June 3rd, the Day before Independence day is now one of the most important days in my life. It ranks up there with the birth of my son, my wedding anniversary, and the birthdays of all my family and friends.
You see, when I woke up that Tuesday morning, I followed my usual routine – let the dogs out, start the coffee, and start up the computer to check my emails overnight.
My inbox doesn’t stop at night, it just slows down a little. Most nights I get a couple of dozen messages – a few personal notes from my friends across the country, and around the world, some advertisements from my favorite companies, a little bit of spam, and some messages from my clients who stay up way too late at night.
But that morning was different. There was a message from TREC – the Texas Real Estate Commission. As soon as I saw that one, I immediately clicked into it, and began to read:
Attached is important information from the Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC)
or Texas Appraiser Licensing & Certification Board (TALCB).
Please read this information carefully. Failure to maintain or renew
your license could result in additional fees, penalties, or expiration of your
And then, attached as a PDF was the information I had been waiting so long to hear.
I was now officially licensed as a Real Estate Agent in the State of Texas.
The journey had been a long one – you can read about here – so I won’t recount it all. In fact, this post will be my last one in the Real Estate School series for a while. I know I’ll have to take some continuing education, but for now I get to jump in, and start to help people like you!
For most new agents the next step is to pick out a Brokerage. You see, in Texas, you can’t just be a lone Agent. You need to be sponsored by an established brokerage, and for the last several months I’ve been interviewing different companies. Some were small boutique agencies, others were groups that specialized in modern homes. I even looked into some of the really big, national Real Estate Agencies.
In the end I found the perfect fit – JB Goodwin. But that’s another story for another day – stay tuned, and come back tomorrow to read all about it!
After many months of preparation, weeks of arranging paperwork and waiting for the day to arrive, it finally did. I sat for the Texas Real Estate exam. I won’t lie, I was a bit nervous. I’ve put a lot of time and preparation into this, and it’s all come down to 2 1/2 hours on a monday morning. Spoiler alert – I passed. It’s hard to think that all the work I’ve been doing for the last 6 months has led up to this moment. But it has, and it’s all been worthwhile.
If you found this post you were probably searching the web for info about the Texas Real Estate Exam. I’m going to describe my experience, as best I can, so you can be as prepared as possible. If you find this page helpful, please like my Facebook Real Estate page as a thank you. Karma baby!
There aren’t a whole lot of photos in this post, mostly because I couldn’t take any pics at the testing center. But there are a lot of words, so grab a coffee, and sit down for a long read.
Registering to take the test was a little tricky, because the instructions from TREC aren’t super clear, and are sort of hard to find on the web. Here’s how it worked for me.
As soon as I finished my final class at the Champion School of Real Estate, I jumped on the TREC website, and filled out the Texas Real Estate salesperson paperwork, digitally. I’ve heard from a couple of people around town that doing it digitally was faster than printing out the forms and sending them in. Since I wanted my license as fast as possible, this was my obvious route.
But, I did have one small problem when I submitted my supporting school documents (transcripts). TREC requires not ust the basic Real Estate classes, but also that you have some other college coursework. Naturally I keep copies of my college transcripts around (both official ones that are unopened, as well as an open copy for my use). So I scanned them in as PDFs and emailed them in as the instructions said to do. But the file was too large for their system to handle, and it bounced back to me. Of course it took a week for me to find this out, delaying my application in the process. GRRRR! Note to TREC – if you are going to accept PDFs why not use an email system that can handle large attachments. It’s not like Real Estate contracts aren’t 20 pages, they are sometimes.
To solve the problem I could have created a bunch of PDFs that were smaller in size, but I didn’t want to risk this also not working, so I jumped in the car, headed to downtown Austin, and submitted my transcripts in person at the TREC office. Low tech solution to the problem. When I was there I asked a couple of questions, and found out that the next step was for someone in the office to review my paperwork, and if everything was OK, I’d get an email with more instructions.
As they said, after a few days, I got an email from TREC stating that all my documents were in order and that I was approved to take the Texas real estate exam. The email also instructed me to visit the PSI website and download the candidate information brochure (C.I.B.). Alternatively I could call a number or visit the TREC website for more info.
But when I visited the PSI website, there was no C.I.B. to be found.
As a side note, one thing I’ve found with technology is making things super easy for everyone to use. When sending out an email, even though you have spent hours crafting the perfect words, to express exactly what needs to be said, make sure that what you are saying actually gets some kind of action. Sure, as the writer of a note, you may be super familiar with what needs to be done, but the reader might not be. Make it easy for them using photos, hyperlinks, or bulleted instructions. That’s the beauty of the web – you can easily format things to make what you need to get done, DONE!
After poking around the PSI website for a while, It turns out, I needed to create an account, wait for it to be approved, and then log in before I could get the C.I.B with the much needed instructions. I needed my TREC number (the one that starts with 9999), and once I discovered that, everything worked well. Of course I didn’t figure that out on my own, I had to call PSI and talk with someone who carefully explained it to me. It would have been much easier if the original email from TREC just said “Crate an account on the PSI website using this link, to be able to register for the test”. Instead, I had to spend over an hour trying to figure it out on my own.
The Candidate Information brochure has a TON of information in it: Sample test questions, what kind of things you can bring in to the test center (pretty much nothing), what kinds of ID are accepted, how to use the computer at the testing center, and more. But what it doesn’t have is how to register for the test. That’s done on the PSI website. It would be helpful to add a paragraph there, too, just in case someone was looking (like me).
So I went through the different menus and signed up for the Salesperson exam at one of the two Austin PSI testing centers. I had to wait 2 weeks for the next available appointment. There was nothing I could do about that, So I waited and waited (and spent some time studying from this book), and finally the day arrived.
One thing the C.I.B. says to do is arrive 30 minutes early to the test. Even with Austin traffic, I was able to manage to arrive early. I wasn’t the first one there, as a bunch of others were waiting outside the door of PSI, which was of course locked. It’s no fun to wait outside in Texas during the summer, so I found a nearby tree, and hung out for 10 minutes playing on my iPhone, until the door was unlocked. After a short while, the door opened, and I stashed my phone in the car and headed inside.
Once inside the PSI testing center, it wasn’t very exciting. There was a table a bunch of chairs lined up against the wall, a door to a bathroom, and not much else. One by one, the proctor called us up to the front desk where we handed over our ID, had our photo taken, and then were asked what test we were taking. Very official. After the short check in, I was told to go through the door, and enter the testing area a room with a bunch of old cubicles against the wall. Each one with a computer.
How hard is the texas real estate exam?
There isn’t much you need to take the test. Just yourself and 2 forms of identification. I used my Driver’s license, and my passport. They supply scratch paper, pencils and even a simple calculator (anything more is forbidden). Obviously no phones are allowed, nor notes, or anything else that could be used for cheating. Ladies are asked to leave their purses in the car. You can’t even bring in a Starbucks, so if you can’t go for more than 90 minutes without a latte, start preparing now.
I was instructed to sit at station #5, where there was an older PC, a keyboard with some funny keys on it, and a mouse. There was also a set of disposable earplugs if I wanted to use them. There are lots of cameras inside the testing room, watching for funnybusiness, too. So don’t try anything ’cause you will get caught.
The test taking experience wasn’t anything spectacular. First there is a little tutorial on how to take the test using the keyboard or mouse. You can mark questions for review, go back and forward through the questions, and even change your answers. Then there are 10 or so “practice questions” based on common US trivia (what do the stars on the flag represent). Then the test starts. It’s super quiet in there. But every now and then I heard a cricket chirping.
Is the Texas Real Estate License Exam difficult?
The test itself is broken into two parts – The National Section, and the Texas specific section. Really, you have two separate tests at one time. This wasn’t really explained during any of my prep classes or even in the C.I.B. You have to take one immediately after the other, and once you finish the first, there is no going back to change or correct any answers. For me, I was given the Texas portion first.
In the Texas specific section of the real estate exam, I didn’t have any math questions. I did have a lot of ethics questions, and a ton of contracts questions, especially questions about amendments to the standard TREC forms. Lots of questions about short sales, and foreclosure stuff, and even some stuff on water and sewer lines on unimproved property.
There were also a lot of questions about Agency. Specifically are the differences in powers between an agent and a broker, and what happens during some dual agency type agreements. There was also a few questions about real estate assistants, and what they can and can’t legally do.
The national part was much longer. This section had a lot of questions that I expected, but it was still pretty hard. I had spent a lot of time taking sample questions I found online, as well as going back and reviewing all the real estate questions at the end of the chapters of all my textbooks. I think that really helped.
On the national exam, there are a lot more questions about the agency relationship between salespeople and clients, Principals, fiduciary agreements, and stuff. Plus there are some questions about national regulations like 1978 lead based paint (say it out loud, it sort of rhymes). Also in this test, there were some math questions a few about calculating finances stuff, and a few regarding land area (so be sure to know those calculations). I’m really good at math, so I know I got those answers right.
I didn’t need all the time required to finish both parts. So I went back, carefully checked each answer, and clicked the finish button. Actually I had to confirm 3 times that I wanted to end the test, just in case I did it accidentally, I guess.
Before I got my instant results, there was a short, mandatory survey about my experience. They asked a bunch of questions about how easy it was to take the test, how nice the testing center was, and how helpful the staff is. I answered them honestly, and hope someone from PSI finds this post for more details.
Finally, after completing the post test survey, I got my results.
I was super excited! And couldn’t rush out of there fast enough. I collected my ID, and a couple of printouts confirming my success! Then I got back to my car and grabbed my phone so I could call my wife.
As for the next steps, the page I got from the PSI testing center in Austin says that TREC will notify me within 10 days, and since I’ve had my fingerprints done, passed all my classes and had them approved, paid my fees, and completed all my paperwork, I don’t expect there to be anything else preventing me from beginning to buy and sell houses in Austin.
If you are about to take the test, or already did, I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below.
I’m 90% of the way done with getting my license to practice Real Estate in Texas.
Sometimes the process feels exceptionally slow, but other times it seems to go really fast. Doing the classes was the fast part, even the ones I wrote about at ACC which took so long compared to waiting for my time slot to take the TREC Real Estate Exam.
I’ve jumped through all the hoops except for one – the final test. I’m not worried about it. I’ve read all the required textbooks, studied hard, and have been reviewing sample questions for an hour a day for the last week. I still have a couple more days to prepare, too.
This time has also allowed me to finalize my application with TREC. For those of you who don’t know, TREC stands for the Texas Real Estate Commission, and they oversee the licensing process in Texas. I’ve done everything needed on the Texas Real Estate website to get a Salesperson license:
Taken the classes
Completed the application on-line
Obtained Sponsorships – more on this coming soon
And I’ve even begun training at my new brokerage.
Now it’s just a matter of showing up for the test, taking it, and doing my best. I know there are 110 questions on the TREC Salesperson test, and that I have 150 minutes to complete them all. Of these 110 questions, they are divided into two sections. A national section with 80 questions, and a Texas section with 30 questions. I have to get 70% correct to pass.
In addition, I’ve learned that the test is divided into sub-sections, each focusing on the different principles and practices:
Land Use Controls and Regulations
Valuation and Market Analysis
Laws of Agency
Transfer of Property
Practices of Real Estate
Real Estate Calculations
Specialty Areas (Property Management, Commercial Property, Subdivisions)
Commission Duties and Powers
Standards of Conduct
Special Topics (Homestead, Seller Disclosure, Foreclosures, etc…
But getting back to the topic of getting a license, there are a lot of steps to follow, and they have to be done in a specific order. Why? Because buying a house is a big deal. I’ve had tons of training to guide you through the process. And soon I’ll be recognized by the state of Texas to act on your behalf to buy and sell property. I’ve passed a background check, submitted my coursework and had it approved by the governing body, paid my fees and dues, and demonstrated competency in all aspects of every possible transaction.
I personally think there it is important to have a current education. The government is always creating new laws and rules to protect both buyers and sellers, and it’s hard to keep up with all the requirements. I’ve been using the most up to date textbooks, and taken classes from professors who actively practice real estate in Austin. I’ve learned all the laws, and will make sure every transaction goes smoothly, and legally. Plus, unlike many agents in the Austin area who were licensed before the internet era, I know how to also use technology to get the job done.
If you can’t tell, I’m super excited to be your agent. If you have a house to sell, please give me a call, and let’s schedule a time for me to come over to chat. I’ll even show you my new license (as soon as I get it).
I’ve just made one of the biggest decisions as a new real estate agent.
It was a whole lot easier than I thought it would be. But I still took my time and interviewed several brokerages before making my decision.
You see, looking for a job isn’t just about a company hiring you to do work for them. As an employee, you should also spend some time researching the company, coming up with a list of questions to ask, and actually evaluating the people you talk with to see if you like them
So often we are so desperate to just get a job and a paycheck we don’t really focus on if it is a good job or not. If it is something that we actually want to do, with people we want to work with, and in a place that will be fun.
No, instead we take the first job we are offered, and then we feel stuck, in a place that isn’t quite right.
I learned this lesson a long time ago. It’s one of the reasons I’m now now in Real Estate, and not doing something else.
So for me, it was super important to find a Real Estate Brokerage in Austin that had not only the resources I need as a new agent, but is a great, fun, and interesting place to work.
Its sort of like the children’s story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, but instead of being scared off and running away at the end, I have found a new home!
I’m sure you remember the story – but just in case: Goldilocks comes upon a house in the woods. Seeing it empty she walks in to find some porridge on the table.
She samples the first and says this one is too hot
She trys the 2nd and syas this one is too cold
When she tries the third one she says this is just right
Then she moves over to the beds and sits in the first one – This one is too hard
Upon trying the second, this is too soft
And the third is just right, of course.
So she falls asleep. Soon the bears come home and see her. She wakes up, and runs away.
It was the same with me.
I also tried three brokerages, and my story is very similar.
The first one, was just a little too modern for me. They had a different business model than I was used to. The interview process was a little too different – and some red flags went up for me during the process so I politely bowed out.
I’m sure they are a great agency. I see them all over the web, and in the industry news, but for me, it wasn’t a good fit.
The second brokerage I interviewed was just a little too small. I know I would have gotten a lot of great work through them, but I wasn’t convinced that I would get the help and resources I need as a new agent. Perhaps when I am a little more experienced, and have a couple of dozen transactions under my belt, I’ll return to them.
Finally I settled upon JB Goodwin. They are an agency that’s been around a very long time in Austin. I really wanted to work with an established agency with a proven track record.
I want the ability to work areas that I choose
I need the flexibility to do marketing my way, but still be able to man the phones and volunteer to hold open houses when I want.
I want a nice office to take clients to, without having to pay expensive desk fees.
I want great training, from experienced agents who don’t seem put out when I ask a question.
JB Goodwin offers all these things and so much more.
I’m super excited to have my sponsoring broker in place, as I finish up my classes and take the TREC real estate exam.
While that has been a great educational experience, for me, it has been taking just a little too long to get the pre-requisites completed for my Real Estate license. Yes there are some significant requirements to be an agent in Texas, and rightfully so, but I’ve learned the process can go much faster, and cost less if you do a little bit of research.
I’m really glad I took the two classes at ACC – the 120 hour Real Estate Principles class, and the Law of Agency class. I’m especially glad that I did it on-line. I’ve never had an online class before, and this was a great way to learn how to learn without being in a classroom.
One thing about distance learning classes, the kind where you stay at home and use your computer to take classes on the internet. You need to be really motivated, and have a lot of internal drive to set aside the time to read, study, and do the assignments. It’s not for everybody. I’m a self-starter, and like to see things through to the end, so for me, it was a natural fit. But I can see that it isn’t for everybody.
Those first two classes took a full semester – almost 3 1/2 months to complete. That’s great if you have lots of other projects going on and need to fit studying into your calendar. But there is a faster and more efficient way.
For me, I want to get my license NOW!
I’ve written about the different Real Estate Schools in Austin, and after doing a bit of research decided to take my last two classes at the Champion School of Real Estate.
I’ve just finished my fist class – the potentially boring Law of Contracts requirement, and it was super easy, super fast, and fun.
The instructor has tons of experience, is very knowledgeable on the subject, and has a great sense of humor.
The best thing was the cost – It was actually less than taking the same classes at ACC – especially when you consider parking, and books and supplies (all of which are given to you at Champion school).
There was only one weird thing – As you know I’m pretty tech saavy. I don’t really use a notebook or pens much anymore. Instead I like to keep my office paper free, and note-take on a laptop. For years I’ve used the iWork suite of products – Pages, Numbers, Keynote,& iPhoto because they work seamlessly with my clients and across the web, and they allow me, somebody who is designed challenged to make good looking graphs, flyers, and pictures.
I have tons of notes in Pages, organized into folders, cross-referenced, and linked to presentations, and spreadsheets. I can do it from my Macbook Pro, my iMac Desktop, and even my iPad, and iPhone. And all the docs sync and update whenever I make a change. I always have access to whatever I need for research, and marketing.
Plus I had just finished taking TWO on-line classes, where EVERYTHING was done using a computer.
So I was a bit confused when I walked in with my trusty Macbook Pro, and they wouldn’t let me take notes on my computer!
They said something about it being a TREC regulation that no recording devices could be used in the classroom.
No recording devices? It’s not like I’m bringing in a video camera, tape recorder or attempting to take photos. I just want to type up my notes as I go. Every school these days allows laptops. From kids in 3rd grade to medical school at Stanford. They are commonplace, and everywhere.
Apparently not at the Champion School of Real Estate.
I just want to get my license and begin to help you sell your house.
It’s probably because I’m so used to instant everything in today’s modern technological age. I can get information on just about anything immediately using the web. As my regular readers (subscribe to my blog here) know I’m working on getting my license by taking classes at Austin City College. I’ve just finished my first sememster, and still have 2 more classes to take.
The state of Texas requires 120 classroom hours of instruction before I can even apply for a license. I’ve done 60, so I’m half way there. But those first 60 hours took almost 4 months. There has to be a better, more efficient way.
I’ve already signed up for my other two classes at ACC, but at the same time I’m researching different options, including dedicated Real Estate Schools in Austin. Here are four schools in Austin that I found that can help me get licensed more quickly.
I’ve reached out to each of them, and am waiting to hear back. Some of my questions included how long does it take, how much does it cost, and can I transfer in credits from another school to help things along.
I keep reading about the Austin Housing market, seeing how now is a great time to be a seller, and that things are turning around for the better. I’ve got so many great ideas that I want to implement and share, but can’t until I’m licensed. So let’s get this ball rolling, and finish classes.
I’m officially half-way to becoming a real estate agent. Today I took two final exams, back to back. I’ve written about taking two tests back to back before, and since it wasn’t so hard the first time, I did it again.
Today wasn’t much different, except that it is finals week at ACC and the testing center was super busy.
I also had to risk getting a parking ticket because my usual secret parking spots were all taken.
You see, I never ever pay for a parking permit at ACC when I’m not actually sitting in a classroom. I see it as a waste of money (but I have no problem paying a valet the same amount of money at the Four Seasons to park my car). Instead, there is a visitor’s lot near the Admissions & Records building, and I usually park there. The signs indicate that I’m supposed to sign in at the campus police station, but since I’m such a rebel, I just walk right past, and head directly to the testing center.
Sometimes it’s weird to be one of the oldest guys there. I’m usually dressed in a suit, or at least slacks and a button down shirt, and don’t really fit the “Austin” college look. 99% of the time I have a tie on.
I fill out the little form to request my test with my Cross Sterling Silver pencil, get a key for a locker to store my iPhone, sunglasses, and car keys. All I am allowed to take into the testing center is my oh so very sleek idea calculator (click on the image to see it on Amazon.com), and whatever scantron forms the testing center folks give me.
I then try to find a seat all by myself, but since this was finals week the testing center was jam packed. The only open place was between some girl who was trying way too hard to look good, and another guy who was more interested in checking her out than taking his test. He kept looking up, and over my back to try to see if she would look up at him. I’ve never seen somebody try to pick up a person during an exam.
I took my two tests, and got out of there fast. Back home, and, and just in time to have dinner with my wife.
Last week was my busiest week of school since 1999. I wrote a little it about some of the work I had to do in yesterday’s post, and mentioned that on Friday I had to take two tests. This is another part in my continuing series on returning to Real Estate School.
As an older student returning to college, a few things about college have changed in some not so significant ways. The first time I went to college I graduated in 1999 in the silicon valley, and although this was in the heart of the dot-com boom, most colleges didn’t have a lot of computer based classes.
I carried a backpack full of textbooks, college-ruled noteooks, and a bunch of pens and pencils with me to actual classrooms full of other students.
We would sit through lectures in the morning, and in the afternoon, informally gather on the green lawns in the quad for study groups. Most nights were spent reading the books, and taking notes to study for tests. If I had a question, I could ask my professor in class, or visit them in their office..
This is how I learned to learn. It was part listening, part discussing with peers, and a bit of self-study to cement everything together. I got really good at learning this way, and loved to debate and discuss a topic didactically with my classmates.
Today studying is totally different.
Now, all my classes are on-line. Instead of getting up and going to class, I sit down on my couch with my laptop and log on to the virtual blackboard at the real estate school online. to check my grades, comment on a discussion, or just read the syllabus to see what assignments and tests are due this week.
The only time I’ve been on campus were to get my student ID card, buy my books, and take the tests.
Everything else is done individually, in front of a screen.
Like I’ve said, everything is different, even the exams for my classes. I remember the days when I would join all my classmates on a test day and we would nervously enter the classroom to take our seats. Sometimes the professor would spread us out, as he handed out the tests. We all would sit there together, answering questions, only getting up to hand in our completed work.
Last friday, it was totally different. I entered the testing center, and had to fill out a 2-part form with the name of my class, the test number, and my student ID number. I approached a desk where there were testing clerks who took my form, checked my ID, and gave me a key to check my cell-phone, and all other personal items in a locker.
I was given a scan-tron form, and a test booklet, and instructed to enter a fish-bowl like room full of other students.
The room was full of testing stations, and there was a large glass wall that gave a great view of all of us to the testing clerks. I sat down at a small cubicle next to dozens of other students, all taking tests at the same time, from a myriad of other classes. At every station, and on every wall and door were signs stating that having a cell phone in the testing center was considered cheating.
Of course nobody was talking.
I read through the test, and began answering questions. Since I read the assigned chapters and answered the test questions at the back in my Law of Agency, and Real Estate Principles classes I quickly answered the questions.
When I was done, I stood, up and left the glass enclosed classroom to return my test to the testing clerks. They immediately scanned it, and I got my grade – a 98%!
But my day wasn’t over, I had to take a second test for my other class, and repeat the process. This one was a bit harder, and I didn’t get my results instantly. So now I wait, and check the on-line blackboard periodically to see my results.
Did you know you can be a real estate agent and not a Realtor? How is that even possible – and if I’m trying to buy or sell a house, which do I want to represent me?
Let’s start with the basics. The term Realtor® is a registered trademark, used by NAR – the National Association of Realtors, and applies to any Real Estate Agent when they become a member of the National Association of Realtors. I’m learning all kinds of things I didn’t know in Real Estate school.
Founded in 1908 the NAR started out as a group of around 120 members, but over the last 100+ years has grown to over 1,000,000 members. Yep, that’s right, there are over a million Realtors around the world. But let’s put that into perspective. I find it kind of strange that it took a full century for them to grow to that size, when today, using social medial someone like Lady Gaga can amass over 19 Million twitter followers in just 2 short years. The world is a different place these days.
But some things are still the same. Before someone can become a Realtor®, you still needs to take Real Estate classes, and pass the licensing exam to become an agent. In the State of Texas, there are three core classes plus an additional course I need to take in addition to all the college I had before today:
Principles of Real Estate core real estate course [60 classroom hours]
Law of Agency core real estate course (30 classroom hours)
Law of Contracts core real estate course (30 classroom hours)
An additional core real estate course (30 classroom hours)
Then after all those classroom hours are completed, I have a bunch of forms to fill out, and of couse I must sit for and pass an exam – the TREC (Texas Real Estate Commission). Finally I need to get sponsorship from an active and licensed broker. That’s one of the reasons I’m blogging and Twittering now – I want to stand out above all the other fresh agents who are starting their marketing from scratch.
And at this point, after the schooling, testing, and sponsoring, I can call myself a Real Estate Agent. But I’m still not a Realtor®, yet.
Let’s take a trip back in time to learn why people wanted to take the next step and become Realtor®, instead of just stopping after school.
As I understand, back in the days before the internet, it was sort of hard to find houses for sale. Sure you could drive around neighborhoods and look for signs in front of houses. Or you could open up the newspaper and look for ads paid for by brokerages of their listings. There was a third option, a place where all the listings were consolidated in one place, and that was at the local Realtor® office in your town.
Sitting at a desk was a person who would keep track of all the houses for sale in a given region. Real Estate Agents paid dues to their local Realtor® office, for access to this listing service. It was an easy way to see all the properties on the market in one place. A central office of all houses for sale. There were some other perks, but the main reason to be a Realtor® was to have access to this listing service, called the MLS (Multiple Listing Service). It was specific to each town, and was the hub of all activity for real estate agents.
Today, with the internet, things are a bit different. Sure the MLS still exists. It is still regionally based, and even is controlled by the Realtor® office. But now there is an additional level called IDX – Internet Data Exchange – that allows brokers to display each others listings on their own websites, and on national sites like Trulia, Zillow, and Realtor.com. But this is all stuff that happens behind the scenes for most people. I just like to know how everything works for some strange reason.
I believe you still need to be a Realtor® to add houses to the system. In addition to paying dues which give them access to MLS listings among other things, Realtors pledge to uphold a high standard and Code of Ethics, which is always a good thing in business.
Honestly, it all can get a little bit confusing. You go to a real estate website, and can view and browse all the houses for sale in a town. Some of the houses are represented by the brokerage of the website you are visiting, but the majority are represented by other agents and only being shown through the IDX portal on the website you are visiting.
Let me explain it this way: You go to Google and search for Houses for sale in Austin, and click on the first result. It takes you to a local agent’s website, where you enter your price, size, and other info. You look through the list of houses, and find one that is perfect. So you call the number on the website to get more information. But the house you are interested in isn’t actually represented by the agent’s website. The house you are interested in belongs to another agent. See what I mean that it can get confusing?
And to make it even more complex, in every house sale there is a Buying Agent, and a Sellers Agent. The Buyers agent represents the buyer, and works as hard as they can to make sure the buyer gets the best deal. The Seller’s Agent represents the seller of the house and does the exact same thing for the seller. Plus there are many states that allow for dual agency – where an agent can represent both the Buyer and the Seller. In Texas, both parties (buyer and seller) must acknowledge if this is the case, and sign an agreement that they are aware of the situation.
Let’s say that you have been searching for a while, and already have an agent you like to work with. When you search on the web it can become even more confusing because the house for sale is represented by the seller’s agent, you are represented by the buyer’s agent, and the website owner you just called is a third agent.
Thankfully Realtors® know how to sort all this out, and make the process as smooth as possible. They have access to additional resources that plain ‘ol real estate agents don’t. Although the old days are gone, and we are in a new more technology advanced time, Realtors help make everything work.
It’s weird being in college again. I never thought I’d have to go back and take another formal class. 12 years of elementary school – then a break for 3 years to travel, 2 years of Junior college to get my grades up, then more school for biochemistry. It seemed like it would never end. Then I got my first job in the Silicon Valley in the late 90’s. That was a great job, with lots of great friends, flexibility, an amazing paycheck and some really cool projects. I had lots of freedom, and ultimately it gave me the freedom to try something new. Fast forward to 7 years ago when my wife and I came to Austin for me to be a wedding photographer.
My life as a photographer has been great, too. I’ve seen over 400 couples get married, photographed an additional 167 couples for engagement pictures, and even had the opportunity to document some of Austin’s great events like concerts at the Blanton, Art Night East, La Dolce Vita at Laguna Gloria, and even annual galas for nor for profits like the Center for Child Protection. As much fun as it is being a professional photographer, I don’t see myself as a 60-year old going to weddings every weekend. So it’s time for a change.
I’ve written about starting Real Estate classes before, but there is something very different now than when I was a student last century.
School has changed so very much since I took my last class. No longer do I get up every morning, brew a cup of instant coffee, take a hot shower, brush my teeth, and head out on my bike to actual classes on campus. That was 20 years ago. For lunch I’d grab a bowl of noodles for $1.25 from the cafeteria. During my late afternoon break between lab classes I’d play frisbee on the grass, or share class notes with the pretty girl from math class (who I married). Nights would be spent studying, or writing papers out on a word processor. I’d fight with the tractor-drive printer and carefully pry away the perforated side sections.
Today, it’s totally different. My classes are entirely web-based.
I don’t have to set an alarm clock to make sure I’m out of bed on time. I don’t have to ride my bike across campus in the cold AM air to make sure I’m in the lecture hall before the professor arrives. Heck, I don’t even have to get dressed if I don’t want to. (but of course I still do). All this collegiate freedom requires a bit more planning on my part. I’m not reminded by T.A.’s or fellow students about upcoming assignments, quizzes or tests. That can be a big problem if you aren’t prepared.
So to help me ensure success, I started using a few simple on-line tools to stay organized. By far the most important are a few free tools provided by Google Apps – G-Mail, Google calendar, and Google Docs. These three items completely replace everything that used to be in my old backpack except my textbooks. Instead of pulling out a binder, folder, or notebook, I simply open a Google Doc on whatever screen I’m near. All these Google Apps are entirely web based, so I can access them anywhere. In a library, on my laptop or iPad, or even from my iphone. I can jot down a note, write out an assignment, cut and paste text, and even share my note with other students if I want.
When I am ready to submit my work to the professor, I simply email the google doc to them. It’s fully Word compatable, so it doesn’t matter if they use a Mac or a PC. Text is Text.
To help stay even more organized, I use a Google Calendar to keep track of due dates, test deadlines, and other important scholastic milestones like registering for classes.
To my regular readers of this blog, I’m sorry I haven’t posted anything in the last 3 days. You know I’m super diligent about making regular updates to my Real Estate Blog, but I have a good reason. A really good reason. This past Monday, I began my coursework to obtain my Real Estate License. I make no bones about being a Real Estate Student, just check out my very first post, or my description on my Twitter account. I started this blog, and my social media accounts (Twitter, and Google+) before I got my Real Estate License for one big reason.
I have friends who have zero experience in a corporate environment who are getting hired with great salaries just because they have 5,000 Twitter followers. To many, that might sound crazy, but the world is changing, and this is the direction it is headed in. But, that’s another post that I’ll write when I hit the 5,000 follower milestone.
Also, the number of followers, +1’s, and comments a person amasses, has become a new kind of currency in today’s digital world. Just a few short years ago, an expert was someone who had published a book, or was written up in a newspaper or appeared on Television. Today an expert is someone who has a lot of followers. Honestly, would you rather trust someone who has 89 followers or much much more?
I know it takes time to get a decent following in Social Media. You have to blog every day, tweet every day, find your voice, and most importantly post content that is interesting to your readers. For years I’ve been taking pictures as a wedding photographer, and have developed a unique and distinct style to my pictures. Lots of my previous clients have hired me just because of the way I write on my old photography blog, and for that I’m grateful. Since I don’t see myself as a 60 year old wedding photographer, and I don’t want to work for someone else right now, I’ve decided to turn my focus to helping people buy and sell houses.
The other big reason people hire someone is based on a personal recommendation from a friend. “We used so-and-so, and they were a great negotiator, you should give them a call if you want to buy a house”. But again, word of mouth referrals are shifting to a digital recommendation in the form of a clicking a Facebook Like or Google+1 button. All these clicks add up over time, and get presented to you, in your search results, or friend feeds.
Since these all take time, and I have four required classes to take at Austin Community College before I can sit for the board Exams. I figure I’ll get started right now. As I take classes, I’ll write about the process. That way you will get to know me better, and learn that I really do know my stuff.
My first semester, I’ve signed up for two on-line classes: Real Estate Principles, and the Law of Agency. Each of these classes is, what else, on line, and pretty self-paced. There are specific dates where I have to show up in person and take a test, but for the most part all the coursework is done over the internet. I’m a little older, now, than when I first went to college. In fact, the internet was just a baby when I was in college in the late 90’s. I didn’t get my first email address until I got my first job. in 1998. Now school is so much different.
This semester is only 12 weeks long, and the summer semester, when I’ll take my other 2 requirements, will be about the same. Over this time, I’ll be continually blogging, tweeting, and getting the social media street credibility that is so necesary in today’s business world.
Sure, there are other, faster ways to get the requirements out of the way, but I’m not one who takes shortcuts, and I really want to know the material as best I can to be the best possible agent for you.
You see right now I’m not a Realtor®. I’m only a Real Estate student. I’ve started this blog because I know the power of SEO. In my previous business as a wedding photographer I never paid for any form of leads or advertising. Every one of my clients came from people searching on the internet, or Word of Mouth Marketing.
Today the game is a bit different than it was in 2006. Sure the internet was a big part of marketing back then, and having a successful website and blog was key. But today, it’s a bit different. Social Networks and mobile Apps are all the rage. There are some great real estate websites out there, and some really bad ones, too. Overall they all look the same. They all present the standard MLS info in the same way. I think there is a better way.
But since I’m not licensed (yet) I really can’t do much except on-line research. So until I’m able to practice, I’ll spend my time doing research, writing, and making new friends and contacts. I hope you will subscribe to this blog, and take the journey with me.