Q: I’m a 41 year old stay-at-home mom with 2 boys who are 13 and 16. I just took the real estate exam in Georgia and passed with a 94 percent grade.

I thought it was a great idea to go into the real estate business, but now I am scared to death and don’t know where to start looking for a broker who will hire me.

The two brokerage firms I’m considering are a little different. One is a strong local company and the other has a big national name. Any thoughts on which might be a better fit?

The national brand seems to have better recognition locally. But the other company supposedly has an extra-good training program.

My husband has a good job, so we’re not depending on whatever income I bring in, but I can’t afford to spend a lot on start up fees. I’d appreciate any thoughts you may have. How should I go about looking for the best match for me?

A: Congratulations on passing your licensing exam. That’s an important and necessary first step toward entering a career in real estate.

And, you’re smart to think about training. While you may know some of the nuts and bolts, you don’t really understand yet how it all fits together. You need some hard-core experience. Only by working with someone who can train you will you begin to understand how buyers, sellers, and agents work together. Each office will handle training in a different way.

My best suggestion for you is to call the managing brokers of the top five firms near to where you live. Then, for kicks, call the biggest real estate offices in your entire metro area.

Ask each office’s managing broker if he or she is looking for additional agents. Then, ask if the firm has an apprentice program. Often, firms will pair new agents with highly-experienced agents. You basically act as the agent’s assistant for 6 months or a year (or longer) until you start to develop business on your own. Sometimes the agent pays you an hourly rate, and sometimes it’s strictly commission based.

In the beginning, the money that comes in is beside the point. The big deal for you is that you’re able to shadow an experienced agent and watch how he or she conducts business. You’ll do showings, learn how the paperwork flows, and assist in the transaction. Hopefully you’ll get to see how a well-seasoned agent handles a few difficult transactions as well.

Getting ongoing training from experienced agents is crucial to being a success in real estate. The best firms offer this to their most promising agents. Be sure to ask each managing broker how the firm trains its new agents.

Finally, the best agents work full-time. As the real estate market slows down, it will take more work — not less — to be a successful agent. And, that typically means being available 24/7/365. If you’re willing to make that commitment, and to spend the time it takes learning how to really sell and show property, you’ll do well in this business.

Good luck.

April 10, 2006.