How to Get a Real Estate License in 7 Steps

Young woman researching how to get a real estate licenseIf you’re considering a career in real estate, it’s important to understand how to get a real estate license. The good news is that the path to becoming a real estate agent is quicker than most careers.

Broadly speaking, there are seven steps in the licensing process; however, please note that each state’s licensure law requirements may be different. Also, the steps you take to get your real estate license may be in a different order, so cross-check this with your state agency before you get too far down the path. With that caveat behind us, let’s go!

1. Research the real estate license requirements and eligibility for the state you live in

Real estate licensing law varies by state.  All states require pre-licensing education and a passing score on the state exam.  Each state has eligibility requirements as well.  Before proceeding, make sure you can meet the minimum qualifications for a real estate license in your state.  Below is a sample list of requirements and eligibility that may or may not be applicable in your state.  Again, this widely varies state by state, so make sure you do the research first:

  • Real estate pre-licensing education from an accredited school or a real estate degree from an accredited college or university
  • Pass the state exam
  • Fingerprinting
  • Criminal history background check
  • File and pay for license application
  • Minimum age (18 or 19)
  • U.S. citizenship or legal U.S. resident
  • State residency
  • High school/GED
  • Student loan default

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2. Complete your real estate pre-licensing education

Once you’ve done your research on state licensing requirements, you will know what the education requirements are.  The required number of hours and the subject matter is vastly different in each state, so it’s vitally important that you choose an accredited school licensed in your state (Real Estate Express is an accredited school).  You don’t want to spend the time and money on education that doesn’t meet the state’s real estate education requirements. If you have a degree in real estate, are a licensed attorney, or have a real estate license in another state, your education requirements may be different. For everyone else though, here’s what you can expect:

  • Enroll in an accredited real estate school, licensed in your state.
  • Complete the required number of hours of real estate education. Every state is different.  For instance, Colorado requires 168 hours, and Missouri requires just 48 hours.
  • Complete an exam prep course, if available in your state.  This will prepare you for the state exam so you can pass the first time.
  • Obtain official transcripts or a certificate of completion from the school, which will be required for your license application.

3. Application and fees

You must complete your state’s real estate license application and pay applicable fees.  Forms and fee information will be found on your state’s government real estate commission website.  Most states have filing deadlines, so be diligent about this process. Again, this process varies by state.  Some states require you to obtain E&O insurance, pass the exam, complete the background check, fingerprinting, and have a sponsoring/managing broker in place before you submit the application.

4. Pass the exam

Now you get to sit for the real estate exam and pass it.  Here’s where your pre-license education and exam prep come in. Make sure you check the real estate school’s exam pass rate in your state – you want to make sure the education you receive will actually help you pass the exam. The exam prep really does help too.  Some states require you to complete the license application before taking the exam, but here’s generally what will happen:

  • Most states administer the exam through a 3rd party testing service company, such as PSI.
  • If required to submit an application before testing, you will receive notification from the state that you are eligible to register for the exam.
  • Register with the exam vendor and schedule a date to take the exam.
  • If required by your state, sign an exam eligibility affidavit.
  • Bring a valid photo ID to the testing site.
  • Pass each portion of the exam.  You will have to pass both the national and the state portions of the exam, which can be taken together or separately in some states.

5. Complete a criminal background check and fingerprinting

Most states will require a criminal background check and fingerprinting. After all, you are handling financial transactions. There are required fees to be paid for these services and processing time is involved, so plan accordingly.  You will be able to find information on satisfying these requirements on your state’s real estate commission website.

6. Select a sponsoring or managing broker

You are required to work with a sponsoring or managing broker for the first 2 (or more) years of your real estate career.  Although you technically work for yourself, you cannot work independently when you are first starting off.  You will need to work on the behalf of a real estate broker who is licensed to sponsor or manage those working for his/her brokerage firm.

FREE DOWNLOAD: How do you find the right brokerage as a new real estate agent?

7. Obtain Errors and Omissions (E&O) insurance

Most states require errors and omissions (E&O) insurance for all licensed real estate agents. E&O insurance reduces the risk to sales associates and the real estate firms they represent against potential lawsuits. Some states require you to have this insurance in place on your license before it will be active. Here’s a link to a great resource for more information about E&O insurance.

While this is a thorough rundown, we can appreciate you might have a few more questions. Our Academic Advisers are available from 8-5 pm CT every weekday at 866-726-8666.

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