8 Simple Steps to Become a Licensed Real Estate Sales Agent

  • If the thought of working for yourself in a flexible and rewarding career such as real estate sounds exciting then you're not alone. Every year thousands of individuals are drawn to the real estate industry since the startup costs are relatively low compared to other career choices that require such as large investment in time and money.

    Imagine the prospect of a new career where you can set your own work schedule, work from home and have the potential of making a six-figure or more annual income.

    If getting your real estate license is something you are seriously considering, the steps to get there may be less challenging than you might think.

    Below are the eight key steps you need to take to get a license of your own.

    Step 1. Research Your State's Specific Licensing Requirements

    Like many professions, real estate agents are governed by rules and regulations that vary from state to state. Because you take on significant financial responsibility during a real estate transaction, it is important to familiarize yourself with all of the applicable laws, and that starts with the licensing requirements imposed by your state.

    Application procedures vary from state to state, and you may be required to pass more or less stringent background checks and place fingerprints on file (depending on your residency). Your state may check your credit, your criminal history, your other professional licenses, and more.

    This needs to be the first step on your path to being licensed because there is no reason to waste your time if you discover some aspect of your personal history (e.g. a felony conviction) makes it impossible to get licensed. It is better to save your time and money by finding this out early.

    Step 2. Research Your Real Estate School Options

    In virtually every state, you have a wide range of different real estate licensing schools to pick from. Today the different programs are evenly split between classroom courses, online courses, and schools that employ a blend of both techniques.

    Note that most good schools offer both "pre-licensing" and "post-licensing" courses. Post-licensing courses are designed to meet the continuing education requirements of already-licensed agents. In order to secure your license, you need to take pre-licensing courses.

    Different states require different amounts of education prior to licensing approval.

    Make sure that you verify that your chosen school's curriculum has been approved by your state.

    This is especially important for online courses. Non-approved courses will end up wasting your time and money, and you would be forced to retake the classes at an approved school.

    Step 3. Enroll with an Approved Real Estate School

    In most states, you get a wide range of different scheduling options to suit your needs. Many real estate schools offer flexible scheduling to accommodate your needs. Sample schedules include full-time 9-to-5 classroom instruction, weekend-only classes, evening classes, and all-hours online courses.

    Remember, the total amount of time required to finish your licensing course is going to depend on state regulations as well as your own resources. As a general rule of thumb, though, if you are in a hurry to get your education knocked out, you can go through the required courses in a span of two to three weeks.

    The total cost of the real estate education is going to depend on the type of instruction you select. Classroom courses are typically the most expensive option thanks to the expense of operating a physical facility, purchasing books and hiring an instructor. Because they avoid these costs, taking online courses through an approved real estate education provider is usually the cheapest way to get educated.

    It sometimes can be a good idea to check with the larger real estate brokers in your local community before you make any final schooling decisions. Many real estate firms will actually subsidize licensing education for their sales agents; others may tender job offers to students who score well in their studies.

    Step 4. Take and Pass Qualifying Real Estate Courses

    Your real estate education is complete after you have finished the school's course of instruction and secured a Certificate of Training by passing the school's own test.

    The good news is that school tests are usually designed to closely mimic the licensing test administered by the state. Passing one is a strong indication that you will be able to pass the other.

    With that being said, almost all students will find both tests challenging. The certified real estate training courses involve absorbing a tremendous amount of information and retaining it. Mastering the material requires a great deal of diligence.

    Most schools are organized to break the material down into sections and they use quizzes to review your learning as you go. Review your exam questions carefully and ask for clarification if you need it to master tricky questions. Exam questions typically reappear on the final exam at the end of the course, and that exam prepares you for the state test.

    Never forget that this is professional education that you are paying for and devoting your time to. Get the most out of your investment by asking questions whenever you need clarification.

    Step 5. Schedule and Pass the State's Real Estate Exam

    Despite the similarities between the two tests, you are not going to want to leap straight from the school exam into the state licensing exam. In order to maximize your performance, you need to study intensively for the state test. Most schools provide study guides to help you get ready.

    Take a hint from some of the agents who have gone before you: Devote as much time as possible to studying the real estate terminology glossaries provided in your study material. Failure to study and confusion over the precise meaning of specific industry terms causes far too many aspiring agents to fail their required tests.

    Step 6. Pass Your State's Licensing Exam

    Oddly enough, few states now administer their licensing tests directly. This task is usually entrusted to a company specializing in education and testing. You will doubtless receive specific details for your own state in the course of your licensing classes.

    One common thread running through all the states is that you must take the licensing exam in person; there are no online versions. You will have to supply documentation verifying your identity before you're allowed to take the test.

    The test will involve paying a fee and having your photograph taken (this is another fraud-prevention measure). The test itself is administered via computer, and you will be allowed to work in a private cubicle. Although you'll have a limited amount of time to complete the multiple-choice questions offered to you, most agents find the time allotted more than sufficient to complete the test.

    Good study materials will prepare you for the format of the test questions as well as their subject matter. With ample preparation, you should not experience any uncertainty in completing the test.

    Licensing test results are delivered to you via mail. Failure at this point would oblige you to retake the test; rules on how frequently it can be taken vary from state to state. You will have to pay the testing fee each time you try to pass.

    Step 7. Getting Your Inactive Real Estate Sales Agent License

    The state will only conduct the necessary background checks on you after you formally apply for an agent's license, and this can only be done after you have passed the test.

    (This is why it is smart to check your state's requirements at the very beginning of the process!)

    Assuming the background checks do not turn up any problems, your inactive real estate license will be mailed to you after you complete your application.

    Step 8. Working under the Sponsorship of a Broker

    In order to keep newbie agents from making poor deals, they are not allowed to operate independently in the beginning. The next step in your career is to work under an established real estate broker who will sponsor you.

    You and your sponsoring broker must complete and request sponsorship online by submitting a "Sales Agent Sponsorship Form". Once this has been received and accepted by the commission, an active real estate sales agent license will be issued. This will allow the license holder to actively practice real estate under the sponsorship of the broker.

    As part of working with a broker, your license will be turned over and displayed publically in his or her office. This is the formal act referred to in the industry as "real estate license hanging."

    The state could actually cancel your license if you behave in an unethical manner or fail to meet your continuing education requirements. Otherwise, your license will travel with you through your real estate career.

    Though the amount of material you need to master is a lot, the process of earning your real estate license is very straightforward.

    Study hard and do well with your licensing tests; earning your real estate license may be the first chapter in your story of success!