Since real estate agents generally perform the same job duties all of the United States, you might expect the requirements for attaining this career to be the same everywhere. However, real estate agents are licensed at the state level, not the federal level, and each state has the freedom to set its own requirements for the real estate agent career path. That said, many states’ requirements for real estate agents have a lot in common, with the biggest differences being the extent of prelicensing coursework needed to qualify for licensure and the licensing exam itself. Because the rules for licensure differ from state to state, aspiring and established real estate agents often wonder what the process would be like if they needed to move to a new state.
The General Licensing Requirements
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It doesn’t make much sense for real estate licensing requirements to be radically different from one state to another. Generally, you won’t find states with extreme requirements like a graduate school education for new real estate sales agents. Since you aren’t permitted to begin working in the field until you have gotten your license, you also don’t have need years of work experience in the field prior to obtaining this credential.
The basic requirements needed to become licensed as a real estate sales agent are minimum age, prelicensing coursework and the licensing exam, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In most states, the BLS reported, you can get a real estate license at age 18. However, some states, like Alabama and Alaska, only award licensure to qualified candidates who are at least 19 years old. Although you can complete your state prelicensure requirements at real estate schools, community colleges and four-year colleges, exactly what you study and how long your program lasts depends on your state’s unique requirements. Similarly, licensing exam requirements can differ between states.
Another requirement you may have to meet in some states is satisfactorily passing a background check. Having a past felony conviction or a conviction of a highly immoral nature may disqualify you from licensure in certain states.
Differences in Prelicensing Courses and Exams
Where state real estate licensing requirements differ the most are in the prelicensing course requirements and the licensing exam itself. Both the length and the content of the prelicensing education program can vary by state. For example, real estate sales agents in Texas must complete 180 classroom hours of prelicensing coursework in six topic areas, including the Principles of Real Estate, Real Estate Finance, Law of Agency and Law of Contracts. In Massachusetts, on the other hand, you need only 40 hours of prelicensing coursework.
When it comes to the exam, some are longer than others. Test-takers spend anywhere from 90 minutes to four hours completing exams, which usually consist primarily of multiple-choice questions but may also require students to answer open-ended simulation questions that require them to analyze data. States may also separate the licensing exam into a state portion and a national portion, but there is not one single national exam used across all regions.
Generally, you can prepare to get your real estate license in a matter of weeks, often spending only a few hundred dollars on your prelicensing courses and, for the exam fee, a cost that ranges from under $100 to a couple hundred dollars.
Relocating as a Real Estate Agent
Real estate agents may be experts at buying a home, but what if the home they buy for their own family is out of state? Because each state issues its own licenses and can establish its own licensing requirements, you can’t necessarily use the license you already have in your new place of work. However, to streamline the licensing process for established professionals moving across state lines, many states choose to form reciprocity agreements with other states, the BLS reported. Not all states have reciprocity agreements with each other, and even those that do, such as Colorado, may limit that agreement to partial reciprocity. You may still have to complete new requirements to get a license in your new state, but at least you won’t have to start from the bottom.
Besides meeting licensing requirements, it’s important for realtors who are new to an area to develop a comprehensive understanding of the local real estate market, including the different neighborhoods and sales and pricing trends.