The real deal: The highs and lows of being a student real estate agent

The real deal: The highs and lows of being a student real estate agent

By Marc Larocque

Low-paying waitressing and part-time retail gigs are not making the grade with college students anymore, and some Northeastern students are diverting their attention to the booming property market to earn spending money or fund their educations.

With college costs on the rise, some students are taking their financial burden to the streets, as real estate agents. Real estate agencies all around the Northeastern area hire students with real estate license to place people in apartments.

“It is pretty easy to get a real estate job. Agencies are always hiring and it is easy to move around,” said Bobby Quinn, a middler economics major who works at Fenway Reality Group. But there is no standard pay; it is all commission on a property-to-property basis where prices are negotiated.”

Before applying to real estate agencies, aspiring agents must take a course and pass a test to get a Massachusetts real estate license.

“I heard about it through some friends of mine that had been successful with it,” said Chris Lynch, a senior business major.” Then I went and took the courses at the Lee Institute.”

The Lee Institute is on Harvard Street in Brookline and also has other locations, including many Holiday Inns all around the state where the institute conducts their classes.

To take these classes, an applicant must be at least 18 years old and “of good moral character,” according to the Lee Institute Web site. The Lee Institute is approved by the Massachusetts Board of Registration for Real Estate Brokers and Salespersons.

Students must complete 24 hours of classroom training. This can either be through two 12-hour sessions in one week or over the course of four weeks in three-hour sessions.

“I’ve had a lot of friends who have done the same thing,” Quinn said. “Three of them are in my fraternity, Sigma Alpha Mu.”

The course costs $270, with an additional $10 service fee. Students must pay up front for the weekend course, or by the third session for the one-week session. The price of the course includes textbooks and study materials.

“The material is not too difficult,” said Lynch, who took the courses in May but does not yet have his license. “I just have not gotten around to taking the exam yet.”

Completing this course meets the requirements necessary to pursue the state licensing examination. Those who complete the course receive a diploma, and can then schedule an appointment for an exam in Woburn, Boston, Worcester, West Springfield or North Dartmouth.

It costs $125 to take the test in addition to the course fees. A score of 70 percent or better is required to pass the test. If a student fails the test, it costs $65 for another try.

The content of the courses and classes consists of Massachusetts general laws, all the different necessary real estate contract forms agents deal with, and real estate word usage.

“For a motivated person it’s a good way to make money,” Quinn said. “It’s in a relaxed corporate environment where everyone is motivated and focused.”

A seasoned real estate agent, Kathryn Acello, is also a student said the business of property is not necessarily an easy walk through a new condominium, and that the benefits may be hard to see at times.

“I do not recommend entering real estate if you’re looking to make a quick buck. I will tell you that right off the start,” said Kathryn Acello, a political science and philosophy major who practices real estate with NextGen Realty in Boston.

Acello said a job in real estate can make you “hate people” and that unrealistic demands and expectations of clients are common in the Boston market. Two of the major downfalls of playing the real estate game: health insurance isn’t included, and neither is a consistent pay check.

“The job takes 100 plus hours per week and literally takes its toll on the body. I am one of the only real estate agents who refrains from smoking,” Acello said. She said real estate agents work any day and every day and do not get paid until “all your money is in and cleared and your CFO or accountant gives you the go-ahead.” Until that point, real estate agents are working for free, waiting to close the deals on apartments and houses so they can collect their commission. But she said there are still benefits.

“Working in real estate has made me a more educated renter as well as a future buyer,

she said. She also said she has become extremely aware of how small fluctuations in stock, interest rates, inflation and gas prices can significantly affect the housing market. “What happens when gas prices go up? Landlords increase rent. They stop including utilities,” Acello said.

Acello’s advice: “Buy now. Negotiate enough so the property value has nearly, if not entirely, depreciated, and refinance when the rates get better. Though you have to pay closing costs again, it will save you money in the end.

“And buy while you’re young,” she said. “As long as the space is well-kept, it will bring you a goldmine.”

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