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How to Become a Real Estate Agent: Guide to Getting a Real Estate License

How to Become a Real Estate Agent: Guide to Getting a Real Estate License - Real Estate Store
The real estate industry is appealing to many due to its flexibility, earning potential, and the possibility of achieving autonomy. The average salary for realtors in the United States is just over $80,000. However, there is no ceiling on the potential in this industry.

1. Research the Education and Licensing Requirements

Prior to diving into the journey of becoming a real estate agent, it's essential to comprehend the varying licensing prerequisites in different states. Preliminary courses and licensing applications can vary widely from state to state, so it's best to contact the real estate commission in your state to comprehend the necessary steps for obtaining your real estate license.

In most cases, states typically require:

  • 18 years or older. Few states have a requirement of 19.
  • Be a US citizen or legal alien.
  • Background check – no felonies or criminal record.
  • Complete a state-certified real estate license course.
  • Pass the real estate license exam.

IMPORTANT! Ensure that the institution and courses you choose are accredited and recognized by your state's real estate licensing authority before enrolling.

If you're a licensed real estate agent intending to relocate to another state, investigate whether your new state holds reciprocity agreements with your current state. Reciprocity could potentially exempt certain prerequisites needed before obtaining the license. Yet, it doesn't eradicate the necessity of acquiring a license in the new state.

2. Education

Before embarking on the path to becoming a real estate agent, it's important to understand that it will require significant time and financial investment. Therefore, understanding the resources needed to begin this journey is crucial. Pre-licensing schools vary in their approach: some conduct structured classes over several weeks, while others offer flexible courses for self-paced learning. The cost of pre-licensing courses can range from $200 to $1000 depending on the school and the state.

The number of hours required for mandatory education to obtain a license varies from state to state.

3. Applying for the Real Estate Licensing Exam

After completing real estate courses or when you feel confident in the knowledge gained from these courses, you can apply to take the licensing exam. This typically involves paying an application fee and registering for the test through a third-party service such as PSI Exams.

IMPORTANT! Don't confuse applying for the exam with applying for the license — the latter occurs after passing the exam.

Many states permit individuals to apply for the exam even before completing all the required education hours. This can expedite the licensing process, enabling you to finish the remaining credit hours while waiting for the exam application to be approved.

4. Real Estate Licensing Exam

Although it might seem straightforward, it's not, which is why every state requires you to complete education before taking the exam. The exam typically consists of around 100 multiple-choice questions covering both national and state principles and laws. The passing score varies from state to state, but in many cases, a minimum of 70% is required to obtain the license. The exam duration ranges from 1.5 to 3.5 hours.

5. Applying for Your Real Estate License

After passing the exam, ensure you acquire an official real estate transcript or completion certificate from your real estate school along with a copy of your exam results to include in your real estate license application. Additionally, you'll need to pay application fees, which typically range from $50 to $250, and you might be required to undergo a background check, which could cost between $40 and $100.

It's advisable to confirm with your state's real estate commission if Errors and Omissions (E&O) insurance is required before submitting your application. E&O insurance safeguards real estate agents from financial losses and legal claims arising from their real estate work. Sometimes, your broker may provide E&O insurance. If not, you may need to obtain it before applying.

After submitting your application for the license, it's a waiting game; typically taking between one week and two months.

6. Finding a Real Estate Broker

Congratulations, you've obtained a real estate license, but it doesn't mean you can start selling homes right away. In many states, you'll need a real estate broker to get started. To expedite earning potential, it's wise to start looking for a broker even before completing your education.

A real estate broker is essentially an agency or office where real estate agents work. When choosing a broker, consider the following:

Types of Brokers:

National Franchises: Companies such as Keller Williams Realty, RE/MAX LLC, and Coldwell Banker offer structured training, a recognizable brand, and additional resources for new agents.

Smaller Brokerage Firms: Smaller or local brokers may provide more personalized training and greater growth opportunities.

Virtual Brokers: This new type of broker operates entirely online through Software as a Service (SaaS) and offers advantages such as higher commissions, lower desk fees (rent for your workspace in the brokerage), and better technology.

Inquire with the broker about additional courses or training requirements, mentorship programs for new agents, 'floor time' expectations (the time spent by an agent in the office), lead distribution, and whether you'll be responsible for your own marketing.

7. National Association of Realtors (NAR)

To rightfully call yourself a REALTOR®, you've completed nearly all the steps, except for one last crucial step. You need to join the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

This will grant you access to most Multiple Listing Services (MLS), where you can view other realtors' listings.

While joining the association isn't mandatory, legally you can work in this field, but your earning potential will be limited without MLS access.


Becoming a successful real estate agent requires traversing a considerable path that demands significant financial and time investment, as well as a love for the real estate world. But in the end, the rewards can be substantial.

“Ninety percent of all millionaires become so through owning real estate.” -Andrew Carnegie

IMPORTANT! Do not forget about license renewal. Many states require completing a certain number of course hours for renewal. This ensures that you stay updated on the evolving national and state markets and legislation.

This material does not constitute legal advice. The steps required to obtain a real estate license may differ from state to state, so you should seek your own legal advice to ensure you follow the correct process.

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