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Jason Elkins
  • Rental Property Investor
  • Lexington, SC
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Real Estate Investor with a SC Real Estate license. Is it worth the hassle?

Jason Elkins
  • Rental Property Investor
  • Lexington, SC
Posted Mar 3 2024, 08:27

My questions is, is it worth the hassle to get a real estate license in South Carolina as an investor...or... would I be better served to team up with an investor friendly agent?  Would I be shackled, in a sense, by the license?  What are the risks and rewards for each?  Thank you in advance for contributing to this post.

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Jennifer Cook-DeRosa
Pro Member
  • New to Real Estate
  • Charlotte, NC
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Jennifer Cook-DeRosa
Pro Member
  • New to Real Estate
  • Charlotte, NC
Replied Mar 3 2024, 09:25

Though I live in North Carolina, I did choose to do this recently. I got my NC license in December 2023. A few pros and cons as I have experienced them:

1. Having a license is cheap, being able to use your license in any meaningful way is expensive. In my state you can have a license and be inactive, but you can't really "do" anything with an inactive license. You will have to become active and join a firm (affiliate) where you'll have oversight, and if you want keys to the kingdom so to speak, you'll have to subscribe to your NAR MLS, perhaps your commercial board, and all the memberships your firm requires. My bare minimum fee just to keep my license is 150/month to my firm, and that's literally just to be alive. To have MLS access, continuing education requirements, license fees, and business costs, will sit around $2,000 yearly if you are frugal. All that said, if you don't mind spending about $4,000 per year (maybe more or less in SC) then the only thing you'll have to battle is finding the right firm that lets you run your business the way you want.

2.  I joined a commercial rather than a residential firm, but your license allows you to do both. For me, commercial was a better fit because I want to do deals where profit is the goal.  I broker deals for my sons, and even though they are buying single-family rentals (classified as residential) I'm able to serve them with a "commercial mindset" and we look at the deals from that perspective.  Residential agents and firms, in my experience, are shy /embarrassed/hesitant to submit low offers and I didn't want to have to constantly justify this to my broker in charge. I needed to be in a firm that let me do what was best for me or the client- and that is sometimes offering a very low offer.  Try asking a residential broker to write a dozen offers on a dozen properties you've never even seen at 70% of list just to see how it goes. If that's what my son wants this week, that's what we are doing. Most residential brokers are a hard no on that.

3. Finally, I did a lot of FSBO transactions years ago, and was always told by real estate agents that I was basically an idiot and would do SO MUCH BETTER with a "professional" representing me. So, when I went to real estate school, I was super excited to get all of this behind the scenes knowledge and skills that I had been missing all these years. Total bologna. ;) Real estate school doesn't teach you real estate (come to Bigger Pockets for that) real estate school teaches you how to GET and KEEP a license. Everything you learn in class, with the exception of some new vocabulary, is all about license law. They also teach you how to police other agents and brokers who break the law, so there's that. As an UNlicensed person, you can do almost anything you want- once you get your license, you will be held to a different standard and you must disclose your license.

4. Your commission might be less than you think.  There are 2 sides to a transaction, seller and buyer. The sales commission goes to the seller's agent. Let's pretend it's 6% on a $400,000 sale. ($24,000)  The seller's agent may (or may not) offer a portion of that commission to the buyer's agent. They don't have to, though it is typical.  In a perfect world, they may share it evenly (in this sample that would be 3% of the sales price, which is 50/50 of the $24,000)  but you'll see a lot of much smaller splits, even as low as 2%.  Let's say this agent is generous and does share tht $24,000 with you 50/50, well that piece ($12,000) goes to your FIRM, not you. Say your firm splits 50/50 with you (there will be some variation of the split it could be as much as 80/20 or 70/30) but that $12,000 comes into the firm and say you get 50%, so your taxable income on the transaction is $6,000.  Before I became an agent, I didn't totally understand the split structure.  In commercial it's the same way but you can add a zero. ;)  In addition, you may close on a lease/rental, you usually get commission in the entire lease term. So if they sign a 10-year lease, you're paid your % on the entire gross amount.  ($4,000/month x 12 months x 10 years =$480,000 gross)  

 Others may differ, especially regarding SC, but that's been my experience so far.  I did not initially get my license to do transactions for other people (just my sons) but now that I'm in it, I very much enjoy it and I am in a fantastic firm that gives me total flexibility and freedom. I will for sure keep mine since I have many opportunities beyond just helping my sons. Good luck with whatever you decide!

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Pat Lulewicz
  • Realtor
  • Raleigh NC and Greensboro, NC
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Pat Lulewicz
  • Realtor
  • Raleigh NC and Greensboro, NC
Replied Mar 4 2024, 10:15

My macro answer is: it is worth it to get your license if you are active in the industry.

I think Jennifer makes a lot of great points. Totally agree on:
1) the info you learn in RE classes and continuing ed; its entirely meant to keep you compliant, no education.

2) commission can end up being smaller than you think. Most transactions right now are still paying 2.4%-2.5% to buyer-side agent. The split is very firm specific. I know some people who pay a flat fee per transaction to their firm, and keep the rest. Others do a 90/10 agent/firm if its their own lead. Worst I've heard is 40/60 agent/firm on firm-sourced leads. Just do your homework and call around.

The legal and ethical requirements in selling your own property (whether you are listing it or not) are extremely heightened and everyone will hold you to an incredibly high level; that goes for flips or rentals. I will say that if you are buying your own home or rentals, its a nice amount to be able to apply to your closing costs, and most firms give you a few "free" transactions like this is a year where you don't pay a split for personal purchases/sales.

Being able to have a license and throw offers on every and anything you want is also extremely useful. If your investor-friendly-agent has other clients or is on vacation, you may not be able to submit an offer as timely as you would if you could do it yourself. Even having the MLS access to see disclosure documents and agent-only comments could sway you one way or another on moving forward.

Finally - if you don't or can't service someone but want to refer them to another agent (in or out of state), you can get a referral fee back (negotiable % usually in the 20%-30% range) to help offset those fees. Imagine if you brought @Jennifer Cook-DeRosa a $5M warehouse owner, who wants to sell, on a silver platter. Not a bad way to make a living.

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Jennifer Cook-DeRosa
Pro Member
  • New to Real Estate
  • Charlotte, NC
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Jennifer Cook-DeRosa
Pro Member
  • New to Real Estate
  • Charlotte, NC
Replied Mar 4 2024, 11:23
Quote from @Pat Lulewicz:

Imagine if you brought @Jennifer Cook-DeRosa a $5M warehouse owner, who wants to sell, on a silver platter. Not a bad way to make a living.


 That's my kind of imagination.  ;)