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How to Get a California Real Estate License in 6 Steps

If you'v'e dreamed of a real estate career and are interested in earning your real estate license, you may be wondering exactly what you need to do in order to pursue your dream. One of the first steps if you want to sell or lease real estate in the state of California is to obtain your California Real Estate Salesperson license.

Here's what you need to know about the process to ensure your success.


steps to getting a real estate license

Step 1. Meet the General Requirements to Prequalify

One of the critical steps in getting a real estate license in California is passing the Salesperson license exam. In order to qualify to take the exam, you must meet the following general requirements as listed by the DRE:

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Be a California resident
  • 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.

Step 2. Complete 135 Hours of Pre-Licensing Education

The state required education courses for a California real estate license are a combination of the following:

  • Real Estate Principles (45 credit hours)
  • Real Estate Practice (45 credit hours)
  • 45 credit hours in an additional elective course as approved by the California Department of Real Estate.

This is particularly important, as California requires you to take pre-licensing training from an approved course provider before you can even think about sitting for the exam. Note that the required number of training hours will vary wildly depending on the state. In California, for example, you need to take 135 hours to meet this criteria. That number might be different if you were taking courses in another state.

In California you have the option of taking this pre-licensing education both in-person and by way of real estate courses online.

Step 3. Apply for the California Salesperson Exam

Once you have met the exam's educational requirements, it's time to apply for the actual exam.You may apply for the salesperson examination by using the Salesperson Exam Application orthe Combined Salesperson Examination and License Application. We recommend doing thecombo application. The combined application allows you to apply for both the exam and licenseand pay all applicable fees at the same time and if you have a clear criminal background, yourlicense can be issued immediately!

Once you have submitted your application, you should be prepared to wait around 4-6 weeks foryour application to be processed.

Once approved, you will receive an Examination Schedule notice, allowing you to schedule a time for your examination.

California has an eLicensing system that you will use to schedule your examination and check on the status of your exam.

Step 4. Pass the California Salesperson Licensing Exam

During the exam, you'll be asked 150 multiple choice questions that cover California real estate laws, rules and regulations. You are given 3 hours to complete the examination and you must score 70% or higher to pass. The exam is qualifying in nature only, which means that a score is not reported unless you fail the test. If you take one of our exam prep real estate crash courses you should be just fine!

The good news is that ADHI Schools will fully prepare you for this leg of your journey so you pass the real estate exam with minimal stress!

Step 5. Find a Sponsoring Brokerage

At this point it's important to note that in order to legally practice real estate in California, you'll need to work under a supervising broker. Brokers are typically real estate companies who make sure that you (and all other new agents) are adhering to both legal and ethical standards in all interactions with clients and are responsible for supervising their sales staff.

In addition to searching online for a broker with a great training program, our students are also introduced to brokers in their area for career placement. Because brokerages usually pay their agents exclusively in commissions, they're often willing to welcome new people into the fold because they can do so at no direct cost. This means there’s always room for a new agent.

When trying to find a brokerage to partner with, just be sure to find one that you're both comfortable with and that will offer you the type of on-the-job training you need to really make the most out of your career.

Step 6. Complete Your Real Estate License Application

Once you have passed the exam, you will need to complete and submit the Salesperson license application (unless you have previously completed the Combined Examination and License application) along with providing the applicable fees.

As part of a background check, you will be required to be fingerprinted through a live scan fingerprint service provider in the state of California, which will typically cost anywhere between $70 and $80. ADHI Schools offers this Livescan service.

Official transcripts for the completed courses are sufficient as evidence that you’ve completed the required real estate education courses. If you take the coursework through ADHI Schools our certificates will work just fine!

Out-of-state applicants have a few additional steps in applying for a license. Out-of-state persons must submit a notarized Consent of Service Process form along with their original application.

Once you have completed the application, the Bureau of Real Estate will review your application for approval.

Once your license has been approved, a copy will be provided to your sponsoring real estate broker. If you do not currently have a sponsoring broker, you will be mailed a copy of the salesperson license with a non-working status.

Frequently Asked Questions About Getting Your CA Real Estate License

The required coursework can be finished in as little as 54 days, from there,the time to schedule an exam and get your license issued can vary based on volume of applications received by and workload at the Department of Real Estate.

You’ll need to spend some money on required coursework. With ADHI Schools, we have packages that can range from $150 up to $499. You’ll then have to take the state exam and get your license. You should budget about $550-$1,000 depending on whether you do the classes with an instructor or self study for coursework, license fees and criminal background.

You can do the classes at home, but you’ll have to go to a state approved facility to take the government exam. There are five locations in Fresno,Oakland, Sacramento, San Diego, and La Palma wherein an applicant can take the real estate exam.

The real estate exam is currently offered in an electronic format in five cities throughout the state of California, including:

  • Fresno
  • San Diego
  • Los Angeles and Vicinity
  • Oakland
  • Sacramento

The California Bureau of Real Estate website keeps up to date information on the current locations where the examination is held. You can also get information about available dates and locations for taking the exam prior to submitting your application.

The good news is that there are a wide array of classroom style or online real estate courses in particular that you can easily take to qualify for the California real estate salesperson exam. It's just that not all courses are created equally, so you have to do your due diligence to find one that actually meets all of the requirements as approved by the California Real Estate Commissioner.

As of 2020, some of the options a new licensee would have are:

  • Community college. Note that many community colleges in the state of California currently offer some type of real estate curriculum, and the vast majority of these offer courses that are approved to get your real estate license.
  • California university systems. Both the University of California and California State University currently offer numerous courses that satisfy the Real Estate Commissioner's requirements.
  • Foreign universities. Any courses that you're planning on taking at foreign universities MUST be evaluated ahead of time by a DRE-approved Credentials Evaluation Service. Not only that, but written evidence that this evaluation has taken place must also be presented in a satisfactory manner.
  • Private schools. While many private schools in California offer real estate curriculum, only those who have made a formal request, have submitted an application, and who have obtained formal approval from the Real Estate Commissioner are able to offer those required for pre-license education. In other words, their qualifications are not a guarantee so don't take them for granted.

Pretty much the only way to avoid taking these classes is if you are a member of the California State Bar.


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