Ready to jump-start a new career and wondering how to become a real estate agent in California? The process of getting a California real estate license is more straightforward than you might think, which means you’re only a few months away from a flexible career with excellent income potential. Follow these five easy steps, and you’ll be launching your California real estate career in no time.
How much does it cost to get a real estate license in California?
It costs approximately $900 to $1,300 to get your real estate license in California, including your prelicensing education. Some of the costs are fixed, such as the state’s licensing and exam fees, while others vary.
While you don’t need a college degree to become a real estate agent in California, you must complete a state-specific licensing process. The price of the required 135-hour prelicensing courses (and optional exam prep materials) will vary depending upon the provider you choose.
California Real Estate License Costs
|Prelicensing Classes (135 hours)||$129 to $449 (through Colibri Real Estate)|
|California Real Estate License Exam Fee||$60|
|MLS Membership||$144.50 - $542 (CRMLS)|
|Total Costs||$774 - $1,200|
(California real estate license costs as of July 2021)
How to Get a California Real Estate Agent License in 5 Easy Steps
There are five steps in the process to become a real estate agent in California, and you must meet the following requirements set forth by the state: you must be at least 18 years and you must have a Social Security number or an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN).
Let’s explore the five easy steps and then we’ll answer frequently asked questions like “How long does it take to become a real estate agent in California?”
1. Complete a 135-Hour Prelicensing Course
Cost: As low as $119 with Colibri Real Estate
Time commitment: One month if taking a self-paced course; two to three months if taking in-person classes
To become a real estate agent in California, you need to complete 135 course hours through a state-approved real estate school like Colibri Real Estate. Your classes will cover topics like property management, real estate finance, and mortgage loan brokering and lending.
You’ll need the help of a highly rated California real estate school to get through this weighty material. Most people choose a real estate school based on the cost and the educational format of the course. Here are the most popular options.
Wherever you live in California, you should be able to find a real estate school that meets in person during regularly scheduled sessions.
Livestream classes are at scheduled times and are broadcast over Zoom (or another video conferencing tool). If you prefer to access your pre-license classes online, but you enjoy a live class that takes place in real-time, we recommend Allied Real Estate Schools.
At-Your-Own-Pace Online Classes
Online real estate classes are extremely popular for those wanting to become real estate agents in California. The course material may be presented in a series of slides, videos, and interactive content.
If completing online classes appeals to you, we recommend Colibri Real Estate. Colibri Real Estate is a powerhouse in the online real estate education space, offering prelicensing courses in all 39 states, plus Washington, D.C.
Their courses are affordable and expertly designed, presenting complicated material clearly and concisely.
6 Best Real Estate Schools in California for 2023
2. Complete the California Exam Application
Cost: $60 for the exam fee
Time commitment: 1 hour
The next step to becoming a real estate agent in California is to complete the California Department of Real Estate’s Salesperson Examination Application. The form asks for your address, Social Security number (or ITIN), and driver’s license number, so make sure you have those handy.
There’s a $60 fee for your exam application. You’ll need to wait for your application to be processed to receive the date, time, and location of your exam (or you can check the box asking to schedule the test on your own).
3. Pass the California Real Estate Exam
The California real estate exam testing sites are located in the following cities:
- Los Angeles
- San Diego
You should arrive 30 minutes early at the testing site. Visit the State of California’s Department of Real Estate page to review the types of government-issued identification they will accept, and their lengthy list of items you’re prohibited from bringing to the exam room (including common items like calculators, pens, and cell phones).
After completing the multiple-choice exam, you’ll learn whether you passed or failed upon completion. If you don’t pass, you’ll be given a detailed score report that will help you prepare for the retake. You can retake the exam as many times as you’d like within two years following the date you sent in your original exam application.
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4. Join a California Real Estate Brokerage
Time commitment: 2 weeks
The State of California requires that you work under a broker after passing the real estate salesperson exam. A broker has received additional training, has worked successfully in the industry for a minimum period of time, and has passed the broker’s license exam. Finding a broker to work under will feel like applying for a job.
Once you’ve landed some broker interviews, you’ll want to ask each broker about the split (or how you and the brokerage will divide the commissions). You’ll find that some brokerages will ask for a 50/50 split on commissions. Usually, brokerages that offer an even split will not charge monthly desk fees.
As a commissioned salesperson, your income entirely depends on your abilities and effort. Some brokerages may offer you 70% of your commissions, which may rise to 100% after you’ve met a specific sales goal (or a cap) for the year. It takes time to launch your new business, so some new agents choose to start part-time so they can still bring in additional revenue as they’re learning the ropes.
Can You Be a Part-time Real Estate Agent? (+ Free Guide & Videos)
5. Complete the Licensing Process
Total cost: $290
Time commitment: One hour to complete application
Processing time: Visit the state’s website
Helpful resource: California Dept. of Real Estate License Application
Youll need to complete the California License Application Form to get licensed as a real estate agent in California. The form asks for additional background information and requires a $245 fee. You’ll also need to locate and visit a live scan fingerprint service provider as a part of your background check. There’s a $45 fee for this service.
Then, you wait for your license application to be processed. The State of California publishes the current wait times on their website. While you’re waiting for the wheels of bureaucracy to turn, you can set up your social media accounts to promote your new business and research how other agents have succeeded in this exciting industry.
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How to Become a Real Estate Agent in California: FAQs
Still have questions? Get answers to common questions about how to become a real estate agent in California below.
Is the California real estate exam hard?
The California real estate exam pass rate was about 58% in the 2019-2020 fiscal year. This is the last year that the California Department of Real Estate reported the number of exams administered and the number of licenses issued.
What if I have a real estate license from another state?
California does not have reciprocity with any other state that would allow you to skip any of the requirements to obtain a California real estate license.
However, if your out-of-state real estate school is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges or a comparable regional accrediting agency, you might be able to use some of those credits toward your prelicensing education requirements.
On the other hand, if you have your real estate license in California, you can work as an agent in one of these states without going through the entire licensing process:
- North Carolina
[Related article: Real Estate License Reciprocity & Portability: A State-by-State Guide)
How long does it take to become a real estate agent in California?
It takes about four months to become a California real estate agent, depending upon the amount of time you need to complete the prelicensing classes and how much of a backlog there is in the licensing office.
Can I get my California real estate license online?
Unfortunately, you’ll need to go to one of the exam testing sites to complete your California real estate salesperson exam. But the good news is that you can complete the required 135-hour classwork from the comfort of home.
We highly recommend Colibri Real Estate. They are our choice for best overall real estate school in California. They are a powerhouse in the real estate education space and offer at-your-own-pace online or livestreaming courses that meet the requirements for the State of California.
Do real estate agents make good money in California?
According to Indeed, real estate agents make an average of $103,905 in California.
Keep in mind that real estate agents don’t make a salary—they’re paid solely on commissions. However, since the prices of California homes are some of the highest in the country, you might not have to sell too many to make a comfortable living.
California Housing Prices
Your commission is based on the sales price of the home. Here are the median home prices in each region of the state.
Median California Home Prices by Region & Typical Commissions per Sale
|San Francisco Bay Area|
|San Francisco (proper)|
(Source: Zillow Home Values, July 2021)
What are the pros & cons of becoming a real estate agent in California?
For many people, the ups and downs of a real estate career and the fluctuating income can be stressful. Unlike a salaried position, it requires careful planning, budgeting, and financial management.
However, there are many upsides to working as a commissioned real estate professional. Having a flexible schedule is a big trade-off for many people who gravitate to this career, in addition to having a huge earning potential.
While you may have to give up some nights and most weekends, you’ll earn commission on every property that you help your clients buy, sell, or lease, and you’ll be helping people make one of the most significant financial decisions of their lives.
Here’s what real estate agent Jon Gomez of Climb Real Estate had to say about the professional’s biggest challenge:
Pro tip: Keep a positive attitude
“If I had to pick one thing as the most difficult part of becoming a real estate agent, it would be maintaining faith in yourself that you’re going to be successful. Faith that you’re on the right path, and that the actions you’re taking every day will lead to that success. So much of what we do doesn’t show results in the short term, and it can be easy to veer off course, let doubt creep in, or talk yourself out of the career you knew you would thrive in. Even years down the road, after experiencing success, I sometimes still find myself turning to that blind faith to get me through the valleys in between the peaks.”
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