If you want to work as a real estate agent, you have to go through an education and licensing process. The state where you live and will work sets the specific requirements. For example, the California real estate license course will be different from one in Florida, but there are similarities too.
Below, we discuss some of the steps in the process of becoming a real estate agent. These steps are pretty general, and again, if it’s a path you’re exploring, you’ll need to learn more about the specifics in your state.
Know Your State’s Requirements
Every state has requirements for your age, education requirements, pre-licensing courses, and requirements for post-licensing. You also need to learn about the exams, and eligibility for those, the application process, fees, and the background check and fingerprinting requirements.
In some states, there are reciprocity agreements so you can get your license in a particular state, and then you can work in another without an additional exam.
Enroll in a Pre-Licensing Course
The first step you should take if you’ve weighed the pros and cons of a career in real estate and decided it’s for you is to take a pre-licensing course.
The state you’re in will dictate how much coursework you need. In Texas, for example, you need 180 hours of coursework, while in North Carolina, you need just 75. In California, you have to take three classes for a total of 135 hours.
You’ll choose a real estate school, and factors to consider include the price, whether or not it offers extra perks to help you become successful, reviews from other students, and a pass guarantee. A pass guarantee is something some real estate schools offer so that you can retake your exam or the classes for free if you don’t pass the first time.
There are different formats, so you can choose what’s going to work for your learning style. For example, you can take a self-paced course, you might do it only, or you might take a more traditional classroom course.
Examples of topics that are likely to be covered in your pre-licensing course include:
- Law: You will learn the basics of the law as it relates to real estate and the practice of real estate.
- Legal issues: This can include your legal responsibilities and topics like audits.
- Contracts: You might learn more about sales and listing contracts, disclosures, and related forms.
- Licensing: This could cover the basics of getting your license to work as a salesperson and a broker.
Other topics include commission rules, authorized relationships, property rights, deeds, and ownership restrictions.
This is a very brief list of what you’re ultimately going to learn.
Take the Licensing Exam
When you’re ready, you’ll take your licensing exam. The instructor of your pre-licensing course should tell you how you can schedule it, register for it, and pay for it. The average cost of the licensing exam is anywhere from $100 to $300.
The exams include two parts. There’s a national part, and that’s going to cover the broad principles and practices of real estate. The second part is specific to your state and its real estate laws.
The licensing exam is multiple choice, and how much time you have and how many questions are required vary by state. Each section is separately scored. Then you have to get a passing score on both sections in order to pass. If you fail one section or both, you can retake the exam, and again, state law guides how many times you can retake it and how long you have to wait between your retries.
Activate Your License
When you pass the exam, you submit an application to the regulatory organization in your state. That means you have to submit any documents and fees required too, which can be upwards of $400.
If your application is approved, your state mails a certificate to you that’s your real estate license.
You can’t work as an agent before you get your license issued by the authority in your state.
Finally, you might want to consider becoming a Realtor. While it’s often used interchangeably with real estate agents, a Realtor is a member of the National Association of Realtors, and you have to follow a strict ethical code. The NAR is the biggest trade association in the country, and it can boost your credibility as an agent and give you access to benefits like real estate market data, business tools, and educational opportunities.