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Real estate agents: Sink or swim in tougher waters
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Marguleas researched the number of hours it takes to become a licensed real estate agent, which varies by state. In California, he says, getting a license calls for a 45-hour class. Nationwide, the requirements range from a low of 24 hours in Massachusetts to a high of 120 hours in Ohio, according to ARELLO. He says it takes 9,000 hours to become a doctor and 1,600 hours to become a cosmetologist.

"To dye someone's hair it takes 20 times more studying than to help someone sell the largest investment of their life," he says.

"Real estate agents typically get ranked right around used-car salesmen. The bar is so low to get a real estate license," says Marguleas, who operates in a high-end market in Pacific Palisades, Calif., and has been in the real estate business for 15 years. "I would love to make it as hard as it is to become a doctor or lawyer to raise the professionalism. So many people who do this are part-time and not very knowledgeable about what they're doing. It's why consumers have such a poor image of real estate agents."

Many people who enter the profession don't realize the amount of work it requires -- including negotiating high-dollar contracts and being on call during evenings and weekends, he says.

"They may be better off managing a fast-food restaurant, making more money," says Marguleas, whose five agents have an average of 10 years' experience and typically make $200,000 per year.

Not an easy way to make a living
J. Andrew Hansz, whose own credentials include the prestigious Chartered Financial Analyst designation and a Ph.D. in real estate, has taught graduate-level real estate classes at the University of Texas in Arlington since 1999.

He says he's seen an uptick in the number of students seeking out the program and the number of companies seeking out students.

"This summer we had more companies contact us for interns than we had students to provide them. My first graduate class in the fall of 1999 had three students; now the typical graduate class has about 15 to 20 students."

Hansz says the cyclical nature of real estate may thin out the herds of agents. "A lot of people flood in when times are good, and a lot of people flood out when times are bad. When the market isn't booming, there isn't a lot of money to be made. A lot of agents make very little money, and for a lot of them it's a second or third job or they're semi-retired. Others hold it as a credential," says Hansz, who has a Texas real estate broker's license to add to his own credentials. "Students listen to me since I hold the license they're pursuing."

However, Hansz is optimistic about people entering the industry now.

"This is a good time to learn," Hansz says. "You don't want to start when business is booming, because once you get up and started the boom is over."

"It's a tough, tough job to make a living at," he says. "The people who succeed are happy, healthy and wealthy. With sales down, the pie will get smaller. It will be harder for newer agents to arrive or maintain their income."

You can read more about what it takes to become a real estate agent.'s corrections policy -- Posted: Oct. 12, 2006
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