How to Get a Real Estate License

by Wayne

Personal freedom; set your own schedule; be your own boss; make good money; be a professional. These are but a few of the reasons that motivate individuals to become real estate agents. Once curiosity about becoming a professional real estate agent is fired up, agent hopefuls then wonder about how to get a real estate license.

The short answer is that prospective real estate agents must learn the applicable laws of their state, pass an exam which demonstrates that they know the laws, and then “apprentice” themselves to an experienced real estate broker until they gain enough experience to set out on their own.

The longer answer is that the rules for how to get a real estate license vary from state-to-state, as do the costs of obtaining a license, the number of classroom hours required, the level of education needed, the minimum age requirements, the amount of post-licensing education, and the costs to operate as an agent. Also, many states require background checks that vary in complexity. Before signing up for a real estate pre-licensing course, be sure that you understand and can meet all of your state’s licensing requirements.

The return on one’s investment of time and money in studying real estate can be huge. Professional real estate agents can earn as much as other professionals and, comparatively speaking, their education costs are minimal. Plus, real estate agents have considerably more personal freedom than dentists or stock brokers. As you read the following, you will come to understand that becoming a real estate agent isn’t really that difficult; it just takes persistence and a willingness to learn the profession.

Let’s walk through what’s involved in how to get a real estate license. We’ll discuss the classes you’ll need, the tests you must take, what costs you can expect, and what happens after you get your license.

How Much Does it Cost to Become a Real Estate Agent?

Costs vary from state-to-state, but in general you will have to pay for the following in order to become licensed. Not all of these apply in every state.

Pre-licensing education course
License application fee
Background check fees, including fingerprinting and credit check, the status of child-support payments, income and property tax payments, and the status of other professional licenses.
Test fees

Optional costs include:

Study guides
Practice tests

Pre-Licensing Education

Every state requires real estate agents to complete a basic real estate education course and pass a test in order to become licensed. Once licensed, agents are required to take classes regularly in order to stay up-to-date on changes in law and procedures. The basic real estate course is usually referred to as “pre-licensing education” and ongoing classes are referred to as “continuing (or post-licensing) education”. When researching your state’s requirements for real estate education, don’t confuse the two.

Pre-licensing courses are typically available both online and offline. Both types can be found by Googling “how to get a real estate license in (your state)”. Each state has a list of real estate schools that they have reviewed and approved. Not all schools are approved in all states, so be sure that the school you are considering is on your state’s approved list.

States require that certain topics be covered by coursework, so if a school has been approved by your state then you can be certain that the information you need to pass the licensing test will be covered, regardless of the type of school (online or offline) and the order that the information is presented.

In each state there is a requirement for a certain number of classroom hours of instruction. The number of hours will vary by state, from a low of 80 hours to a high of 150 hours. Generally, classes are held eight hours per day until the requirement is met. Some schools offer classes on weekends and evenings to accommodate working students. Online classes can be taken at a student’s individual pace.

Most real estate licensing schools require that students pass the school’s own exam before they are given clearance to take the state test.

What is the State Test Like?

The test consists of multiple-choice questions on all of the topics that were covered in the pre-licensing coursework. Few people get a perfect score the first time they take the test, but a perfect score is not needed to get a license. Generally, a passing score is 70%; some states may require a higher score to pass.

Tests are usually offered by private companies; the two largest are PSI and Pearson. Students report to a testing location, where they confirm their registration, pay the fee, are photographed, and are assigned to a cubicle that is computer-equipped. After logging on to the test site and confirming their identity, the student will click the “begin test” button and the multiple-choice questions will appear on the screen. Students will choose the answer which they believe best fits the question scenario, click their answer, and the next question will appear. When all questions have been completed (or the allotted time expires) the test ends.

If you pass the test, you will be notified and receive your license in a couple of weeks. If you fail the test, you may pay the fee again and re-take the test after a certain period of time. Each state has its own rules about when and how often the test can be re-taken.

Most real estate education providers also offer study guides and practice tests. These are always recommended and greatly increase one’s chances of passing the test on the first try.

Five Tips on Taking the Test

Most individuals who fail the test on their first attempt do so because they haven’t prioritized the material. Here are five tips on how to prioritize the material:

Learn the vocabulary; review the textbook glossary every time you study. The biggest problem that test-takers have is that they confuse the terms used in the questions.
Learn the math. Real estate math is mostly eight-grade arithmetic. If you memorize the few basic formulas given in your textbook it won’t give you any problems.
Read each question and possible answer slowly, and make sure you understand what you are reading. The correct answer is always there, you just have to choose it.
To increase your chances of choosing the right answer, first eliminate the answers that you know to be wrong.
Answer every question. There is no penalty for guessing, but there is a penalty for unanswered questions.

What to Do After Getting Your License

After one passes the test and gets a license, are they free to sell real estate? No, they’re not. New agents have to work under the supervision of a managing broker until they gain enough experience and knowledge to become an independent broker themselves. So, a newly licensed agent’s first order of business is to find a broker who is willing to accept responsibility for the agent while they learn the profession. Agents refer to placing one’s license with a broker as “hanging their license”.

So, that’s how to get a real estate license. Not that hard, is it? Successful real estate agents come from all walks of life, so no matter what your occupation is at this moment with a little effort and perseverance you can become a professional real estate agent.

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