Real Estate License

How to become a real estate agent or salesperson in your sate?
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Real Estate License

Step by step to become a real estate agent

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How to start being a realtor

The real estate business is a very popular niche among people who want their careers to develop rapidly, consistently, and successfully. That’s not surprising as everyone wants to own the best homes or any other type of residential and commercial property. Thus, Americans gladly sell and buy homes, consider rental options, and take out mortgages and loans to complete this wish. Who helps them with this goal? That’s a real estate agent or broker, who is likely wizard making exciting dreams come true.

This kind of job is high-ranked in the labor market and often real estate brokers succeed in earning high salaries helping lenders, home owners, realty investors, and construction firm reps get in touch one with another with their effort.

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Yet, simply becoming a real estate agent is not possible. To act legally, you have to meet multiple requirements both on the governmental and state-specific levels and by local real estate regulating companies. That is, you cannot get only your college and university diploma to apply for a position in the real estate market. You have to do more and acquire more experience, knowledge, practices, and skills which are proved by your license. Better consider being an agent to be your whole life program. You shouldn’t stop and constantly continue learning, upgrading your license, and polishing your expertise, flexibility, communicative skills etc.. Only this may make you one of the real estate experts and keep you afloat in terms of the constant changes that which real estate market undergoes regularly.

In this guide, we aren’t going to scare you with the difficulties. Instead, we want you to receive the maximum unique and essential information while you read this article which you can further take as armor in your fight for the status of a certified and experienced real estate agent with a license. So, let’s make it now!

Types of real estate licenses

The first and foremost thing you should know about your future career as a real estate agent is that you cannot work without a license. That’s your #1 among all the documents which proves your right to earn money for your help with operations with properties. In America, licensed agents in the field of real estate are divided into a couple of types. You are welcome to read a short explanation about them.

A real estate agent is a salesperson who is responsible for concluding deals between a buyer and a seller, representing homes, and support loans or mortgage deals. This position requires you to work under a brokerage provided by a broker or a broker team licensed for kind of service.
A real estate broker is an individual or a team which is engaged in home selling and buying, commercial, industrial, and office properties operations, mortgage and leasing procedures, and so on. It’s a higher rank in the industry, and only experienced agents can apply for the broker’s license.

That is the main difference between the two commonly issued licenses for real estate experts. Yet, some states offer a single license for these two positions.

What is a realtor?

First, let’s consider how to become a real estate agent and which designation determines the duties of this job. A realtor is a common name given by the NAR institution which unites brokers and agents working for the same goal – home and other property operations.

What a RE agent should do during their designated work routines, you may be wondering? Let’s read about each function a bit more:

  • Show houses to buyers;
  • Help with the selection of potential homes and other property types;
  • Communicate with potential buyers, sellers, and investors;
  • Negotiate on the prices;
  • Accompany customers to chosen properties;
  • Conduct property market research and analysis;
  • Provide sales;
  • Help with mortgage takes;
  • Provide consulting services for clients.

Once again, what impacts how much money does a realtor earn?

  1. Their education, experience, and unique skills;
  2. The agency and the brokerage plan they work under;
  3. The commission designated by the agency and earned by a realtor;
  4. Type of properties for sale (typically, office and commercial objects cost more);
  5. An ability to communicate with people and ensure their success.

All this is a basis for your beneficial career as a real estate agent, yet, the beginning is not there. You need to comply with specific requirements and take 6 basic steps to your career star. We advise you to read about them further.

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How to get your real estate license in 6 steps

So, let’s learn about the most important requirements, steps, and institutions which lead to your real estate license. We outlined six designations for six steps to take, and you can read about and analyze them here.

1. Review the real estate agent requirement list

The first step to becoming a realtor is meeting the requirements of your home state. In general, these requirements are not too hard to complete. The general one for a real estate agent is to be of the age 18 years old or older. Besides, some states require the candidate to be their resident or a legal foreigner. Others may neglect this requirement. In terms of education requirements, your university’s or college’s degrees may bring you credit, yet, they are not obligatory. Your high school graduation certificate may fit well.

Of course, for a real estate representative, it is a must to maintain a bona-fide reputation as security is essential for customers who operate a huge amount of dollars in their wish to sell or buy a home. Thus, we’ll talk about this requirement further. One more point included to this list is E&O insurance policy which is demanded by most states. This insurance policy guarantees your protection and security during your first years of experience when the possibility of making errors is still high.

2. Take a prelicensing course

The second step is your access to real estate school courses to enhance your experience and gain new knowledge. Usually, you need no less than 45 hours of real estate course to complete. In some states, the duration of courses is over 100 hours, so it is better to clarify how much time you will need to finish school classes in your home area.

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The schools are different and the type of training they provide may vary. Some offer only on-board courses to visit in person in a classroom. That’s not bad, as you can build a network of associates and colleagues when attending them. Other schools provide online courses, for example, real-time video conferences or classes you can download and study in an app at a convenient schedule using your PC or a mobile device to prepare for testing exam.

Just note that all real estate educational centers that are approved to certify future real estate agents by holding an exam are not available for free. You’ll have to pay from $199 to more than $1,000 for them to receive your coursework completed.

The result of many of these options is the pre-licensing exam you’ll need to pass to receive a diploma or a certificate which opens a door to a state real estate exam to you.

Find a real estate school: exploring state-wide and local educational institutions for RE agents

If you do not want to spend lots of time finding the best education courses in a real estate academy or training center, we have some tips to share with you about what to focus on in your search.

  • Evaluate reviews on each instructor as the personality and elocution or writer skills are very important for you to learn successfully all the topics.
  • Consider which courses the class plans consist of. You need lots of relevant information about laws, finance, economy, insurance, math, history, state tax rules, accounting, advertising, market analysis, mortgage and loan system, banking, and even psychology.
  • Compare prices as it’s your budget and your savings you will pay from.
  • Decide on a schedule and class format. Most schools provide online plans via the Internet and that’s a convenient option for most people.

In case you still have doubts, we have some kind of advice which showcases the best state-known real estate training centers. The top three of them are as follows:

  • Kaplan Real Estate Inc. Education;
  • The CE Shop real estate courses;
  • Colibri Real Estate LLC course.

You can simply inspect more info by clicking the links to enter the site of a training company you choose. Besides, you can find lots of useful information in every of these sources.

3. Apply for and schedule your state real estate exam

The third stage after you prepared for the exam is applying for it at your local testing center. Before you access passing the test, you have to apply for it in the PSI real estate testing institution which is approved for licensing examination of real estate agents and brokers. The good news is you can fill in your exam application online on its website page. As for the examination process, an exam can be taken in person in one of the offices. Some states allow holding tests online right on a website, so inspect the information about such an exam option please.

4. Get fingerprinted and undergo a background check

The next step refers to security. The thing is becoming a realtor is tied to the requirements to ensure the highest trust and reliability. Thus, passing a criminal background check is one of these requirements. The best idea is to become fingerprinted by one of the authorized security service providers. The examples of such third-party services are as follows:

  • Local police or justice departments;
  • The electronic fingerprinting service.

Besides, you can study relevant information about which states require a criminal background check report and fingerprints for real estate licensing on this online resource. In any case, your privacy will stay secure, so you shouldn’t fear to accept the cookies offered by this website.

5. Pass your state licensing exam

Now you are almost at the final stage on your way to becoming a licensed real estate agent. To become such an expert, you have to pass an exam. It might vary from area to area but commonly it consists of 100+ questions related to taxes, credit card operations, history, laws, finance, real estate specifics, and so on. Tasks in the test always are designated as National and State. So, there are 2 parts to complete separately. The requirements for the score for passing the test also differ depending on your location. Yet, typically, it is over 60-70% of correct answers to receive approval for your license. If you fail with it, it’s also no problem. The number of tries is not limited, although each one requires you to pay an additional fee.

6. Find a real estate brokerage

In most locations throughout the country, becoming a real estate broker also relates to finding a brokerage. You cannot work even if licensed as an independent agent, and you need to contact one of the experienced brokers or real estate brokerage agencies to become employed by them.

Basis types of brokerages

When you choose a real estate broker to hire you, you have also to take into account the models of brokerage used in the US. Here are they.

Traditional split plans

This model offers you to split the commission for each housing sale 50/50 between a realtor and a broker, or sometimes, 60/40.

High-split plans

The models which provide high-split brokerage offer splitting commissions between all agents after each sale contract is closed while brokers earn less. Yet, it is also possible to receive a 60/40 split for an agent. Especially for the reasons if you become a valuable specialist.

Virtual brokerages

If you love digital technologies and your independence as a real estate agent, a virtual brokerage model is what you’ll appreciate the most. It unites agents remotely and provides them with freedom of operation although the load can be considerable for each real estate agent.

Common types of commission structures

Besides broker companies to choose when undergoing real estate licensing, for a novice agent, it is important to understand the idea of commission plans and structures.

Traditional split plans

These plans propose a set commission for brokers and agents no matter how much a flat or a house costs.

High-split plans

High-split plans are based on the opportunity for real estate salespeople to earn up to 100% commission. For example, when you get a contract with a broker which estimates your annual cap of something like $15,000, and after you reach it, your commission increases to 100%.

Hybrid plans

These plans become quite a new things but they offer great potency to a real estate agent. They combine traditional elements of the workflow with a more personal approach to commissions and rates.

How long does it take to obtain a real estate license?

To consider how much time you need to become a licensed professional in the field of real estate, you should take into account a couple of features that impact it.

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  1. The length of pre-licensing education varies greatly from state to state. For example, in California, you have to pass 135 hours of VE while in Florida, it takes half the time to obtain your real estate school diploma.
  2. The schedule of your studies. When deciding to take courses with full-time training it will be faster than if you study once or twice a week.
  3. The number of attempts you take to pass your real estate exam. Each attempt adds a day, some days or even weeks to the estimated timeline.
  4. The time when your license application will be processed by the regulator.

The length of education courses is the primary thing to consider, so let’s check how many hours do you need to study in each state across the US.

State Pre-licensing education courses (hours)
Real Estate license in Alabama 60
Alaska State 40
Real Estate license in Arizona 90
Arkansas State 60
Real Estate license in California 135
Real Estate license in Colorado 168
Connecticut State 60
Delaware State 99
Real Estate license in Florida 63
Real Estate license in Georgia 75
Hawaii State 60
Idaho State 90
Real Estate license in Illinois 90
Real Estate Licensing in Indiana 90
Real Estate license in Iowa 96
Real Estate license in Kansas 60
Kentucky 96
Louisiana 90
Maine 55
Maryland 60
Real Estate license in Massachusetts 40
Real Estate license in Michigan 40
Minnesota 90
Real Estate license in Mississippi 60
Missouri 72
Montana 70
Nebraska 66
Nevada 120
New Hampshire 40
New Jersey 75
New Mexico 90
Real Estate Pre Licensing in New York 75
Real Estate Licensing in North Carolina 75
North Dakota 90
Real Estate Licensing in Ohio 120
Oklahoma 90
Real Estate Licensing in Oregon 150
Pennsylvania 75
Rhode Island 45
South Carolina 90
South Dakota 116
Real Estate Licensing in Tennessee 90
Real Estate Licensing in Texas 180
Utah 120
Vermont 40
Real Estate Licensing in Virginia 60
Washington 60
Washington DC 60
West Virginia 90
Wisconsin 72
Wyoming 54

A curious fact:

The longest pre-licensing education is required by the government and real estate authorities in Texas. Here you have to take 120 hours of required classes prior to become a professional and apply for your real estate license.


As you can see, the whole national licensing process for realtors may take a couple of months from you. So, it is better to expect this timeline to be relevant.

Differences between reciprocity and recognition of licenses

When you decide to move anywhere from the state where you started your real estate agent career, one of the questions you have to keep in mind is “I can work under the same license in my new residence place?” That’s what reciprocity principles and policy for realtors are focused on. Today, there are five main types of reciprocity applied to the real estate business. We offer you to learn about them.

  1. Full real estate realtors’ reciprocity that allows you to continue your activity as a real estate professional under the license issued by any state. You do not need to confirm your certificate or retake exams except a portion of state-specific exams which helps you to get into detail of a certain state’s specifics in home selling, leasing, mortgage, and other issues.
  2. Partial meaning is that you can be an eligible real estate pro in the chosen state with the license of your home state after completion of the assigned CE course and passing an exam about local specifics in the real estate niche.
  3. Mutual is a kind of agreements between states which provides real estate agents from their home state with an opportunity to work legally in the target state when completing the requirements.
  4. Limited is an agreement under which two states can have a one-way reciprocity. For example, Florida and New York offer this kind of real estate license reciprocity when NY real estate agents can benefit from the reciprocal terms when moving to FL, yet Florida residents have to complete additional requirements to benefit the same ways.
  5. None, although, it is quite a rare issue, means that you are not allowed to use your home state’s real estate license in the target state. However, even in this case, there are some exclusions, so it is better to clarify which opportunities a target residence area offers to you to get licensed and what is required for this.

What to do after you get your real estate license

OK, you are launching a range of professionals with your dream license in your pocket. Is it all? Of course, not! What should you do after your license becomes active? First, let’s make a short listing of the necessary activities and then learn about a couple of them.

Joining NAR is a good idea as you become a member of the national-wide community of real estate salespeople and can get more information, industry news, help, and support from it.
Following the Code of Ethics is one more required thing. As a realtor, you are not just selling homes and commercial properties, you deal with people who are buyers and sellers, you are engaged in their financial operations, and you should follow the rules according to the Code.
Regularly taking CE courses is a must too (especially, in some regions where you cannot work legally as a real estate agent without your education and required certifications regularly updated).
License renewal is a must. In different directions, the terms for license approval differ too, so it’s necessary to get information about your license’s expiration date and renew it timely.

Join the National Association of Realtors (NAR)

NAR aka the National Association of Realtors is a state-approved professional community which unites real estate brokers and agents across the country. Its main mission is to enforce realtors and maintain, protect, and expand the right to real estate property for all people in the US at a national level.

When you join the range of NAR members, you get several benefits which may impact your work as a real estate agent.

  1. You get regular news listings and research issues which help to control the valuable data of each specialist.
  2. The association provides the value of sustainability and resource-saving policy in the real estate business.
  3. Tech support is what you can receive from this institution being its member.
  4. Easy access to top-notch transactional tools is a benefit too. At last, you get as many associates, partners, possible hirers or counterparties at one community!

Just visit the NAR’s site to get more about it.

Requirements of the Code of Ethics each real estate salesperson should meet

The guide into ethics which regulates the whole work of the real estate business is a required document to study and follow for a real estate agent. Since its development in 1913, for more than a century, it guides RE pros in their strive to develop the best-rated customer service, maintain clear investment policy for their clients, and protect from disclosure their personal data and financial transaction history.

Renew your license regularly so as not to get it inactive

The last part of our article is dedicated to the most frequently asked questions, which we’ll answer below.

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Frequently asked questions about the real estate industry and licensing process

How much does it cost to get a realtor’s license?

The cost of the whole process of real estate license obtaining is calculated according to the following list of cost items which may be different in various areas of the country.

– Education school payment for your licensing course – from $200 to $600+.

– Exam fees – from $60 to $80.

– Licensing fees – from $100 to $170.

Additionally, you should consider costs for fingerprinting services which depend on the service provider you deal with. Do not forget about additional fees for each exam retake as you’ll have to pay them as many times as you try to undergo examination.

Saying briefly, you have to reserve minimum $700 for all the steps and procedures.

Where can you get your real estate license?

As usual, each state in the USA has its own real estate commission which is a regulating authority responsible for licensing and approvals of licenses in this business. So, please, check which authority operates in your area and apply for the license to it. You’ll have to accomplish your application with your examination test results, a standard real estate license application form, and the fees paid.

How hard is it to get your real estate license?

Typically, it is not very difficult if you have at least a higher education, a lust for being a professional, and you learn thoroughly in your pre-licensing courses. If you are communicative, persistent, and flexible in your decision-making, the task may be even easier for you. At least, you have to get some soft skills like psychology skills, social listening skills, and time management skills to gain success. Besides, you’ll have to undergo several steps related to correct applications and paperwork, but it is not as difficult as it seems at first glance. So you are welcome to try.

How much does a realtor agent make?

Before you decide to earn money as a real estate agent, you should understand a couple of facts about the industry’s salaries, their average numbers, reasons why they differ, and which features can make top-paid salesperson in the RE industry.

The salary in this industry is based on a percentage of the purchase price of a property. Thus, the more you sell annually, the higher will be your earning.

Salaries depend on the position (whether you are a community appraiser, a real estate agent, or a broker), your qualification level, the continuing education you undergo, your personal skills (especially in-demand and rare ones), and even on the state you are operating as a real estate agent.

The niche matters too. Just remember that commercial property agents typically get higher revenue than residential property agents.

The average annual salary in the real estate business today is approximately $98.589 per year. Yet, as a novice specialist, you shouldn’t rely on this figure.