In the Region | Long Island
Real Estate Agent in a Week
By VALERIE COTSALAS
Published: August 28, 2005
UTSIDE the classroom at the American Real Estate School in Hauppauge
recently, the final exam was over and students mingled in the hallway after having their exams graded on the spot.
The students had taken a 45-hour course in six days at the New York State-approved school. The class ended with a 100-question multiple-choice exam, a precursor to the state test required for a license to sell real estate.
"It was a tremendous amount to absorb and retain in six days," said Carol Szynaka, 40, of Southold on the North Fork, who said she had passed the school's exam.
Johanna Franco, 25, fluttered her eyelids when she told of her passing grade. A Brentwood resident, Ms. Franco came to the United States from Ecuador eight months ago.
She has a master's degree in journalism from a university in Ecuador, she said, but is still struggling to learn English at Suffolk County Community College. "I don't understand what the teacher says," Ms. Franco said of the English-speaking real estate course instructor. "Nothing, nothing, nothing."
But, with her Spanish-English dictionary in hand to translate the textbook chapters every night, she said, she was able to pass the exam.
She had already registered to take the state licensing exam a week later and said she had a job lined up in an agency in Islip that serves a large Latin clientele.
The others outside the classroom included a 57-year-old former builder from Southampton aiming to renew his expired real estate license; a 29-year-old graphic designer with $17,000 in school loans that he hopes to pay off with help from real estate commissions; and a former medical student from Poland who now works in a florist shop.
Everyone, it seems, wants to be a real estate agent.
In July, the New York Department of State ended walk-in registration at many testing sites, including the one near the school in Hauppauge, where
anybody can take this test and become a real estate agent."
Daniel Gale, one of the larger firms on Long Island, has its own training and mentoring program for new agents, Ms. Doran said. She handles recruiting for the firm.
The real estate business has changed since the days, 30 years ago, when "you went out and showed some houses, then the first one who made the offer at full price got the house; you put the two together, the attorneys took over and that was that," she said.
In today's frenzied market, it is much more common to encounter offers over the full price and bidding wars that rage even after an offer has been tentatively accepted. "It's much more complicated today," Ms. Doran said.
For example, disclosure laws require real estate agents to tell buyers that they are representing sellers. The seller must sign forms stating that there is no known lead paint in the home. In addition, "major firms all have some kind of interaction with title, insurance or mortgage companies," Ms. Doran said. "This must be disclosed."
In some areas, like the East End of Long Island, building restrictions on waterfront properties are defined by state and federal laws.
While "caveat emptor" still applies to home buyers, familiarity with these laws and local zoning codes can help sellers and buyers, according to Lawrence Porter, a managing partner at Brown Harris Stevens and president of the Hamptons and North Fork Realtors Association.
Real estate agents and their clients would benefit from additional education, he said, "as long as they're willing to tailor the 45 hours of education to areas where they'll be working."
Ms. Szynaka, the prospective sales agent from Southold, thinks additional education can only help, "but I don't think anything replaces real-life experience."
Taking 45 hours of classes and passing a test are a way to get started, but the greater test lies ahead.
"You'll know if you're cut out for it," she said, "by whether you can make a living at it."
some test takers arrived three hours early to get a good place in line.
Membership in the Long Island Board of Realtors, the local chapter of the National Association of
Realtors, has risen nearly 40 percent since 2002, to 24,200 members.
"It's pretty much quick and easy," said Gerry Edelman, the president of
the American Real Estate School. "That's why so many people are choosing to do this."
For just that reason, the State Association of Realtors, a real estate lobbying group, has recommended to the State Legislature that prospective real estate agents learn more before the state gives them licenses.
The State Assembly passed a bill in May requiring 45 additional hours of course instruction and passing another written exam to renew a real estate sales license after two years. A similar bill was introduced in the State Senate but has not been voted upon.
According to a memo attached to the Assembly bill, there are 39 states with more stringent education requirements than New York.
The Assembly bill also requires that a real estate agent identification card have a photograph, "to help consumers confirm that they are working with bona fide licensed real estate professionals."
For brokers, those who can run a real estate office, the bill would raise licensing requirements to 135 course hours from 90 and two years' experience under a broker's supervision (only one year is
required now). There are 21 approved real estate schools across
Long Island. Many of them, like the American Real Estate
School, teach the course in several locations. Some high schools and colleges are also on the state-
approved list, including Syosset High School, Uniondale High School and Suffolk and Nassau Community Colleges.
While course textbooks do not require state approval, the Department of State outlines the curriculum and sends real estate law updates to approved schools to be included in their courses.
Subjects covered in the current real estate sales agent curriculum include fair housing, land use restrictions,
real estate law and mortgage financing. But the curriculum was last revised five years ago, according to the Department of State.
With median home prices on Long Island now above $400,000, many say an overhaul is overdue.
"It's the biggest purchase that the average consumer will make," said Mary Anne Monteleone, the vice president of professional development at the Long Island Board of Realtors. "It's time to look at the course content and the complexities of New York real estate and see if the course curriculum correctly reflects New York market conditions."
With growing numbers of people trying to hop on the real-estate bandwagon, some real estate brokers say there has been a decline in the quality of sales agents.
"The caliber of most of the recruits out there is very disappointing," said Bonnie Doran, a vice president at Daniel Gale Real Estate. "Almost