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So You Want to Be a Real Estate Agent in Philadelphia?

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Curbed University delivers insider tips and non-boring advice on how to buy, sell, or rent a home or apartment. Additional questions welcomed to philly@curbed.com.

First, a clarification about agents vs. brokers. An agent works for a broker, who employs several agents. An agent has to be working as an agent for three years before he or she can begin the next round of tests to become a broker. So we'll talk about becoming an agent, and you can think about becoming a broker later.

An agent wakes up every day with a big smile on their face and a spring in their step, ready to jauntily joust with the powers that be for the honor and financial and emotional satisfaction of their appreciative clients. Just kidding. Sometimes, it’s just another thankless job in a tough economy.

However! Your Philadelphia agent is going to be in a better mood than agents out there hoofing it in other cities. Some say it’s because Philadelphia largely missed the real estate bubble.

Jeanne Whipple of Coldwell Banker breaks it down thusly: “The reason we don’t have the real estate bubble is because the median income in Philadelphia matches the median price range [of houses],” says Whipple. “Since the average price for a house in Philadelphia is approximately $244,000, that means that to afford the approximately $1,100 per month mortgage you need to be earning about $40,000—which is just about the average.”

“We have a lot of good inventory on Philadelphia in that price range, and a lot of people in Philly make that much money, so if that continues to jibe then we don’t have a real estate bubble,” she adds.

But depending on who you talk to, time may be of the essence. Drew Egmont of Keller Williams, who works mostly in the northwest neighborhoods of Manayunk, Roxborough and the increasingly popular Mt. Airy, says he’s recently noticed evidence of a delayed hit.

“When I first started a few years back, the national market had really tanked everywhere you looked, but the buzz around the Philly community was that we’ve been relatively impervious to the national disaster real-estate wise,” says Egmont. “I feel like in the last six months to a year, it’s almost like we’ve had a little bit of a delayed reaction. There are more and more sellers having a hard time. Appraisals are coming in low.”

So though Philly real estate agents aren’t hit as hard as elsewhere, there are some bad days when that happens. Agents! They’re just like us.

Since you earn both sides of the commission if you work as both seller’s agent and buyer’s agent, most real estate agents work both sides, and most spend their days making appointments and then running around the city keeping said appointments.

“There is no typical day,” says Paul Rhodes of Coldwell Banker. “It can be anything from calling expired listings to marketing days to taking clients out to see homes to going on listing appointments. It’s not a 9-to-5 job. It’s not a Monday-through-Friday job. It’s weekends, holidays—it’s whenever we’re needed. When most people have off that’s when they’re doing their searches and have time to talk to us. On the flip side of that, you do control that to the extent that you can say no. So if you want to work noon to 10 p.m. at night, and that’s your schedule, that’s what you do. That said, the early bird gets the worm.”

If you’re interested in pursuing life as a real estate agent, check out the courses offered at Temple University’s Real Estate Institute. You’ll cover topics like license law, fair housing, and liens and easements. At the end of the basic courses, you’ll have to take an in-class exam to qualify to take the licensing exam. Then you’ll have to pass the exam in order to file for a license. To apply for a license, visit the Pennsylvania Department of State Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs Real Estate Commission. The application fee is $107.

In order to apply, you need to be 18 years old and include official transcripts showing you’ve completed 60 hours (four credits) of basic real estate courses. You can find more details here. If you have questions, call the State Real Estate Commission at (717) 783-3658 or email ST-REALESTATE@pa.gov.