How to Get a Real Estate License in California

Apr 25, 2021

It doesn’t matter what kind of activity you are contemplating – whether you would like to become an agent, a real estate broker, or just want to buy or sell property in California, – you’ll need a real estate license to do that. There are some basic requirements you have to make sure you fit before going ahead with your plan: you have to be at least 18 years old, you have to qualify for  and pass the exam, and you have to pass a background check.

The difference between a real estate agent and a real estate broker lies in the amount of education and experience. An agent or salesperson cannot perform certain tasks that require a real estate license without a responsible broker, while a broker can work independently or, if they desire, start a brokerage firm and hire real estate agents to work for them. There is no prior experience required to become a real estate agent, and almost anyone can do it. However, if you wish to go further and obtain a broker’s license, there  requirements are more stringent –  you will have additional courses to take and undergo more rigorous testing; you will also need to have a minimum of two years of full-time experience working as an agent (or the equivalent) or a 4-year degree (see DRE requirements for specific details). All of this may sound a bit overwhelming, and the process may seem difficult and cumbersome, but if you are determined to acquire your license, this article will help you pursue your goal the right way.

How to acquire a real estate salesperson (agent) license in California

If you don’t know where to start with the whole process of getting the real estate salesperson license, here’s a step-by-step guide for you. If you are considering getting the license, the first thing to do is get on with your education.

Step 1. Find an accredited school that provides courses that you must take before acquiring the license.

Step 2. Complete your 135 hours of mandatory pre-licensing coursework. There are three courses you must take to be able to get the license: Real Estate Principles, Real Estate Practice, and an Elective. After you complete your coursework, you will have to pass the course final exam with a score of 70% or higher. As of 2020, you are given 3 hours to complete the 150-question exam.

Step 3. Submit your application along with the certificates and fees to the DRE. You must also do Live-Scan fingerprinting and send them to the DRE.

Step 4. Once your application has been approved by the DRE, the next step will be to schedule and take the California licensing exam with a minimum passing grade of 70%. You can select the test date and location – so you can take the test at your convenience!

Step 5. The final step is to choose a sponsoring California Broker with an active license. In order to legally practice as a real estate professional in California, an agent must work under a supervising broker, which can be either an individual or a company. When choosing a broker/brokerage firm, make sure to choose someone who is ethical, experienced, and a good fit for your particular needs.

How to acquire a real estate broker license in California

Here’s what you have to do to get a real estate broker license in the state of California.

Step 1. Gain the necessary real estate experience before applying for your license. This means an equivalent of at least two years of full-time licensed sales experience, and that experience has to be within the past 5 years. You’ll need to document your professional track record and submit it along with your application when applying for the broker exam.

Step 2. Complete 8 statutory-required college level courses, for a total of 360 hours. These include the following:

  1. Real Estate Practice; and
  2. Legal Aspects of Real Estate; and
  3. Real Estate Finance; and
  4. Real Estate Appraisal; and
  5. Real Estate Economics or Accounting*; and
  6. Three electives

If you already have your Real Estate Salesperson’s license, we’ve got good news for you! Those 135 hours go towards your total time, which means you only have to take 5 courses from the above!

Step 3. Get fingerprinted, if you haven’t already submitted those for your salespersons license.

Step 4. Submit the broker license/exam application with all the supporting documentation (don’t worry, the application has a checklist you can tick off so you don’t forget anything) and applicable fees. (Currently, Exam fee: $95, License fee: $300, so a total investment of $395).

Step 5. Schedule and take the Real Estate Broker Exam. The test itself consists of 200 multiple-choice questions, and you are given 4 hours to complete it. You must pass the exam with a score of 75% or higher.

After the license exam

Today, the exams are taken in electronic format, so you will get your results immediately after completion. They just ask that you don’t look at your results until you’ve exited the building. If you did not pass the exam the first time, don’t sweat it! Happens to a lot of great, hard-working people. You can retake the exam as many times as you want within a 2-year period.

Once everything is done, you get your license and are ready to work in your chosen field.

Final thoughts

If you’ve taken all of the above steps and passed your exam, congratulations! You are now a licensed real estate professional! Take a moment to celebrate your accomplishment –  it was not a small feat.

Just remember: California real estate licenses are valid for four years, and the state will notify you within 60 days of your renewal, so make sure to stay on top of that. Renewal fees will run $245 annually for an agent, and $300 for a broker.

Getting a real estate license in California is subject to specific regulations, but with time and a bit of effort, there’s nothing stopping you from getting one and starting a career of your dreams! Follow our simple step-by-step guide, and eventually you’ll have your license.