Getting Started in Real Estate
You’ve heard about the limitless salary, lifestyle, and flexibility that follows becoming a real estate agent. Real estate agents reap the benefits of their hard work and time spent in spades. That’s a noble concept, right? If you’ve thought about what your life would look like with that kind of freedom but aren’t sure how to become a real estate agent or how to get a real estate license, wonder no more.
The five steps below will guide you through the process to become a real estate agent. This list is typically how the process plays out when you pursue a career as a real estate agent, but each state will have subtle differences as to how to get a real estate license. The end result of becoming a real estate agent is the same — a rewarding career with the freedom and income you desire.
Step 1: Qualify to Become an Agent in Your State
When it comes to getting your real estate license, each state has its own rules and regulations. Regardless of where you live, there are some basic requirements that apply to most states. In general, those looking to obtain a real estate license must:
- Be a legal resident of the United States
- Be 18 years of age (19 years of age in Nebraska)
- Hold a high school diploma or its equivalent (but not always, check your state!)
If you meet those basic requirements of licensure, then the next step in how to be a real estate agent and how to get a real estate license is to determine exactly what your state’s requirements are and start the required education.
Step 2: Complete the Required Pre-Licensing Coursework
Each state has a real estate commission that will require a minimum amount of Pre-Licensing coursework to become an agent. Depending on where you’re located, these courses could require a large investment of time, or could be completed over the space of a couple of weeks. Pre-Licensing coursework averages around 60-70 hours, but some states require much more
Here’s an example:
Students looking to get a real estate license in Texas must complete 180 hours of state-approved Pre-Licensing education, whereas students in Massachusetts must complete only 24 hours.
Your courses will cover a variety of topics like ethics, real estate law, and basic principles of real estate. The objective is to make the aspiring agent as well-rounded as possible in their pursuit of being a real estate agent.
After you complete the Pre-Licensing education portion, you’ll need to pass your real estate school’s final exam. Once you pass this, you’re eligible to take the final test, which is the state real estate exam.
Be sure to choose a school that offers you flexibility, as many people learning how to be a real estate agent must work multiple jobs or balance responsibilities. Also, check that school’s exam pass rates before committing to their program. You don’t want to waste your time if the school doesn’t help you ace your exam. Most states also offer the option to enroll in their Pre-Licensing education online, which is an attractive option for many aspiring agents.
Step 3: Pass Your State’s Real Estate Examination
After you finish your Pre-Licensing course, you then have to pass your state’s real estate examination. The exam will consist of a national and a state section that will need to be finished within a certain time frame (typically around two hours). It’s important to note that you'll need to travel to a testing facility to take the state examination in person, even if your Pre-Licensing courses were online. You can find test-taking locations on your state’s real estate commission website.
It’s best to take the state real estate exam right after finishing your Pre-Licensing to keep the content fresh. You can also enroll in Exam Prep to help you pass your real estate examination. With the right Exam Prep, pass rates improve and test takers feel more confident.
Did You Know? Even if you took your Pre-Licensing education online, you'll still need to travel to a testing facility to take the state examination. You will find test-taking locations on your state’s real estate commission website.
Step 4: Find a Real Estate Broker to Work Under
You’ve completed the Pre-Licensing course and passed your exam, but that doesn’t mean you can start selling properties. The next step in how to get a real estate license is finding a real estate broker to work under. You may have just asked yourself, “what is a real estate broker?” In simple terms, a real estate broker holds more responsibilities, undergoes more training, and ultimately makes more money than an agent. Brokers are also allowed to open their own brokerage or property management firm. As a licensee, you’re licensed to sell real estate on behalf of a broker but not as an independent entity, so it’s important to do your research on local brokers and choose the one that fits you. As for how to be a real estate agent, the broker you choose can set you up for success if they’re a good fit.
Step 5: Apply for Your Real Estate License
You’ve qualified to become an agent. You’ve completed the required Pre-Licensing coursework. You passed your state’s real estate examination. And you were able to find a real estate broker to work under. All that’s left to do is apply for your real estate license.
You will be able to find the application on your state’s real estate commission website. There will be a fee to apply that usually ranges between $100 and $300. At this time, you’ll most likely be required to submit a background check that the state reviews before licensing. Each state varies in how long they take to review your application and respond.
More Things You Should Know About Getting Your Real Estate License
We’ve covered the basic steps to get licensed, so what are some other common things you should know?
How much does it cost to get a real estate license?
Costs vary from state to state, but relative to other industries, real estate has a relatively low barrier to entry. When becoming a real estate agent, you can expect to spend anywhere from $150-$750 for quality Pre-Licensing education. Then there’s your state’s exam and licensing fee, which varies by state. In Texas, for example, a new sales agent will pay around $54 to take the exam and $350 for the new license. At least in Texas, the out-of-pocket expense of becoming a real estate agent isn’t that bad. But, again, the price you’ll pay will vary by state.
How much does a real estate agent make?
The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) establishes a 6% commission to sell houses which is then split between the buyer’s agent and the seller’s agent. Crunching the numbers, that leaves you with roughly 3% of the sale price, which equates to a $6,810 commission before brokerage costs and taxes based on the median U.S. home price of $227,000.
To break that down further: if you sell ten homes at the median home price, you’ll gross $68,810 for the year. According to ZipRecruiter, the national average real estate agent salary is $83K a year.
How long does it take to become a real estate agent?
The entire process of becoming a real estate agent typically takes a couple of months. If it’s possible to treat the process of how you become a real estate agent like a regular, 40-hour/week job, then you can become an agent surprisingly fast. Otherwise, go at your own pace and enjoy the process.
What is real estate Continuing Education?
Final thing to keep in mind: Once you complete these steps to become a real estate agent, you’ll need Continuing Education (CE) in order to maintain your real estate license. These classes are required to keep you up to date on new developments, laws, and current events in real estate. These courses are mandated nationwide. Most Continuing Education classes are affordable and can be taken online.