3 Biggest Surprises for Newly Licensed Real Estate Agents


January 9, 2021

A real estate school’s job is to teach its students how to pass the state real estate licensing exam. But is that all? We recently conducted a survey of newly licensed real estate agent—who had gone to numerous real estate schools—to ask them, “What were your 3 biggest surprises when you got your license and started your real estate career?

From the day we bought Garden State Real Estate Academy in July 2018, we vowed that we would only hire instructors who have extensive track records as super-successful “real world” brokers. That way, we reasoned, we could pass on to our classroom guests not only how to pass the state real estate exam, but also hundreds of tips and tools they could use to be successful once they earn their real estate license.

Here are their top three responses.

1: The cost of being a Realtor®

Several agents said they had been told the cost of real estate school, of the state exam, fingerprinting charge and the initial real estate license fee. Depending on the school’s tuition price, that is somewhere between $625 and $650. While it is true to give students that number, $650 is far from the whole story. Unless they join one of the tiny number of non-Realtor® brokers, agents must join the Board of Realtors®. That is at least $540 a year. They must join one or more Multiple Listing Services, a lockbox entry system, and errors and omissions insurance. That is another $1,000.

After that, the true cost of being a Realtor® largely depends on which broker one joins. Some charge a monthly fee, which includes the company’s contact management system, paperless document software, and an agent’s website. Other brokers make those costs each agent’s responsibility.

Then there are marketing expenses. Some agents will use a broker’s for sale signs and rely on no-cost social media marketing. Yet others spend hundreds of dollars on their own custom-designed signs and marketing materials.

We suggest our classroom guests budget $2,500 to $3,000 for expenses during their first year as a real estate professional, assuming they don’t go crazy with marketing dollars!

2: The difficulty of the state licensing exam.

At a recent meeting with the New Jersey Real Estate Commission and PSI—the company the state contracts to administer the state real estate licensing exam—PSI reported that in the past six months, only about 30% of applicants passed the state exam on their first attempt.

That is not because they are stupid. It is because it is a very difficult exam. We find ourselves frequently warning our classroom guests how important it is to pay attention to the lessons, to do the chapter-end tests and to take the material seriously. We are blessed with GREAT classroom guests who have a first-time pass rate of more than double the state average, but that is not because of Garden State Real Estate Academy, it is because our classroom guests do heed their instructor’s advice to take the exam preparation seriously.

If there is ever one piece of advice I can offer to every student before taking the state exam, it is this: Don’t wing it! Prepare, prepare, prepare. And then prepare some more while you are in the test center parking lot before you go in for the exam.

3: The differences in broker training.

Since Garden State is not owned by any brokerage firm, our graduates have gone on to become agents with literally dozens—perhaps hundreds—of real estate firms. We stay in touch with our graduates, and it is interesting to hear what they say about the firms they chose to join when they got their new real estate license.

One agent in the Princeton area spoke, seemingly without taking a breath, for 10 minutes about the brokerage she joined, how they matched her with a great mentor, helped her set goals, paired her with another more experienced agent for scripts practice, and helped her from the first-day lessons through to her closing $4 million in her first six months as an agent.


Another agent told of a horrible experience—ironically, with the same franchise broker—in Washington Township, Gloucester County. Without his knowledge, permission or understanding, the broker put the new agent on the broker’s personal team—which meant the broker would keep part of the agent’s own commission from every transaction forever—and after a month, the broker had not even met him in person, let alone provided any training.

We would have a very hard time recommending that broker to any future graduate!

The key here is to ask multiple questions during your broker interviews. Who conducts the training? Is it a paid trainer or does the company rely on agents to volunteer to do training without compensation? Please show me the training calendar, and so on.


Garden State Real Estate Academy offers classes that begin every two weeks for those interested in earning their New Jersey real estate license and we also offer classes for established agents seeking their New Jersey broker license approved education courses. All those courses are taught LIVE by our instructors and are currently delivered via Zoom. Google shows our graduates rate Garden State as New Jersey’s top-ranked real estate school. We also offer pre-licensing online for more than 30 states at discounted rates through our affiliation with The CE Shop. You can find that information here: https://tinyurl.com/yyj8kcfd

David C. Forward is a licensed real estate broker and instructor and was first licensed as a Realtor® 32 years ago. During his career, David and his business partner sold more than 500 homes in South Jersey.  He is now School Director of Garden Real Estate Academy, has won numerous awards for real estate sales, is a much-requested public speaker who has addressed audiences on six continents and is the author of 16 books.

Go to Top