8 Steps to Getting a Real Estate License
Working as a licensed Real Estate Agent has become one of the most popular careers for Baby Boomers looking to generate extra income in semi-retirement.
The reasons for this are varied but typically include the following:
- Licensed real estate agents enjoy freedoms and flexibility that most other jobs can’t offer.
- Although typically working under a Broker, Real Estate Salespeople can work as much or as little as they want or need to. So, the idea of working part-time as a real estate agent is 100% acceptable — it’s even encouraged.
- Selling real estate can be lucrative. Depending on the location and the type of clientele you serve, there is a lot of money to be made.
- Many people who choose to go into this field bring years of strong relationships with people who are potential clients.
The process for getting a real estate license can seem a little overwhelming because of the rules and requirements you’ll need to follow and meet, but in reality, the process is simple and straightforward. In this article, we’re going to help streamline the process for you.
Like other professions where an understanding of the law is necessary, anyone who wants to become a real estate salesperson or broker must acquire a license proving they understand state laws pertaining to real estate transactions so they can operate both legally and ethically.
To qualify for your real estate license, you must meet the state requirements which means attending approved classes, finding a broker sponsor, passing the state licensing test, and completing an extensive application. Once you’ve completed the application, it will be reviewed by the state’s real estate board for approval.
The eight steps below explain in detail the process for getting and keeping your real estate license.
1. Understand the Real Estate Licensing Requirements for Your State
Rules dictated by the real estate commission of each state specify licensing requirements to obtain a real estate license. Obtaining a real estate license in one state does not mean you can also operate as a real estate agent in a different state — you’ll need to be licensed in each state that you intend to serve.
One of the most basic rules for obtaining a license relates to minimum age requirements. In some states, you have to be 21 years old to get your license, while other states allow you to apply for a license when you reach the age of 18. Consult your real estate commission’s state website to find out everything you need to know about getting a real estate license in the state of your choice.
Be prepared for the possibility that you’ll need to get a background check. Many states require background checks and fingerprints as part of the application process. You’ll need to locate all of your personal details about previous residential addresses, employers and contact information for business and personal references. Typically, licensing applications are at least as thorough as a major company’s employment application process.
The good news is that once you get your real estate license, it is often possible to operate in multiple states. Some real estate commissions allow agents licensed in neighboring states to also work in their state without going through the complete licensing process. Review reciprocity laws to identify the states that cooperate with each other making it easier to work across state lines. Agents interested in getting the details should check out the real estate licensing guides by state to get the specifics.
2. Sign up and Complete the State-mandated Pre-licensing Courses
Prior to sitting for the licensing exam, every state requires the satisfactory completion of coursework to become a residential or commercial real estate agent. The purpose of these classes is two-fold.
Subject matter generally covers contracts, deeds, titles, fair housing laws, types of property ownership, and fiduciary obligations. State and federal laws prepare you for the many important questions you’ll be expected to know as a professional real estate agent. Secondly, the pre-licensing coursework is what you’ll need to pass the exam.
As mentioned earlier, state course requirements can vary significantly. Pennsylvania and Florida require 60 and 63 hours respectively to complete pre-licensing coursework. Comparatively, the state of California requires applicants to complete 135 hours. Texas expects even more from their licensee applicants requiring 180 hours of classes. Depending on the state you live in, the time it takes to get your real estate license can be quite different.
An obvious challenge that many real estate candidates face is figuring out how to juggle life’s responsibilities while taking real estate classes and studying. If you’re lucky and live in one of the states that offer online classes, it is much easier to speed up the process. Unfortunately, not all states offer online classes as an option. If you’re getting a real estate license in New Jersey, Rhode Island, North Carolina, Arizona, Washington D.C., South Carolina, Idaho, or Delaware, then you will have to sign up for traditional, in-person classes.
3. Get Ready to Take The Real Estate License Exam
Passing the real estate exam is not a simple task that you can simply check off the list with little effort. Many agents have to take the exam more than once to pass it. Some states limit the number of times you can sit for the exam, so passing it the first time is the best way to stay on schedule and get your real estate license in a reasonable timeframe. Studying is not optional, it is mandatory.
One tip that helps many students pass the exam is to get some advice from newly licensed agents who recently passed the test. It makes sense to contact agents who are nearby, but who won’t be competing with you in your chosen local market. Check out LinkedIn for agents in your state that are working in different cities. They can often provide some guidance about which content is most likely to be on the test. They can also share study strategies that helped them pass the exam.
Another proven way to improve your odds of getting a passing score is to join a study group. Many of the licensing schools provide organized forums for studying with others in a group online or in-person. Study groups can make studying a bit more interesting. An open conversation and exchange of ideas with peers can also help you better understand complex concepts that are difficult to grasp.
A tried and true study tool is flashcards. They are expecially useful for learning and retaining new vocabulary words. This type of aid makes it easy to ask friends and family members for help so they can easily quiz you as you build on your real estate knowledge.
Practice tests are widely available and can usually be found at real estate schools as a proven way to evaluate yourself before the final exam. By taking a practice test, it becomes easier to uncover weaknesses and strengths. There are also real estate prep classes designed to focus on test-taking strategies with an emphasis on how to pass the exam.
Establish a schedule for studying. By carving out regular time in your day, you can commit to studying a reasonable amount of time to build your knowledge and confidence. Study time should not be confused with class time. Reviewing what you learned in class is critical.
4. Set up a Time to Take the Real Estate License Exam
You can access the online registration for scheduling your exam on your state’s real estate commission’s website. Remember, in most states, you have a deadline for taking the test. Typically, you only a certain number of days after completing your pre-license class to take the test. Additionally, it is highly recommended that you take the exam while the material is still fresh in your mind.
When you’ve completed your online registration for taking the exam, you should receive confirmation. Be sure to save your confirmation to prove that you’ve registered just in case you need it later.
Basic test-taking strategies stress getting a good night’s sleep before the day of the test. Remember to drink plenty of water so that you can concentrate.
When taking the test, remain calm. If you don’t know the answer to a question, skip it. Don’t allow yourself to become stressed out over a single question. If you aren’t sure about a question, narrow down the possible answers.
After you complete the test, you will be notified about your grade.
5. If You Don’t Pass The First Time, Retake the Exam
If you find out you did not pass, then you can sign up 24 hours later. While retaking the test is a hassle, the fact that this is an option should help calm your fears making it easier to remain calm during the test. Consult your state’s real estate commission’s website to register for the test.
Consider using additional resources to prepare for the next test to ensure that you pass it. Real estate schools offer preparation resources that can help. Study guides and prep tests can make studying easier, with a focus on the material that is most likely to be on the test. There is so much material covered in most states in the prelicensing coursework that it can overwhelm students if they aren’t sure what to focus on.
Prep or cram class sessions taken right before the test can also help struggling students in need of test-taking strategies that can bump up their score. Having more confidence and tools at your disposal can easily increase your score enough to get a passing grade.
6. Contact and Interview Real Estate Brokers
Real estate agents must work under the supervision and sponsorship of a real estate broker. Selecting the best real estate broker to meet your needs as a new agent can make a big difference in how quickly you become successful in your new career. That’s why you should interview at least five different brokers in order to assess the best fit.
As a commissioned sales professional, remember that real estate brokers need you as much as you need them. That’s why it isn’t difficult to find brokers interested in sponsoring you as you take this important step. Questions that you should definitely ask brokers relate to training offered, desk fees, company culture, and commission details. As a commissioned salesperson, carefully review the commission split information and ask questions to be sure that you understand it.
Like any company, brokers also have reputations. As a newly licensed real estate professional, selecting your broker can make or break your career in many cases. When it is time to make a final decision between a national franchise, virtual broker, or boutique brokerage, be sure to carefully weigh the pros and cons of each option based on what your natural strengths and weaknesses are. Resist the urge to select a sponsoring broker based on commission structure alone.
Below are the criteria you should carefully evaluate when finalizing a decision about which broker suits you best.
What Kind of Training Does The Broker Offer to New Real Estate Salespeople?
Nothing is more important for a new real estate salesperson than excellent, hands-on training. Some brokers offer a mentor program and assign experienced agents to work alongside new agents. Ask about regular training sessions and get details. It is important to remember that not all brokers cater to new agents. Just because a particular broker’s signs pop up in large numbers in your area doesn’t mean they are set up for the training you need. Many successful and popular brokers cater to experienced agents and don’t have programs in place to fully train inexperienced agents.
What is The Broker’s Commission Agreement With New Agents?
The commission agreement should be spelled out and simple to understand. It is common for brokers to provide a 50/50 split with agents. This is not standard though. Be sure you fully understand what the broker offers you in exchange for the percentage they earn.
Does The Broker Supply Leads to New Agents?
Leads are the lifeblood of a successful real estate career. One of the most valuable assets that any broker can offer to agents is to provide active leads. While experienced agents often work with referrals from a network they’ve built up over years, new agents often struggle in the beginning since they are heavily reliant on new customer leads.
What Are The Real Estate Broker’s Marketing Policies?
Nothing is more important than a broker’s marketing policies. Some brokers prohibit agents from promoting their own brand. Other agencies allow their agents and partner brokers to work with them without strict restrictions placed on how advertising or signage is displayed. This type of liberal philosophy allows agents and teams of agents to promote their own unique brand within the sponsoring broker’s company. It is important to always remember that everything is negotiable.
Does The Broker Charge Desk Fees?
Some brokers charge desk fees. These charges can be included in your commission split or charged separately. They may cover rent, office supplies, and lead generation. Other agencies charge on an ala carte basis, charging for copies, your desk, and for leads on an as-needed basis. As that old adage goes, the devil is in the details. Be sure you fully understand how your commission is spent and what you’re agreeing to before placing your license with a particular broker.
Is The Company Culture a Match For You?
After you’ve narrowed down your top five brokerage choices to two or three, then it’s time for some hands-on exposure to their corporate culture to narrow down your final decision. Observing a company’s culture is best done in-person. That’s why you should request an opportunity to shadow an agent or hang out in the office during busy days to see how the agents and management interact.
After carefully evaluating all of the factors listed above, then it is time to make your selection. Remember, the decision must be mutual. Reach out to your top two or three choices and ask them if they’d be willing to sponsor you.
Be forewarned, there is always a chance that one of the brokers may not be open to bringing you on as a new agent for a multitude of reasons, however unlikely. They might decide they don’t have time to train a new agent over the next few months. There is also a chance they don’t have any open desks.
Once you obtain a sponsorship agreement, then start the required paperwork. This paperwork will be included with your licensing application that is submitted to the real estate commission to obtain your license.
7. Submit Your Real Estate License Application to The State Real Estate Board
After you’ve committed to a specific broker sponsor, then it is time to submit your license application to the real estate board in your state. Different states have different requirements, with some requiring a background check and fingerprints to be submitted as part of your application.
The cost ranges depending on what is required by your state. Estimate about $25 for an application processing fee. Background checks run about $50 on average. Again, check with your real estate commission or sponsor broker to get the exact cost. These can change.
Once you’ve submitted your completed application, then you’ll have to wait for the application review which usually takes up to six weeks. If you’re lucky, it may only take two weeks. The real estate commission will notify you by email or in a letter when your application is approved.
8. Make a Habit of Maintaining and Renewing Your Real Estate License
When you finally obtain your hard won license, it is important that you don’t let it lapse. Every state is different about their renewal timeframe, with most states requiring that you renew your license about every two years or so. Some states are more lenient and require renewal in four years. Your state real estate commission website will specify the exact details for license renewal.
One of the requirements for renewal is to complete continuing education (CE) courses. This is a requirement in every state. Many online real estate schools offer these courses. Stay on top of any changes by consulting the state’s website on a regular basis to be sure you don’t miss an important deadline.
As a licensed real estate agent, you have the keys to the kingdom and can venture into many different real estate careers. Commercial real estate, property management, office administration, and real estate investment are all open options that you can explore.
If you aspire to being a broker, then you are on your way. You have to first work as a real esate agent for a certain period of time as dictated by that state. Then you will be required to take an exam to become a broker.
The good news is that licensed real estate agents have many options. It is important to maintain your license throughout your career. While getting a license takes time and effort, it is an invaluable asset that can open the door to a fulfilling, lifelong career.
Real Estate License Requirements by State
Georgia Real Estate License Requirements
Pennsylvania Real Estate License Requirements
California Real Estate License Requirements
Nevada Real Estate License Requirements
Florida Real Estate License Requirements
Texas Real Estate License Requirements
This story was originally published at BoomerBuyerGuides.com.