The Real Estate Agent

Elizabeth Tomlinson  |  6/6/2008 11:49:59 PM

The term “real estate agent,” refers to two separate professionals. One is the “real estate salesperson,” who acts as an agent of a broker, and then there’s the “real estate broker” who owns, manages or operates the brokerage firm where the salesperson works. A Realtor® is a salesperson or broker who is a member of the National Association of Realtors®.

Real estate agents facilitate the buying and selling of property, such as land and buildings. These agents serve as representatives/negotiators of buyers and sellers. Real estate agents can serve as a “buyer’s agent” or as a “seller’s agent.” This means the agent represents one side of the transaction exclusively. The buyer’s agent works to get the buyer the best possible price and contract, and the seller’s agent does the same for sellers. In Louisiana, agents in a brokerage firm can be both a buyer’s and seller’s agent, but if playing both roles in a single transaction, the agent must disclose this relationship to his/her clients. This is referred to as “dual agency.”

For what specific tasks would you seek the services of someone in this profession?

You would hire an agent to help you sell your home or to help you find a new home to buy. An agent can check recent home sales in your area and estimate the price you should use in listing your house for sale. If acting as a buyer’s agent, the real estate agent would use this estimate to suggest the reasonable price from which to negotiate buying the home. In addition, the agent should actively market your home if it is for sale and work to find a buyer who will pay the best price with the best contract specifications. A buyer’s agent will, of course, work to find the house that best meets his/her client’s needs for the best price and best contract specifications. The agent can be invaluable in assisting the buyer and seller in the negotiation process. Lastly, the agent will guide his/her client through the sale process.

Some brokers will offer additional services such as property management. Some firms offer “staging” services. This involves either consulting on or actually doing installation and management of outfitting and preparing your home to look its best for the purpose of attracting buyers.

What licenses and certifications are available in this profession, and what requirements are needed to obtain these?

The State of Louisiana dispenses two licenses: one for a real estate salesperson and one for a real estate broker. Brokers can be designated as “individual,” which is someone who works for himself and can hire salespeople, and “associate.” An associate broker is a licensed broker who works for another licensed broker.

Ninety hours of Louisiana Real Estate Commission (LREC)-approved coursework, successful completion of the two parts of the Louisiana Salesperson for Real Estate exam, sponsorship by a licensed broker and proof of errors and omissions insurance are the requirements to obtain your real estate salesperson license in Louisiana. Courses taken more than five years ago may not receive full credit. No coursework more than 10 years old will receive credit.

An applicant for a broker’s license in Louisiana must work for two years under a licensed broker, fulfill 150 hours of approved real estate coursework, pass the broker licensing exam and provide proof of errors and omissions insurance to the LREC in order to receive a broker license. Again, no coursework completed more than 10 years prior to the application for a broker license will be counted toward the education requirements. Coursework between five and 10 years may receive partial credit. Also, the commission may credit real estate experience toward the education requirements.

Both salespeople and brokers must complete 30 hours of post-licensing education in their first year of license. Following that first year, proof of successful completion of eight hours of continuing education annually is needed to renew a license. These requirements are currently being considered by the Louisiana State Legislature and are expected to be changed. Any changes will go into effect in January 2009.

The Louisiana Realtors® Association offers a Graduate Realtor® Institute (GRI) designation for its members through the National Association of Realtors® (NAR). A licensed real estate agent can earn a GRI designation by completing an additional 90 hours of coursework in approved real estate related topics.

How can a consumer verify that the professional has the license he/she alleges to have?

A consumer can verify professional licenses through the Louisiana Real Estate Commission’s Web site, www.lrec.state.la.us and click on licensing search. You can search by name or by geographic area. You may also verify a license by calling the commission at 225-765-0191 or 800-821-4529.

You can find a Realtor® with a GRI designation by going to the National Association of Realtors® at http://www.realtor.org/. Click on Resources for Home Buyers and Sellers and register, then search for GRI. Alternately, you may contact your Louisiana Realtors® Association education director at (225) 923-2210. A listing of state education directors can be found by searching the NAR Web site.

What license is required in Louisiana to do what type of work?

In Louisiana, property owners may sell their own property without a license. To sell anyone else’s property, a person must obtain either a salesperson or broker license. A person may conduct property management for one owner without a license. In property management, anyone dealing with more than one owner and dealing with funds that belong to more than one person must obtain a broker license first.

What is the typical pay basis for this profession and what is the typical cost?

The pay basis is determined by the broker and can sometimes be negotiated. Normally, the seller pays the broker an average of 6% of the sale. This is then split evenly between the broker selling the house and the broker representing the buyer. Then the broker pays the salesperson some portion of the 3% received.

How does a person become a real estate salesperson or broker?

To begin a career in real estate as a broker, a person must first be a licensed salesperson for two years working for a licensed real estate broker. An applicant for a Louisiana real estate salesperson license must first complete 90 hours of real estate coursework approved by the real estate commission. Courses can be taken from an accredited college or university but may only satisfy a portion of the education requirements. Persons wishing to go this route should first check with the Louisiana Real Estate Commission’s education division. Most coursework is completed at approved real estate schools. The LREC provides information on approved schools on their Web site.

After successful completion of the coursework, the applicant must pass the two exams -- a state exam and a national exam -- that make up the Louisiana Salesperson for Real Estate examination. Finally, the applicant must be sponsored by a licensed real estate broker and must provide proof of errors and omissions insurance to receive their real estate salesperson license.

After having worked for two years as a salesperson, an agent who wishes to become a broker must complete 150 hours of coursework approved by the commission. The commission may accept experience in the field as credit toward this education requirement. The salesperson must then take the two-part (national and state) Louisiana Broker for Real Estate examination. With successful completion of the exams along with proof of errors and omissions insurance, the applicant can receive his real estate broker license.

How does a real estate salesperson or broker who is licensed or certified for providing service in another state get authorization to provide services in Louisiana?

Louisiana has reciprocal agreements with only certain states. This information can be found on the Louisiana Real Estate Commission's Web site. If you wish to provide services in Louisiana but are licensed in another state, you must supply all pre-licensing real estate education completed for consideration of partial credit. All applicants will need to take the 30-hour portion of the education requirements which includes Louisiana Real Estate License Law, Commission Rules/Regulations, Law of Agency and Civil Law pertaining to real estate. This applies to both salesperson and broker applicants.

The licensing examination results from the applicant’s home state may be substituted for the national portion of the Louisiana licensing exams. Proof that the out-of-state licensing exam is comparable to the Louisiana exam and was completed within the last five years must be provided in order to be considered for substitution.

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