Real Estate

Breaking Into Real Estate: Essential Steps to Launch Your Career

Real estate agency is an exciting, appealing prospect for professionals, whether they’re starting out or changing careers. While there’s no predetermined trajectory, there are costs, activities, and requirements to consider. Here, we’ll outline the steps involved in becoming a real estate agent.

Meeting State Requirements

Every state has real estate education and age requirements, with some states being stricter than others. Most states require agents to be at least 18 years old and have a GED or high school diploma. Montana is a notable exception, in that licensed real estate agents only need a 10th-grade education.

Completing Coursework

No matter which state you’re in, you’ll need to complete preliminary courses before getting a real estate license. State coursework requirements vary, ranging from 40 hours in New Hampshire and Michigan to nearly 200 hours in Texas. When working toward real estate licensure, choosing the right classes will increase your chances of success.

Background Checking and Fingerprinting

Criminal background checks and fingerprinting are two of the most crucial steps in real estate licensure. While several states don’t require fingerprints, all run background checks based on applicants’ information. The data gathered here is combined with criminal record disclosures and used to determine licensing eligibility.

Passing the State Exam

Another significant step in becoming an agent is to take your state’s real estate examination. These exams are issued by national providers, except in New York and California. Exams cover state and national topics studied during preliminary coursework, including:

  • Land use regulations.
  • Property ownership.
  • Financial analysis.
  • Property valuation.
  • Property transfers.

Every state offers a real estate agency candidate handbook, which lists details on exam length and topics. Review the handbook carefully before taking the licensing exam.

Getting Sponsored by a Real Estate Brokerage

After passing the state exam, you’ll need to find a sponsoring brokerage. The most successful agents choose brokerages based on their business preferences and areas of expertise. While it is possible to start as an independent agent, getting sponsored by a brokerage makes the process easier.

Getting E&O Insurance

When working toward real estate licensure, you may be surprised to learn that most states require agents to have E&O or errors and omissions insurance, which protects professionals from blunders made during service. While some brokerages provide this coverage, most agents must buy it themselves and submit coverage documents with their applications. Check your state’s requirements before purchasing errors and omissions insurance coverage.

Applying for a License

The final step in becoming a real estate agent is to apply to the state real estate commission. Most application forms consist of basic information, including names, addresses, and background data. Although most states offer online portals, others only accept paper applications. Before applying for a real estate license, research the state’s application requirements.

The Licensing Timeline

The length of time required to become a real estate agent varies depending on several factors, including location and availability. Expect to spend up to 90 hours in the classroom, along with the time taken for study and the exam itself.

The Takeaway

Learning how to get licensed is time-consuming and confusing, but these steps will guide you in the right direction. By researching the process and meeting your state’s requirements, you’ll set yourself up for real estate success.

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