For much of the last two years, the commercial real estate industry has been embroiled in a classic Western-style showdown, popularized in the 1952 film “High
How hard is it to become a real estate agent in Toronto?
The conversation is always the same, but the scene may be different.
I’m at a bar, a golf course, or a dinner party, and somebody always tells me “I’m actually thinking about going into real estate!”
They don’t know why, they don’t know how, and they have no clue what the job actually entails, but everybody wants to go into real estate.
Getting your licence isn’t rocket science, but it isn’t filling out a form either…
People often ask me, “Why did you go into real estate.”
The God’s honest truth: I don’t have any idea.
I went to McMaster University for Commerce, but I really didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. My friends all had their plans mapped out; by third year, one buddy was taking ten accounting courses so he could go into accounting. Another buddy was taking ten finance courses. I took a couple finance, one accounting course, a couple courses in sales and marketing, economics, and of course: popular music. I wanted to learn whereas most students just want to either get high marks—in any course possible, or take the courses necessary for a certain career. Nope, not me. I wanted to get exposure to everything.
Of course, when I graduated, my buddies all had jobs already lined up, while I had my birdie putt lined up on the 17th green at Don Valley Golf Club. It was on the golf course that a friend of mine said to me: “You should go into real estate.”
And the rest, is history.
The first step for anyshould be to go and talk to somebody in the industry—an agent, manager, broker, etc. Most people don’t do this, they just jump online and go to to sign up.
There is a curriculum that all Real Estate Board revoking my license, I will say that it is a complete and utter cash grab. Well, it does weed out some of the people that shouldn’t be in the business, but many more make it through the filter.must follow, and while it’s far from the likes of the three phases of the C.F.A., it is tedioius and time consuming. At the risk of the Toronto
The most frustrating part about getting licensed, other than the money, is the time. It took me eight months to jump through the hoops, and I fast-tracked as much as possible. I scheduled my exam the day after I registered for the courses, I took classes and wrote exams in other cities across Ontario to speed up the process, and in the end I shaved about four months off the process. But the question most people don’t ask themselves: What am I going to do in that 8-12 months?
For a friend of a friend of mine, who is currently doing his license, the answer is “sleep in until noon, smoke pot all day until it’s time for my nap, and then talk about how I can’t wait to get into real estate.” Yeah. He’ll be a HUGE success in this business! For me, I decided to get a job(s) that would help me in the industry. I worked at TD Bank as a teller so that I would meet people in the neighborhood and people would get to know me. I hated every second of that job….”Have a great day, Mr. Johnson, and thanks for banking with TD!” I hate being told what to do, and more importantly I hate being forced to be nice to people. I like real estate because I’m my own boss, and I get to choose when I work, how I work, and who I work with. If I don’t like somebody, I can kick them in the butt (metaphorically or literally), but that didn’t fly at the bank.
I also had a second job as an apprentice for one of the most successful men I know, who at the time was building his own house. This man, who made his money through his marketing company, online poker companies, building houses on the side, and anything else he can think of, taught me the foundation of the housing industry. At the time, he was building a house in an upscale Toronto neighborhood, and I saw the process from the ground up.
I recall one day when he had me and my friend Chris run wheel-barrows full of cement into the backyard to pour his back patio. He stood there, shouting, timing us (like in movies when the bank robbers have one person stand there yelling “Twenty seconds……thirty seconds, and they always get away on time), and making us move as fast as possible. When the patio had been finished—the foundations and the slab itself, he had paid us $12/hour for two days of work, spent $5000 for concrete mix, and paid a masonry $70/hour for a half day. He spent less than six grand on a patio that would cost him $30,000 if he paid a company to do it for him. In the end, I learned several new skills, and worked on anything from landscaping, to carpentry, to general labor. He even got me a few clients of my own that wanted me to work on their houses. It paid the bills, gave me “beer money,” and enabled me to not only pick the brains of some very successful people, but also contact them down the road once I had my real estate license.
Doing your real estate license takes very little time, and without a job to keep you busy and pay your bills, I think you’d go stir crazy.
The three phases of the Ontario Real Estate Association’s curriculum begin with “Phase 1: Real Estate as a Professional Career” which costs you $390, and runs for one month and then another month to prepare for the exam. If you take the course online, and you require the workbook, it’s an extra $50. If you fail the exam, and want to re-write, it’s another $50. If you fail ANY exam twice, you are forced to retake the course, and thus pay the huge fee all over again. Money, money, money…
The first phase is like taking 7th grade all over again. Calculation the area of a square! OH NO! Simple math and elementary term-memorizing comprises the exam, which comes with a 60% failure rate for first time writers. A new agent in our office just told me she got 98% on her phase one test, to which I replied, “You mean you got a question wrong?” I have no clue how you fail this test, just no clue.
“Phase 2” is more boring information about construction of houses from the ground up (interesting, perhaps to some) including sections on ground-fault-circuit-interrupters that all Realtors should know about….yeah. The cost is $420 for this educational gem, and takes two months for the course and then an exam after an additional month.
Five months after you’ve started, and dished out over $800 to learn things that your kid brother is learning at the same time, you take Phase 3. This is where it actually gets useful. You make the choice as to whether you want to take Residential or Commercial, and you are forced to take at least half of the course in-class as opposed to correspondence or online. The cost is $620. The course runs for two months, then you write the final exam, which actually consists of material relevant to a Realtor’s job, ie. writing up offers, negotiating, code of ethics, etc. Pass this exam, and you can apply for your real estate license.
But the fun doesn’t end there!
Now you decide who to work for. When I was doing my Phase 2, I started interviewing companies. That’s right, not “interviewing with” but rather interviewing. In real estate, the Realtor is in demand. This isn’t like all other fields where you put together your resume, apply, go through interviews, and hope you get the job. In real estate, companies are alwayslooking for new agents. But like any other industry, there are both good companies and bad, and while anybody with a pulse can get a job with Homelife or one of the thousand Re/Max offices in Toronto, you aren’t guaranteed so much as a foot in the door with a good company. I interviewed Chestnut Park, Johnston & Daniel, Re/Max (I have no clue why, but I did), and of course Bosley Real Estate where I ended up. My decision was essentially made in advance, but I wanted to see what else was out there.
Every company works differently with respect to fees, salaries, and expenses. Some companies offer a higher commission split, but charge you a “desk fee” which is a right to work there. A friend of a friend just started working for Re/Max. He has a 70/30 commission split, which is above average for a brand new agent, but he pays them a desk fee of $1200 per month! He also pays $1500 per year towards the Re/Max trademark as well as another $3500 per year in “marketing costs.” So before he has ever done a deal, he is in the hole for almost TWENTY GRAND!
Nobody said starting in real estate is cheap!
When I started, the first thing I did was pay for my license with the Toronto Real Estate Board, at a cost of $1700. That was partly for new agent registration, and partly for my dues in 2003. Then I paid my fees to the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) and to the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) for who knows what. All told, I dished out over $3000 in associated fees.
But the cash out-flows didn’t end there!
Being a new agent, I had to get photos done (ahhh….yes…the swarthy real estate photo!) at a professional studio for about $200. I spent $200 on business cards, and then $500 on my Open House signs. I purchased a new Blackberry at a cost of $670, and sent out “Announcement Cards” to about 400 people at a cost of around $500 for postage and product. I spoiled myself with a new Dell laptop at a cost of about $1800, and got a website up and running at a cost of $40/month pre-paid for the year. My company required me to sign up for the long-term disability plan, at a cost of $30/month as well. I went to Business Depot and bought office supplies and computer software for about $300, and of course I blew over $2000 on new suits, shirts, ties, shoes, and other things to make me look as good as my mother tells me I already do. In my first six months, I spent over $8000 in advertising alone.
My first day at Bosley Real Estate was quite memorable. I was told to come in for the 10:00AM meeting, so I did. I sat in the lobby for an hour, drinking cup after cup of coffee. I had never drank coffee before that in my life, yet I thought it was a good idea to drink six or seven cups that day. At about noon, somebody finally realized that the meeting was at 1:00PM, so I went for lunch. Yeah, I’d had a rough morning sitting in the lobby…..”Time for lunch!” At the afternoon meeting, I introduced myself, and this old lady agent remarked “Oh he’s soooo cute!” I really felt like an adult and a professional right then and there, as old ladies lined up to pinch my cheeks and tell me how I reminded them of their grandson…
Four out of every five licensed real estate agents are out of the business within 18 months.
It takes 3-5 years to “make the phone ring” and get a foothold in the industry.
But people are lined up at the door of the Ontario Real Estate Association to enroll in the education program and obtain their license, and OREA churns out more and more agents every week! I actually wish the licensing program were made much harder (now that I have my license) because too many people who just aren’t qualified enough are making their way into the business.