50 State Real Estate License Reciprocity & Portability Guide 2023
This article is part of a larger series on How to Become a Real Estate Agent.
Real estate license reciprocity allows licensed agents and brokers to obtain a license in a new state without completing all licensing requirements. Real estate portability enables out-of-state agents and brokers to undertake transactions within particular states. We researched each state’s real estate laws to provide a guide of the reciprocity and portability regulations for all 50 states, along with examples, to help real estate agents and brokers navigate their business throughout the country.
To get started, click on your state in the real estate license reciprocity chart below to see the general reciprocity and portability rules. Then, continue reading to gain a complete understanding of what reciprocity and portability mean for your business and tips for conducting out-of-state transactions.
Reciprocity & Portability State Map
What Reciprocity Is (+ Types & Examples)
Real estate license reciprocity is a multi-state agreement that allows licensed real estate agents in one state to become licensed in another without taking additional real estate prelicensing courses or, in certain situations, taking a licensing exam.
Types of Reciprocity Agreements
Reciprocity is state-specific and based on the regulations set forth by each state’s real estate commission. However, reciprocity is broken up into three general types of reciprocity agreements:
Because of these regulations, reciprocity agreements are most beneficial to agents who relocate to another state or live near two states, such as New York and Pennsylvania. Agents who do not intend to relocate to another state but wish to be allowed to undertake out-of-state real estate transactions would be more affected by portability laws.
Here’s a quick look at the types of reciprocity per state, but refer to the map above for specific reciprocity details about your state:
States with full reciprocity are the easiest to navigate as they accept licensees from all states. An example would be Maine, which allows reciprocal licensees to get their license simply by passing the state exam, completing a background check, and providing license history from their current state.
On the other hand, states with no reciprocity, like California, do not provide reciprocity with any other state. This will require real estate professionals to complete all licensing requirements, including 135 hours of education, to get a license to practice real estate in California.
The most challenging to grasp are states with selective reciprocity because they only allow reciprocal licensees from certain states. For example, Maryland only has reciprocity with Oklahoma and Pennsylvania. If you are licensed in these two states, you must only provide a license history and complete a background check to become licensed in Maryland. However, if you are located in Vermont, you will have to complete all licensing requirements of Maryland to be a licensed salesperson there.
Check out our graphic below to see the flow of how reciprocity works for each of these types in different states:
What Portability Is (+ Types & Examples)
Real estate license portability refers to state laws allowing out-of-state real estate agents to execute real estate transactions without getting a license in a neighboring state. It differs from reciprocity as it enables agents to engage in real estate business across their home state borders, but it is not a long-term solution for agents relocating to a new location.
Types of Portability Laws
There are three types of portability laws: cooperative, physical location, and turf states. Each of these classifications necessitates different conditions for an out-of-state real estate agent to work within the state.
Refer to the map and table below for specific portability details about your state:
Physical Location State
Understanding portability between states can be challenging since every state has different rules and regulations. Look at the examples below, illustrating the differences between cooperative, physical location, and turf state real estate transactions:
Cooperative State Example
Suppose you are an Alabama real estate licensee with a client who wants to buy or sell a property in Georgia. Since Georgia is a cooperative state, out-of-state agents can physically enter the state to conduct business.
In that case, you must collaborate with a local Georgia real estate licensee in a co-brokerage agreement. With this, you can help your client buy a home in Georgia even without having a Georgia license. You must also file your co-brokerage agreement with the local real estate board to receive your commission.
Physical Location State Example
You are a real estate agent licensee in Washington with a client who wants to buy or sell a property in Montana, a physical location state. These states allow agents to conduct real estate transactions in other states, but only remotely.
In this scenario, you can send your clients to view properties, submit offers on their behalf, and negotiate transactions as long as you physically remain in Washington, where you are licensed. However, you can only earn a commission from the local Montana agent’s brokerage.
Turf State Example
You are a Florida real estate agent with a client who wants to buy a home in Kentucky, a turf state. Turf states do not allow agents to conduct real estate business of any kind in their state.
In this instance, you cannot conduct real estate transactions in Kentucky because you lack a Kentucky real estate license. As a result, you can only refer your client to a local brokerage and earn no commission.
Tips for Conducting Real Estate Business in Other States
Extending your business to neighboring states may result in higher commissions, but the process has several complexities. Learn your local laws and always protect yourself with a buyer or seller agreement. However, if the regulations and client requirements are too complicated and nuanced, consider referring the client to someone local.
- Sign a buyer or seller agreement: Working to buy and sell properties with out-of-state clients can be tricky since local agents can steal your business. Obtain an exclusive buyer or seller’s agreement to put your intentions in writing. Note that some exclusive buyer or seller representation contracts are only valid in the state where you are licensed, not in another state.
- Know the reciprocity and portability laws: Out-of-state real estate practices can be complicated, but you can research state-specific license reciprocity and portability regulations to see if you need to refer a client. Check out our real estate license reciprocity chart map above to know all the states with real estate reciprocity.
- Consider referring business to local licensees: If you aren’t experienced, don’t have a fantastic lawyer, or aren’t being overseen by a broker skilled in out-of-state transactions, consider referring business to local licensees. Complicated reciprocity and portability laws, varying document formats, conflicting recording requirements, and other factors make transactions challenging.
- Build a referral network: Work on building a solid referral network in your state and neighboring states by joining a referral exchange community so you have out-of-state real estate agents you can trust to handle your clients, send referral clients to you, and guarantee a commission in your pocket. Look at Referral Exchange, created by the National Association of Realtors, to get started.
Important note: Before engaging in a transaction in another state, you should seek an attorney or legal assistance through a service like Rocket Lawyer. Failing to follow the law may result in losing your commission or, worse, your license. The following guide is provided only for informative purposes and should not be considered legal advice.
Reciprocal real estate license and portability laws regulate how agents and brokers conduct out-of-state property transactions. If you have clients who wish to buy or sell a home outside of the state, it’s critical that you fully understand the local license requirements. Determine if it is best to finish the deal yourself or direct the client to another local agent once you know the applicable real estate license reciprocity state law.