7 Steps to Become a Real Estate Agent
Eric Bramlett, Aug 23, 2022
Step #1: Research State Requirements
The first step toward becoming a real estate agent is to research the licensing requirements in the state where you wish to work. Each state has a real estate regulatory agency that will provide detailed information about their requirements for licensure. In Texas, for example, the Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC) is responsible for licensing real estate agents and regulating the industry within the state. Therefore, the TREC website would be the first place you would want to visit to learn more about how to become a real estate agent in the state of Texas.
In most states, you will need to be at least 18 years old with no less than a GED or high school diploma in order to pursue your license in real estate. You will also be required to complete a minimum number of hours of coursework related to the industry, after which you will be required to take a test to demonstrate your knowledge. In addition, you will likely need to pass a background check, with most states requiring FBI fingerprinting as part of that process.
It’s important to note that many states have reciprocal licensing agreements with other states, which means you can use the license from your state to work as a real estate agent in those states, too. If you expect to move soon or simply anticipate having a lifestyle that involves frequently moving around the country, you may want to research your reciprocal licensing options in order to ensure you are pursuing a license in a state that will give you flexibility in the future.
Step #2: Take a Pre-Licensing Course
Regardless of the state where you wish to work as a real estate agent, you will be required to complete pre-licensing coursework before you will be eligible to take the state’s licensing exam. While the exact details and amount of time you will have to dedicate to this coursework may vary from one state to the next, typical coursework topics that you can anticipate studying include:
- Contracts and contract law
- Environmental issues
- Fair Housing laws
- Investments and taxes
- Law of Agency
- License and property law
- Real estate finance
Pre-licensing courses are typically offered in both an in-person and an online format, with costs ranging from around $250 to $600, depending on the state and school you choose to attend. Some schooling options to consider for completing your pre-licensing coursework include:
The amount of time it takes you to complete your pre-licensing course will depend upon state requirements, as well as the method you choose to complete the coursework. If you choose to complete the coursework in-person or through a virtual program that includes scheduled teacher-led direct instruction, for example, your coursework may take several weeks or months to complete as you follow along with scheduled class dates. On the other hand, if you choose to complete an on-demand online course or a textbook home study program, the amount of time it takes to complete the program will depend upon your level of commitment, your availability, and the pace you set for yourself.
Once you have completed your pre-licensing real estate course, you will receive a certificate of completion from the school you attended. This certificate proves that you have met the educational requirements for becoming a real estate agent as determined by your state. You will need to earn this certificate before you will be allowed to schedule your real estate licensing exam.
Step #3: Prepare for the Real Estate Licensing Exam
After completing the required pre-licensure coursework for your real estate license, you will want to create and stick to a plan for preparing for the real estate licensing exam. Some online schools offer test prep courses that you may find helpful for getting better prepared for the exam. In general, when preparing for the real estate licensing exam, you should focus on the following:
- Becoming familiar with real estate terminology, especially contract terminology and vocabulary associated with fiduciary duties and ownership types
- Practicing the math and memorizing the basic formulas used in real estate, including how to calculate area, property tax rates, simple interest, and commission
- Brushing up on federal fair housing laws
Taking practice exams will also help you prepare for the real deal. Not only will this help you familiarize yourself with the types of questions you can expect to encounter on the exam, but it will also help you pinpoint the gaps in your knowledge where you need to improve. The National Association of Realtors has numerous sample quizzes available online. You can also find several online companies that offer sample tests and test prep assistance. Real Estate Express, for example, offers a money-back guarantee with its test prep program. Meaning, if you don’t pass the exam, you’ll get your money back. All you have to do is submit your failure notice to the company within 30 days and they will issue a refund.
Regardless of the route you take in order to prepare for the exam, you can significantly reduce your nerves, build your confidence, and increase your chance of passing the exam the first time by coming up with a solid test prep plan and committing to it.
Step #4: Take the Exam
Once you feel properly prepared, your next step is to register for the two-part exam. Typically costing anywhere from $100 to $300, the exam includes a national portion as well as a portion that is specific to your state and its laws. Depending on the state where you are obtaining your license, you may have to take the exam within a certain period of time after completing your pre-licensing course. In Indiana, for example, you must pass the exam within one year of completing the coursework. Keep this in mind when deciding when to register to take the exam for the first time.
While the number of questions and time allotted to complete the exam varies from state to state, each state’s exam is typically presented in a computerized, multiple-choice format. Both sections of the exam will be scored separately and you must pass both in order to successfully meet your licensing requirements.
If you fail one or both sections of the exam, most states will allow you to retake the exam. The amount of times you can retake the exam, and the time you have to wait between retakes, also varies from state to state. In Texas, for example, you can retake the exam three times. If you still have not passed the exam after the third attempt, you will need to take additional coursework before you are eligible to take the exam again.
Step #5: Submit Your Application
Even after you have successfully passed the licensing exam, you cannot begin working in the real estate industry until after you have submitted your application and it has been approved by the state. When submitting the application, you will need to include all required documents as well as any required fees. Licensing fees typically range anywhere from $200 to $400, depending on the state. Required documents typically include proof of completion for the pre-licensing coursework, proof of passing the licensing exam, and background check documentation. If your background check reveals any criminal history or judgments against you, you will also be required to submit additional paperwork regarding these issues.
Step #6: Find a Sponsoring Broker
In order to officially activate your real estate license and begin working in the industry, you’ll need to find a broker who is willing to let you join their company. Your sponsoring broker is responsible for overseeing your real estate transactions and making sure you are abiding by the law and industry standards. Your broker is also responsible for ensuring you get paid.
In most cases, your pay will be in the form of a commission, commonly referred to as a “split”, based on your transactions. However, how exactly your commission is calculated will vary from one broker to the next.
Unfortunately, not all brokers are interested in taking on new agents. Therefore, you will first need to learn more about which brokers in your area are interested in expanding their team. Next, you will want to find a broker who is focused on the market that you wish to pursue and who has a solid reputation in the industry. It can also be helpful to learn more about the types of agents who work for the broker and their level of success in the industry, as this offers a solid reflection of what you can expect to see for yourself when working with that broker.
Other things to consider when selecting a broker include:
- Types of training programs available
- Onboarding methods
- Benefits packages
- Commission splits
- Fees (such as desk fees, tech fees, and fees for business cards and marketing materials)
- Opportunities for working as an assistant to gain additional experience in the industry
All of the fees and other costs associated with the brokerage should be considered when determining your potential income with that broker.
Step #7: Become a REALTOR
Technically, you do not have to become a REALTOR in order to work in the real estate industry. In fact, only about half of real estate agents take the extra steps necessary to become designated as a REALTOR. Nonetheless, becoming a REALTOR does offer numerous benefits.
One simple benefit of becoming a REALTOR is the extra credibility it gives to you as a real estate agent. As a REALTOR, you are part of the National Association of REALTORS (NAR). Founded in 1908 and boasting 1 million members, the NAR is one of the largest and most influential trade associations in the United States. For those clients who know the difference between a real estate agent and a REALTOR, the title alone can bring you more prestige and build greater trust within your clients. Those who understand the extra steps that it takes to become a REALTOR will also appreciate your commitment and dedication to your career.
Becoming a REALTOR also helps expand your professional network while providing you with greater support within the industry. Your REALTOR membership dues go toward helping the NAR advocate for your professional interests. In addition, your dues grant you access to the exclusive REALTOR MLS listings and Continuing Education (CE) classes. Not only are CE classes required to maintain your license, but they will increase your professional knowledge. Members also receive discounts on many products and services while gaining access to the REALTOR federal credit union.
In order to join the National Association of REALTORS (NAR) and be recognized as a REALTOR, you first have to join a local and state real estate association. Your broker will likely already participate in these associations and can point you in the right direction. By joining a local association, your membership will automatically extend to your state association, which will extend to NAR. It’s important to note, you will have to apply, pass an ethics course, and pay dues. As a member of all three branches, you will have to pay dues for each. Membership dues vary on the local and state levels, but are currently set at $195 per year with NAR. Generally speaking, you can expect to pay hundreds of dollars each year to maintain your standing as a REALTOR.