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How to Become a Real Estate Agent in California

Wondering how to become a real estate agent in California? Working as a Realtor in the Golden State is a smart choice. California is one of the areas in which real estate agents make the most money.

And while the real estate market is competitive, it’s actually not that hard to become an agent. Let’s take a look at what it takes to get a California real estate license.

The Process of Becoming a California Real Estate Agent

What does it mean to hold a real estate license in California? When you have a license, you’re legally allowed to perform real estate transactions in the state of California. Without a real estate license (and a broker), you cannot do this.

To become a real estate agent in California, you will:

  • Need to meet minimum qualifications.
  • Complete 135 hours of real estate school.
  • Pass the real estate school pre-licensing course exam.
  • Pass the California real estate exam.
  • Find a broker to sponsor you.
  • Complete your licensing application.

Of these, going to school is going to take the longest amount of time.

After you’ve done the above steps successfully and your license application has been approved, you’ll be able to start conducting real estate sales. You’ll be a fully licensed sales agent able to work under your managing broker, and you’ll maintain that license for four years.

Qualifications for Becoming a California Real Estate Agent

To become a California real estate agent, you will need to be at least 18 years old. You don’t need to be a California resident. There are no educational requirements. The only real qualifications to becoming an agent are to be dedicated, determined, and tenacious.

However, some qualifications can make the process easier. If you already have a degree in real estate, you can skip being a real estate agent and become a broker. For most, becoming a broker will have limited utility. Being a broker is only useful once you have a lot of experience in the industry. But if you already have substantial connections, it can help.

California written in the sand on a beach

Attending California Real Estate School

A California real estate agent must attend 135 hours of school before they can acquire their license. This includes 35 hours of “real estate principles,” 45 hours of “real estate practices,” and 45 hours of “real estate finance.”

Real Estate Principles

This section covers the fundamental principles of real estate, including how real estate transactions work, how real estate closings occur, and how to renew and maintain your California real estate license.

Real Estate Practices

This part of the course reviews essential skills that a real estate agent must have, including working with clients, determining how much a property should be valued, negotiating for buyers, pre-qualifying buyers, and more. This includes the practical parts of running a real estate business.

Real Estate Finance

Lastly, real estate finance covers in-depth information about real estate financing — how properties are financed, leased, and otherwise purchased. This is critical for real estate agents to understand how the transactions are actually managed.

These classes are important because they prepare you for the realities of holding a real estate license and prepare you for the California real estate exam.

There are many real estate schools to choose from. Some of them operate entirely online, some of them are in-person, and some have hybrid routines. It depends on your schedule and how you learn best.

Pass the Final Exams for Your Real Estate Courses

Each real estate course you take will have a final. To pass the course, you will need to get at least 70% on each exam. However, you do have two attempts to pass.

These tests are important because they test your ability to retain what you’ve learned so far—and they further provide you with the knowledge necessary to pass the next exam for your license.

Prepare for the Salesperson Exam (Optional)

If you’ve attended your real estate courses and gone through the real estate exams, you should be prepared for the salesperson exam.

Some prospective Realtors pay extra for a preparatory lesson on the California salesperson exam itself—but this is optional. Preparatory materials will go over exactly what’s on the California salesperson exam to ensure that you retain the knowledge.

An aerial shot of a neighborhood

Pass the California Salesperson Examination

The California salesperson exam will be an approximately 3-hour test that will be 150 questions long. Like the individual section exams, you will need to pass at least 70 percent to pass the state exam.

Once you pass the licensing exam, you aren’t already licensed. You still have a few additional steps to take.

Find a Sponsoring Broker

To get a salesperson license, you need to find a broker to sponsor you. This is the broker you will work with to help launch your career.

While you might need a brokerage, the brokerage also needs you. The brokerage is looking to sponsor a successful real estate agent.

You should be careful about choosing your sponsoring broker. Look for a broker that can help support you in your real estate career, has a good reputation, and has many listings in your area.

Finish Your Application

Once you have both passed your exam and found a sponsoring broker, you can finish your licensing application. The state will review and approve your application, and then you will be a full real estate professional.

As a real estate licensee, you can operate as both a residential and commercial real estate agent. You will have basic knowledge about real estate law and real estate finance. Your next step after a real estate salesperson’s license may be a broker’s license.

Congratulations! You’re now a real estate license. You will work with your broker to build up your listings and your network.

A real estate license and real estate school make it possible for you to conduct a real estate transaction, but no amount of pre-licensing education makes a good agent a good agent. An agent will have to be determined, motivated, and a hard worker if they want to succeed.

A road sign that says California

FAQs

What do you have to do to maintain your real estate license?

A Realtor will need to renew their California license every four years. To do this, you will need a 45-hour continuing education course. This will go over the industry and any changes to the current real estate practice.

How much does it cost to become a California real estate agent?

The cost of becoming a real estate agent will vary. It is around $900 for agents and $1,300 for brokers. The license exam is only $60, but there’s a $245 licensing fee. The broker exam costs more than the Realtor exam, but you cannot become a real estate broker without experience as an agent (or a four-year degree).

How do you become a California real estate broker?

Once you’ve become a real estate agent, you may set your eye on becoming a broker. A broker is going to need two years of full-time experience as a real estate salesperson first.

Alternatively, they can have a four-year degree in real estate. From there, you can become a licensed broker or an associate broker—which eventually allows you to have other agents work under you.

Does being a California real estate agent require a background check?

The state will conduct a background check when you get a real estate license, whether it’s a license as a real estate agent or a real estate broker. But that doesn’t mean they’ll disqualify you if you have past indiscretions. To get a California real estate license, you must not have a conviction of a crime that relates to real estate transactions. Otherwise, this would cast doubt on your ability to perform those transactions truthfully and reliably.

How long will it take to become a California real estate agent?

Getting your real estate license should take about five to six months. This may vary depending on how many times you need to take the California real estate license exam and how long it takes you to find a sponsoring broker. Getting your broker license will take longer, as you need years of experience in the field.

Kyle Handy

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