A realtor leads a family of three through a house. The group stands under the archway leading from a dining room into a living room. A table and chairs and a chandelier can be seen behind the group in the dining room, and a front door stands open in the living room. The walls of the rooms are painted cream and the floor is laminated light-colored wood. The realtor is a young woman with long, dark hair; she is holding a folder and speaking to the family. The family is made up of a young bearded man, a young dark-haired woman, and a boy around age 2 or 3. The woman carries the boy, and all three family members look around the room.
There are different types of real estate, including commercial and residential. Do your research and find out what kind of specialization would suit both you and your local area. — Getty Images/Thomas Barwick

Real estate is a hot market right now. Starting a real estate business can be a great way to earn a living and have autonomy over your career. If you have an interest in homes and like working with people, here are six essential steps to take when starting a real estate business.

Conduct market research and identify your niche

Before you jump into your own real estate business, conduct thorough research about the industry as a whole, as well as its status in your area. First, think about whether you want to work with residential or commercial properties. Then, look up your competitors in the area to see if there is any demand for your business. If your local area cannot support a new real estate business, consider branching out into a different location.

Develop a business plan and set financial goals

Once you have a strong sense of your competition and target market, pin down your mission, vision, and values. These will serve as the cornerstones of your business and help you make decisions as you work on getting your business off the ground. You should also define your financial goals, which should be specific and realistic. Plan your goals in different time increments, like one, five, 10, and 15 years. Listing your goals will help motivate you and provide any possible investors with an idea of your direction.

[Read more: 10 Small Businesses to Start in Real Estate]

Obtain the necessary education and licensure

Here’s how to obtain the proper education and licensure to become a real estate professional in most states. Be sure to look up your home state’s requirements before investing in these steps, as they may vary.

  • Take your state’s course for pre-licensing and pass the necessary exams. The course will inform you of regulations so you can conduct your business legally and professionally.
  • Submit your application and pay any necessary fees.
  • Work for at least two years with a real estate broker.
  • Take a broker pre-licensing course and pass the necessary exams.
  • Submit the broker application with the necessary fees, which will range between $150 and $200.

As you start to build a history of sales, you can feature them on your website with crisp images and testimonials from your clients.

Build a professional network and market yourself

Promoting yourself and your business is one aspect of working in real estate that should happen continuously throughout your career. Consider ways you can creatively engage with your target audience; a good system is to offer something helpful (like a breakdown of selling trends in your area) as a way to connect with potential clients. Many real estate professionals use a customer relationship management (CRM) system to organize their contact list and keep track of where each client is in the homebuying process. You can also connect with other realtors through industry events to build a network for referrals.

Know your business costs and secure funding

Along with the cost of any courses and the fees for both the real estate license and broker applications, factor in the costs of health insurance, time off, design and marketing expenses, rent for office space, and wages for any employees. To simplify your expenses, get a credit card to use only for your business. Since the real estate industry is irregular, closely monitor and budget your income to account for any slow periods. To fill the gaps, you can apply for small business loans or seek investments from your network.

[Read more: How to Start a Business Without a Lot of Money]

Develop a brand and create a website

Using your mission statement and values as a guide, set up a website to best present yourself to any possible clients — remember that this will be their first impression of you. Your site should be professional, clean, and easy to navigate. Include multiple ways for prospective clients to contact you. As you start to build a history of sales, you can feature them on your website with crisp images and testimonials from your clients. Once you have a site, you should optimize it for search engines so clients and hiring agents can easily find you.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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