Do You Need a Real Estate License as an Assistant?

When I first got into the real estate industry, I did not have a real estate license. It wasn’t really a problem for me for one reason only. The team’s transaction coordinator had her real estate license and if I ever found myself in a situation where I couldn’t perform due to my lack of a license, I would turn that job over to her.

For instance, in the state of Missouri, an unlicensed assistant is not permitted to give out information about any listed properties. That was an obstacle that came up often since it was my duty to be the first person to answer incoming calls and direct them to the right person. If no licensed agents were around, I had to explain to the caller that I would have to have an agent return the call. Often the caller would say, “Well can’t you just tell me the price?” Sadly, no. I can’t tell you the price.

About a year after working as an unlicensed assistant, the market turned and there was less business coming in. It got to the point where we had to let the transaction coordinator go. Now I was really pressured because the person who had a license and was almost always in the office was now gone.

Shortly after that, my lead agent got very sick and was not able to work. Quite honestly I feared for my job. I thought I would be more marketable as an assistant if I had my real estate license. So I paid my own way through real estate school, took the licensing test, and became a licensed assistant.

Now that I had my license, I could do more. Including holding open houses on weekends (my days off) and showing homes to buyers (my choice).

Admittedly, I didn’t enjoy either of those things. I very much liked working 9-5 Monday through Friday with weekends off. I did not enjoy working outside those hours.

With that being said, I do believe an assistant should have a real estate license. Another thing I could do as an assistant is answer questions about listing and purchase agreements. Often we would send these documents to clients for signatures and they would have questions about what they were signing. With a license, I can easily answer those questions.

I also believe that having a license makes the hand-off from the listing agent or the buyers agent easier on the co-op agent. Depending on your market, agents on the other side of the transaction may not be used to being passed to an assistant exclusively. They always like to continue talking with the agent they negotiated the deal with. But, if the listing agent or buyers agent explains that their assistant is a licensed real estate agent working on their behalf, then that’s an easier pill to swallow.

Something else I like about having a real estate license, is that the sales agents on the team can explain to their buyers and sellers that everyone on our team is a licensed agent. Even the administrative staff. So essentially, they are getting five real estate agents for the price of one. And who doesn’t love a great bargain like that?

Below, you will see what an unlicensed assistant can and can not do, but be warned: THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION IS ONLY FOR THE STATE OF MISSOURI. (Because that’s where I am licensed.) Be sure to find out from your own state’s real estate commission what unlicensed assistants are authorized to do.

What an Unlicensed Assistant CAN Do:

  • answer the phone and forward calls to a licensee
  • submit listings and changes to a multiple listing service
  • follow up on loan commitments after a contract has been negotiated
  • assemble documents for closings
  • secure documents (public information) from the courthouse, sewer district, water district, etc.
  • have keys made for company listings
  • write ads, flyers, and promotional materials for approval by licensee and supervising broker and place advertising
  • record and deposit earnest money, security deposits, and advance rents
  • type contract forms for approval by licensee and supervising broker
  • monitor licenses and personnel files
  • compute commission checks
  • place signs on listed property
  • order items of routine repair by licensee
  • act as a courier to deliver documents, pick up keys, etc.
  • place routine telephone calls on late rent payments
  • schedule appointments for licensee to show listed property

What an Unlicensed Assistant CAN NOT Do:

  • Be licensed with one firm and do any real estate activities that require a license while working as an assistant in another firm. A licensee who is moonlighting as an assistant in a second real estate company may do only the activities listed above when working for the second company.
  • Host open houses, kiosks, home show booths or fairs, or hand out materials
  • Prepare promotional materials or ads without the review and approval of a licensee and the supervising broker
  • Show property
  • Answer any questions on listings, title, financing, closing, for anyone outside the firm
  • Discuss or explain a contract, listing, lease agreement, or other real estate document with anyone outside the firm
  • Be paid on the basis of real estate activity, such as a percentage of commission, or an amount based on volume of listings, sales, etc.
  • Negotiate or agree to a commission, commission split, management fee or referral fee on behalf of a licensee

Something else I want you to consider as well is this: If your lead agent becomes suddenly unavailable for any reason, will you be able to step in and keep the business running until his return? Can you take his phone and return calls to agents and clients? Can you go on the appointments he has scheduled? Can you deposit checks into his corporate account and pay bills?

As the saying goes, life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. Make a plan to be proactive, not reactive, when tragedy strikes. Hopefully, this will never happen to you. But just like the fire escape plan posted on the door every hotel room in the United States, you have to have an emergency plan. And you have to be able to execute it. I’m telling you, this is going to be easier on you if you have your real estate license.

What if instead of thinking of yourself as an assistant, administrative assistant, or executive assistant, you started thinking of yourself as an administrative agent? Your team is now composed of sales agents and administrative agents. Each is just as valuable to the team as the other. No one gets ahead without the others.

I was reading through a Facebook group and Vishal Doddanna posted, “Great AHA shared w/ me by my Recently Hired Director of Operations (EA) during his KASH Talk this week, post KWFR: ‘Most people in my role don’t feel significant, because they don’t MAKE themselves significant.'”

Let that sink in for a moment…how are you making yourself significant? Getting your license and implementing an emergency plan is just one way to accomplish that.

Your lead agent won’t pay for you to get your license?

Pay for it yourself. I did. And it’s only gotten me further in my career.

Again, invest in yourself and reap the rewards. Make yourself significant. Don’t wait for someone else to validate you or make you significant.

I’d like to end with one last thought.

The executive assistant position is not a job; it’s a responsibility.

Do you feel responsible for the business? As much responsibility as your lead agent?

You should. Because the business would not be where it is today without you.

You are a key role in every success and failure that your real estate business experiences.

It’s time for you to step up, be responsible, and be significant.

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