Are you considering a career change and wondering how to become a real estate agent in Illinois? The process isn’t as lengthy as you may have guessed. Sure, you will be required to take 90 hours of prelicensing coursework and pass the Illinois Real Estate Broker Examination. But in less than a year, you could be showing penthouses in the Water Tower Place or bungalows in Springfield.
That said, before you quit your day job, it’s important to think through this decision. There are costs involved with becoming a real estate agent in Illinois. You also should think about whether you’re ready to become your own boss and work solely on commission. It’s also worth noting that Illinois is unique in that the state requires beginning agents to pass the broker exam instead of simply the real estate salesperson exam.
Let us help you walk through this decision-making process. We’ll explain the cost, time commitment, the prelicensing coursework and exam. Finally, we’ll help you figure out if a career in real estate is right for you. Let’s get started!
How Long Does It Take to Become a Licensed Real Estate Agent in Illinois?
It takes most people between three to six months to become a broker in Illinois. The exact length of time depends on you. Some applicants need longer than others to complete the 90 hours of prelicensing coursework. Some need weeks to study for the exam, and others may require days.
The length of time it takes to become a real estate agent in Illinois also is dependent on how long it takes for the state department to process your application, but plan on it taking around 45 days.
Regardless of how long it takes, it will take even longer if you don’t start the process today.
How Much Does It Cost to Get an Illinois Real Estate License?
It costs around $1,000 to get your Illinois real estate broker license. Some of these costs are the same for every applicant. Everyone pays $55 to take the exam and $125 to apply for the license. Every broker pays the same membership fees to the National Association of Realtors and the Multiple Listing Service.
Some of these costs are dependent upon which real estate school you choose for your prelicensure course. Schools like Real Estate Express allow you to finish your prelicensure coursework easily and affordably. Their packages also include test prep materials that will help you prepare for the Illinois Broker Exam.
Illinois Real Estate License Costs
|Prelicensing Classes (90 hours)|
|Test Prep Materials|
|Illinois Broker Examination Fee|
|Application Fee for Broker License|
How to Get an Illinois Real Estate Agent License in 7 Steps
Before we begin our overview on how to become a real estate salesperson in Illinois, we need to note the changes the state made to the profession a few years ago. Previously, those who helped clients buy and sell homes were called real estate agents. Brokers were agents who sought additional training and were licensed to manage real estate offices.
Currently, everyone who enters the profession must take the broker exam. If you want to advance in your career and manage an office, you must become a managing broker.
This is one of the only states that has this weird distinction.
1. Determine If Becoming a Real Estate Broker Is Right for You
For some, working as a commissioned salesperson means that there are months of feasts but also months of famine. This can be a stressful lifestyle to manage. It takes careful budgeting and financial awareness.
On the other hand, there are benefits to working as a commissioned real estate broker. You have a flexible schedule, even though you will be required to work a lot of evenings and weekends. You also have the potential to earn a lot of money, since both buyer’s agents and seller’s agents can earn a 3% commission.
And unlike some careers, most real estate agents who put in extra time and effort will be rewarded financially, as opposed to people who have salaried jobs and earn the same regardless of how hard they work.
Reach out to professionals 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.
Here’s what rock star Chicago broker Brittany Wrenn had to say:
“Real estate in Illinois is very cyclical, and sales volume tends to correlate closely with the weather. This can be especially difficult for new agents to navigate as it can cause extremely low sales volume in the beginning of your career during the ‘slow season.’ I would say that above all else, getting used to being on full commission salary and having a block of time during the year with little to no sales was a huge source of stress for me.
“Even though I had already been in the real estate industry for roughly three years prior to getting my broker license and was familiar with the ebbs and flows of real estate in Chicago, the winter months were difficult to get used to.”
If you want to work as a broker in Illinois, most professionals will suggest that you have enough savings to support yourself for a few months, and enjoy things like cold calling and not having a traditional schedule.
2. Take Advantage of Reciprocal License Opportunities
If you worked as a real estate agent or broker in another state, you might be able to obtain your license to operate in Illinois rather easily. According to the Real Estate License Act of 2000, Illinois has reciprocity with the following states:
If you received your license in one of those states, you need only take the Illinois State Supplemental examination. Once you pass this 40-question test, you can fill out your license application and start working as a broker in Illinois.
3. Take the Prelicensing Coursework
Being a real estate broker is much more complicated than what you see on TV. As a broker, you are responsible for helping your clients with one of the most important financial decisions of their lives.
That’s why the State of Illinois requires that you not only pass the Illinois Broker Exam, but you also have to take 90 hours of courses to become a broker. The 90 hours are divided into two segments. The first 75 hours of classes cover real estate broker topics such as real estate law, fair housing, and appraisals. The next 15 hours are classroom or live webinar classes that cover applied real estate principles such as working with multiple offers or how to sell distressed properties.
The courses need to come from a real estate school that was approved by the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. We regularly recommend Real Estate Express as a starting point because of their competitive pricing and strong exam prep materials.
What Will I Learn in My Prelicensing Classes?
Your 90 hours of courses will cover a wide variety of topics. The Illinois real estate commission mandates each of the subjects.
The 75 hours of courses will cover the following topics:
- License Law
- Real Property
- Structure of Agency
- Seller Relationships and Counseling
- Buyer Relationships and Counseling
- Illinois Law
- Federal Laws
- Marketing and Advertising
- Real Estate Transactions
- Contract Knowledge
- Independent Contractor/Employee Agreements
- Property Management
The 15 hours of applied real estate principles will cover the following topics:
- Listing Preparation
- Buyer Representation
- Agency Types
- Presenting and Negotiating Offers
- How to Deal With Multiple Offers
- How to Manage Assistants
- How to Perform CMS and Pricing
- How to Minimize Risk
- How to Handle Escrow Accounts
- How to Handle Distressed Properties
- Anti-trust Topics
- Inspection Repairs
As you can see from the list of topics covered, becoming an agent is a serious business. While you should understand the severity of the topics, don’t let the list keep you from enrolling in the courses. Other real estate agents before you have learned this information, and you can do it too.
Should I Take My Prelicensing Class Online or in Person?
To become a real estate broker in the State of Illinois, you can choose to take on-site classes or online classes. On-site courses are the more expensive option. Online courses allow you to work at your own pace and receive the same material at a much lower cost.
The State of Illinois requires that 15 of the 90 hours of coursework to be “interactive.” This does not mean you have to enroll in on-site classes for this part of the training. The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation knows that not everyone can attend a face-to-face class. That’s why they allowed the 15 hours of interactive courses to be presented as live webinars.
Review the best Illinois real estate schools and choose the one that is best for your budget and learning style.
4. Apply for the Illinois Real Estate Broker Examination
Your first step in taking the Illinois Broker Exam is to register with PSI. PSI is the testing service the State of Illinois uses to administer the broker exam. Before you can sit for the exam, your real estate school will need to electronically submit documents that prove you completed the 90 hours of classes. Your real estate school will not be able to fulfill this requirement until you register with PSI.
After PSI has received notice that you have completed the courses, you can visit www.goAMP.com to register for the broker exam. You can also call 800-345-6559 to complete this process. For instructions on how to fax or mail the application, visit the Candidate Handbook prepared by the State of Illinois.
The Illinois Real Estate Licensing exams are administered Monday through Friday at most locations. Some locations may offer Saturday testing as well. You must schedule an appointment to take the exam. Walk-ins are not allowed.
Once you have picked the day and time that works best for you, you will pay the $55 exam fee by credit card.
5. Pass the Illinois Real Estate Broker Exam
If it has been a while since you have taken a standardized test, you may feel some anxiety over taking the broker exam. As you approach your testing day, remain calm and have a positive attitude.
What Is the Format for the Illinois Real Estate Broker Exam?
You will have three and a half hours to complete the multiple-choice Real Estate Broker Exam. The exam covers national as well as Illinois-specific topics.
There are 100 national broker exam questions. Here’s the breakdown of each topic and how many of those questions will be on the exam:
Agency Relationships and Contracts 28
Real Property Ownership/Interest 13
Real Property 14
Marketing Regulations 10
Property Management 8
Real Estate Calculations 13
You will need to answer 40 multiple-choice questions for the Illinois portion of the broker exam. Here are the topics, as well as the number of questions designated for each subject.
Licensing Requirements 10
Laws and Rules Regulating Real Estate Practice 20
If you find that you are running out of time during the exam, go back and make an educated try for each question. There is no penalty for guessing.
What Should I Bring When Taking the Exam?
Bring two valid forms of ID when you arrive at the testing facility. At least one needs to be a government-issued photo ID that includes your name and signature. This may consist of a driver’s license, a state ID card, a passport, or a military ID.
The second form of ID must have your name and signature. You can use a credit card, Social Security card, or an employment or student ID card.
Finally, you will also need to provide biometric verification of your identity. This may include a fingerprint scan.
Besides your IDs, you may bring a non-programmable calculator that has no alphabetic keyboard or printing capabilities. The testing center will provide pencils and scrap paper during the exam. The exam will be given on a computer.
What Is Prohibited During the Exam?
Only wallets and keys are permitted in the testing center. You will be given a soft locker to store your wallet and keys with you while completing the test. You will not have access to these items during the length of the exam.
Cell phones and watches are not permitted in the testing facility. You will be asked to turn out your pockets to make sure they are empty before taking the test.
No food or drinks are allowed during testing.
When Will I Receive the Results of My Exam?
You will receive your score report from the testing supervisor after completing the exam. In the State of Illinois, you must pass both the national and state portions of the exam with at least a 75%.
Can I Take the Exam More Than Once?
Since Illinois requires that you pass both the state and national portions of the test, there is a possibility that you may have to retake only the un-passed portion. If this describes your scenario, you have one year from your original testing date to retake and pass the other part.
You can retake the exam up to four times. If you failed after the fourth attempt, you will be required to retake the 90 hours of coursework before you can sit for the exam again.
6. Find a Managing Broker
The State of Illinois requires that you work under a managing broker. A managing broker has taken 60 hours of additional training, has worked successfully in the industry, and has passed the managing broker’s exam.
Finding a managing broker to work under is a unique process. Managing brokers are trying to find brokers to best represent their agency. As a broker, you are trying to find a brokerage that offers you the best working terms.
How Do I Find the Right Broker?
Whether you live in the Chicagoland Area, Peoria, Springfield, or elsewhere, do your research on the best big-name real estate companies working out of your local area.
Once you’ve decided which companies to reach out to, ask the managing broker about the split, or how you and the brokerage will divide the commissions. Some brokerages will ask for a 50/50 split on commissions. Usually, managing brokers that offer an even split will not charge monthly desk fees.
Other real estate companies may allow you to keep between 70% and 100% of your commissions. Those brokerages will, in turn, charge higher monthly fees.
Some brokerages may offer you 70% of your commissions until you reach a cap. After you earn that prespecified amount, you will receive 100% of your commissions for the rest of the year.
As a new real estate broker, finding the right balance between commissions and desk fees may be tricky. Keep in mind that real estate brokerages do not offer any payment to their agents, so these negotiations with the managing broker are important.
7. Complete the Licensure Process
Once you’ve successfully passed the exam and found a managing broker, you are ready to complete the licensure process. Visit the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation website. From there, you will create a login, fill out the application, and pay the $125 fee.
You will be notified via email when the application has been approved. This State of Illinois does not offer paper licenses.
How Long Does the Application Approval Take?
Unlike some states, Illinois allows those who are waiting on their license to practice under the supervision of the managing broker for 45 days while the application is being processed.
If you would rather wait to practice until you receive the official notification that your license is on file, you may want to spend some time setting up some systems so you can hit the ground running once your license is ready.
First, take some time to find a customer relationship management (CRM) tool to manage your real estate leads and clients. An affordable real estate tool that offers personalized email and texting capabilities, like LionDesk, is a good place to start.
You probably also want to start working on your website. Consider using a real estate website builder like iNCom to help you create a professional-looking website that will bring you more leads.
How to Get a Real Estate Broker License in Illinois: FAQs
Do you have another question about the process of becoming an agent in Illinois? Perhaps we can answer it below.
How much do real estate agents in Illinois make?
According to Indeed, real estate agents make an average of $80,637 in the Land of Lincoln. This money comes entirely from commissions.
What are the legal requirements to become a real estate agent in Illinois?
If you would like to become a broker in Illinois, you must be 21 years old or older. You also must have graduated from high school or earned a GED. You must never have been convicted of a felony or other crime that has an essential element of dishonesty. You cannot be more than 30 days in arrears on any court-ordered child support payments. You also cannot owe state taxes to the Illinois Department of Revenue.
If you are 18 to 21 years old, you must show proof that you have attended at least four semesters of post-secondary education with an emphasis on courses in real estate. You also must meet all the above guidelines.
Should I be a full-time or part-time real estate agent?
If you are the sole breadwinner for your family, you may be hesitant to jump into the real estate game with both feet. If you have healthy savings, you may consider making this career switch, but you need to understand the risks associated with such a decision. Learn more about the pros and cons of starting out as a part-time broker.
Over to You
Are you ready to make a career switch? What are your biggest concerns about becoming a real estate broker in Illinois? Where are you in the process? Let us know by commenting below.