How to Get a Real Estate License In California

A comprehensive guide to becoming a licensed California real estate agent

Home to coveted high-value properties, and over 38 million residents, California is overflowing with opportunities for real estate agents looking to start and grow their career. In fact, some of the top real estate producers on the planet call California home.

And it’s no wonder, since cities like Beverly Hills, San Francisco, and even Napa boast plenty of multimillion-dollar homes, with some reaching over the $100 million price range.

But how do you get a piece of the action? Getting your real estate license is simple.

In this article, we break down everything you need to know about how to get a real estate license in California and answer commonly asked questions.

1. Is It Worth Getting Into Real Estate In California?

Considering California’s median home value is in the $600k–$700k range, there’s plenty of money to be made as a California real estate agent.

While not everyone can service the upper-tier markets, the sheer volume of active buyers and sellers in California produces a huge need for qualified part-time and full-time real estate agents who can offer their expertise in a broad spectrum of price points and niches.

Another great advantage of becoming a real estate agent in California?

You can use your license to take advantage of the lucrative real estate investment, property management, and home flipping opportunities in California if at any point you choose not to work with clients but wish to keep your real estate license active.

In other words, a California real estate license pays off in a variety of ways that don’t even require committing to real estate full time or working with clients.

So if you’re thinking about getting licensed, it is certainly worth the investment if you’re willing to put in the work.

2. What are the California Real Estate License Requirements?

Before you can enjoy the perks of working with clients in this diverse market, you’ll have to get your license first.

The good news? Obtaining a real estate license in California can be broken down into six simple steps:

Step 1: Meet the general California real estate license requirements as outlined on the California Department of Real Estate Website

According to the California Department of Real Estate, there are just two main requirements for an individual to get their California real estate license, which are:

  • You must be at least 18 years old;
  • Must be honest and truthful. Conviction of a crime may result in the denial of a license. Failure to disclose any criminal violation or disciplinary action in an applicant's entire history may also result in the denial of a license.

If you meet these requirements, you’ll get the green light to move onto the next step in the licensing process.

Step 2: Complete the approved 135 hours of pre-licensing education

In California, aspiring real estate agents have the option to complete their pre-licensing education online or in person.

If you’re interested in how to get a California real estate license quickly, an online format may be your best option. For instance, Allied Real Estate School has online learning packages that range from the bare minimum for self-starters, to course packages that include live Q&As and access to supplemental business and marketing courses for those who want to hit the ground running once they obtain their license.

Plus, Allied students have the option to swap courses as needed, get hard copy textbooks, and study with digital exam flashcards to prepare for their exam.

Another huge benefit of taking these courses online is that since many of Allied’s course packages are self-paced, students can easily complete them while maintaining a full-time job as they transition into real estate.

At the same time, in-person classes are available statewide but may take a bit longer to complete and have less flexibility. For convenience, online options are always your best bet, and Allied Real Estate School offers a variety to choose from.

Step 3: Apply for the Real Estate Salesperson Examination

To apply for your real estate salesperson exam in California, you’ll need to complete either a Salesperson Examination Application, or a Combined Salesperson Examination and License Application, as well as pay any associated fees.

You’ll also need to provide transcripts proving you took your required pre-licensing courses and completed all 135 hours of study.

When you’re ready to apply for your exam, you’ll want to head over to the California Department of Real Estate’s website to grab your application and get step-by-step instructions for submission.

Step 4: Submit fingerprints for a background check

Any real estate license applicant in the state of California must submit one set of fingerprints. According to the California Department of Real Estate, applicants have the option of getting their fingerprints taken either after passing their examination or after they have submitted their examination application.

However, fingerprint processing fees are not refunded if an applicant fails to pass the examination.

Step 5: Successfully pass the California Real Estate Licensing Exam with a score of at least 70%

In California, the real estate licensing exam includes 150 questions you’ll need to answer within 3 hours and 15 minutes, with a score of at least 70%. Luckily for Allied Real Estate School students, we have a "pass or don't pay" guarantee so if you don't pass the exam, you'll get a full refund, no questions asked.

Step 6: Obtain sponsorship from a licensed California broker

In May 2020 alone, California saw over 93,000 registered brokers, which means there are plenty of brokers to choose from. Choosing the right broker is mostly a personal choice since you’ll be working closely with them.

Some questions you’ll want to consider as you choose a broker:

  • What kind of culture do I want to work in?
  • What kind of commission split am I looking for?
  • Do I want to work for a franchise or an independent broker?
  • What niche do I want to serve?
  • What kind of support and mentoring am I looking for in a broker or brokerage?

Having clear answers to these questions before you pass your exam is important. As a new agent, you’ll need a broker’s help with networking, marketing, and learning how to navigate deals.

In fact, it’s smart for pre-licensing students to start making connections with potential brokers before they pass their real estate licensing exam so they can start selling as soon as their real estate license application is approved by the state.

3. What’s the Difference Between a REALTOR™ and a Real Estate Agent?

You may have noticed people using the term “REALTOR™” and “real estate agent” interchangeably. However, there’s a difference between the two terms.

A REALTOR™ is a licensed real estate agent who also belongs to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). According to NAR, REALTORS™ are held to a higher ethical standard than agents who are unassociated.

Becoming a REALTOR™ has its own requirements through NAR, and is not automatically granted to real estate agents when they get their real estate agent license.

What does all this mean for an aspiring California real estate agent looking to get licensed?

Overall, getting your California real estate license is a clear-cut process. In just a few months, you can be fully licensed and ready to start closing deals. Now, let's take a look at what you can expect to earn as a California real estate agent.

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