California is probably the best place to start your new career, as the real estate markets from San Francisco to Palm Springs and Sacramento are some of the hottest in the country. This is an incredible opportunity for entrepreneurs, offering almost unlimited growth potential. So whether you are planning to do real estate part-time or are making it your new full-time career, we are going to share everything you need to know to become a real estate agent in California.
The California Department of Real Estate (DRE) requires that you be In order to become a licensed real estate agent in the state of California, you must be at least 18 years old and a resident of the state (or meet the criteria in the out-of-state licensing guidelines).
You’ll also need to complete the following steps:
Once you decide to become a real estate agent in California, you’re probably excited and want to get started immediately. Before you leave your current job, it’s important to have a solid understanding of how long it takes to get your license in California. Here is what an average timeline looks like:
As you can see, it typically takes about 4 to 5 months to get licensed. While this timeline estimate may seem a little daunting, we have a few suggestions on how you can expedite things…
If you stay focused, it’s definitely possible to become a real estate agent in California in less than two months.
There are several fees involved when working to become a real estate agent in California…
Getting a license is just the beginning! What many aspiring Realtors don’t realize is that there are several other costs to consider when becoming a real estate agent. Whether you’re building a new business and opening a dance studio, coffee shop, or starting your real estate empire, keep in mind there are always start-up costs involved.
Here are some of the most common expenses:
If you add up the costs to get your license and the expenses involved in becoming an agent, you’ll likely need somewhere between $1,550 and $2,900 to launch your new real estate career. There are other marketing and promotional expenses as well, but those are optional.
Learn more about costs to become a real estate agent in California:
To get your real estate license, you’ll have to attend a school that’s approved by the California Department of Real Estate. There are at least a dozen approved real estate schools throughout the state. Some are online, others in person, and a few do a combination of the two.
Here are a few of the most popular:
When shopping for the best online real estate schools, you’ll want to compare pricing, but there are a few other things you will need to consider:
In California, you must affiliate with a real estate brokerage in order actively help home buyers and sellers. This is often referred to as the “sponsoring broker” or “managing broker.” Picking the right brokerage to work with can be key to your success as a newly licensed agent.
We would recommend shopping for the best broker once you’ve completed the pre-licensing course and are waiting to take your state exam or while the California Department of Real Estate is processing your application. There are a few ways to do this:
When researching and interviewing different brokerages, keep in mind that many are independently owned franchises. So one RE/MAX or Sotheby’s office could be completely different from another that’s just 10 minutes away. The culture, training, support team, and sometimes even the fees and commission splits can vary from franchise to franchise.
While many newly licensed agents are focused on finding a broker with the best commission splits, we would highly recommend that you make commission splits #2 or #3 on your list. The most important thing you should look for in a brokerage is how they support brand new real estate agents. Do they have a formal training program? Will you have at least three other real estate experts you can reach out to if you have questions? And if so, are those experts available outside traditional business hours? Does the brokerage provide you with a mentor? And if so, what will the mentors do to assist you?
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You made it through 135 hours of classes, passed the state exam, and selected a great broker — congrats! The next step is getting you mentally prepared to build a successful, thriving new business in the Lone Star state!
Your pre-licensing course is primarily focused on learning the common terms, ethics, and laws when practicing real estate in the state of California. The courses don’t usually go into much detail (if any) on preparing home valuation reports, writing contracts, or the 101 ways to market and promote your new business. It’s up to you to get motivated and learn as much as you can!
Kerry Lucasse and the Building Better Agents team talk with hundreds of newly licensed real estate agents each year. Most have no idea how challenging the first year or two can be and how much you need to learn to be successful. This business is not as easy as it looks on TV! Real estate can be a rewarding and profitable business if you are a self-starter who is 110% committed to being successful and you have the support of a great mentor and brokerage.
Most agents will describe the real estate licensing exam as “not easy.” There are 150 multiple-choice questions with a minimum passing score of 70%. You’ll have 3 hours and 15 minutes to complete the state licensing exam.
The real estate course exam only has 100 questions and you’ll have two tries to pass. You’ll need to pass this before scheduling the state examination.
If you took the real estate licensing exam electronically, you will receive your exam results right after you complete the exam — instant gratification! If you took the exam in a paper format, you will receive your results via mail in approximately 5 business days.
It’s not uncommon for people not to pass the real estate exam on the first try. In California, they make it fairly simple for you to retake the exam, you just need to reschedule and pay the exam fee of $60 again.
Please note that you can’t reschedule the exam until you’ve received notification that you failed the exam. Once you have the notification, you can reapply online, using the DRE eLicensing Online System you can mail in your Examination Result Notice (form RE 418A) form along with the $60 exam fee to the DRE.
In order to become a real estate broker in California, you’ll have to have a minimum of two years full-time licensed salesperson experience within the last five years, or two years of unlicensed equivalent experience, or a four-year degree with a major/minor in real estate is required. Aspiring brokers will also have to take eight required college-level courses. Learn more about the CDRE requirements.
If you are a licensed agent in Florida or Arizona, for example, and would like to get your license in another state, many US states have a “reciprocity agreement” with one another. This means that you don’t have to attend any additional classes, you just have to pass the state portion of the exam to hold an active real estate license in that state.
In California, they do not have reciprocity with any other states in the US. If you’d like to become a real estate agent in Texas, you will have to take the pre-licensing course and pass the state exam.
The California Department of Real Estate (CDRE) requires that agents renew their real estate license every four years. Agents will need 45 hours of Continuing Education (CE) credits completed prior to the renewal. The state of California does specify the types of courses you’ll need to take to reach 45 CE credits. Some will be offered by your local Board of Realtors or your broker. Others you’ll need to enroll in an online course with an approved real estate school like, Real Estate Express, Kaplan or the CE Shop.
Honestly, it depends on what your goals are. If you just want to sell a few homes each year to friends and family, you’ll have to crunch the numbers to see if the cost of getting and maintaining your real estate license is worth it. With a median home sales price of $850,000 in California, agents generate an average of $24,000 in gross commission (before broker split) on each sale. If you sell one or two homes each year, the cost of acquiring and maintaining your real estate license is well worth it.
If your goal is to make this a full-time business, then becoming a California Realtor, then absolutely! The CA real estate market is booming and the commission earned on each sale makes it very possible to earn six figures in your first year.
It can be a challenge moving from a salaried position to a commission-based business, so it’s important to have at least four to six months saved so you have time to ramp up your real estate sales. If you don’t have that nest egg yet, you may want to keep your current job for a short period of time until you lay the foundation for your new real estate business.