The Senior’s Guide to Becoming a Real Estate Agent as a Second Career

For many of us, retirement is no longer about sitting on a porch in a rocking chair or playing a round of golf every day. It’s about continuing to challenge yourself, often through a second career. If you have a passion for people and homes, this seniors guide to becoming a real estate agent can help you develop a post-retirement second career as a real estate professional, including what it takes to create a successful practice.

July 14, 2020

11 min read


For many of us, retirement is something we look forward to. Finally, we’ll be able to kick back, relax, and do whatever we want all day! However, did you know that over 20% of seniors actually choose to work during retirement age? Whether it’s to make some extra income or to stay occupied, holding at least a part-time job at 65+ years is becoming more attractive.

If you’re a senior considering going back to work, becoming a certified real estate agent is an excellent option. The average age of real estate agents actually skews older (53 years old in 2017), and the relatively low barrier to entry makes this an achievable goal in just a few months. Below we outline everything you need to know about becoming a real estate agent as your second career.

Why Becoming a Real Estate Agent is a Great Fit for Seniors

illustrated real estate and senior icons

The training and daily tasks of a real estate agent are uniquely suited to seniors looking to embark on a second career. Some of the benefits include:

  • Low Barrier to Entry - As we mentioned earlier, most people can become a registered agent from start to finish in just six months, including classes, on-site mentorship, and examinations.
  • Flexible Schedule - If you don’t want to return to the 40+ hours/week of work, the agent lifestyle allows you to work part-time and customize your schedule. Because most open houses take place on evenings and weekends, your weekdays can remain open for other activities.
  • Healthy Income - Even if you only work part-time, you can still make a steady income from your work as an agent. Though rates vary depending on your area, the average real estate agent makes around $36/hour.
  • Maintain Connections - The sad truth is that around 40% of seniors experience loneliness. Real estate is a career that requires a lot of in-person interaction, allowing you to stay connected to your community and regularly meet new people.
  • Stay Physically and Mentally Fit - Having continual organizational tasks helps to keep your mind active, and events like open houses or career fairs require physical activity to setup and host.

Unique Skills Seniors Have for the Real Estate Market

illustration of senior outside a home

Not only is real estate well-suited to seniors, but seniors have unique skills that can actually give them an advantage in this field as well.

Life Experience

Unlike younger agents, seniors typically have firsthand experience in buying, selling, and renting multiple homes throughout their lifetimes. This knowledge is invaluable when it comes to advising clients on the right moves for them depending on where they are in life. Any agent can tell a client why this or that neighborhood is better for reselling or why a particular wood trim is an asset, but only someone who has personally experienced this process will be able to offer truly unique insights and connect with clients on a personal level.

Personal Perspective

In addition to life experience, seniors can also offer a personal perspective for other seniors looking to transition into new homes. Whether it’s an older couple wanting to downsize or a single person moving into a senior living community, as a fellow senior you’ll be able to take these clients’ unique needs into account and offer suggestions that younger agents might not even think of. In fact, there are specific certifications for real estate agents that specialize in senior clients and communities.

What it Takes to Be a Successful Agent

illustration of senior real estate agent and personality traits that make a successful agent

So, are you convinced that becoming a real estate agent is the right second career choice for you? Though this is a great option for many seniors, it does take a certain personality type to really excel at this career path. If you’re thinking of pursuing this certification, make sure you consider the following questions:

  • Do you have knowledge of local neighborhoods and their defining features?
  • Are you organized and detail-oriented?
  • Do you have basic technology competencies with computers and smartphones?
  • Are you able to stay polite and unrattled when faced with difficult people?
  • Are you comfortable being pushy when needed with reluctant clients?
  • Are you generally outgoing and confident and able to interact with many strangers in a day?

If you feel confident that you fulfill most of these requirements, then read on to learn about the four basic steps for obtaining your license and starting your career as a real estate agent.

Step 1: Educate Yourself on the Market

illustration of real estate books

As we mentioned above, a thorough knowledge of your market’s neighborhoods is essential for a real estate agent. Even if you have lived in the same location for 30 years and feel you know it pretty well, it doesn’t hurt to brush up on local history and statistics so you can give potential clients a well-rounded view of the area. This could include reading books about local history, visiting historical sites in the area, researching public data about schools and transportation options, and anything else you think someone new to the area would need to know when looking for a home.

In addition to educating yourself about your specific area, you should also learn about the real estate career path in general to make sure you’re prepared for what’s to come. Though you likely already have some idea of what agents do, there are a lot of details about daily agent life that you may not be prepared for. Some good books to brush up on initially include:

Step 2: Prepare for the Real Estate Agent Exam

steps to take to prepare for the real estate agent exam

As you’re probably aware, in order to become a certified real estate agent, you must pass your licensing exam. There are many in-person and online programs available to provide you with real estate classes, resources, practice exams, mentors, and more in order to ultimately help you pass your examination. Oftentimes you can take these classes through your local business school at a university or community college. There are also fully online options, which may be more ideal for seniors who don’t want to travel every day. A few of the most popular online programs include:

It’s very important to note that each state has its own education and licensing requirements. For example, to become an agent in California you must have 135 hours of pre-licensing classes, while in New York you only need 75 hours of courses. Be sure to research your state’s specific requirements as well as find an education provider that is state-sanctioned and adheres to these requirements.Below are the general steps you will need to take when pursuing your license:

  • 60 - 130 hours of pre-licensing classes
  • Pre-licensing exam (only some states)
  • Registration under a broker (only some states)
  • Registration for the state exam
  • Completion of practice tests in preparation for the state exam (some states provide these when you register, as will most prep courses)
  • Take the real estate agent state exam to earn your license to practice
  • Retake the exam if you don’t pass on the first try

Step 3: Activate Your License and Become a Realtor

illustration of older male realtor

Once you have successfully passed your state’s real estate agent examination, you’ll need to pay a fee in order to register your license with your state’s real estate board. You’ll likely receive instructions in the mail for doing this, and you can also do a quick search online for your state’s official website. Once this step is complete, you can officially practice as a real estate agent in your state! However, you’re not yet a “realtor.

”What many people don’t know is that “realtor” is actually a trademarked title owned by the National Association of Realtors (NAR). In fact, only around half of licensed real estate agents are also realtors. In order to market yourself as a realtor, you’ll need to join your local chapter of the NAR. This involves a yearly membership fee and adherence to a strict code of ethics. In return, realtors have access to exclusive NAR networking events, proprietary data and resources, and discounts on continuing education.It’s up to you whether or not you choose to become a realtor in addition to a real estate agent. You can learn more about how to join the NAR on their website.

Step 4: Join a Brokerage

illustration of senior man sitting in a chair

Brokerages are organizations that are licensed by the state to oversee real estate agents and make sure all business is conducted in accordance with state laws. In order to begin practicing as a real estate agent, you’ll need to join a brokerage in your area. Research local small brokerages to find one that fits your needs and lifestyle, and then reach out to see if they are looking to hire new agents. As a senior real estate agent, you may want to find brokerages that specialize in senior housing if that is the area you are looking to go into. Keep in mind that you might need to interview at two or three brokerages before you find one that feels like a good fit.

In addition to local offices, there are many national brokerages that have locations all over the country. Working for a branch of a large corporation is always a great option if you’re struggling to find smaller operations. Some of the big names you may have heard of include:

  • Century 21
  • Coldwell Banker
  • Keller-Williams
  • RE/MAX

You should also note that if you live in a state that requires you to be registered under a broker before you take your examination, you’ll already have your connection to a broker’s office.

Real Estate Tech for Seniors

list of technology that senior real estate agents should be familiar with

Though real estate agents have been around for hundreds of years, this isn’t an old-school field. Today’s agents do need to be at least somewhat tech-savvy in order to be successful in a competitive market. Below we outline the basic communication channels you should be sure to familiarize yourself with. If technology isn’t your strong suit, so there’s no need to worry. Most brokerages will help their new agents set up these assets, and there are a multitude of online courses you can take to build these skills from the ground up, including resources from the NAR.

Basic Tools

When you’re just starting out as a real estate agent, you don’t need a bunch of fancy tech gadgets to get the job done. All you really need is a smartphone and a laptop computer. Like most everything else these days, the business of real estate is conducted primarily online. You’ll need a computer to communicate with your clients, attract potential buyers or renters, post new listings, advertise your services, and many more tasks. A smartphone is basically a handheld computer (and, of course, allows you to take calls) and will allow you to handle these tasks on the go.

Basic Website

Run my very own website?! Yes, it’s not actually as hard as it looks. Though setting up a basic website is not a necessity (as your brokerage will have its own website as well) it’s extremely useful for connecting with potential clients and finding buyers and sellers to fill your properties. With just a simple website you can:

  • Highlight your specialties as an agent
  • Post photos of available properties
  • Collect emails and phone numbers from new prospects via a contact form
  • Write a real estate blog to demonstrate your expertise

Even if you prefer to do things the old-fashioned way, most potential clients will expect to see that you have some sort of online presence in this digital age. Take a look at NAR’s turnkey website services for realtors to get an idea for what your site could look like.

Social Media Channels

Perhaps even more important than your website are your social media channels. Social media can be used to advertise your events and open houses, generate interest in available properties, network with other real estate agents both in your market and nationally, and send interested prospects to your website via ads. The most useful social media platforms for real estate agents include:

  • Facebook - If you only want to use one type of social media platform, it should be Facebook. Though it’s not as image or hashtag-focused as Instagram, Facebook is an all-around good choice for joining real estate-focused groups, posting about your properties, and displaying your contact information for interested parties.
  • Instagram - Instagram is the best channel to appeal to younger buyers and renters, share images of your properties, and connect with new prospects through hashtag research.
  • LinkedIn - If you don’t anticipate using social media to find potential customers and just want to network with other agents, LinkedIn is a good choice. You can join groups and discussions focused on industry trends and events in order to stay up to date.

There are also many online resources about building a real estate social media strategy. For starters, you should check out this guide with post examples from the experts at Sprout Social.

CRM (Customer Relationship Management) Tool

Most brokerages have their agents use a CRM, so you will almost definitely be trained on this when you join. However, it’s still good to understand the basics behind CRMs. One of the main parts of being a real estate agent is finding and nurturing prospects, with the goal of turning them into leads, and then clients. You can find prospects anywhere; someone responding to an advertisement for your property on Facebook, a list of cold call contacts, a walk-in guest at an open house, or a referral from your mom’s hairdresser. You’ll gather names, phone numbers, email addresses, and other details from these contacts and reach out to them repeatedly via email drip campaigns, prospecting postcards, follow up calls, etc. And each time you contact each prospect, you’ll need to note when and how so that you’re not reaching out to the same people over and over again. You’ll need to note their reactions to your outreach and any change in their situation or contact information. Sounds exhausting to keep track of, right? Well, that’s where CRMs come in. These tools help you automate this process so that you’re not spending hours each day staring at a spreadsheet. You can learn more by checking out this list of recommended real estate CRMs from Hubspot.

Additional Resources for Seniors Interested in Becoming a Real Estate Agent

We’ve now covered why seniors are particularly suited to become real estate agents for their second careers, the basic steps involved for getting state-certified, and the types of technology you’ll need to be familiar with to be successful as an agent. If you’re still unsure if this is the right path for you, take a look at the additional resources below to learn about going back to work after retirement, other career options, and the unique role of a senior real estate specialist.

We hope you found this guide helpful in exploring the option of becoming a real estate agent post-retirement! Feel free to contact us if you have any questions or would like to view a demo of our online tenant screening services.


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