*This article was updated on 8 December 2020.
In this comprehensive guide, you will find detailed information to get you started on becoming an accomplished property agent – from the exams you need to take to obtain your real estate agent (REA) license, the costs involved and the winning characteristics you should have!
We understand the pull – Property Agents have some aura about them… Is it the idea of work-life balance that attracted you? Or never having to deal with your boss again? Or maybe it’s the BMW your agent just pulled up in.
These things are all true… And untrue! Like any other job, whatever rewards you gain, depends on how much you are willing to hustle. From six-figure salaries to surviving on month to month paychecks, from working day and night to taking a few weeks off every now an then, this job can be both glamorous and painful. But if you are set on becoming a Real Estate Agent, look no further because we’ve compiled the ultimate guide bolstered with insider Pro Tips from a probationary agent (Mr Millenial PEA) and another property agent with 17 years of experience under her belt.
Now first thing’s first, let’s get the real estate agent industry jargon out of the way, shall we?
- REA = Real Estate Agent (This is the official term although many Malaysians prefer to refer to REA as property agents)
- REN = Real Estate Negotiator
- PEA = Probationary Estate Agent
- BOVAEAP = Board of Valuers, Appraisers, Estate Agents and Property Managers (of Malaysia)
- TPC = Test of Professional Competence
A Real Estate Agent is a registered property agent with BOVAEAP. Being registered gives the individual the right to own and operate their own real estate agency as well as hire up to 50 Real Estate Negotiators (who will then need to give a portion of their commissions to the agency). RENs cannot practice until they have attended a specific course, gotten their official REN ID tags (and their own REN number), and gained employment from a registered agency i.e. an REA. The REN journey is a slightly shorter journey.
NOTE: In the Valuers, Appraisers, Estate Agents and Property Managers Act 1981 (Act 242), the official term used is “registered estate agent”. However, most online and print media and publications as well as real estate agent agencies use the term “real estate agents” for the sake of familiarity – as this is the term most people verbalise in conversation or search for online (besides property agent).
What qualification do I need to be a real estate agent?
The goal is to pass your Test of Professional Competence (TPC), upon which you will be eligible to register as an REA and receive your E number (E xxxx) which will allow you to practice. The TPC can only be undertaken after either a year or two of practical training (among other things). It’s a combination of an oral “Professional Interview” at the end of the one or two years and the practical and written work you will need to complete throughout that same time period.
The time period your depends on the qualifications you already have:
The non-degree/diploma route: Two years for practical training
- The minimum entry requirement is the possession of an MCE/SPM certificate with no less than 5 subject passes.
- With this, you are eligible to sit for the Estate Agent’s Written Examination which consists of two parts. Read more about this including the institutes conducting these courses, the type of subjects involved and the fees here.
- Upon successfully completing the Written Examination, you will be required to register as a PEA – Congratulations! You’re now a “Probationary Estate Agent”.
- You now require TWO years of practical training under a registered real estate agency or real estate agent.
The degree/diploma route: One year for practical training
- If you have majored in a property related course, you will be exempted from sitting for the Estate Agent’s Written Examination. These accreditations from BOVEAP will allow you to be exempted from sitting for the Estate Agent’s Written Examination.
- If you have any of the mentioned accredited certificates, diplomas or degrees listed in the link above, you will immediately be eligible to register as a PEA!
- You will also only require ONE year of post-qualifying practical training experience under a registered agency or REA.
Pro-Tip 1 from Mr Millenial PEA
The waiting period between registering to be a Probationary Estate Agent (PEA) and confirmation will vary – it can sometimes take months. Instead of waiting around during this period, apply for your REN (which is a much quicker process). Then start working at an agency and let them know you’re waiting for your PEA registration to go through. This way you can start practising and making money ASAP!”
How to be a real estate agent in Malaysia- A step-by-step guide
During your Practical Training:
Step 1: Once you’re a PEA (or even before that, really), you will want to do two things:
- Join a registered real estate agency
- Get your hands on a copy of “The Rules & Guidelines to the Test of Professional Competence for the Estate Agency Practice”. You can request for a copy from BOVAEAP (RM14, inclusive of postage charges). This golden book holds all sorts of juicy pieces of information that you will need for your REA journey.
Step 2: According to this book, as a PEA you will need to cover the three areas of approved professional experience during your practical training which basically includes selling, leasing and working a developer on marketing a property:
- Area 1: Sale and purchase of residential, commercial and industrial and agriculture property
- Area 2: Tenancies / leases of residential, commercial and industrial and agriculture property
- Area 3: Marketing of property for sale or property for rent
Not everyone can cover everything equally. You need to show diversity as an agent but it’s alright if you are more experienced in some areas than others. But if you see an opportunity, even if it’s your first time, don’t be afraid – Go for it!”
Step 3: Besides taking the TPC at the end of your practical training year or two, you will need to complete not one, not two but THREE things:
i. Work Diary: A log book of every single thing you’ve done (relevant to the three Areas mentioned above)
ii. Record of Experience: A 500-word essay summarising who you are and what you’ve accomplished as a PEA
iii. Practical Tasks: Two assignments, each 2,000 – 4,000 words long; Task 1 involves describing in full the step by step process of a property sale you’ve done and Task 2 requires you to prepare a hypothetical marketing proposal based on one of the current developments in the market.
People have failed this part by getting remarks such as ‘You don’t have enough experience. Hence, for your work diary, be as detailed as you can. You will need to summarize each point but include sufficient details. For example, if you’ve attended a marketing meeting with property developers, mention who the developers are, which property it was for, the thoughts or feedback you shared with them and the research you did. And be proactive, make sure you’ve got viewings with buyers or renters, spend time on marketing research, take relevant courses and mention those too!”
Step 4: Once you’re done with all three, it’s time for submission. Along with your Work Diary, Record of Experience and two Practical Tasks, you will need to submit certified copies of Employees Provident Fund Statements and your Income Tax Form for the past two years as well as the fee for the TPC (RM50 for registration and RM200 for the application).
Step 5: All that is left now is your oral examination or Professional Interview. You will find out when you will be tested within 30 days of the test date. It’s typically held six times a year – February, April, June, August, October and December.
You will be questioned on your two Practical Tasks as well as the following topics: –
- Property Law and Property Taxation
- Estate Agency Principles & Techniques
- Topical Matters
- Estate Agents Act Rules & Standards
You have to know every act or legislation that has anything to do with property. For example, there’s a book on the “Street, Drainage and Building Act 1974” – You might think you don’t need to read through this. But you’ll probably need to know about the “Power to stop a property sale” (Section 111). I’d advice everyone taking the TPC to start studying as soon as they start their practical.”
If you fail, don’t fret – This is because you can retake the whole process up to four times but you will need to pay for re-assessments which will vary according to what parts you need to re-do, more on this in the golden book.
And if you pass – congratulations! Welcome to the real estate agent world.
Do you have what it takes to be a Property Agent?
You’ve already met Mr Millennial PEA (not his real name, he just likes the mystery in staying anonymous) who’s given a few pro tips regarding the entire TPC process, having just gone through most of it and is currently waiting on getting a date for his Professional Interview. Our second agent has been in the industry much longer – Ms Varsha Poptani, is a Real Estate Negotiator with 17 years of experience and specializes in properties located in Brickfields, Bangsar and Kuala Lumpur City Centre.
Here are a few nuggets of wisdom from them on the soft skills you will need to develop:
1. You can’t be shy or timid
Sorry to break it to you but you don’t have it if you’re the quiet one at the table. You need to be outspoken and social – and when you’re with a client you must be able to speak up and communicate all sorts of details. –Ms. Poptani-
2. You must have thick skin
Be ready to hear “No” almost every day from every side – the buyers or sellers, the tenants and owners. You’ll hear “Yes” also, but the rejections are so much more and often times from clients you’ve already invested a lot of time and enhergy in. The worst type of rejection is when the husband says okay but the wife says no two weeks later! It is a recurring nightmare, I tell you. What can you do? Just move on to the next client. –Ms. Poptani-
3. Know your audience
Sometimes the smallest details will ruin the deal – just as we’re nearing the finish line, they’ll call up and ask “Hi, that apartment ah, the balcony is facing where again? East or West?” and if it’s not the direction they actually wanted, then the deal is killed. You really need to know your clients and their wants from the get-go. If you want to do better, learn the four main languages in Malaysia, Malay, English, Chinese and Tamil. I guarantee you’ll be winning hearts and cheques. –Ms. Poptani-
4. You are a lone wolf
This includes the small things like being disciplined about when to wake up every day and not having an office full of colleagues to have lunch with. It can get lonely sometimes – which is ironic because you’re always meeting new people! You’re also in charge of everything, which is great. But it also sucks because everything’s on you – Calling up new leads, setting appointments, knowing when to post new adverts, etc. -Mr. Millennial PEA-
5. Be ready to put your loved ones on hold
You’re not always working on your time, you’re working on your client’s time. I raised two children while working my way to the top – and don’t even ask me how many times I’d pick them up from school and leave them waiting in the car with Tuppawares of food while I met with clients. You just can’t reschedule a client – they will find another agent and you never want to lose a good deal. Because good deals lead to good meals. –Ms. Poptani-
4. You have to stay cool and calm
Once, there was a landlord who’d said his house was ready for viewings. So I arrived with my clients and – “Well, there was water pouring from the ceiling, don’t worry, we’re getting that checked!” I just pretended nothing was out of the ordinary and continued the viewing with a poker face! But on the inside, I was like #laughdieme. -Mr. Millennial PEA-
5. Be ready to get down and dirty
This works in two ways – I do whatever it takes to close the deal and I’ve been in situations where a property just isn’t ready for viewings but there’s no time, the client’s about to arrive – so I grab the broom for a quick sweep. There’s no shame in this I’ve made thousands and I’m definitely not afraid of a little dirt! Other times, it’s about rolling up your sleeves and confronting the owner when things aren’t done right. –Ms. Poptani-
What do you need to become a Property Agent?
Now that you know what you need to be made off to handle the job, here’s two very important things you will need to figure out next:
Decide on your area of speciality: Because location, location, location!
Alright, you knew that this “location x3” call out was coming, I mean, this is an article about property. It is age-old advice but still golden because where you choose to specialize in will decide everything – How much you make and the type of clientele you get will vary area to area, property to property.
“Currently according to BOVEAPM there are around 40,000 agents registered with the board in the whole of Malaysia. A majority are in KL because that’s where the money is. Well… It’s not as competitive in other areas, and that’s something to think about.” -Mr. Millennial PEA-
“I’m going to agree with him simply because I don’t want more competition in KL” -Ms. Poptani- in between laughs.
Do you have enough cash savings? It will go a long way in this career line
It can take about 3 to 6 months to close your first deal. This means gas money to drive to every location, phone bills from the possible hundreds of people you will be calling and texting, advertising costs and every day normal expenses will all be coming from your own pocket in the beginning. There’s no monthly salary to look forward to and lean on so you’re looking at an expensive early investment. Not to mention the amount you’ve used up on registration fees and books to study for your TPC.
And let’s not forget the dreaded downtimes; both our agents have gone through at least two to three months without closing a single deal.
|“Advertise everywhere and all the time. Newspapers are old school but they still work… And yes, Instagram and Facebook should be leveraged on so make sure to jump on social media platforms. And definitely invest in ad credits for posting on online property platforms. These can range from RM1,000 to thousands more depending on how active you are, frequency of posting, your target demographic (e.g. Locals or foreigners?), etc. These are all invaluable tools so don’t skimp on them.” -Ms. Poptani & Mr. Millennial PEA-|
Can you make good money as a real estate agent?
It’s not always rainbows and butterflies as Adam Levine sang, it’s a tough job with compromises. At this point you’re probably thinking, Owh man, I should’ve just become a lawyer like mum said. However, if you are willing to put in the hard work involved, you will be sure to reap the bountiful benefits.
If you are wondering how much commission real estate agents make in Malaysia, its the following sum:
For the sale or purchase of land and buildings, the maximum commission fee is 3% This figure applies to other services rendered by the firm, such as a joint venture, sale of company and property swap. For chattels including plant and machinery, a fee of 10% on the proceeds is chargeable.
For lettings or rental properties, the following maximum amounts are chargeable for tenancies:
- Up to 3 years: 1.25 months gross rental
- >3 years, up to 4 years: 1.5 months gross rental
- >4 years, up to 5 years & >5 years: 1.75 months gross rental
- >5 years (with an option of renewal): 1.75 months gross rental plus 0.25 months rental for every additional year
If that’s not promising enough, here’s more good stuff straight out of the mouths of our interviewed agents:
“I’ve closed 5 deals in one month so I could just take it easy for the next two months.”
“I took a nap on Monday, after lunch, and it was great.”
“Once when I was in Penang on holiday, I met an owner there who had property in KL that he wanted to rent – I closed the deal within a day of returning to KL because I had the perfect client already – I basically got my holiday paid for.”
“On some days, I hustle hard. On other days, I just play DOTA for hours. And I can choose which days.”
“Boss? What boss. I am my own boss.”
If you enjoyed this guide, read this next: Stamp duty, administration and legal fees for a tenancy agreement in Malaysia