How to Start a Career in Real Estate? Everything You Need To Know

Real estate is a growing and rewarding industry that offers various career paths and opportunities.

Whether you want to help people buy and sell properties, manage rental units, develop new projects, or invest in real estate, there is something for everyone who is interested in this field.

Independent Real Estate agent
Independent Real Estate agent | MYHOUSE

However, getting started in real estate can be challenging and confusing, as each state has different requirements and regulations for becoming a licensed real estate professional.

In this article, we will guide you through the steps you need to take to start your career in real estate, as well as provide some tips and resources to help you succeed.

Step 1: Review your state’s guidelines

The first thing you need to do is to research the specific guidelines and rules for real estate licensure in your state.

Since there is no national regulatory body for real estate agents, each state has its own standards and criteria for education, training, examination, application, and renewal.

You can find the information you need on your state’s real estate commission or department website, or by contacting them directly.

Some of the common requirements you may encounter are:

  • Age: You must be at least 18 or 19 years old, depending on the state.
  • Education: You must have a high school diploma or equivalent.
  • Background check: You must pass a criminal background check and disclose any felony convictions or disciplinary actions.
  • Fees: You must pay the fees for the course, exam, license, and insurance.

Step 2: Complete a real estate pre-licensing course

The next step is to enroll in a real estate pre-licensing course that is approved by your state.

This course will teach you the fundamentals of real estate, such as:

  • Property rights, titles, deeds, and ownership laws
  • Property taxes, zoning, and environmental laws
  • Appraisals, market analysis, and valuation methods
  • Contracts, negotiations, and closing procedures
  • Ethics, professionalism, and fiduciary duties

You can take the course online or in-person, depending on your preference and availability.

The duration and cost of the course vary by state, but you can expect to spend anywhere from 20 to 200 hours and $200 to $1,000 on the course.

Make sure you complete the course within the time limit set by your state, and keep a record of your certificate of completion.

Step 3: Pass the state real estate exam

After you finish the course, you are eligible to take the state real estate exam.

The exam is a multiple-choice test that covers both national and state-specific topics related to real estate.

The exam is computerized and administered at a designated testing center.

You need to register and schedule your exam in advance, and bring a valid ID and your course completion certificate on the day of the test.

The exam fee ranges from $50 to $150, depending on the state.

The exam is usually divided into two sections: one for the national portion and one for the state portion. You need to pass both sections to get your license.

The number of questions, passing score, and time limit vary by state, but you can expect to answer around 100 to 200 questions and score at least 70% to 75% within 2 to 4 hours.

You can find study guides, practice tests, and exam tips on various websites and books to help you prepare for the exam.

If you fail the exam, you can retake it after a waiting period, but there may be a limit to how many times you can retake it.

Step 4: Apply for a license

Once you pass the exam, you can apply for your real estate license.
You need to submit your application to your state’s real estate commission or department, along with the required documents and fees. Some of the common documents and fees you may need to provide are:

  • Proof of completing the pre-licensing course and passing the exam
  • Proof of errors and omissions (E&O) insurance, which protects you from liability claims
  • Proof of legal residency and citizenship
  • Application fee, which ranges from $50 to $300, depending on the state

The processing time for your application may take one to two months, depending on the state.

Once your application is approved, you will receive your license and be able to practice as a real estate agent.

However, you still need to complete some additional steps to establish your career.

Step 5: Consider becoming a Realtor®

A Realtor® is a real estate agent who is a member of the National Association of Realtors® (NAR), the largest trade association for real estate professionals in the US.

Being a Realtor® gives you access to various benefits and resources, such as:

  • Multiple listing service (MLS), which is a database of properties for sale and rent
  • Code of ethics, which is a set of standards and principles that guide your conduct and professionalism
  • Education, training, and certification programs, which help you enhance your skills and knowledge
  • Networking, advocacy, and marketing opportunities, which help you connect with other professionals and clients
  • Discounts and savings on various products and services, such as insurance, technology, and travel

To become a Realtor®, you need to join a local real estate board or association that is affiliated with NAR.

You also need to pay the annual dues, which are around $150, and abide by the code of ethics and other policies.

You can use the term Realtor® and the trademark logo to distinguish yourself from other real estate agents.

Step 6: Join a brokerage

A brokerage is a company or agency that employs or contracts real estate agents to represent buyers and sellers in real estate transactions.

As a new real estate agent, you need to join a brokerage to work under the supervision and guidance of a broker, who is a licensed real estate professional with more experience and education than you.

A broker will provide you with the tools, training, and support you need to start and grow your business.

A broker will also handle the legal and financial aspects of your transactions, such as escrow, contracts, and commissions.

There are many types of brokerages, such as:

  • Traditional brokerages, which offer a full range of services and support, but charge a higher commission split or fee
  • Discount brokerages, which offer a lower commission split or fee, but provide less services and support
  • Virtual brokerages, which operate online and offer more flexibility and convenience, but require more self-discipline and technology skills
  • Boutique brokerages, which specialize in a niche market or area, and offer more personalized and customized services and support

You should research and compare different brokerages before you choose one to join. You should consider factors such as:

  • Reputation, culture, and values
  • Size, location, and market share
  • Training, mentoring, and coaching
  • Technology, tools, and resources
  • Commission structure, fees, and expenses
  • Support, assistance, and feedback

You should also interview with several brokers and ask them questions about their expectations, policies, and benefits.

You should look for a brokerage that matches your goals, personality, and style.


Starting a career in real estate can be a rewarding and exciting journey, but it requires a lot of hard work, dedication, and perseverance.

You need to follow the steps and meet the requirements to get your license, join a brokerage, and become a Realtor®.

You also need to constantly learn, network, and market yourself to build your reputation and client base. If you are passionate about real estate and helping people, you can succeed and thrive in this industry.

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