If you want to work as a real estate agent in the state of California, you need a California real estate license. This license grants you the authority to represent the sale or purchase of a home while working under a real estate broker.In other words, it allows you to tap into one of the country’s most lucrative property sectors, one that spans over 13 million units and sees over 400,000 sales every year.
The license requires you to complete at least 135 hours of a pre-license course, all of which can be completed online.Online real estate courses are often cheaper than in-person courses. You don’t need to worry about a commute, and they are very easy to work into your schedule.So, what are the steps involved with getting your California real estate license online and how can you ensure this process runs as smoothly as possible?
To apply for a California real estate license, you must be a US citizen of at least 18 years old. The California Department of Real Estate (DRE) also states that applicants must be “honest and truthful”, noting that those convicted of a crime may be refused a license.You do not need to have a high school diploma or GED, but as noted above, you will be asked to complete at least 135 hours of pre-licensing training. This training is available via numerous online courses (more on those below) and will cover real estate principles, real estate practice, and one of the following:
- Property Management
- Office Administration
- General Accounting
- Business Law
- Real Estate Finance
- Legal Aspects
- Common Interest Developments
- Mortgage Loan Brokering/Lending
- Computer Applications
After January 1, 2024, real estate courses created for the purpose of taking the real estate exam must also include aspects relating to implicit bias and fair housing.Upon completing the necessary course materials, applicants must provide fingerprints and submit to a background check. This can be undertaken on the day of the exam, completion of which means they are ready to find a sponsoring broker and acquire a real estate license.
Researching Online Real Estate Schools
There are a number of online schools that can help you to take the first step in your real estate career. But how do you separate the good from the bad? What should you be looking for?
Accreditation and approval
It’s imperative that you choose an accredited school that has been approved by the DRE. It doesn’t matter how informative or well-structured the content is, if it’s not provided by an approved school, it won’t count toward the 135 pre-licensing requirement.
Course offerings and curriculum
What does the course material cover? What will you learn and how is it taught? Are there any additions that will make the learning process easier?For instance, does it include video and audio? Are there many (or any) exam prep questions and will you have access to personalized tuition?
Flexibility and accessibility
Can you complete the course in your own time? Are the materials available in a format that is suited to your needs? One of the benefits of online learning is that you can work at your own pace and build your studies around your life (whether that means working/studying part-time or looking after your kids), but the exact structure differs from school to school.
User reviews and reputation
Last but not least, always check online reviews to see what other students are saying. Don’t limit yourself to the testimonials posted on the school’s website either. They might be genuine, but there’s a good chance they’re only posting the positive stuff.Check social media, ask friends and fellow students if they have any personal experiences, and perform a quick Google search. If the school is reputable and not brand new, there should be plenty of happy real estate students willing to talk about their experiences. On the flip side, if it’s a scam or provides subpar materials in a haphazard manner, your research will uncover a wealth of negative reviews and complaints.
Enrolling in an Online Real Estate Course
You can register for an online real estate course in just a few clicks. Payment is usually taken by credit or debit card and the entire process takes place online. Once you have access, you can learn at your own pace.After deciding which online school to use, consider the course options, cost, and optional extras:
Costs and course options
The price of a pre-license course depends on the provider and the type of course.Aceable Agent, a popular choice, is a prime example. Its cheapest course has a list price of $179 that regularly drops by $50 or more during promotional periods. It contains the required 135 hours along with instructor support, self-paced learning, and a 30-day money-back guarantee.Students seeking more of an in-depth approach can opt for Deluxe or Premium options, the latter of which has a list price of $399 and includes private tutoring sessions, live webinars, live Q&As, exam prep questions, and countless hours of video and audio footage.It’s a similar story elsewhere, including providers like License Solution, where options begin at $133 and increase to $365 with lots of added extras, and 360training, which is a vast resource with an array of pricing options.
Accessing course materials and resources
Speaking of added extras, do you need them?Well, technically, no. You can apply for the exam without them and you can learn enough to pass the exam. But if you prefer more of a comprehensive approach, one that will give you a greater understanding of the sector and better prepare you for the exam, they are worthwhile.It largely depends on your budget and what type of learner you are. If you digest information easily and have the self-motivation to learn essential info in your downtime, you don’t need them. If you need more guidance, usually have a few questions, and feel more comfortable when a wide range of topics are covered, they’re worth the added expense.
Applying for the California Real Estate Exam
When you’re ready to take the real estate licensing exam, you can apply via the DRE eLicensing portal. Just complete the form and provide the requested information.You must provide a valid photo ID and your licensing course certificates. You will also be asked for a $60 exam fee, with an additional license fee of $245 required when the license is granted.When your application is approved, you can choose the test day and start preparing for the exam.
Preparing for the State Exam
The more you practice and prepare, the easier the final exam will be. So, follow these steps to make sure you’re ready to go:
Take notes and review
Take notes throughout your course, highlighting key pieces of information and focusing on areas where you struggle. When the course is over, you can read and review these notes, keeping all of the information fresh.
Utilize exam prep resources
If your chosen course has real estate exam prep questions, devote some time to reviewing them. Aceable, for instance, has over 1,600 of these questions. It’s a lot, but there’s a lot at stake, and spending some time going through these questions and sitting test exams will prepare you for the real thing.You can also find some free resources and exams online, including practice tests, handbooks, and even YouTube videos.
Join study groups or hire a tutor
If you’re struggling, hire a tutor; if you have friends who are real estate agents, ask for their help; if you know fellow students, join a study group. It’s not just about learning from them—the simple act of learning alongside someone else will give you a level of accountability and focus that pushes you to work harder and helps the information stick.
Manage test anxiety and stress
Sometimes, you can learn everything there is to learn, pass every practice test, and then forget your name as soon as you sit down to take the test. Nerves get the better of all of us at times, and if you don’t conquer them, they will defeat you.Try to relax. Remind yourself that you can take the exam again if you fail. Avoid alcohol the night before and don’t consume too much caffeine on the day itself.Also, while cramming helps, it’s pointless if you’re doing it at the expense of sleep. So, close that exam cram video, put the tests to one side, and get a good night’s sleep.
Create a study schedule
Create a schedule that plots your study sessions and then follow it. Don’t make excuses for yourself, as right now, nothing is more important than preparing for your exam.
Taking the California Real Estate Exam
The exam includes 150 questions and you need a pass rate of 70%. You have 3 hours to complete the exam and it will typically take place on a computer, although some locations still use pen and paper.All of the questions are multiple-choice and will address various aspects of real estate practice. The exam is structured as follows:
- 25% – The practice of real estate
- Includes aspects relating to general ethics, technology, property management, record keeping, fair housing laws, trust account management, and disclosure statements.
- 17% – Laws of agency and fiduciary duty
- Agency agreements, commissions, disclosure of agency, termination of agency, etc.,
- 15% – Property ownership. Land use regulations
- Deals with aspects related to rights and regulations, such as the different classes of properties and ownership, water rights, and government land property rights.
- 14% – Valuations and financial analysis
- How to estimate value and conduct an analysis
- 12% – Contracts
- Relates to general contracts, lease agreements, listing agreements, and similar information.
- 9% – Financing
- In addition to basic concepts, the exam may question you on the different types of loans, government programs, and credit laws, among other topics.
- 8% – Property transfers
- Relates to escrow, deeds, title insurance, and similar topics.
An exam prep course can help you to highlight areas where you may struggle the most. Armed with that information, you can then brush up on those subjects and ensure you’re adequately prepared.
Passing the Exam
If you pass the exam, you will receive a copy of your state license. From there, you must choose which brokerage to work with. Simply contact your preferred brokerage, tell them you are a newly licensed agent, and make it clear that you would like to work for them. They should be more than happy to give you an interview and get you started on your real estate career.
Are you over 18? Are you a US resident? You need to be both before you consider applying for a real estate license. Whether you are an official CA resident will also make a difference, although there are options for out-of-state applicants as well.Once you meet these terms, you can start studying for your real estate license exam. Choose an online school that gives you the required 135 hours of pre-licensing training, being sure to look for a school that is accredited and capable of giving you the guidance you need.Some courses will guarantee a pass, but as long as the school is reputable, all of them should train you to a level sufficient enough to pass. And if you fail, don’t worry, as you can sit it again.Expect to pay upwards of $100 for your real estate education and choose a package that suits your budget.