Classes - $300
State Lic / FBI - $200
Assoc Fees - $500 annually
MLS Fees - $400 annually
E&O Ins - $1000 anually
Lockbox - $100 ea
Total - First year $2,500 start up fees
Many firms will not allow you to list your own home yourself - so you may have to pay a co-listing agent a fee...Also, often firms require rookie agents to work with a mentor and give them a precentage of your commission on all of your first several transactions. You will still have to pay the buyer's agent commission when you sell your home.
You will end up spending countless hours on all these endeavors. Most firms will not want to bring you on, as they want professional Realtors on board as opposed to those just looking to make a quick buck and get out. Much luck to you as you evaluate your path...
I'm not an accountant, just someone who pays for one.
All of the answers given here contain valuable information. I recommend researching the expenses involved to obtain and maintain your license.
Many people have similar notions when the time comes to buy or sell a property. The crucial piece that often gets left out in analyzing cost/savings is expertise. You can save on fees by obtaining your Real Estate license and doing the job yourself, but you run a very high risk of not being adequately prepared to determine/negotiate the best value and to shepherd a transaction from contract to closing. Would you hire a rookie agent fresh out of Real Estate school to represent your best interests? I know that I sure wasn't prepared to command top market value fresh out of school. The job might not be brain surgery, but there is a very steep learning curve. I would offer that it takes a good 10-20 transactions before an agent really starts to have a clue about what they are doing. I would opt for a professional with years of knowledge, networking enroads, and success. After you pay the requisite licensing fees, and the opportunity cost of the classwork (wouldn't you be better served using this time to earn money?), the fee savings will be marginalized as well. Don't lose track of the big picture. Think of the house flipper who starts going cheap on cost by putting in sheet vinyl and laminate countertops in the house, without thought to spending a bit more money for far greater returns. At the end of the day, who cares what you save in cost if you produce a lower net? Don't want to make the mistake of winning the battle but losing the war. If you want to launch a career in Real Estate, by all means get your license. If you are simply looking to cut cost, you'll very likely end up doing yourself more harm than good. Just this agent's opinion. Best of luck in whatever you choose to do.
Now, there is another thing I have to address here, and forgive me if I sound a bit harsh: The way you worded your question indicates to me that there are a few things that you may not quite understand about the value of a REALTOR.
If you were to become a REALTOR, the "savings" that you are looking for would be garnered not through your commissions on buying and selling your own home. The true savings would come from making use of the training you receive -- training on how to properly price a home, training on how to negotiate, and training on how to protect your client (or yourself) from buying into a "bad deal." This is why on average, a home listed with a REALTOR will net about 17% more on the market than a similar home sold by an unrepresented seller. A REALTOR serves as a personal advocate, marketing expert, and trained negotiator, (among other things). If you were to simply get your license to do your own transactions, you would be wasting your time and money. In addition to the pre-licensing education requirement, testing fees, and licensing fees, there are also the fees to join the local, state, and national association of REALTORS, the fees to use the Multiple Listing Service, and whatever personal marketing expenses you may have. I don't recommend anyone get into this business unless they actually plan to make a business of it. You need to consider you will likely incur $5,000 or more in marketing expenses, in your first year alone. Close to 80% of new agents fail in this business, and do not stay in business more than a year as a result of being unprepared for the reality of it. You need to actually work, and serve your clients needs in order to succeed. There is no "get-rich-quick" that you can count on. I invite you to read the article I referenced, below to get a better idea of the true value of a REALTOR's services.
Also, I am not sure what "discouraging" news you are referring to. Mortgage rates have dropped recently. Rates for non-conforming loans (sub-prime and Jumbo loans) have been adversely affected by the recent troubles in the mortgage industry, but conforming loans for credit-worthy borrowers are doing quite well.
I hope my answer doesn't offend you, but I think you deserve an honest, straight-forward answer, before you potentially lay out your money and spend your time getting your license only to get little if any return on your investment. Good luck to you, in whatever you decide to do.