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Thinking of diving into the world of real estate? 

Awesome! But, just so you know, there’s a bit of time and money that you’ll need to put in upfront. And, since each state has its own rules for becoming an agent, the process might look a bit different depending on where your current location. Overall though, here is the basic gist:

Review Your State’s Rules

There’s no one-size-fits-all real estate license for the whole country, so you’ll need to see what your state specifically asks for. A great place to start? The website of your state’s real estate regulatory office. Simply review the handy state-by-state directory at the Association of Real Estate License Law Officials (ARELLO). 

Typical State Requirements

Each state maintains distinct criteria for aspiring real estate professionals. These can be broadly categorized as follows:

  • Age prerequisites
  • Educational qualifications, typically a high school diploma or its equivalent
  • Pre-licensing coursework and subsequent educational stipulations
  • Examination parameters and eligibility criteria
  • Detailed application procedures and associated fees
  • Comprehensive background evaluations, some states require fingerprinting
  • Mandated continuing education to maintain active licensure
  • Progression pathways to attain advanced licensing tiers
  • Disclosure protocols for any criminal history

Educational Requirements 

Regardless of where you are, you are going to have to take a pre-licensing course. That’s right, you’ve gotta hit the books first. Think of it as a little investment, ranging from $300 to $500 (fees vary by institution), before taking the big test.

Each state has its own groove. Places like New York and Georgia are average with a robust 75-hour requirement. However, in California, you must first take and pass a rigorous 135 hours of coursework: Real Estate Principles (45 hours) Real Estate Practices (45 hours) Real Estate Finance (45 hours).

In Texas, they will rope you in for 180 hours! Texans have a 6 class (30 hours each) commitment before you can saddle up and get your license. However, for our friends in Florida, it’s a chill 63-hour pre-licensing gig. Speaking of chill, Alaska’s state requirement is a brisk 40-hour commitment. So once again, it is always best to check your state’s requirements. 

While you can’t skip the schooling, it is good to know that most states are pretty flexible. Whether you’re into online learning, traditional real estate schools, or hitting up your local community college, there’s is typically an affordable path to licensure for everyone.

Licensing Exam Procedure

Your local instructor will provide you with information on the scheduling, registration, and payment process for the licensing exam. The test typically costs between $100 and $450. The computerized examination is divided into two components: a national section addressing broad real estate principles and practices, and a state-specific section detailing respective state real estate laws that apply to your local market.

The time allotted to take the real estate licensing exam varies by state. The total time can range from 3 to 6 hours combined for both sections, depending on the state. For instance:

  • In California, candidates are given 3 hours and 15 minutes.
  • In Florida, examinees have a total of 3.5 hours.
  • In Texas, the time allotted is 4 hours.

The examination employs a multiple-choice format. Again, the quantity of questions and the allocated duration differ according to state regulations. Both sections of the test require separate passing scores. You are permitted to retake the test if you are unsuccessful subject to state-specific retake policies, waiting periods, and deadline stipulations.

License Activation

Upon passing the both parts of the exam, submit the required application, documents, and fees ($200-$500) to the state’s real estate regulatory body. Once approved, the state sends your license certificate, and your name becomes searchable on its website. Do not operate as a real estate agent until officially licensed.

Realtor vs. Real Estate Agent

‘Realtor’ and ‘real estate agent’ are not synonymous. Both are licensed for real estate transactions, but only Realtors are members of the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and adhere to its Code of Ethics. NAR, the U.S.’s largest trade association, has 1.5 million members across various real estate roles.

For an annual fee (~$185), Realtors gain credibility and access to:

  • Education resources
  • Business and marketing tools
  • Market data and research
  • Real Estate business-specific discounts
  • Access to the Realtors Property Resource (RPR), a comprehensive real estate database

Real-jobs.com is a vast informational resource about real estate for aspiring realtors, brokers and agents.