This article is part of a larger series on How to Become a Real Estate Agent.
The process of how to become a real estate agent in Iowa is more complicated than most other states. You must complete 96 hours of Iowa Real Estate Commission (IREC)-approved education, including 36 hours of live instruction. You also have to submit fingerprints for a background check, pass the Iowa real estate exam, apply for your license, acquire Errors and Omissions Insurance, and affiliate with a brokerage. Follow this step-by-step guide to earn your Iowa real estate license.
1. Meet the Legal Requirements for Your Iowa Real Estate License
The legal requirements to become a real estate agent in Iowa are very simple. Unlike other states, Iowa does not require you to be a U.S. citizen, but does require that you are at least 18 years of age. However, Iowa does have strict policies for individuals who have a criminal background.
An applicant who has been convicted of a felony or a serious or aggravated misdemeanor offense will not be considered for licensure until five years have passed since the conviction and/or incarceration. Take a look through the IREC List of Criminal Offenses Directly Relating to the Real Estate Profession for more details. You can also reach out to the Commission staff via email to get more information.
Did you know? Iowa has reciprocity with eight states: Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Dakota, and West Virginia. To get a real estate license in Iowa, you must have held an active license in one of the above states within the past six months, have proof of errors and omissions insurance, and complete a background check to qualify.
Also, Iowa is a physical state in terms of portability. Agents and brokers from other states can do business in Iowa but aren’t allowed to enter Iowa to conduct real estate business. They must do so remotely and may not enter the state for showings, closings, or any other reason. To learn more about real estate license portability in Iowa, check out our guide on real estate license reciprocity and portability.
2. Complete Iowa’s Required Real Estate Prelicensing Courses
If you meet the legal requirements to become a real estate agent in Iowa, the next step is to proceed with your prelicensing courses. Iowa’s real estate prelicensing courses are a bit different than other states. They require you to complete 60 hours of education online or in-person as well as an additional 36 hours that must be live instruction.
Generally, costs range from $209 to $475 and will cover the following topics:
- Property ownership
- Land use controls and regulations
- Valuation and market analysis
- General principles of agency
- Property disclosures
- Leasing and property management
- Transfer of title
- Practice of real estate
- Licensing requirements
- License maintenance
- Disciplinary actions (suspension, revocation, and voluntary compliance)
- Real estate education
- Trust accounts
- Property disclosure requirements
- Iowa Civil Rights Act of 1965
- Unlicensed assistants
- Broker responsibilities
- Property management
In addition to the 60 hours of prelicensing courses, you also need to complete three 12-hour courses in a live class format. These courses must be completed in person in a classroom setting or livestream with visual and audio contact. The three Iowa prelicensing courses you must complete in a live format include:
- Developing professionalism and ethical practices
- Buying practices
- Listing practices
The full 96 hours of required prelicensing education can be taken at an accredited online real estate school or in person in a traditional classroom setting. You can also choose to split both the 60 hours of prelicensing classes and 36-hour live format classes between online and in-person learning formats.
To get started on your Iowa prelicensing education right away, choose Kaplan. Kaplan has tiered real estate class packages so you can decide which features, tools, and price point are best for your educational experience. Packages include 60 hours of education as well as options for exam preparation, interactive study groups, professional coaching, and more.
3. Get Fingerprinted & Complete a Background Check
To get a real estate license in Iowa, all applicants must submit fingerprints and complete a background check through the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) prior to license approval. To do so, create an account on the Iowa Professional Licensing (My Iowa PLB) website and submit a request to receive the electronic fingerprint packet through “RE – Background Request.”
Get your fingerprints taken at a nearby location and submit the fingerprint card with your application. You must use the IREC’s fingerprint card. A $51 fee is required when you submit your application to become a real estate agent in Iowa and can be paid with a credit or debit card directly on the website.
The fingerprinting and background check processes can take up to four weeks, so make sure to get started with it right away. You can even begin this process while taking your real estate prelicensing education. Once the IREC receives your completed background application, fingerprint card, and fee, the average turnaround time for processing is about three to six weeks and is valid for 210 calendar days.
For more information, review the IREC Application Instructions – Background Check Packet Request form.
4. Take the Iowa Real Estate Exam
After you’ve completed your prelicensing education and background check, it’s time for you to take the Iowa real estate license exam. The test is administered on the computer and you must pass both the national and state sections of the exam in order to become a real estate agent in Iowa.
Your score will be displayed on the screen at the end of the exam and a score report will be emailed to you. If you pass the exam, you will receive a real estate license application with your score report. If you fail, the score report will include a diagnostic breakdown of your strengths and weaknesses so you can study and retake the exam.
Iowa Real Estate Exam Details
80 nationally focused questions
40 state-specific questions
180 minutes (3 hours)
Items to Bring to the Exam
2 valid forms of identification (ID) with signatures:
70% to pass the Iowa Real Estate Salesperson Exam, with:
Unfortunately, Iowa does not post its average exam passing rates.
Schedule Your Exam
The Iowa real estate exam is provided by PSI, a national provider for state licensing exams. In order to schedule your test, you’ll first create an account on the PSI website, which then allows access to the scheduling portal. You will also receive a copy of the Iowa Candidate Information Bulletin for additional testing information.
The fee to take the exam is $95 and can be paid directly on the website using a credit or debit card. Exam results are only valid for six months from the passing examination date, so it’s important to apply for your real estate license as soon as possible after a successful test score.
Before you can become successful in real estate, you have to pass your real estate exam. PrepAgent’s exam prep program will help you feel confident and prepared to ace the test on your first try. Study for up to a full year and with access to tools like flashcards, video, audio, vocabulary, live webinars, and more. Plus, there is a no-risk, money-back guarantee to make sure you are completely satisfied with PrepAgent’s program.
5. Pick a Company to Work For
To apply for and hold an active real estate license in Iowa, you must find a sponsoring brokerage with which to affiliate your license. You cannot file an original application as inactive, so you will need to have a sponsoring broker sign the “Broker Certification” section of your application to verify you are associated with their brokerage.
Many new realtors fail to thrive during the first year and end up moving to a different brokerage or even leaving the industry. Since this decision can make or break early success, check out our in-depth guide for how to choose a real estate company to work for.
Although there are many successful brokerages in the Hawkeye State, below you’ll find the top five brokerages reported for 2022:
Tammy Heckart Real Estate
West Des Moines
Ingrid E Williams Team
The Bassford Team
Andrew DePhillips Team
The Jennings Real Estate Team
RE/MAX Real Estate Center
(Source: Real Trends 2022)
Iowa Cities With Highest Median Home Sales Prices in 2021
Knowing the real estate market pricing in your area can give you a leg up on the competition. It will also give you an idea of where you’d like to do business and the ability to calculate your income potential, all of which likely factored into your decision to start a real estate career.
To get a sense of which cities represent the best earning potential for real estate agents in Iowa, check out this sales data from Towncharts.com below:
6. Acquire Errors & Omissions Insurance
In order to have an active license, all Iowa agents are required to have Errors and Omissions Insurance (E&O). This is used to protect real estate businesses from mistakes made during professional service. Some brokerages provide their real estate agents and brokers with E&O.
7. Apply for Your Iowa Real Estate License
Once you find a sponsoring brokerage and obtain E&O insurance, you’re ready to submit the Iowa real estate application for licensure. Iowa no longer accepts paper applications, so you must submit everything electronically through My Iowa PLB under the username you created during the fingerprinting process.
With your application, you also need to include the following documentation:
- $125 license fee
- Passing score on the Iowa real estate licensing exam
- Proof of E&O insurance
- Proof of completion of 60 hours of prelicensing education
- Proof of successful completion of the three 12-hour live courses:
- Developing professionalism and ethical practices
- Buying practices
- Listing practices
You are responsible for submitting your application to the IREC within six months of passing the real estate exam. Also, all the required education needs to be finished during the 12 months prior to the date of application. For more information, review the IREC application requirements sheet and the Application Status reference guide to see the status of your application on the My Iowa PLB website.
8. Start Your Career as a Real Estate Agent in Iowa
Now that you’ve learned how to become a real estate agent in Iowa, you’re ready to start your professional career as a realtor in the Hawkeye State. For more information, here are some of our articles with content that is perfect for new real estate agents:
- Jump-start your career with the top 25 New Real Estate Agent Tips From the Pros.
- 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.
- Get the tools you need to build a strong real estate business out of the gate using the best real estate software and tools.
- Learn how to generate real estate buyer leads.
- Get nine strategies to help with real estate seller lead generation.