I was recently asked this question in Klout. My initial response was “As soon as possible.” Then upon deeper reflection, I couldn’t help adding the typical lawyer response: “It depends.”
If you are looking for a job that pays good money with minimal effort and offers quick return, then start in real estate just as the economy is improving and real estate is on the upswing. It’s the best return for the least effort and minimal learning necessary. Most people, seeing the quick riches reaped by real estate professionals, jealously dive in and rarely see the hard effort that goes into being a truly informed and seasoned professional. What most people see is sign = money. These are also the people who are most likely to drop out during the downswings.
If you are looking for a career in real estate, the best time to dive in is when the economy and market are at the bottom. This is a contrarian point of view. When everyone else is dropping out, the strong survive. Competition is at its lowest and those who know how to do it right are the ones left for you to learn from. This is the tougher route. You have to be tough yourself and prepared to survive as you learn your trade. But this route should give you the best preparation to survive over the long term and build a successful career. When the market eventually gets hot, hold on to your seat because you will be in for one helluva ride where riches and self fulfillment abound.
And when the market goes south again, and it will, reach down into yourself for those lessons that you learned when you first got into real estate. With your experience from the tough times you should survive the next, and each successive, downturn riding the future roller-coaster to the top, again and again.
To borrow a line from the movie Parenthood. Some people like life as a merry-go-round. It simply goes round and round. Others like a roller-coaster with the thrill of the ups and downs. Me, I am a roller-coaster man. Give me the thrill of the highs and lows. I relish the great accomplishments learned from temporary failures and setbacks. That’s what a career in real estate is, a roller-coaster ride!