
Major national brands like RE/MAX, Coldwell Banker, Keller Williams, and the like offer a lot of benefits in terms of brand recognition, while smaller independent brokerages might have a particular connection to the community that is valuable.
Different brokers will offer you different options as far as your split (what percentage of your commission you pay to the broker every time you close a deal), your cap (the max amount you’d pay to the broker over the course of a year), desk fees (what, if any, monthly fees a broker charges to be a part of the organization), and the like.
For most part-time real estate agents, having a brokerage that doesn’t charge much (if any) in the way of upfront fees is key to success. Talk to a lot of brokers, compare and contrast their different offerings, find something that works for you.
Brokers are almost always looking for new agents to join them (the more agents they have closing deals, the more commissions they get), but be prepared to pitch yourself. Brokers want to make sure they are bringing on people who represent their brand well, so dust off those interview skills—you’re gonna need them.
If you want some help deciding the best fit for you, check out our article on the Best Real Estate Companies to Work For.
3. Sit for (& Pass!) Your Real Estate License Exam
OK, now that you’ve got your brokerage figured out and you’ve crushed your class with Real Estate Express, it’s time to put the rubber to the road and take the test.
There are usually a few different testing locations in each state, all of which you can find on your state’s website (normally in the area that deals with licensing and regulatory affairs). If you’re having trouble figuring out where to go, your broker or whoever you did your prelicensing class with can direct you to who you need to speak with.
Pro tip: Don’t skimp on studying the Fair Housing material. It’s an important topic that we should all know about, and we’ve heard from agents across the country who have taken the test in the last couple of years that there has been an emphasis on this area.
4. Join Your Local Board
Hey, before we go any further, congrats! By now, you have your official state license to buy and sell real estate. But, you aren’t quite over the finish line yet. First, you need to join your local MLS.
An MLS, or Multiple Listing Service, is the centralized service that all real estate agents in your area use to list properties for sale, view statistics from previous sales, and gather information for their buyers about homes currently on the market.
Most MLS organizations will admit you as a member as long as you have an active license in your state, but they sometimes will also require you to sit through a class or attend some sort of training on their system before you have the green light to proceed.
Your broker will have all the information on how to join the board and their requirements.
You’re Licensed & Ready to Sell—Is That All You Need to Do?
Remember, the title to this article isn’t “How to Become a Real Estate Agent,” it is “How to Become a Successful Part-time Real Estate Agent.”
Though you may be tempted to quit reading right now and just jump ahead to your dreams of real estate stardom, trust me, that would be a huge mistake.
The next couple of steps are all about doing this part time.
5. Protect Your Full-time Job & Decide What You Can Devote to Real Estate
Real estate, even as a part-time gig, can be quite demanding on your schedule, and if you aren’t careful, it can eat up your entire day or week. Since you are pursuing this as a side hustle, it’s best to start by getting a really good idea of what your time requirements are going to be at the job that pays the rent.
In fact, we go as far as suggesting that you tell your boss you are pursuing real estate part time. They could be your first client!
Block off the time you are going to need to make sure you continue to succeed in your full-time position; don’t let real estate seep in there.
Also, you need to make sure you can pay all your bills with this job. Real estate is a very lucrative field that you are going to do wonderfully in, but it is not an overnight success sort of profession.
Be prepared to work hard for a while without seeing a commission.
6. Pick Your Real Estate Schedule
A lot of people become part-time real estate agents because they want the flexibility of a second job that allows them to work when they want. We agree, this flexibility is awesome, but when you’re first starting out as a part-time real estate agent, you’ll do better by choosing a schedule and sticking to it.
Before you begin day one, get your calendar in front of you and take a look at the next four weeks. Block off the time you’re spending at your full-time gig, then block off the time you’re going to spend on real estate.
You know how you function best. Are you going to work in the evenings? Early mornings? Weekends? Set aside your best opportunities to be productive.
Remember, successful part-time real estate agents are ones that make themselves available when their clients need them. Nights and weekends are important for showing property, visiting open houses, and getting deals done, so make sure to block out some of this prime time for real estate work.
Though we’d love to tell you that you can be successful with just a couple hours a week, when you’re starting out, this normally isn’t the case. We suggest devoting no less than 15 hours a week to real estate when you’re brand-new.
How do you spend those 15 hours? Don’t worry, we’ll get to that.
7. Set Aside Some Intentional Non-work Time
If this is your first time attempting a side hustle, you need to know that time gets to be a precious commodity. You’re going to be excited about the progress and success you’re making in real estate, but if you don’t take at least a little time each week to NOT work, eventually, your real estate pursuits will suffer because you’re burning out.
This may seem silly, but it will help your real estate game in the long run: Choose some time each week when you aren’t allowed to work.
[Bonus Resource] The Ultimate New Real Estate Agent Checklist
There’s a lot that goes into becoming a successful real estate agent. As a real estate coach and trainer, I’ve worked through the process of launching new agents many times, so I know what it takes to get your business off the ground.
To help you keep track of all the things you need to do as a new agent, we put together a comprehensive checklist of all the different marketing and operations systems you’ll need to help you launch your business in the right direction. Click below to download our free Ultimate New Real Estate Agent Checklist.
OK, You’ve Got the “Part-time” Part Down, Now What About “Successful”?
Time to get down to brass tacks here. You’re licensed, you have your schedule all planned out. How do you make yourself not just a part-time real estate agent, but a successful part-time real estate agent?
When we hear the word “successful,” most of us think of financial success. Are you making a profit as a part-time real estate agent? Will you make a reasonable return on the hours you are dedicating to it?
To help make sure the answer to these questions is a resounding YES, we’ve come up with some questions of our own that you need to answer, as well as a handy-dandy calculator you can use to see what sort of results you can expect. Follow steps #8 to #15 to learn your reading potential.
8. What Are the Costs at the State Level for Maintaining Your Real Estate License?
Just like your driver’s license, your state will require you to periodically renew your real estate license. There is a cost to this. How often do you have to do this, and what is the cost per year? It varies quite a bit by state. For instance, in the state of California, a license renewal is $245. In the state of New York, the renewal fee is only $50.
9. What Are the Costs for Maintaining Membership in Your Local MLS?
Most MLSs have a yearly fee real estate agents have to pay in order to maintain an active membership. Some even have a monthly access fee as well. How much will it cost to maintain access to this critical tool annually?
10. What Are Your Broker-related Costs?
OK, slow down and read this one carefully. This question isn’t asking you what your broker SPLIT on your commissions is, it’s asking you what (if any) fees your broker is charging you to be a part of the organization, regardless of whether you are closing transactions?
Hint: Most brokerages call these “desk fees.”
11. How Much Are You Going to Spend on Marketing & Lead Generation?
Success in real estate on any level has a lot to do with getting your name and services in front of the right people at the right time.
This involves marketing and lead generation, which come with a cost. As a part-time real estate agent, you don’t need to be thinking about a massive budget, but there is a critical mass.
We’d suggest an initial number somewhere between $150 and $300 per month.
For creative marketing ideas, we’ve got a great piece that is chock-full of approaches to promote your new business. Give our article 27 Real Estate Marketing Ideas & Trends That Will Dominate 2020 a read, and tell us what you think!
12. How Much Are You Going to Set Aside for Operating Costs?
As a real estate agent, you are essentially a small business owner (at the moment, very small). As such, you are responsible for your operating costs. You need to pay for things like yard signs, a refill on business cards when you run out, and cups of coffee with prospective sellers.
Though this number is going to vary widely depending on your market and cost of living, we like to suggest starting at around $50 a month and seeing how that feels.
13. What Is the Median Sales Price in the Area You Are Operating In?
This one’s easy. Head over to Zillow and check out their Neighborhood Home Values area.
Zillow tracks the sales of all the homes in your area, and gives you lots of valuable insight into the sales history and trends in a particular area.
What we really want to know is, what is the median sale price? When we know that median price, we can use it to get a good estimate on the sort of commission you can expect from each sale.
14. What Is the Average Commission You Expect to Receive?
There is no salary for part-time real estate agents; this is a 100% commission-based business.
We should stress here that there is no established or required real estate commission rate. You can observe the best practices of others, and you can look in the MLS and find out what most property listings include as a commission, but nobody can tell you how much you can charge a seller for commission.
For the purposes of your success, it is helpful to have an estimate. A total commission (for both buyer and seller agent) for a property is typically 5% to 6%, so we’d suggest estimating at 2.5%, just to be conservative. That means if you represent a buyer on a home in an area where the median price is $400,000, your gross commission on this sale is $10,000.
15. What Is Your Split With Your Broker?
When you receive a commission, your broker is going to get a percentage of it. What is that percentage?
With some brokerages, this split is negotiated per office or even per agent. However, some brokerages, like Keller Williams (the brand that took the top spot in our Best Real Estate Company to Work for in 2020 article) have a universal split. With Keller Williams, your split before cap is 64%. So, that transaction with the 2.5% commission on a $400,000 sale price from before? At Keller Williams, your pre-cap cut as an agent would total $6,400.
Part-time Real Estate Agent Success Calculator
OK, take the answers you came up with for questions 8 through 15 and plug them in below. Obviously, the more deals you close, the more profit you make!
Surviving Your First Month as a Part-time Real Estate Agent
Now begins the hardest and best part of being a successful part-time real estate agent: doing the work.
Your broker is going to have an onboarding plan that will launch you into hunting for your first transaction, but if they don’t (or maybe you just want something different), we’ve sketched out a brief roadmap on how you spend your time for each week for the first four weeks of your new real estate business.
In our plan, we’ve set aside 20 hours a week for real estate.
Week 1: Get Systems Set Up, Get the Word Out
- Set up your systems (3 hours): Set up all the systems you are going to use to tell people about your business. Set up a Facebook Page, create a little content, invite your friends to Like you. Set up a Zillow account and complete the profile so you can be searchable there. Set up the website that comes free (usually) with your brokerage so it has your information.
- Sphere of influence (8 hours): Reach out to as many people in your personal sphere as possible and let them know you are now a real estate agent. Your personal sphere is going to be a major source of business for you as you are starting out, so make this a priority. Mix up your outreach depending on the audience.
Try handwritten cards, text messages, phone calls, Facebook messages—any form of communication that is going to get you talking with the people you know about your new venture. Let them know how excited you are to take on this new challenge, let them know you are ready to take on any real estate task they need help with.
Don’t forget: Real estate isn’t just about selling homes, it is about selling YOURSELF to your potential clients. Don’t be afraid to ask (politely and graciously) for your friends’ and families’ business—you’ll be surprised how many people will respond positively.
Often real estate agents will turn to a customer relationship management (CRM) tool to help them manage their contacts and automate outreach to the right person, with the right message, at the right time. If you aren’t familiar with CRMs and what they have to offer, check out our article on the Best Real Estate CRMs for 2020.
- On-the-job learning (2 hours): Set a coffee date with another real estate agent and ask them all the questions you have been dying to ask someone who is working in your market today. In real estate, your competitors happen to be your colleagues, and as long as you aren’t asking someone to spill state secrets, most real estate agents are happy to discuss strategy with a new agent.
- Market familiarization (2 hours): Spend time on the MLS and familiarize yourself with the market. If you can get some of your outreach conversations to real estate topics, oftentimes you are going to be asked, “How’s the market right now?” Have an answer for them. Also, take some time and go to an open house or two. See what other real estate agents are doing to market properties, and borrow the best ideas.
- Remaining 5 hours: These hours are reserved for the appointments you set and fruits of your labor that now require a little more time before you can harvest them. Agents who aren’t prepared to be successful miss a lot of opportunity. You will need time to show buyers homes, pitch potential sellers your services, and write and respond to offers.
Week 2: Agents, Start Your (Marketing) Engines
- Sphere of influence (3 hours): Get back to your personal sphere and keep working it. Chances are you didn’t reach out to everyone last week, so pick up where you left off, and also follow up with another point of contact for anyone who expressed even a modicum of interest in your new venture. This would be a great time to dig into that CRM and start setting up regular follow-ups with your most valuable contacts.
You are now a communication chameleon. If your contacts like to text, you text. If they want to talk on the phone, you talk. If they want to use messenger pigeons, go get some birds.
- Marketing outreach (8 hours): Start building your marketing effort with relevant content your audience is going to find useful and interesting. Use Facebook’s scheduling feature and schedule out content all week long. Write a blog post for your website about what’s happening in your real estate world.
Choose a geographic area and start working it (we call this “farming”). The most successful farming campaigns start in an area you already have a connection. For instance, how about your own neighborhood?
Send a letter to every single person in your neighborhood, regardless of whether you know them personally or not, and let them know there is a real estate expert living just down the street. If you need some help on writing these letters, we’ve got some great prospecting letter templates you can check out.
- On-the-job learning (2 hours): Find someone else and take them out to lunch, learn another perspective on the business. Maybe someone in your office has a business you admire? Maybe your broker? If you really want to get some good information, find an admin person who has been in the industry for a while and pick their brain over soup and sandwiches.
- Market familiarization (2 hours): Make sure you are dedicating time every day to look at the MLS and follow what is happening in the local market. If one of your personal contacts happens to mention in jest that they would move if their “perfect house” ever hit the market, you need to know if that house becomes available.
- Remaining 5 hours: Set appointments, and reap what you sow. Save this time to meet face to face with potential clients. If you don’t have any meetings, use this time to keep reaching out.
Week 3: Go for Low-hanging Fruit
- Personal sphere outreach (2 hours): By this time, your personal sphere has had a pretty good once-through. Set aside 30 minutes a day to continue to do targeted outreach to people who seem like they may be interested now or in the future in your real estate offerings. Be on the lookout for personal contacts that could be good referral sources too.
- Marketing outreach (8 hours): Your marketing efforts outside your personal sphere are taking on a new dimension this week. Do what you know needs to happen to continue to build your brand (social media content for the week, a short blog post, and so on), and also hit another part of that farm area (maybe with a phone call this time?).
This week, when you are cruising the MLS, make note of the property listings that have just expired. These are properties that didn’t sell for one reason or another, and sometimes these sellers are ready for a change in real estate agent. Reach out to them and tell them why you can sell their home when another couldn’t.
As you are adding new dimensions to this outreach, you may find yourself short on time. Some CRMs offer automation on marketing that allow you to set a plan and forget. We really like IXACT Contact’s Social Stream feature for working with our Facebook Feed to get good stuff there without a lot of time and effort from us.
- On-the-job learning (1 hour): Stop by the most successful agent in the firm’s office and strike up a conversation. Ask good questions, and learn from them. This sort of activity gets you good insight into how they’ve become successful, but it also puts you on that agent’s radar as someone who they could work with one day.
- Market familiarization (2 hours): Back again on the MLS and out in the field to make sure you are up to date on everything happening in your local market.
- Paid lead options (2 hours): Spend some time researching different options for buying real estate leads. Zillow Premier Agent is often the most talked about in this space. Though budgets on this sort of effort can range from just a few bucks a month all the way up to $100,000 per month (or more!), we suggest you start with a budget around $150. If you want more suggestions, we’ve written a helpful guide on the 5 Smart Ways to Buy Real Estate Leads.
- Remaining 5 hours: Get those appointments, work those leads. This is the time you’ve set aside to convert maybe into yes.
Week 4: Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
- Personal sphere outreach (2 hours): Pick a couple of people each day to interact with. Just that interaction brings you top of mind with this person.
- Marketing outreach (8 hours): Cement the good habits you’ve already established. Create a week’s worth of Facebook content, a short blog for the website, maybe hit your farm area with some of the latest market stats for your neighborhood.
Send a handwritten letter to each expired listing in the MLS.
The final piece of the puzzle is spending some time looking for properties that are For Sale By Owner and directing outreach to them. They’ve already decided they want to sell—it is just up to you to convince them to do it with you. Why not knock on their door and strike up a conversation?
If you are looking for a centralized place to find Expired Listings and FSBOs, there are some pretty nifty services out there that aggregate that data for you. One that we’ve reviewed before is called REDX, which makes it easy to contact new leads.
- Paid lead launch (2 hours): Take what you learned last week about your paid lead options and send a campaign live. If you’re doing it right, you should set aside time to deal with the incoming lead traffic. Remember, the leads are no good if you don’t follow up, so make time to do so. According to Zillow, more than 70% of leads will go with the first agent they talk to, so being available to pick up the phone makes a big difference.
- Market familiarization (2 hours): Take time to make sure you know the ins and outs of the market this week. Why not take this a step further by looking for a recent sale in a neighborhood where one of your personal contacts lives so you can discuss it with them on your next call? This is a great conversation starter about home values and can spur conversation around a listing.
- Take a mortgage lender to lunch (1 hour): You’d be surprised how many leads you can get from a mortgage lender. Start with the bank you personally do business with, find someone you connect with, and talk about how you can mutually support each other’s business.
- Remaining 5 hours: All your hard work is paying off; by now, these 5 hours are full of listing appointments and buyer showings.
Part-time Real Estate FAQs
You know the process to become a part-time real estate agent, and you’ve got the plan of attack to make you successful, but you may have a few more questions. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about becoming a part-time real estate agent.
Can you be a part-time real estate agent with a full-time job?
Absolutely! Many real estate agents start off part-time, maintaining their “day job” for a little while. This is appealing to many new professionals because it allows them to maintain some stability in their working life while at the same time exploring a new field.
Remember, as a real estate agent, you are paid 100% in commissions, so you don’t make money until a sale closes. This can be exciting, but also a little nerve-wracking for newbies to the industry, so having a safety net to fall back on can be very helpful.
What hours do most real estate agents work?
It depends on whether you’re full time or part time. Most full-time agents tend to work longer than average hours; anywhere between 35 and 50 hours a week, depending on the season. However, many part-time agents work anywhere from 10 to 20 hours a week, usually during the evenings and weekends.
Can you be a part-time real estate agent?
You bet! Part-time status for real estate professionals is allowed in every single U.S. state and territory. Starting off part time is a great way to learn about the industry and get your feet wet before jumping in full time.
Is it hard being a part-time real estate agent?
Finding a groove with the right amount of time dedicated to real estate every week in order to be able to close sales, prospect new clients, and take care of your existing clients can be challenging at first, but is definitely doable. The best thing new part-time real estate agents can do is find a seasoned agent to learn from or a team to join. There’s no better training than on-the-job training!
Some Final Words of Encouragement for Part-time Real Estate Agents
If you’ve made it this far, you’ve given yourself every opportunity to succeed in this exciting new adventure—congrats!
Real estate can be an extremely rewarding career, and the life of a part-time real estate agent is exciting and varied with lots of opportunity for success.
If you find yourself getting discouraged here and there, focus on the number of transactions you need to be successful, not on the number of callbacks you are getting.
And, when you get your first closing, make sure you take yourself out to celebrate—you are now an experienced and successful part-time real estate agent.
We’d love to hear from you on what is drawing you to the real estate field, and where you are coming from. Are you currently a part-time real estate agent? How is your experience so far?