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How to Become a Real Estate Agent in California

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How to Become a Real Estate Agent in California

How to Become a Real Estate Agent in California

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The average real estate agent in California makes over $90,000 a year, and with high property prices and tempting commissions, it’s possible to make a lot more.It’s no wonder that so many Californians are turning their hands to real estate, and if you want to join them, this is the guide for you.
Firstly, let’s look at the basic requirements:

  • Be 18 or older
  • Finish at least 135 hours of pre-licensing education
  • Pass your final exams
  • Find a sponsoring broker
  • Finalize your licensing application

Sounds simple, right? Well, there’s obviously a lot more to cover. So, read on and get started with your real estate career.

The Real Estate Profession

In 2023, the state of California added over 120,000 units to its already expansive housing stock, catering to a steadily declining population. It puts the state in a rather unfamiliar position, as it means the resident-to-house ratio is higher than it has been in decades.Sure, we’re in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis and the housing market is feeling the effects of declining interest and prices, but the stats still bode well for anyone involved in CA real estate.The real estate industry provides a certain degree of security and stability that simply doesn’t exist in other sectors, and at a time when people are struggling to pay their bills, small businesses are folding like hotel bedsheets, and both creative and IT industries are being threatened by the emergence of AI, that stability is a clear draw.In the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt, “Real estate cannot be lost or stolen, nor can it be carried away….it is about the safest investment in the world.”

How much does it cost to get a real estate license in California?

There is a $60 exam fee and a $245 licensing fee, along with the cost of tuition, which can go as high as $700. There are much cheaper options available though. For instance, Aceable has a 135-hour prep course approved by the California Department of Real Estate (DRE) that starts at just $179.

How much can you make as a realtor in California?

It depends on who you ask, but the average is between $80,000 and $100,000. Some salary sites put the range at anywhere from $45,000 to $220,000, but the majority sit around that $90,000 mark.To give you some perspective, the average salary in California is just under $80,000. But of course, there’s more to it than that.Being a real estate agent accords you a little more freedom and flexibility than you get with other professions. There’s also no limit to what you can earn, and if you sell the right houses or offload a large number, your earnings will grow significantly.Furthermore, you’re becoming part of one of the world’s biggest sectors and acquiring knowledge and skills that could allow you to make informed and profitable real estate investments in the future.

Is becoming a real estate agent worth it in California?

Yes, definitely. The property sector is booming, the money is good, and there is a lot to learn. Of course, it largely depends on what type of person you are and what you want to get out of your career.If you’re shy, retired, and don’t have much of an interest in property, this is not the profession for you.

How long does it take to become a real estate agent in California?

It can take anywhere from 2 to 5 months, with the exact timeframe depending on the pace of your studies.

Eligibility Requirements for a Real Estate Career

You need to be at least 18 years old to become a real estate agent in California. You must also be a US citizen. You do not, however, need to have a college degree or even a high-school diploma. There are education requirements, and we’ll get to those next, but you don’t need to worry about existing degrees or qualifications.You must submit a set of fingerprints and these will then be sent to the State Department of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Your criminal record will be checked before the license is granted. This will happen on the day of the exam.A criminal record won’t automatically disqualify you from getting a California real estate license, but your license application may be refused if there are any serious offenses on your record.

Complete the Required Pre-Licensing Education

If you meet the requirements outlined above, you’re ready to start your real estate education.The DRE requires all real estate agents to complete 135 hours of pre-licensing education. The materials are split between the following key aspects of the real estate profession:

  • Real estate principles
  • Real estate practices
  • One more from a list of options, including finance, management, and appraisal

The course must be approved by the DRE and there are many online providers offering this service for a reasonable price.The aforementioned Aceable is one of the highest-rated of these services. It is affordable and has a very high pass rate. There are different packages available depending on your budget and the extent of your studies.For instance, the $179 package includes the full 135-hour state-approved course, as well as practice exam questions. The Deluxe package is available for just under $300 and includes additional exam prep to help you over the line.The Premium package includes all of the above and also provides access to live webinars and private tutoring. However, at $399, it is by far the most expensive option.It’s worth noting that there are regular discounts to reduce these prices and Aceable also offers a money-back guarantee on some of its courses.License Solution is another good option. It has multiple packages and regular sales that take the cheapest course under the $100 mark. Other options for approved courses include 360training and OnlineEd.They can all place a big green tick in the required box, but the pricing, structure, and usability all differ greatly, so it’s worth checking out the different options.

Apply for the California Real Estate Exam

You can apply for the real estate exam online via the eLicensing portal. There is a $60 exam fee and you can ask them to schedule you for the earliest appointment or schedule it yourself through the portal.When the day of the test arrives, you’ll need to take a valid form of ID. This is also when your fingerprints will be taken.As you might expect, there are a few things you can’t take into the exam with you, including a cell phone, drinks, food, and bags. Lockers are available for you to store these safely away.

Study for the California Real Estate Exam

The DRE real estate exam covers the following topics:

  • 25% – The practice of real estate
  • 17% – Laws of agency and fiduciary duty
  • 15% – Property ownership. Land use regulations
  • 14% – Valuations and financial analysis
  • 12% – Contracts
  • 9% – Financing
  • 8% – Property transfers

The DRE publishes a reference book with details of the topics covered. You can find it here. However, it’s a little outdated and while the site states that it’s in the process of being updated, that has yet to happen.It’s a long exam with a lot of questions, so it’s important that you study and adequately prepare.Here are some tips to help you out:

  1. Create a Study Schedule: Make time to study every day. You don’t need to overdo and it’s best not to push yourself too much. Just make room for daily study and do as much as you’re comfortable with.
  2. Diversify: Don’t put all of your eggs into one basket. Use different study materials and focus on different areas, as you’ll be questioned on all aspects of real estate practice in California.
  3. Study with Others: Whether you’re at real estate school or completing online courses, look for fellow students with whom you can practice. It provides you with accountability and it also makes it easier to remember key pieces of information.
  4. Use Memory Tricks: Struggling with specific codes, rules, or regulations? Create mnemonic devices or use visual memory tricks to ensure they stick.

Take the California Real Estate Exam

You’re nearly there! The next step is to actually sit the exam.So, complete your exam prep, cram as much info as you can, study with friends, fellow students, and other real estate agents, and then get ready for the big day.It’s going to be a nervy day and there’s a lot on the line, but it’s important to try and relax, lest all of that essential info drift away on a wave of anxiety.Get plenty of sleep, eat a big breakfast, refrain from drinking too much coffee, and avoid alcohol the night before.Also, don’t worry if you fail the exam the first time, as you can always take it again. Just pay attention to the areas that are most difficult, improve on those areas during your study sessions, and then return brighter, better, and smarter the next time around.

Obtain a California Real Estate License

If you sit an electronic exam, you will get your results on the same day, with other information sent by mail within 5 business days. To pass, you need to get at least 70% of the questions right if you want to be a salesperson and 75% to be a broker.Meet those marks and you’re good to go—you’re officially a licensed real estate agent in California!Wear your status as a new real estate agent with pride and start earning your commission.

Join a Real Estate Brokerage

Once you have your real estate license, you can think about choosing a real estate brokerage. It’s a very important decision, and there are many factors to consider, including how much they pay and what kind of education they provide.Think about your goals and work backward from there. Choose a brokerage that will best suit your real estate career in the long term, as opposed to one that provides the highest pay in the short term.

Pros and Cons of Working with a Franchised Brokerage

There are clear benefits to working with a large franchise, including the fact that you’ll be connected to a large network of professionals. There may be more vacancies available and their size and reach means they carry a lot of credibility.On the downside, you might not get as much individual support as you would with other options. You could also face more limitations with regard to how you market yourself, as everything needs to fit with the brand identity.

Pros and Cons of Working with an Independent Brokerage

You usually have more flexibility when working with an independent brokerage. The training is often better and you’re accorded more freedom when it comes to marketing efforts. The downside is that the pay is not as structured or stable and real estate agents at the start of their careers may prefer the reliability of a franchise.

Pros and Cons of Working with a Virtual Real Estate Brokerage

Virtual real estate agencies are becoming more common and provide some clear benefits to creative agencies. The overheads are usually a lot lower and this leaves more room for the agent’s commission.It’s not for everyone though, and it might be harder to find clients.

Continuing Education and Professional Development

Last but not least, the world of California real estate is constantly evolving, and as a representative of this sector, you need to evolve with it. As with professionals in any sector, the best real estate agents are constantly looking to develop their skills, gain experience, and improve themselves.Get yourself a mentor, heed their words, learn from the people around you, and brush up on the state’s regulations and laws.


Becoming a real estate agent in California can be very rewarding, both emotionally and financially. There are a lot of opportunities, some high commission structures, and great upwards mobility. What’s more, getting your hands on a real estate license is not as hard as you might think.With licensed training from online schools like Aceable, and a lot of dedication and persistence on your part, you can become a California real estate agent in just a few months and with just a few hundred bucks.So, study, apply, and get that license.

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