The good news is that you don’t have to go back to college for another four years to get your real estate license. But that doesn’t mean that getting your real estate license is easy, by any means. Many find the licensing process to be lengthy, pricey, and mentally exhausting.
It’s not difficult to get a real estate license. Understanding the state and national real estate concepts is the hardest part. The test takes several hours with 100+ questions, but you should get the mandatory 70-75% if you study. Getting a real estate license is more time-consuming than anything.
The two steps of getting your license often considered most “difficult” are the pre-licensing course and passing the real estate exam. So we’re going to go over what makes each of these steps hard and how to make them a bit easier.
Completing Your Pre-Licensing Courses
The first step toward getting your real estate license is completing your state-mandated pre-licensing course(s). Exactly how long you’ll spend in the classroom or traversing online modules will depend on your state’s requirements.
Most states require a 40 to 135-hour pre-licensing course.
Some states have a basic salesperson course, while a few states split up the coursework into several mini-courses during training. So you might also have to complete coursework in:
- Contract writing
- Real estate practices and principles
- Buying and listing practices
- Civil rights law and equal opportunity in housing
- Professionalism and ethical practices
Many prospective agents go into these online courses planning to “speed run” them to get pre-licensing done as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, a few states have put a cap on how many pre-licensing hours you can receive in a day—usually capped at 6 to 10 hours.
This can complicate getting your license if you have a busy schedule and plan to knock out your state’s pre-licensing course within a few days.
Another thing that makes getting your license more complicated at this stage is that a few states will only accept in-person pre-licensing courses. If you work a full-time job or have children to care for at home, you might have to give up your evenings and hire a babysitter, take a few weeks off of work, or sacrifice the majority of your weekends for the next few months.
The Tricky Real Estate Topics
The courses themselves aren’t as difficult as understanding the complex topics in real estate that are likely brand new to you—of course, that’s unless you’re coming from a career in law, mortgage, or finances and have some hands-on experience with the subject matter.
Not only do you have to be knowledgeable in your state concepts and laws, but you also have to be an expert on the national side as well. If you’re wondering how much you need to know about buying and selling homes, take a look at the topics you’ll cover:
- Mortgages (adjustable-rate, fixed-rate, conventional, FHA, VA home loans)
- Licensing requirements (pocket cards, exams, transferring brokers, commissions)
- Estates (fee simple, life estates, life tenants, leaseholds)
- Tenancy (joint, in common, entirety, rights of survivorship)
- Restrictions (easements, encroachments)
- Titles, deeds, and contracts
- Agent duties (dual agency, fiduciary relationships, E&O)
- Leases, homeownership, and zoning laws
- Environmental laws (national and state)
- Real estate mathematics
Having a clear understanding of these vast subject areas is necessary. What makes these topics complicated is that many are easy to confuse, use similar terminology or words, and aren’t easy to decipher just by looking at the terms.
To truly understand these concepts, you’ll need to be able to practically memorize the hundreds of pages and concepts within your real estate textbook, study for hours on end, and ace the practice exams in your exam prep program.
The Pre-Licensing Final Exam
Another thing worth pointing out is that you’ll need to pass a final exam for your pre-licensing course. This gets in the way of many prospective agents’ hopes of sitting in the back of their in-person classroom and playing around on their laptops as they squeeze in the mandatory hours. This also means you can’t stream the online modules in your computer’s background as you sit at your desk at work.
How to Make It Easier
You need to take your pre-licensing seriously, pay attention during your in-person or online training, ask questions on topics you’re confused about and do additional research to further your understanding. Those are the best ways to ensure you see success moving forward.
Acing Your State’s Real Estate Exam
On top of passing your course’s final exam, you’ll also have to pass your state’s official real estate exam. Most states require a passing score of 70-75%, and some states have rules that limit the number of times an applicant can take the exam before having to take additional training. You can’t just take the test dozens of times until you finally pass.
Knowing the exam is what stands between you and your real estate license (and not knowing what might be on the exam), it shouldn’t be surprising that the real estate exam pass rate hovers around a mere 50-60% in most states.
What’s on the Test
While we can’t tell you exactly what’s on the real estate exam, as this depends on the state you’re applying for licensure in and the question bank the testing facility is using; we can give you a little insight into what the exam is like:
- 100 to 150 questions (60-80 at the state level, the rest in a more general sense)
- 2 to 4 hours to complete the entire exam
- All multiple-choice questions
- Cannot use notes, cell phone, or textbook to take the exam
- National and state concepts and laws
This test format and subject area aren’t easy for many people for a few reasons.
Firstly, the test is long in terms of the time limit and the number of questions you’ll be asked. So you’ll really need to be able to focus come test day, not let your nerves get the best of you, and remember everything you learned during pre-licensing and your study sessions.
Another issue is that there’s no telling the topics that’ll be the most heavily focused on in the exam you get. For example, you might consider yourself an expert in mortgage concepts and find environmental laws a little tricky. But on the test, you may see that there are only three mortgage-related questions and seven on environmental laws.
How to Make It Easier
You truly have to be an expert on all topics in real estate, as you never know the concepts you’ll come across during your exam until the big day. The best way to ensure that testing is a breeze and you move on to the next steps of licensing is by taking exam prep seriously, whether through your own studying tactics or an exam prep program.
Take as many practice exams as possible until you’re consistently scoring a 90%+ before scheduling your real estate exam.
Here’s a video explaining some tips and tools for ensuring you pass your exam on the first attempt and get your license ASAP:
The Remaining Steps of Licensure
The two steps we just talked about are usually the hardest for new agents. The remaining steps tend to be a little easier, such as:
- Passing a background check: This step should be easy if you don’t have crimes like tax evasion, tax fraud, or burglary on your criminal record. The hardest part here will be finding an opening at the nearest fingerprinting facility.
- Sending in your application: Aside from a mound of paperwork that you and your new broker will have to fill out, this step is relatively simple. What makes it difficult is that you might have to wait weeks or a full month to get your license from the state.
In essence, once you pass your real estate exam, you’ll be coasting toward your new career in real estate. Be glad you got the hardest parts out of the way at the beginning.
The major concepts of real estate and the time commitment of getting your license make licensure a little complex. However, you shouldn’t face these problems if you take your education seriously, dedicate your time toward studying, and avoid going into this process, expecting it to be a breeze.
If you stick to your schedule and put forth your full effort, you should have your license in just a few short months.
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