Being an estate agent can pay well, but it’s not an easy option
Gone are the days when estate agents were divided roughly into two groups: one, the women and men who used the industry to earn the majority of a family’s income and who worked ridiculously long hours to get it. Then there were those who killed time between dropping and collecting schoolchildren, supplementing the family income in the process.
The latter were mainly women who wanted to get into a rewarding and fun industry, which gave them the opportunity to fashion long careers after the children left home.
“The industry is still exciting but getting into it, and staying in it, is a lot tougher than in the past,” said Courtney McKenna, operations manager and shareholder of PropAcademy, a learning institution that takes interns through the essential qualifications and exams required to sell real estate.
“Qualifying to full status agent takes a minimum of a year, and maximum of two, so it is not a light decision,” said McKenna.
“Most people will not earn a cent in the first three months to six months. It costs upfront money to become an agent and that does not include the loss of earnings from the job that must be abandoned.”
Doing the full trip from intern to agent costs around R13,500, spread over the intern period.
McKenna said that before deciding to sell property without mentor assistance, a person must have a minimum education of NQF 4 or degrees or diplomas in the relevant property areas, under Recognition of Prior learning.
However, it is possible to start an internship and study for NQF4 at the same time.
She advised prospective interns to study online or part time for the NQF4, enabling learning and earning at the same time. “Several people wanting to get into the industry complain about matric maths being compulsory. We recently queried this with the Estate Agency Affairs Board (EAAB) and learnt it has recently been changed to maths Grade 11.”
Interns must be registered with an agency before starting studies. McKenna said that this step was more arduous than in pre-2008, when all it took to be an agent was the basic EAAB diploma, a good nose for selling, a pleasing personality, a long list of contacts and the ability to work hard.
Signing on as an intern can be difficult, as many agencies are not keen on taking on new people. For an agency, it is a lot like appointing an apprentice in a trade. The qualified person, in the case of the real estate business, will be the principal or an agent with three years’ experience, has to mentor the intern through the job, and effectively report on every client interaction to the EAAB, the regulating body.
In addition, interns must complete a logbook for every activity, which is signed off by the mentor.
Candidates must also write and pass the Professional Designate Exam (PDE) when the internship ends. If agents want to extend their education in order to become a principal and run their own businesses, they must pass NQF level 5 and, once registered as a principal, they will have two years to write and pass PDE level 5 exams.
The biggest problem for aspiring agents is covering the earnings gap before commissions start. However, interns may sell property, or rent property, but the principal agent must authorise the deal, and sign off the paperwork.
“Real estate can be a lucrative career, but breadwinners signing on as interns must have sufficient ‘back-up’ funds to cover at least six months earnings, and ideally the full year. It takes three months to start selling, and then another three for sales to be registered, which triggers commission.”..