If you’re wondering how to become a real estate agent in California, we’ve got some good news for you. You’re only six steps away from your new career.
Getting a real estate license in California takes about four months and will cost you, on average, around $1,300. The process is simple and straightforward; all you’ve got to do is follow these steps and you’ll be launching your California real estate career in no time.
- Determine If a Real Estate Career Is Right for You
- Take the California Real Estate Prelicensing Courses
- Apply for California’s Salesperson Examination & License
- Pass the California Real Estate Salesperson Exam
- Join a California Real Estate Brokerage
- Complete the Licensure Process
Now that you know the basics, let’s dive into each step a little deeper, and afterwards we’ll review some of the most frequently asked questions about getting a California real estate license, including questions about cost, time, and how much you can expect to make as a California real estate agent.
Let’s get started!
How to Get a California Real Estate Agent License in 6 Steps
Before you can get a contract to host a new house-hunting show on HGTV, here are the six steps to becoming a real estate agent in California.
1. Determine If a Real Estate Career Is Right for You
Working as a real estate agent means that you won’t receive a regular monthly paycheck. In fact, you’re not guaranteed any money at all. You may have a difficult time wrapping your brain around this if you haven’t previously worked as a commissioned salesperson.
The benefit of working on commission is that some months you have the potential of making a lot of money. The difficult part of working with this pay structure is that during slow months, you may not have any income.
Talk with others currently working in the industry to see how they handle household budgeting while working on a commission. This type of compensation is not for everyone, and you’ll need a lot of drive to make this career work for you.
Pro Tip: Keep a Positive Attitude
Jon Gomez, Climb Real Estate
“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.”
2. Take the California Real Estate Prelicensing Courses
Real estate is much more complicated than most TV shows can make it seem. No matter what your TV says, you’re not qualified to become a real estate agent based on the fact that you enjoy pointing out features of high-end homes. As a real estate agent, you’ll be assisting your clients with one of the most important financial decisions of their lives.
The State of California takes your training very seriously. To become an agent in the Golden State, you need to take 135 hours of courses through a real estate school like Real Estate Express.
What Will I Learn in My Prelicensing Classes?
In your prelicensure courses, you’ll learn about key real estate principles and practices. You also need to take one class on each of the following subjects:
- Real estate appraisal
- Property management
- Real estate finance
- Real estate economics
- Legal aspects of real estate
- Real estate office administration
- General accounting
- Business law
- Mortgage loan brokering and lending
- Computer applications in real estate
- Common interest developments
Don’t let these topics scare you, but know that becoming an agent is not a walk in the park. You’ll have to develop a strong understanding of key financial, legal, and technical concepts.
Should I Take My Prelicensing Class Online or in Person?
You may be tempted to enroll in an on-site class to fulfill your classroom requirements. While there may be benefits to having a real-life instructor in front of you, know that this option is costly.
Online classes enable you to have a more flexible schedule and work at your own pace. If you struggle with a subject, you can go back and reread or re-listen to the materials. It’s also much less expensive than enrolling in a class that you have to drive to every week.
Our favorite provider for real estate prelicense education is Real Estate Express. They offer fantastic course options, a ton of great resources, and even some packages that come with test prep material. Click below to learn more and get started.
3. Apply for California’s Salesperson Examination & License
The next phase of your process is to apply to take the salesperson exam and apply for your real estate license. Sitting for the California real estate salesperson exam costs $60. The license application costs $245.
You’ll need to wait for your application to be processed and to receive the date, time, and location of your exam. In the meantime, get ready to hit the books and study for the test.
What Is the Best Way to Study for the California Real Estate Exam?
You can purchase exam prep materials from an online real estate school. Or, you can even sign up to attend actual classes so instructors can help you study. Those options cost around $200. If you choose to work with Real Estate Express, exam prep is included in all packages but one.
4. Pass the California Real Estate Salesperson Exam
You’ll receive notice of your exam date, time, and location. The exam is offered in many locations, including Fresno, the Los Angeles area, Oakland, Sacramento, and San Diego. If you need to reschedule your exam, you may have to pay a rescheduling fee.
What Is the Format for the California Real Estate Exam?
The California salesperson exam consists of 150 questions. They are all multiple-choice questions, and you’ll be given three hours and 15 minutes to complete the exam.
You’ll need to answer such questions as: Which of the following is an example of a freehold estate? Another example is: Who signs the promissory note and mortgage?
What Should I Bring When Taking the California Real Estate Exam?
Bring two valid forms of ID. At least one needs to be a government-issued photo ID. Also, bring the registration confirmation that you received to take the exam.
What Is Prohibited During the Exam?
Your exam proctor will be extremely picky about what you bring into the examination room. Of course, you can’t bring any electronic devices or preparation materials. You also may be asked to remove tie pins, watches, and other items that may seem innocuous.
When Will I Receive the Results of My Exam?
If you take your exam on a computer, you’ll receive the results immediately upon completion. If you take a pencil and paper format, you may have to wait up to one week to receive the results.
You won’t receive your exact score if you pass the exam. You will just know that you received a passing grade of at least 70%. If you paid for the exam and the license at the same time, you’ll receive an application for the license at this time.
If you did not pass, you’ll be given your score detailing the percentage of questions you answered incorrectly in each subject area. This information should help you prepare for the re-take.
Can I Take the Exam More Than Once?
You can retake the exam as many times as you’d like within two years following the date that you sent in your original exam application. You can schedule another examination time after you receive notice that you didn’t pass.
5. Join a California Real Estate Brokerage
Even when you pass your real estate salesperson exam, the State of California requires that you work under a broker. A broker has received additional training, has worked successfully in the industry, and has passed the broker’s exam. Brokers also have earned a license that allows them to manage other real estate agents.
Finding a broker to work under will feel like applying for a job. Some brokerages are very selective on who represents their brand. Others are happy to increase the number of agents working out of their office.
How Do I Find the Right Broker?
First, think about what real estate company you’d most like to work for. We’ve created an in-depth comparison of brokerage companies to assist you. Find out the best big-name real estate companies out there that might be the perfect jumping-off point for your new career.
Once you’ve landed some broker interviews, you’ll want to ask each broker you speak with 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.
You may discover that the brokerage will give you 70% to 100% commissions. Those brokerages will, in turn, charge higher monthly fees.
Some brokerages may offer you 70% of your commissions, which may rise to 100% after you have met a specific sales goal for the year.
You should also ask if there is a top amount that the brokerage will take from your commissions within a year, which is known in the real estate industry as a cap. Lastly, find out if the brokerage charges a monthly desk fee to be a part of the team.
Paying for the ability to work may sound foreign to you, but that’s how this industry operates. You’ll also need to get used to the idea that you’re working as a commissioned salesperson. Your income now entirely depends on your abilities and work ethic. Many agents start off part time so they can still bring in additional income as they’re learning the ropes.
6. Complete the Licensure Process
Once you’ve successfully passed the salesperson exam, you should receive the Salesperson License Application for the State of California. You must complete the application within one year of passing the exam.
As a part of the application process, you’ll be required to give your Social Security number or individual taxpayer ID number. You will also need to be fingerprinted and provide documentation showing you passed the prelicensure courses.
How Long Does the Application Approval Take?
It depends. You probably understand that sometimes the wheels of government turn efficiently and quickly, and other times they don’t. Even though you can’t work as an agent while you are waiting for your license, you won’t be bored.
During that time, you can learn as much as you can from others in your brokerage office. Hopefully, you can find a mentor to shadow while you wait for your license to process.
Also, you should spend some time learning how to use real estate software and marketing tools. Start with a customer relationship management tool (CRM) to keep track of your contacts. There are even free options out there like Freshsales.
Once you’ve got your license in hand, read our 11 tips for new agents to really start making a living from your new career!
How to Get a Real Estate License in California: FAQs
Did we skip over one of your questions? Get your answer below.
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. This time may vary depending on how long it takes for officials to process your application, complete background checks, and grade your exams.
The length of time is also dependent upon you. Some people finish the 135 hours of mandatory prelicensing coursework in six weeks, and some take longer. Some people put aside a week to study for the exam, and others may need longer. Lastly, since you have to be employed by a broker to become fully licensed, becoming employed may take some longer than others.
How much does it cost to get a California real estate license?
It costs around $1,335 to get your California real estate license. Some of these costs are the same for everyone, such as the costs of taking the exam, applying to get a real estate license from the state, and membership dues for the National Association of Realtors and the Multiple Listing Service.
Some of these costs are variable. For example, the prices of prelicensing courses and test prep may vary based on which real estate school you choose. To get your license quickly and affordably in California, we recommend Real Estate Express.
Real Estate Express has everything you need to take your 135 hours of prelicensing classes and prep for your exam with study guide materials. Click below to get started.
California Real Estate License Costs
|Prelicensing Classes (135 hours)|
|Test Prep Materials|
|California Real Estate License Exam Fee|
What are the legal requirements to become a real estate agent in California?
You must be 18 years old and legally allowed to work in the U.S. You cannot have any pending criminal indictments against you, and you cannot have any convictions for violent or home invasion related offenses.
If you have something of concern on your criminal record, it’s best to come forward with it instead of trying to hide your past mistakes.
How much do real estate agents in California make?
According to Indeed, real estate agents make an average of $92,372 in the Golden State. Keep in mind that real estate agents don’t make a salary; they are paid based on commissions.
Should I be a full-time or part-time real estate agent?
It depends on your circumstances. You will not receive a salary as a real estate agent. This means that some months you may have a feast and others a famine.
If you have a financial cushion or a partner who works, you may be able to jump into the real estate game with both feet. If not, you might want to ease your way in by working part time.
Which brokerages operate in California?
Every major national real estate brokerage works out of California. Choosing the right one for you depends on your abilities and interests.
If you’re interested in working with high-end real estate, you may consider looking into Sotheby’s International Realty. For those who feel comfortable working with technology, you may want to talk with a representative at Coldwell Banker. Some brokerages are known for offering healthier commission splits to agents, while others offer top-notch training.
California Housing Price Statistics
Curious about what the typical home goes for in different parts of California? If not, you should be! Remember, your commission is based on sales price, so the typical price of a home will affect how much money you make.
Median California Home Prices by Region & Typical Commissions per Sale
|San Francisco Bay Area|
|San Francisco (proper)|
Your journey into the exciting world of real estate is going to come with lots of questions. Luckily, The Close is here to answer them. Start by checking out our nationwide ultimate guide to getting a real estate license, where you can get even more wisdom and strategy for launching your new career. Also, don’t forget to visit our rundown of the best real estate schools in California for a complete picture of the best online options for soon-to-be California real estate agents.