How To Get a Real Estate License in the US
You were looking for an enticing career – one that provides you with a solid income, freedom and flexibility – and decided to get a real estate license. Excellent choice, great timing: the real estate market in the US looks more promising than ever. In the last quarter of 2016, real estate prices in most metropolitan areas reached new record highs, says the National Association of Realtors.
Before you get too excited, remember that you must get your license to start reaping the long-term benefits of a rewarding career in the real estate business. We’ve compiled a list of requirements and essential steps to help you start off on the right foot.
Know your basics
Regardless of the state you’re based in, you have to meet certain general requirements, the details of which may differ slightly according to state. They include:
- a minimum age of 18-19 years
- legal US residency
- the completion of required pre-license education (courses related to the real estate industry)
- passing the real estate license exam
In addition, in most states you can expect to be asked for a high school diploma (or an equivalent General Education Development certificate) and you may have to go through a background check that includes fingerprinting.
Get educated on real estate
Various states may have different requirements in regard to specific real estate education. While most states ask for less than 100 hours of pre-licensing education, and some even less than 40 (Massachusetts 24, Kansas 30), in Colorado you must cover no less than 162 hours of education.
At the same time, many states offer amenities regarding real estate education. For instance, you can skip the required real estate courses if you have completed law school or passed the bar exam. However, you’d still be wise to learn all you can about real estate agent websites and online marketing – the business is very competitive after all, and you need every edge you can get.
Once you have completed the education requirements and your application was processed, you can take the real estate license exam. This test is usually multiple-choice, composed of two sections:
- Section 1 has questions related to national issues
- Section 2 usually focuses on state-specific issues
While this is a general overview of the process, expect to find a fair degree of variety in terms of number of questions and required number of correct answers, depending on the state.
Real estate license cost and requirements
You got the idea: the cost of getting a real estate license – time, effort and money – differs from one state to the other. As statistics show that Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston were among the hottest real estate markets in 2016, let us take a closer look at how you get a real estate license in Texas and what cost the real estate license entails.
Specifics: The Real Estate License in Texas
In Texas there are three basic requirements:
- You have to be a citizen of the United States (or a legal resident)
- You have to be 18 years of age or older,
- You must have your residency in Texas.
In terms of education, TREC (the Texas Real Estate Commission) requires the successful completion of a minimum of 180 classroom hours of specific qualifying coursework on:
- Real estate principles
- Law of Agency and Law of Contracts
- Promulgated contracts
- Real estate finance
You can take the pre-license courses at a community or junior college, at a university, or at commission-approved real estate schools. You can also look at the courses offered by local associations of realtors, so long as they are approved by TREC.
Texas real estate license exam: 110 multiple-choice questions
The real estate license exam in Texas consists of 110 multiple-choice questions, divided in two sections – national (80 scored questions, of which 10 percent involve math calculations) and state (30 scored questions).
You have 150 minutes (two hours and a half) for the national section, and another 90 minutes for the state section. In order to pass, you must answer at least 70% of the questions in each section correctly.
Keep in mind that the state pass rate for the real estate license exam in Texas is around 61% – so you’d better take it seriously!
A rough estimate indicates that the whole process – from enrolling in a course to getting the real estate license – may take three to four months, and cost between $800 and $1,200. The actual duration and cost depend mostly on the type of course you opted for – online or classroom – and, of course, on your own determination and energy.
Florida real estate license exam: State residency not required
For a quick comparison, in Florida – another hot market that ranks high in recent statistics, especially in Miami – the real estate license candidates must complete only 63 classroom hours.
The real estate sales associate exam includes 100 multiple-choice questions: 45 questions on real estate principles and practices, 45 questions covering Florida and Federal laws, and 10 questions requiring math calculations. To pass the exam you must answer at least 75 questions correctly.
The general requirements for getting a real estate license in Florida are fairly similar to the ones in Texas: you must be at least 18 years old, hold a high school diploma or equivalent, and have a Social Security Number. The notable difference is that Florida residency is not required.
Rewards: Motivating package, flexibility included
So you took your real estate licensing course and successfully passed your real estate license exam, either in Texas, Florida or elsewhere.
You have now become a real estate agent – a profession ranked by US News and World Report as one of the best five sales and marketing jobs in the US. With an average salary of $58,410 in 2015, and the highest earnings (the same year) of about $110,560, this is a job that is associated with an above average degree of flexibility and upward mobility.
Your new profession now offers not only the chance to start off quickly, work flexible hours and make a good income, but also the immense emotional reward of helping your clients navigate through one of the biggest and most meaningful events of their life: buying a home.
However, passing the real estate license exam is not enough for you to start enjoying these benefits and rewards, and to offset the real estate license cost.
License activation: the first step of your real estate career
The ink on your freshly printed license has barely dried, and you can’t wait to launch your career. The fabulous deals you’ve been dreaming about are just around the corner and you are eager to start negotiating them – to do that you must activate your hard-earned, real estate license.
This is an essential step that requires you to work for a certain period of time under the supervision of a real estate broker – preferably a well-established one, with solid experience and high reputation.
Brokers take responsibility for your actions as real estate agents during this “learning-by-doing” period, which normally takes between two and three years, depending on the state.
You don’t have to be employed by your supervising broker – you can enter different types of arrangements with the real estate brokerage where you undergo this sort of apprenticeship. Each brokerage decides how much you will be involved, as an agent, in the life of their office.
Some may ask you to spend a certain number of hours doing routine activities like calling people, or to organize “open house” events. Some will require you to go through additional training, while for others you can simply work from home – which takes a bit of know-how about real estate websites and efficient online marketing.
The financial arrangements during this period may also vary greatly, from splitting commissions evenly, to paying an annual base fee to the broker (without splitting commissions).
The future: Unlimited room for growth
Working under the supervision of a broker will help you acquire experience and improve your skills in the key fields of a real estate business: building a client base, using online marketing tools, advertising listings, assessing the property value, setting a fair asking price and negotiating an advantageous commission.
If at the end of this period you choose to become a broker, you will have to pursue additional training and take an exam for a real estate broker license. You will enhance your knowledge and learn to deal with additional issues like real estate investments, property management, construction and development and operating a brokerage.
Regardless of the path you take – whether you choose to establish and run your own brokerage, or to keep working as an agent or a broker for someone else’s brokerage – one thing applies to both options: you have unlimited room for growth. If you are well equipped with great personal determination, proper real estate marketing tools, energy, and a good plan, the only limit is the sky!