A real estate agent is someone legally licensed to represent buyers and sellers in property transactions. While the specific licensing criteria differ by state, to become a real estate agent, you must meet state requirements, complete prelicensing classes, pass the exam, find a sponsoring broker, and submit an application to the state real estate board.
Here are the steps to becoming a real estate agent.
1. Review Real Estate Requirements for Your State
Before enrolling in classes or registering for the licensing exam, check your state’s requirements for real estate licensure. To do so, navigate to your state’s real estate commission website and research your state’s minimum licensing requirements. We also offer the following state-specific guides that can walk you through the licensing process:
Most states require applicants to be a minimum age, hold United States citizenship, complete coursework, and pass a state-specific licensing exam in order to conduct real estate transactions within their state lines. However, some states do have reciprocity agreements with others, which can allow you to conduct business without applying for a secondary license.
2. Complete Real Estate Prelicensing Coursework
Once you have determined the basic licensing requirements in your state, go to your state’s real estate commission website and find out what prelicensing courses are required and if you can take them online. While not every state allows you to complete your prelicensing coursework online, many do, making it a great option for those who like the convenience of web-based learning and the flexibility of self-paced instruction.
Learn more about the best online real estate schools and how each school measures up against the others. When you find an online real estate school that fits your needs, enroll through their website and complete the required coursework and course exams. Each one will provide proof of coursework completion you can submit with your license application.
You can also take our quiz to find out which of these schools is best suited for you:
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3. Register for & Pass Your State Real Estate Licensing Exam
Register for your real estate exam through your state’s real estate commission website. You may have to provide proof of completed prelicensing coursework, and you will owe a registration fee that ranges from $50 to $100.
Consider taking an exam prep class in order to fully prepare you for the licensing exam. You can find a course that offers valuable study tools like flashcards and practice tests. Once you feel confident about your mastery of licensing topics, you’re ready to take the exam.
4. Find & Join a Sponsoring Broker
Once you pass your exam, you must find a brokerage willing to sponsor you before the state grants you a license. A sponsoring broker can give you mentoring, training, and work experience. Find brokers in your area and schedule interviews with them to talk about sponsorship. Make a list of questions to ask the broker during the interview.
Then, examine the pros and cons of each brokerage, considering benefits like training, team support, mentorship, and lead generation. Once you choose your top choice, reach out and ask if they will sponsor you as their new agent. Learn more about how to choose a real estate company to work for.
5. Submit Your Real Estate License Application
When you have completed your courses, passed the exam, and found a sponsoring broker, you are ready to submit your license application. Go back to your state’s real estate commission website, fill out an application for a real estate license, and pay the application fees, which cost $300 to $400, depending on your state.
Some states require a criminal background check and fingerprints to complete your application. If this is the case, you will need to pay $125 for your background check and submit your fingerprints for review.
After submitting a completed application, you will have to wait up to six weeks to be notified of application approval. Some states send a preliminary notification of license approval by email so you can quickly notify your sponsoring broker, but most will only provide official notification by mail.
For more on information on these five steps, visit our step-by-step guide on how to get a real estate license.
How to Start Marketing Your Real Estate Business
While earning a real estate license allows you to identify yourself as a real estate agent or salesperson, becoming a successful real estate agent requires a different type of work. You will still need to create and execute a marketing strategy focused on earning trust and building relationships. This will help you find your first clients and ensure more leads are sent your way.
Focus on Networking
The most important thing you need to do as a new agent is to spend time networking. Find opportunities to introduce yourself as an agent in casual settings. By building relationships with people in your area, you will become known as a successful and respected real estate agent and it will be easier for people to contact you when they need help with their property.
There are many ways to network in-person, online, and at organized events. You can also join the National Association of Realtors (NAR), which is the largest professional real estate association in the country. It also gives you the designation of Realtor, which many clients perceive as both trustworthy and a mark of expertise.
If you want to join, visit the NAR website to fill out an application and pay the $150 yearly fee. This fee covers admission to local and national networking events, continuing education classes to improve your sales and marketing efforts, and the real estate agent designation.
Choose a Farm Area
As a real estate agent, your license allows you to help clients buy and sell properties anywhere within your state’s borders. However, trying to reach every potential client in your state will be a waste of your time and effort.
Instead, your marketing efforts should start with determining the geographical area where you want to focus. This is called your farm area. By focusing on one specific location, you can make strategic connections, build a strong reputation, and maximize all of the time and money you spend on marketing.
Utilize Real Estate Lead Generation Tools
While the best leads are those that result from networking and organic outreach within your farm area, there are also a number of lead generation tools you can use to help bring potential clients to you. A real estate website is one such lead generation tool.
Fortunately, you can choose from a variety of high-quality lead generation website builders that are designed specifically for real estate agents. These site builders are often integrated with a customer relationship management (CRM) tool. This means that in addition to showcasing your listings and establishing your expertise, your website builder can help you with lead follow-up and staying on top of client communication too. Examples of some of the best include:
Real Estate Lead Generation Software
(Best Overall) Agents seeking an easy-to-use website with CRM and managed advertising
Agents who want an IDX website and CRM to generate and manage Zillow leads
Teams seeking IDX websites with lead assignment and follow-up tools that include a live client concierge
Agents wanting a customizable IDX website that’s built to meet their specific needs
Agents seeking IDX websites with enhanced search filters and an intuitive CRM
Real estate agents looking for an affordable, easy IDX website for lead generation
We also have a guide on the top ways to generate real estate leads you can reference for other suggestions as to how to grow your sphere of influence and earn more clients.
Tools & Resources for a New Real Estate Agent
While the best leads result from networking and organic outreach, there are a number of companies offering tools that can be used to save time and money. It is a good idea to ask your new co-workers what tools they use for lead generation, which CRM they prefer, and what marketing platforms they favor.
However, here are some of the tools and best real estate lead generation companies we’ve found to help you get started:
Characteristics of a Successful Real Estate Agent
Learning how to become a real estate agent only takes care of the education and legal sides of representing buyers or sellers in property transactions. Successful agents also have to hone their skills to ensure they’re efficient, approachable, organized, and engaged. Look past the education and professional side of being a real estate agent to consider if you have the right skill set to be successful in the real estate industry.
Here are the standout characteristics of a successful real estate agent:
- Sales skills: Sales skills—that is, the ability to make a compelling argument for a purchase—are the backbone of any real estate career.
- Marketing and sales knowledge: You should at least understand the basic concepts of real estate advertising, marketing, copywriting, and public relations to thrive in real estate.
- Expert in time management: Real estate agents need great time management skills to juggle their hectic schedules.
- Extroverted and outgoing: Analyze your social and listening skills; if you regularly pick up on small details and people confide in you, then you might be a good real estate agent.
- Enjoy learning: Many states require several hours of post-licensing education as a requirement for maintaining and renewing your real estate license.
Read more important tips about how to be successful in real estate.
How to Become a Real Estate Agent Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How much does real estate school cost?
Real estate prelicensing courses typically cost between $200 and $1,000, depending on your state. Some states—like Texas—require 180 hours of coursework that costs upwards of $5,400, depending on your package and real estate school. Other states, like Florida, require only 63 hours and cost $99 to $435 depending on study aids.
Can I take real estate classes online?
It depends on the requirements of your state. Many states allow agents to take their real estate prep classes online through a certified school like Real Estate Express. To find out if your state allows you to take classes online, click here and select your state from the drop-down menu.
What does it cost to submit a real estate license application?
The real estate license application fee is between $300 and $400, and should be submitted directly to your state real estate commission. For states that require fingerprints and a background check to approve a real estate license, you can add approximately $125.
How much do real estate agents make?
A full-time real estate agent earns between $40,000 and $75,000 a year, depending on experience and location. These estimates also depend on the health of the housing market, how much time an agent invests in his or her business, and the average sale price of homes in their area. Learn more about real estate agent salaries.
Is there a difference between prelicensing & exam prep courses?
Prelicensing coursework is required by your state to schedule your licensure exam. Exam prep classes are additional study classes—not required by the state—that help you master exam materials.
Learning how to become a real estate agent starts with the research of your state’s requirements for licensure and leads to finally having a real estate license. However, that’s only the beginning of your real estate career. We’re always generating new content. You can check back or subscribe to our free real estate newsletter for more tips as to how to grow in your career as a real estate agent.