August 21st, 2023 at 11:00 am

If you love navigating the housing market and helping others find a place to call home, real estate might be the career track for you. Working as a real estate agent comes with a wide range of tasks, ensuring that no two days are exactly the same. You get to meet and work with interesting people, see some amazing properties, show them the benefits of owning a home, and play a major role in people’s lives. A big part of your work as a real estate agent is finding the perfect place to work at to start your career–and we can help! 

If you’re wondering how to become a real estate agent in California, you’ve come to the right place. Becoming a real estate agent in California can come with plenty of challenges, but with hard work, you can successfully get your license and help your community with its real estate needs.

We’ll provide you with a helpful breakdown of key information as you start on the path toward becoming a real estate agent. We have a detailed explanation of the real estate agent licensing requirements, valuable tips for passing the California real estate exam, guidance on how to choose a brokerage, and more – all to ensure you start your career on the right foot.

Prequalification and eligibility requirements

Before you even apply for any courses or classes, you have to meet the eligibility requirements to become a real estate agent. There is no national real estate license, meaning you have to meet the specific requirements of your state. In California, the prequalification eligibility requires applicants to be of at least 18 years of age and citizens of the United States. California REALTORS® conducting the application process must also be honest about any criminal violations or convictions, which can potentially result in a denial of your license application. You do not have to be a resident of California to apply for a license.

Many states have reciprocity laws, which essentially allow you to carry over your license between states. However, California does not have any reciprocity with other states, meaning that if you plan to move or practice in another state, you will have to pass the education requirement and take the exam again in that state.

Take pre-licensing courses

This is where the crux of your learning, training, and journey as a licensed real estate agent in California comes into play. All states require that you take pre-license education courses from a certified institution before you can take a real estate license exam. Whether you get your California real estate license online or in person, the pre-license courses are required. The hour requirements vary between states, but California is one of the more comprehensive states, requiring 135 hours of pre-licensing course instruction. This involves the completion of three college-level courses (45 hours each).

Furthermore, if you successfully completed the eight statutory college-level real estate coursework required to take the broker exam and license, you can take the real estate license exam without needing further proof of pre-license education.

Any courses you take must be four quarter-units or three semester-units, and they must come from an institution of higher learning that is accepted and accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges or a comparable regional accrediting agency. Alternately, the classes must be completed at a private real estate school that has its courses accredited by the California Real Estate Commissioner.

While this can seem limiting, most of the courses you see fulfill these requirements. This includes in-person and online classes. Choose wisely based on your budget and your own learning habits. Be selective about the school and instructors. The quality of both affects the lessons you learn and your potential to pass the licensing exam, as well as can help in your future as a licensed real estate agent.

Although passing the courses and getting all 135 hours of instruction is important, remember that the main purpose of the classes is to learn. What you learn in class can have an impact on your business when you do become a real estate agent, so take notes, ask questions, and soak up as much knowledge as you can, even if it does not seem usable at the moment.

Pass the licensing exam

With the 135 hours of courses under your belt and a pass on each course exam, you are ready to take the California licensing exam. Your instructor should explain the process of scheduling, registering, and paying for the licensing exam. If not, you can check the California Department of Real Estate’s official website, where you can also schedule your exam, find an exam center, and see all the necessary requirements when you register and check-in.

California’s real estate exams are generally administered in five main areas:

Exams are proctored and presented in an electronic format. The exam itself comprises 150 multiple choice questions with a total time limit of 3 hours and 15 minutes, giving you a little over a minute per question. In order to pass, you need to get 70 percent of the questions (that is 105 questions) correct.

If you fail the California real estate exam, don’t worry. You can retake it as many times as you need to, but keep in mind that you will have to pay a $60 fee each time you take the exam.

Complete your licensing application

Once you have successfully passed the licensing exam, congratulations! Most of the hard part of becoming a real estate agent is behind you, but you still have to complete your application. Prior to the exam, you can fill out a combination application, which essentially allows you to apply for the state exam and the license at the same time. If you didn’t, the state will send you a salesperson license application. In terms of price, there is no difference between the combination application and a separate salesperson license application, but it could save you some time. Complete the license application form and return it along with the appropriate fee (at the time this was published, the license fee is $245). You have within one year of passing your state exam to do this.

On top of the license application fee, the state will not issue a license until it performs a background check on you, which also requires you to submit one set of classifiable fingerprints that are acceptable to the State Department of Justice. You can get fingerprinted after applying for or passing the licensing exam, though the fingerprint processing fee of $49 will not be refunded if you don’t pass the exam. To get fingerprinted, fill out a Live Scan service request and take it to any participating Live Scan service provider. The Live Scan program essentially scans your fingerprints and sends them digitally to the FBI and DOJ. Once both institutions deem that you do not have a criminal history, you are ready to go!

You also need to provide evidence that you have completed your three real estate courses before the license is issued. Out-of-state applicants must also submit a notarized Consent to Service of Process form.

Once all of these materials have been submitted and approved by the state of California, the Department of Real Estate will issue your real estate salesperson license, which you can look up online at any time.

Choose a great brokerage

While getting a license is the most important step in becoming a real estate agent in California, in order to actually start your career, you generally need to receive a sponsorship from a broker. This essentially means getting employed by a broker as a real estate agent. California state law requires all real estate agents to work under a broker. The sponsoring broker is the one actually holding your license as a real estate salesperson. This person should have their real estate broker license and can help guide you through the first portion of your career.

Choosing the right broker can be overwhelming and comes down to your own preferences.

Here at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties, we are proud to offer many resources when it comes to a vast network, globally respected reputation, and extensive training and resources.

Career path as a real estate agent

Becoming a licensed California real estate agent opens the door to a rewarding career with big opportunity and upside potential. As you get started on your path, it can be helpful to keep in mind a few other factors that play a role in a real estate career. 

Advantages of becoming a real estate agent in California 

As an agent in California’s real estate market, there are several advantages to this career path: 

  1. Flexibility and Independence: Unlike conventional 9-to-5 jobs, real estate agents have the freedom to set their own schedules and manage their time independently. You can capitalize on this flexibility to strike the work-life balance you’re looking for based on your goals and priorities. 
  2. Unlimited Earning Potential: Your earnings as a real estate agent are directly linked to your performance and dedication. The more properties you sell, the higher your commission, presenting a great opportunity for financial growth. Commission rates may vary by brokerage, but typically range from 2.5% to 3% of the property’s sale price, which is then split between the buyer’s agent and the seller’s agent.
  3. Opportunity to Help Others: As a real estate agent, you are representing people in every transaction – this means you have the opportunity to make an impact on people’s lives by assisting them in finding their dream home or making a big investment. Your guidance and expertise will be invaluable to your clients. 

Diverse Work Environment: Every day as a real estate agent is unique – on the move, balancing tasks, and navigating new challenges. You’ll interact with different clients, explore diverse properties, and continually expand your knowledge and experience.

Knowing how to be a real estate agent in California is just the first step of a lifelong journey. Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties offers a wide range of real estate jobs in California, helping you grow and develop as a salesperson.

To learn more or to get in touch with us, visit our website today.

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One Comment

  • castoravon says:

    I especially appreciated the tip about completing the required courses early on—it’s definitely going on my to-do list. And the bit about networking? Spot on! Building those relationships seems crucial, and your suggestions on reaching out to established agents really hit home.

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