So, you want more flexibility, more income, and more control over your career and life? And you’ve decided you’re finally ready to take the next steps to become a rockstar real estate agent? Congratulations! We have some work to do…first starting with getting your real estate license. The process for becoming an agent varies from state to state, so even if you read my steps below, you’ll need to check in with your local bureau of real estate to learn what the exact timeline, cost and qualifications are in your state.
But with that said, many of the steps remain consistent across state lines, and having a high-level understanding of the requirements for becoming a real estate agent is still hugely helpful…remember, I made the mistakes so you don’t have to. Keep reading for the steps you should expect when getting your real estate license.
How Long Does It Take To Get A Real Estate License?
Before we get into the details, let me fill you in on how much time you should expect to devote to getting your license. On average, it takes 3 to 6 months to complete all the prerequisites required for your real estate license, but this can vary person-to-person and state-to-state due to the different requirements (more on this later).
The most time-consuming part of the process tends to be completing your pre-licensing coursework. Note that the differences in required hours from state-to-state is huge – for example, some states require agents to complete 180 hours of coursework, while others require only 30 hours. This is why it’s super important to check in with your specific state’s rules before committing so you know what to expect.
No matter how many required hours of coursework you have, it’s up to you to determine your own pace at which you complete your course. You can choose to go slower or faster depending on your other obligations. This is one of the best parts of agent life…you get to set your schedule and manage your own time.
1. Research state licensing and education requirements.
The first step is understanding your state’s requirements for pre-licensing courses and licensing applications. Because these are different in every state, you need to check with your real estate commission on this one. But you can expect to complete anywhere from 60-90 hours of courses on real estate basics. In these courses you’ll learn the nitty gritty details of becoming an agent–you’ll learn about real estate titles, deeds, contracts, and more.
Also, make sure you’re eligible for a real estate license. Again, these requirements are different in every state, but here’s the basics of what you’ll usually need to confirm:
- Be at least 18 years old. (In some states, the requirement is 19)
- Have legal U.S. residency status.
- Have a high school diploma or GED (in most states)
- Be of “good moral character” and not have a serious criminal record (in most states)
2. Sign up for your pre-licensing course.
This will be where you spend most of your time and effort. But the great thing is you can choose how you’d like to go about this – in a classroom environment or online. Think about how you learn best and how much flexibility you’ll need. The most important thing is to make sure the courses you choose are being run by an accredited real estate program. Look on your state’s real estate commission website to find programs that are accredited and verified.
3. Take your state licensing exam.
Once you complete your course, you can register for your real estate license exam. The exam takes around 3.5 hours and is split into two sections: 1. Real estate principles and federal laws; and 2. State-specific laws. You will need to bring a calculator and pay a fee for taking the exam, usually between $15-$60. There are usually many different times you can register for at a number of different locations. Find out how to do this on your state’s real estate commission website.
Keep in mind that in most states, you have 1 year to take the exam after completing your prelicensing coursework. And not to be a downer, but many people don’t pass the exam the first time, usually because they did not study hard enough. If this happens to you, don’t beat yourself up! You can retake it. Just study more next time.
4. File a real estate license application.
When you get to this step, it means you passed your exam! Woohoo! Now you have anywhere between 6 months to a year to file your real estate license application. You can expect to submit proof of your coursework, your test results, and also pay an application fee. In some states you might also need to do a background check.
5. Sign on to a real estate brokerage.
Even once you get that sweet, sweet license, you can’t begin representing buyers, sellers or renters until you join a brokerage. You usually are required to work for a broker for the first couple years in the industry. Research and choose your brokerage type. Give this a lot of thought because each type comes with different pros and cons.
6. Join the National Association of Realtors (NAR).
Once you’ve done all of the above, you have one final step. You should join the National Association of Realtors (NAR), to be able to participate in most Multiple Listing Services (MLS), which will give you the ability to see other realtor’s listings. You are not legally obligated to do this, but it will open up a lot of doors and increase your earning potential down the line.
Step 7: Renew your license regularly.
Don’t forget this very important final step. Put this on the calendar, because you don’t want to forget it. Not to sound like a broken record again…but check your state’s requirements to see when your license will expire because it will vary. It’s usually every two or four years.
Becoming a real estate agent can seem like a daunting process, but you’ll feel better if you know what to expect. It requires some initial investment, time, and focus, but you’ll feel so good once you pass your exam and get to work.