The following responses were contributed by Dale Denton, owner of Dale Denton Real Estate, Inc., in response to a questionnaire circulated by The Washington Post. The material is intended to provide students with an idea of what working in the real estate field might be like, and some steps the student can take to prepare now for a career in that field.

Mr. Denton, who founded his Washington-based business in 1977, is a 1969 graduate of Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville and a 1973 graduate of Elon (N.C.) College.


"First of all, real estate is not the typical nine-to-five profession. It can be a very frustrating field for new agents, especially in the first year. But if you make it, there are no limits on how much you can make or how succesful you can be.

"The most important part of the job is learning the market. A good agent should be familiar with the properties that are available and should understand interest rates, mortgage programs, new ways of financing, and how these things relate to the current market. You have to learn to be able to stay on top of a constantly changing industry. Buying or selling a property is a major decision in a client's life, and they rely heavily on the agent during that period."


"Math and business classes are a couple that you would need, and most colleges offer courses in tax, economics and real estate. Also, any classes that deal with public speaking, psychology or dealing with people will help in relations with clients.

"In order to get a sales license, you have to pass the real estate exam. The exam consists of two parts. The first part is a general test of {real estate} knowledge; the second part consists of legal questions particular to the {region}. When you pass, you have to find a company you're interested in working for to sponsor you, but after that you can start immediately.

Salaries and commissions for real estate agents vary greatly, but new agents who remain in the business through the difficult first year can expect to earn at least $15,000 to $20,000. After that, salaries tend to increase considerably.


"The successful {agents} are the ones who are confident, aggressive and like dealing with people. Self-discipline is important because you have to be able to juggle 10 or 15 things that are going on at once.

"If you like to have your private time, and need a job that ends at five o'clock every day, this is probably not the career for you. But I've always believed it's better to work like a dog and sacrifice for two or three years of your life in order to be able to really enjoy the rest. Real estate is one of the few professions that allows you to do that."