How to Become a Real Estate Agent or Realtor: A Step-by-Step Guide

by Joanna Stewart

Sat, Nov 17, 2018

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Are you ready to finally have the freedom to work when and where you want? How about earning a potentially limitless income?

If this sounds appealing, then becoming a real estate agent might be a great career choice for you.

In this step-by-step guide on how to become a real estate agent we’ll walk you through the simple process.

real estate agent guide

Before we get into the details, here are the minimum requirements in most states. If you meet these criteria, then let’s move on to the good stuff below.

Minimum requirements to be a real estate agent:

Real estate license requirements:

Step 1: Sign Up for State Approved Pre-Licensing Course

The first thing you should know is that the real estate profession is regulated at the state level. This means there are 50 different sets of requirements to become a real estate agent - one for each state. While most states have similar requirements, they all vary slightly.

That being said, every state requires new agents to take pre-licensing courses. These cover the fundamentals of real estate such as finance, legal matters and basic math.

Other required courses are focused on the nuts and bolts of being an agent. In these classes you’ll learn more about negotiating, sales contracts and the closing process.

But, most important of all, these classes will help you prepare for and pass your licensing exam.

Each state will allow only approved schools to teach these pre-licensing courses. The good news is that many schools allow you to take these courses online and at your own pace.

No need to commute to classes after work or sit in a dusty classroom. Take classes in your spare time and after the kids have gone to bed.

In California agents are required to take 135 hours of classes to become a real estate salesperson. Live in Texas? Get ready for 180 hours of pre-licensing classes.

However, not every state has such high requirements. Alabama only requires 60 hours and Washington state only 90 hours. You’ll need to check your state’s real estate website for more information.

Step 2: Interview and Choose Your Broker

At the beginning of this guide I told you that becoming a real estate agent meant you could work when and where you want to. However, there’s a catch.

You can’t be a real estate salesperson on your own. Instead, you need to work under a broker.

A broker is the person responsible for a organizing the sale of real property between buyers and sellers. However, in large and small brokerages, it is the real estate agents that find and negotiate these deals.

When the deal is complete, the real estate agent splits the sales commission with the broker. This split ranges anywhere from 7030 to 5050.

If you want to act as an agent without working with a brokerage, you’ll need to get your broker’s license.

When first starting as a real estate agent, you’ll need to choose a brokerage to work with. These include the big companies you are probably already familiar with such as Keller Williams, Century 21, Redfin, Re/Max, Coldwell Banker and Sotheby’s International.

There are also dozens of smaller agencies in every city that work with both new and experienced agents. Which one you choose will depend on the type of resources you need as well as the monthly fees you’ll be required to pay.

Do you want to be associated with a national brand like Keller Williams or Century 21? Or do you want to work with a brokerage that has a long-standing relationship with homeowners in your community?

These are just a few things to consider before choosing a broker to work for.

Step 3: Pass State Your State Real Estate License Exam

Once you’ve completed your pre-license course, you should be ready to take and pass the licensing exam.

Before you can take the exam you’ll need to fill out your real estate license application. You will also be required to pass a background check and have your fingerprints taken.

The application process can take a few weeks to process, so be prepared to wait.

Step 4: Put Some Money in the Bank

Working as a real estate agent is very different from a normal 9 to 5 job. If you’ve worked in an office before you may not realize how much it costs to pay for advertising, office space and supplies each month.

As a real estate agent you’ll have to pay for these yourself, out of your own pocket.

That’s why before you start your career in real estate it is recommended that you put some cash in the bank. Some of this nest egg will be used to pay for your pre-licensing courses, exam fees and association dues.

Next, you’ll need to use some of this money to promote your new business. At a minimum most real estate agents need business cards, a website, a cell phone plan and office space to get started.

You may also need to pay for online or offline advertising, chamber of commerce dues or other marketing costs.

Finally, the majority of your savings should be used to cover your monthly living expenses while you gain some momentum.

Selling real estate offers big commissions and sometimes it’s easy money. But for the most part, each home sale will take months of your time and effort.

Having savings in the bank will help you weather the slow months without having to give up on your real estate dreams.

Step 5: Build Your Client Portfolio

After you have passed your exam and have business cards in hand, it’s time to get to work. Building and nurturing your client base is where successful agents soar and mediocre agents struggle.

You will need to develop relationships with people in your community before they are ready to buy or sell their home.

If you have done this successfully, when they need an agent you will be the first person they think of.

There are hundreds of ways to build your client base. Some of the most basic ways include cold calling friends and associates who may be in the market for a house.

You can also buy a list of prospects from lead generation companies to give you a head start over other agents.

Building up a healthy client base takes years. But there’s no reason why you can’t speed up this process by working smarter - not harder - and being creative.

Step 6: Complete Post-Licensing Education Requirements

After you receive your license you will be required to take more classes.

In some states you’ll need to complete the post-licensing education requirements within the first 6 months. Other states set their deadline before your first license renewal.

No matter what the requirements are in your state be prepared to pay for these courses. Plus, you’ll need to set time aside to finish the course material while running your new business as a real estate agent.

Step 7: Keep Up with Continuing Education Requirements

Real estate is an ever evolving industry. Every year there are new laws and changing trends that a real estate agent needs to keep tabs on. That’s why every state has continuing education requirements.

Before you can renew your license you may be required to complete 15 hours or more of continuing education credits.

The good news is that in most states real estate licenses are valid for two years. That should give you plenty of time to complete these classes.

However, just because there is a minimum number of hours required, doesn’t mean you should just squeak by. The most successful agents go to seminars, take online courses and attend conferences every year.

Real estate is a very competitive field. For that reason you’ll need every advantage possible to stay ahead of other Realtors in your community.


As we’ve covered there are many steps required to becoming a real estate agent or Realtor.

First, you’ll need to take a state approved pre-licensing course and pass the real estate license exam. You will also need to find a brokerage to work with, as a real estate salesperson cannot work alone.

Once you have your license you will also need to complete continuing education credits to renew your license.

We also included a few other steps into the process beyond just the basics.

If you want to start off on the right foot you should have a few months of living expenses saved up. Plus, you’ll need some money in the bank to pay for start-up and advertising fees.

Successful real estate agents will also need to focus on building their client base every single day. If you follow the steps above you will have your real estate salesperson license, but without happy clients you won’t be a real estate agent for very long.

Don’t forget, without clients you are out of business.

Check back for more tips on how to become a real estate agent at


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