How Long Does It Take to Get a Real Estate License?
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Taking Real Estate Courses
Though the amount of time varies based on each state's requirements and the amount of study time needed, most people become real estate agents within two to five months of starting the process. This includes attending classes, taking the real estate exam, applying for a real estate license and passing a background check.
One of the biggest differences in the length of each real estate course is the number of hours the state in question requires. Several states tie for the shortest hours at 40, including Alaska, Massachusetts, Michigan, and New Hampshire. Meanwhile, Texas is the longest at 180 hours — 4.5 times longer than the shortest states.
It's common for students to be concerned about how they can devote the required time to complete the courses, especially if they have another job or other commitments. Fortunately, there are options in how the courses are taken, providing flexibility in how long it takes based on the time available.
Real estate students can choose to take in-person classroom instruction, which will often have a set time and schedule to follow and can be helpful for people who prefer learning in a classroom setting or having a regular schedule. Another option is to take an online course, which allows students to proceed at their own pace. For individuals who are motivated and have a lot of extra time available, this can take as little as a week in states with low hours requirements.
Taking the Real Estate Exam
Depending on where the prospective agent lives, the real estate exam will last between 90 minutes and three hours, often with well over 100 questions. The requirements to pass the exam will differ depending on the state, but it will always be a minimum of 60%. The exam will be split into two sections: a state section with questions that pertain to where the agent will be working and a federal exam with questions that apply to the entire country. Though some courses will provide exam scheduling, students will also typically be able to use an online scheduler where they can choose the date, time, and location best for them.
Just like with any type of school exam, students will need to ensure they are spending enough time studying. Generally speaking, students should spend a few hours studying each week's material as the course goes on to ensure they understand the material. After the course ends, students should spend at least a week studying before attempting the exam. Spending the extra time studying beforehand can help reduce the chance of failing and needing to pay the fee to retake the exam. Practice exams are also an invaluable resource for preparing for the real exam. Practice exams to become familiar with the testing style and format. This can make it much easier to recall information during the actual test.
Applying for a Real Estate License
Another big part of the process of getting a real estate license is the application process. In some states, this part of the process is actually handled before taking the exam, which is another great reason to study hard in preparation for the exam. Because states have very different processes, here are a couple of examples to show how it's handled.
In North Carolina, prospective real estate agents actually start the process by applying for a provisional broker's pre-licensing course. They will then get their licensing pamphlet and criminal background report and then submit their licensing applications immediately after passing their real estate course exams. They'll then receive approval via email to take the state exam, at which point they'll set up their exam times. Once they've passed their exams, each student will then have a provisional broker's license under a broker-in-charge.
Texas requires a specific 180-hour curriculum in the form of six 30-hour courses. Upon successful completion, students will need to register for an inactive sales agent license and pay an application fee. After this, they can be fingerprinted for a background check and take the exam in any order, at which point they'll gain sponsorship from a brokerage.
Getting a Background Check
Though it's not standard in every state, many require a background check from all real estate license applicants. Before beginning the journey to get a license, real estate students should be confident they don't have any legal complications that could prevent their application from being approved. The background check process typically involves being fingerprinted, at which point the fingerprints are often passed up through the appropriate state agency to the FBI, which checks the prints against their database.
Once the fingerprinting has been completed, all that is left is to wait for the results. It often takes around 24 hours to get the background check results, but it can sometimes take longer. The FBI processes around 63,000 sets of fingerprints daily, so it's possible for there to be delays.
By understanding what's involved in getting a real estate license and how long it can take to complete the process, it's easier to make a plan for beginning a new career. In many situations, getting a license can happen within a few weeks to a few months. However, it's important to remember state requirements that may affect the timeline. Applicants can also reduce the amount of waiting between steps by looking at their state's process and determining where it's possible to work ahead, such as getting a background check while taking classes or talking to a few brokerages in the area to secure a position and begin working as soon as the license arrives.
Overall, it's important to be patient, study hard, and understand the process to truly understand how long it will take to get a real estate agent's license. Consider the schedule and how much time is available to get the process done successfully, including time for studying, exam prep, and administrative work.