Getting an Illinois real estate license is a little different from other states. For one, all agents representing buyers and sellers are known as brokers, not agents, even if they don’t manage a team. The state also requires that 15 hours of its 90 required prelicensing hours be spent in interactive and practice-related courses via live webinar or in-classroom approved by the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation (IDFPR) instead of allowing aspiring professionals complete 100% of coursework at their own pace.
This guide will help you maneuver through these differences as well as the education requirements, background check, and exam needed to get your real estate license in the Lincoln State. Here we go:
1. Meet the Legal Requirements for Your Illinois Real Estate License
In order to apply for an Illinois real estate license, you must be 18 years of age or older, have a high school diploma or GED, and have a Social Security number or individual taxpayer identification number. If you’d like to apply between the ages of 18 to 21, you must provide proof that you’ve attended at least four semesters of post-secondary education with an emphasis on real estate.
Did you know?
Illinois has reciprocity with Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Indiana (broker only), Iowa, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. This means that with no additional coursework, a real estate agent that passes the Illinois state exam can get their Illinois license. However, Illinois is a physical location state, which means that out-of-state agents who want to conduct Illinois real estate business must do so remotely and they cannot enter the state for real estate transaction-related reasons.
To learn more about the nine states that have a real estate license reciprocity with Illinois, read our real estate license reciprocity and portability guide.
2. Complete Required Prelicensing Courses
To complete the prelicensing hours required for your Illinois real estate license, you’ll have to take in-person classes or attend an accredited online Illinois real estate school. Prices range from $385 to $699 for the complete 90 hours of required education and will include both the 75 hours of broker courses and 15 hours of practical, interactive courses.
The 75 hours of broker licensing courses include:
- Real property and the law
- Real estate agency and brokerage
- Interests in real estate
- Forms of real estate ownership
- Legal descriptions
- Real estate taxes and other liens
- Real estate contracts
- Transfer of title and recording
- Illinois real estate license law
- Real estate financing principles and practices
- Leases and property management
- Real estate appraisal
- Land use controls and property development
- Fair housing and ethical practices
- Environmental issues and the real estate transaction
- Closing the real estate transaction
The 15 hours of practice-related courses include:
- Listing presentation
- Disclosure and fraud
- Fair housing and discrimination
- Personal assistant and administrative services
- Distressed property and working with professionals outside of the brokerage
- Presenting offers and counteroffers
- Case studies and exercises
Did you know?
Any active member of the Illinois Bar who is in good standing and qualified under the real estate license law is exempt from taking the real estate prerequisite courses, although you still must pass the exam to obtain a real estate license.
To find the right prelicensing education program for you, review our best online real estate education providers and enroll in the school that best suits your needs. The CE Shop is a great option to master exam material before registering for an exam date.
3. Get Fingerprints & Pass Background Check
In order to take your state license exam, you must complete fingerprinting so the IDFPR can perform a background check and the testing center can confirm biometric verification of your identity. It takes about 24 to 48 hours for your fingerprints to be reported to the IDFPR, so make sure to schedule your appointment through Accurate Biometrics at one of the fingerprinting vendor locations at least two days prior to the exam. The cost of fingerprinting is typically around $15 and can be paid via credit card, money orders, cashier’s checks, company or agency checks, and pre-approved billing terms.
It is possible to obtain an Illinois real estate license if you have a criminal record depending upon the type and nature of the offense. There are no convictions that qualify for an automatic bar from licensure, but you will be required to disclose the conviction on your application. The IDFPR will consider your application through a review process, but 95% of the applicants who have accurately disclosed their crime have obtained a real estate license. For more information, visit the FAQs page on the IDFPR website.
4. Take the Illinois Real Estate Exam
Once you’ve completed these requirements, it’s time to take your exam. Since the test is taken on a computer, you will receive your results immediately after completing the exam, with diagnostic scoring information and reapplication instructions. It’s worth noting that the pass rate for the Illinois exam tends to be lower than most states at 45%. If you do not pass your exam, you will have up to three chances to retake it without a penalty.
Since there is a state and national portion, if you pass one and not the other, you will only be required to retake the remaining portion, which you can do within one year from the date of sitting for the passing portion. After the fourth failed attempt, you will be required to retake the 90 hours of coursework before attempting the exam again.
Illinois Real Estate Exam Details
Items to Bring to Exam
75% in both sections to pass
Schedule Your Exam
All exam scheduling is to be completed through PSI/AMP, which is a national provider for state licensing exams. Prior to scheduling your exam, you must first register as a student on the PSI/AMP website through the Student Portal in order to confirm your course completion information from the school you received your prelicensing education. After you receive your eligibility confirmation email, you can proceed to register for your exam.
This process requires you to submit a registration form, fingerprint record, and exam fee of $55 by credit card or by cashier’s check or money order made payable to PSI Services. As mentioned above, fingerprints must be obtained through a state-approved vendor. After you complete your registration, you’ll be able to schedule your exam at a testing center convenient for you. Keep in mind that you can’t sign up to take the test less than two days before the exam date. Once registered, you will receive the Illinois PSI Candidate Handbook, which has a copy of the examination registration form within it.
Even though the passing rate is rather low, you should be able to pass the exam if you study hard and prepare properly. If you’re looking for help studying for the test, we recommend PrepAgent for a comprehensive exam prep course. They offer top-notch exam prep for an affordable price. Even better, they also offer a money-back guarantee if you don’t pass on the first try.
For extra guidance on passing your real estate exam, download our Exam Prep e-book. We include a pre-assessment to test your knowledge as well as helpful information about what’s included in the exam, the length and structure of the exam, study tips, and sample questions from PrepAgent.
5. Pick a Sponsoring Brokerage to Work For
In order to hold an active Illinois real estate license, you must find a sponsoring brokerage to affiliate your license. To make your choice a little bit easier, check out our in-depth guide on choosing the right real estate company to work for. Although there are many successful brokerages in the Prairie State, below you’ll find the top five brokerages reported for 2022*.
Dawn McKenna Group
Coldwell Banker Realty
Lowe Group Chicago
Emily Sachs Wong Team Emily Sachs Wong
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Chicago
*Data from Real Trends
6. Apply for Your Illinois Real Estate License
Once you pass the exam, you can register and complete your application on the IDFPR online portal to submit along with your managing broker sponsor card and $25. After submitting these materials, you can practice without a license under the supervision of your managing broker for 45 days while your application is processed. The state of Illinois is no longer offering paper licenses, so you will be notified via email when your license is officially approved.
7. Start Your Real Estate Career
Now that you have all the steps to becoming a real estate agent in Illinois, you’re ready to start your real estate journey. For more information, here are some of our articles with content that is perfect for new real estate agents:
- Our article with 14 Real Estate Agent Tips covers the basics that every agent should know when they are starting out, including how to write a real estate business plan
- Learn how to generate real estate buyer leads
- Get nine strategies to help with real estate seller lead generation
- Jumpstart your career with the top New Real Estate Agent Tips From the Pros
- Get the tools you need to build a strong real estate business out of the gate using the best real estate software and tools