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Can You Be a Freelance Real Estate Agent?

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Gigly team, Marketing at Gigly
Female freelance real estate agent shows a home

Real estate is a famously flexible career. You get to build your schedule, drive around showing houses, and spend your days building relationships.

The real estate industry is heavily regulated, though. You must follow all kinds of laws and guidelines to work in this field.

For instance, federal laws state that you must work with a broker to sell real estate.

Does that mean that you can’t work as a freelance real estate agent? Is it possible to sell realty on the side, separate from your day job, to make some extra cash?

We’ll answer those questions below. We’ll offer some general tips on thriving as an agent, whether you’re a freelancer or not.

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Are You Legally Allowed to Work as a Freelance Real Estate Agent?

Yes, you are legally allowed to work as a freelance real estate agent. However, every state requires you to work under a broker.

Brokers ensure that all real estate transactions happen in compliance with the law. They also make sure that all paperwork is complete and all financial exchanges are recorded.

The broker typically takes a percentage of the final sale price as payment for their services.

While some agents work as full-time employees, many work as independent contractors.

If that’s not enough independence, you can get a broker’s license and supervise your deals. It comes with more responsibility, but you’ll enjoy all the freedom that freelancing offers.

We’ll discuss the option of getting your broker’s license more below.

Keep this in mind: Independent contractors don’t get access to health benefits. Look into a service that provides health benefits for freelancers, like Gigly, if you choose to go the freelance route.

Benefits of Working as a Freelance Real Estate Agent

There are many benefits to working as an independent contractor in the real estate industry:

Work When You Want

For instance, you can work at your convenience. You get to build your schedule around showings, open houses, and property management.

You can run your real estate business full-time or part-time. It can be your main source of income or a side hustle — the choice is yours.

Work Wherever You Want

You have the option of working from a home office instead of paying for a spot in a realtor’s office.

You may be able to sell realty in multiple states, too. If your state has a reciprocity agreement with another state, your license is valid in both.

For example, New York has agreements with nine other states, so you can practice in any of those states without getting a new license.

Control Your Destiny

Freelancing puts you in charge of your career. When the market conditions look good, you can put more effort into selling properties. The sky’s the limit!

Keep in mind that you can always work toward a broker’s license. Then, you won’t have to share as much of your hard-earned commission.


How to Become Freelance Real Estate Agent

Female freelance real estate agent
You must follow a set path to become a real estate agent.

You can get in big trouble if you practice without meeting these credentials, so you must check all the necessary boxes before you begin.

Follow the steps below:

1. Research Your State’s Requirements

Each state has specific requirements individuals must meet to become a real estate agent. Do a little digging to figure out your state’s requirements.

Most states share some common requirements. For example, you must hold a high school diploma or GED to sell realty in most states.

Here are some other things you must do to get your real estate license:

  • Pass a criminal screening process
  • Show proof of completed coursework
  • Pay any testing fees

For specific information on your state’s requirements, contact the department or agency regulating real estate in your area.

Arello has kindly shared this information in an easy-to-read table. You can also read a quick breakdown of each state’s requirements here.

2. Acquire Training and Complete Pre-Licensing Coursework

Once you learn your state’s requirements, it’s time to buckle down and start training.

You can take realtor courses in person or online. In these courses, you’ll learn about real estate principles, best practices, and state laws.

Many schools and organizations offer real estate classes. Shop around to find the one that best meets your needs.

Each state has different hour requirements, and they vary widely. For example, California requires 135 hours of education while Alabama only requires 60 hours.

This free ebook provides a good overview of what to expect from your real estate education.

Once you’ve finished your required training hours, you need to pass the coursework exam. Then you are ready for the next step.

3. Take and Pass Licensing Exam

No, testing is not over. You still have to pass the state licensing exam before you can start selling.

You may want to consider an exam prep course to improve your chances of passing.

Once you feel ready, it’s time to register for your exam. Your course instructor can tell you where to sign up.

You’ll have to pay an exam fee to take the test. It’s usually less than a hundred dollars.

You’ll have to get a passing grade on your exam to be eligible to apply for a real estate license.

4. Apply for State Real Estate License

You need to apply for your license within a certain period after passing the test. The exact period varies by state.

You will have to fill out the application online. The agency will schedule a time for you to visit their office for fingerprinting and a criminal background check.

You will have to pay more licensing fees at this point. The amount depends on the state. (This article provides a breakdown of the total cost of getting licensed in different states.)

After you’ve filled out all the paperwork and completed the necessary tasks, you can sit back and wait for the approval. Be patient, as this process can take several weeks or even months.

5. Complete Post-Licensing if Necessary

Some states require additional education or post-licensing coursework.

More training after you jumped through all those hoops to get licensed?

Yup.

Post-licensing aims to ensure that you haven’t forgotten all you learned during the lengthy process of acquiring your license.

It’s pretty much just a brush-up on the basics.

Some states have no post-licensing requirements; you simply need to renew your license every two to four years.

6. Find Freelance Real Estate Agent Jobs

Now that you are licensed, you will need to search online for real estate job posts.

There are many positions available for licensed agents. Aside from selling realty, you can also be a real estate appraiser, or you could go into real estate marketing or real estate investing.

Make sure to read the job description well to understand the type of relationship you will have with the real estate company.

Don’t let deadlines get you down, discover: How to Tell a Client You Need More Time (5 Easy Ways)


Work Under a Brokerage or Become a Broker?

Freelance real estate agent sells home

The only way to be a truly independent real estate agent is to become a realty broker yourself.

You no longer have to work under a broker if you are a licensed broker.

What’s the Difference Between a Real Estate Broker and a Real Estate Agent?

Real estate brokers undergo more training and licensing than agents. They’re required to know a lot more about federal and state real estate laws.

You must obtain a standard real estate license before you’re eligible for a broker’s license. In other words, every broker starts as an agent, and every agent has the opportunity to become a broker.

As an agent, you must share a portion of your commission with the broker you work under. The percentage depends on your contract.

It’s worthwhile to fully understand the responsibilities and opportunities of working as a broker. This article provides a more in-depth breakdown of the difference between a broker and an agent.

How to Choose a Real Estate Brokerage to Work For

Every state requires you to work under a broker for some time, which this article explains well.

However, you can still have a lot of independence in your role working for a brokerage. The amount of autonomy you have largely depends on which brokerage you work under.

Every realty broker has their policies. Some offer more training and benefits but take a higher commission.

Others require more in-office hours or open houses but provide many more services, such as social media marketing services.

Some low-fee brokers offer no help at all but allow you to work wherever and whenever you please.

Make sure to consider all of these factors when choosing your broker.

Related: How to Become a Subcontractor in Any Profession


How to Protect Yourself as a Freelance Real Estate Agent

Malpractice lawsuits are the biggest risk that real estate professionals face.

Insurance policies exist to protect your assets if you’re ever sued. We will discuss these policies in the next section, but it’s better to avoid lawsuits from happening at all.

Sales agents can avoid lawsuits by taking deliberate precautions.

Most have to learn the hard way through years of experience, but we want you to begin your career with this critical knowledge out the gate.

Document All Communication

You need excellent communication skills in this profession, and you should document every interaction you have with clients and potential clients.

Respond within 24 hours to all client communications. The faster you respond to concerns, the less likely they will result in grievances.

Email your clients with updates on all significant developments. This will be solid proof that you notified your clients of all important updates.

Confirm all agreed-upon decisions with a follow-up email for the very same reason.

Inform the Client of Any Expected Obstacles Beforehand

There should be no surprises in the realty industry. When it comes to commercial real estate or investing, your clients want you to be upfront with them.

Keep the numbers realistic, and don’t give your clients any false expectations.

If a residential property most likely won’t sell for what a client expects, tell them straight away. False hope won’t help them, and if you stoke that fire, it may come back and burn you.

Provide as Much Info as Possible, but Let the Client Make the Decisions

It’s normal for clients to ask for your opinion on something since you have work experience in the industry. What you don’t want to get into is being the decision-maker.

Give them as much information as you can to help them make a decision, but don’t make it for them. Never accept “you decide” or “it’s up to you” as an answer from your clients.

When they do make a decision, document the advice you gave them and their final decision. Do not allow them to make an illegal or unethical decision. If they insist on something you can’t support, kindly withdraw as their realtor.

If they go against your advice, it’s okay to explain your stance. However, it’s best if you allow them to make the final decision and document that they went against your suggestions.

Walk Away from Small Losses

Clients may cause inconveniences for you at points. Their actions may cost you money, but you should seriously assess whether filing a suit against them would be worth your time and assets.

They may file a countersuit, and unfortunately, there are many reasons that clients can take you to court.

Be Choosy With Your Clients

You have the option to decline to work with a client. Of course, you don’t want to be overly choosy, or you’ll lose out on potential deals.

There are some you should avoid working with, though.

Avoid overly rude, aggressive, or difficult clients as they often will cause more trouble than they’re worth, and they are the most likely to file a claim against you.

Avoid unethical, illegal, or fraudulent clients for obvious reasons.

Professionals in the real estate investment business are always looking for ways to cut costs and increase profits, but you can’t let them put your license at risk.

Finally, avoid wishy-washy clients and last-minute decision-makers. They will run you ragged by wasting your time and causing undue stress.

Address All Complaints Proactively

No one likes conflict, but if you are presented with a complaint, don’t put off dealing with it. Ask how you can fix it immediately.

Even if you think you aren’t at fault, do what you can to rectify the problem.

Avoid Conflicts of Interest

You have a fiduciary responsibility to your client. If you aren’t one-hundred percent sure what this term means, read Investopedia’s definition.

It is imperative that you understand this concept and how it fits into your position as a realtor.

Because of your fiduciary responsibility, you cannot put your interest above theirs. You cannot put one client’s interest above another’s, either.

If you see the potential for any conflicts of interest in any real estate sales, withdraw politely.

Create an LLC to Protect from Personal Liability

A limited liability company, or LLC, is a business structure that projects you from personal liability should a client sue. If a customer sues your business, your assets cannot be targeted.

You should consider setting up an LLC, even if you work under a broker.

Don’t forget that freelancers also have special tax requirements! Check out our Step-by-Step Guide to Filing Taxes When You’re Self-Emplored to learn more.


Do Freelance Real Estate Agents Need Insurance?

Real estate agents should always have insurance coverage to protect themselves from malpractice claims.

Real estate agencies typically insure their full-time employees to protect themselves. Independent contractors are not technically employees, though, so they are often uninsured.

As a freelance realtor, you should arm yourself with these four types of insurance:

General Liability Insurance

This insurance protects you from claims of injuries to others while you are showing houses.

Professional Liability

Professional liability, otherwise known as errors and omissions insurance (E&O), protects you against claims of negligent or unintentional acts that cause a client damage.

This insurance does not cover intentional fraud or criminal activity.

Many states require real estate professionals to hold E&O insurance, but it’s often obtained through a brokerage group plan.

Umbrella Coverage

This insurance protects you against any damages that range above the policy limits of other insurances.

This is a type of supplemental insurance. It is usually inexpensive and can be worthwhile when you need its protection.

Professional Car Insurance

Anytime you use your car for business purposes, you need this coverage. As a real estate agent, you will be driving to and from properties often enough for this to be an important insurance policy.

Health Insurance

Health coverage is crucial for everyone, no matter what industry you work in. Freelancers don’t usually receive health benefits from their employers, so you must find a policy for yourself.

Services like Gigly offer supplemental health benefits to fill in the gaps of your other policies.

Learn more about Gigly’s health insurance for freelancers today!


Conclusion

We hope this information helps you start your journey as a freelance real estate agent.

There are many opportunities in the real estate sector, but you need to set yourself up with the right broker and negotiate a mutually beneficial relationship.

Though the testing and licensing process are lengthy, your hard work will pay off. If you are a natural salesperson, you can do wonders in this profession!

Join Gigly today to start your freelance real estate business strong. You can enjoy discounted health and wellness services, financial and legal advice, and everyday discounts that save you hundreds of dollars each month.