Byline: Michele Lerner, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
When Carter Knapp greets a class of recently licensed real estate agents, he often asks, How many of you have been told it's a stupid idea - or at least terrible timing - to become a real estate agent right now? Mr. Knapp says every person in the room raises his or her hand.
Mr. Knapp is vice president of education at Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage for the Mid-Atlantic Region, and he thinks this may be the most promising thing about these new agents: Despite the gloom and doom about real estate, these people have decided they want to be in it anyway. Mr. Knapp tells these new sales professionals what they may already know: The current market offers plenty of opportunity for buyers and can even be a good opportunity for sellers who want to move up if they have owned a home long enough for it to appreciate in value.
While Mr. Knapp says the real estate prelicensing classes offered by Coldwell Banker have fewer students this year than in the past, evidence suggests that the number of real estate agents in the Washington metropolitan area is staying steady or dropping only minimally.
Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors (GCAAR) 2008 President Dennis Melby, a broker with Long & Foster Real Estate Inc. in Bethesda, says, We have about 10,000 members in our association, and we have seen a small decline overall in the past year or two. However, we are adding about 75 new members every month. GCAAR includes Realtors in the District and Montgomery County.
Anne Gardner, vice president of education and business specialties for the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors (NVAR), says its membership is increasing slightly.
There's certainly no real exodus from real estate, Ms. Gardner says. Licensing cycles last for two years, so people leaving now would have been either newly licensed or renewed their license in 2006. We had a large influx of new agents in 2004-2005, with a slower pace for the past two years. Ms. Gardner says there is a healthy number of students in the prelicensing classes given by NVAR, with no drop-off since last year.
In the District, Maryland and Virginia, real estate agents are required to attend 60 hours of prelicensing classes and pass a test to earn a real estate license. Classes are offered by the local Realtor associations and by individual real estate companies with varying prices. Classes are offered with both daytime and evening sessions, so it is possible to take the required sessions within as little as two weeks.
It can cost under $400 to get a professional license and be on the way to earning a potentially high income, says Bill Spadea, executive recruiter for Weichert, Realtors in the Washington area. This price point certainly encourages people to get into real estate. You don't have to take out a second mortgage to get into this career the way you would if you want to get a graduate degree or go to law school. Mr. Spadea says the major expenses associated with getting into real estate are energy, enthusiasm and the time commitment. In addition to the cost of the classes and the test, new real estate agents must be prepared to spend money on fees to join the Realtor association and to gain access to the local multiple listing service - Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc. (MRIS) in the D.C. area - and the normal costs of starting a new business, such as ordering business cards and starting a Web site.
Generally, from zero to business cards, it costs between $1,500 and $2,000 to get set up as a Realtor, Ms. Gardner says.
Mr. Knapp says that while the cost of becoming a Realtor has stayed the same in recent years, the profession itself has changed in some ways.
Today, you need to work well with technology to be successful in real estate, Mr. Knapp says. Once someone gets a license, the larger real estate companies and local associations provide additional training in technology and how to be a consultant and educate buyers and sellers. …