Become a real estate agent in California

Q: Marsha, I was a high school teacher in Santa Barbara for five years and I’d like to make a change. Real estate has always fascinated me. How do I get my real estate license?

A: It’s a popular idea to explore real estate as a career move. Many professionals – teachers, lawyers, accountants, police officers and, in Santa Barbara, even a nuclear physicist – have taken the plunge and become real estate agents. The decision process from being an agent to becoming a licensee takes five to six months.

The first step is to complete 135 hours of coursework from a California-approved course provider. There are two required courses: Real Estate Principles and Real Estate Practice, which are 45 hours each. The last 45 hours can be selected from a range of approved courses. Once you have taken these courses and passed the required exam, you can take the state exam.

The California Licensee Test consists of 150 questions. You will be tested on seven areas of real estate: Control and Regulation of Ownership and Land Use, Agency Laws and Fiduciary Duties, Real Estate Valuation and Financial Analysis, Financing, Transfer of Property, Real Estate Practice , and disclosures and contracts. You have three hours and 15 minutes to complete the test. A passing grade is 70 percent.

Once you pass the state test, get your fingerprints taken, undergo a background check, and pay California its licensing fees, then congratulations! You are now a real estate licensee. This license allows you to work under the supervision of a real estate broker.

My strong recommendation is to start your career with a large, well-established brokerage. They will connect you with a mentor and provide invaluable training. Right now, all you know about real estate is how to pass the state test. You need to educate yourself on the real estate practice.

It is important to have a strong support system. Real estate is strictly commission based. You can work with a buyer for 100 hours, but if that customer goes to an open house and writes an offer with the open house agent, you won’t earn anything.

Early in my career, I had clients I had worked with for many months. We have become friends over time together. They called me on a Sunday afternoon to tell me their “good” news. They thought I would be thrilled that they finally found a house to buy. They had no idea that I would not be involved and would receive nothing from this transaction. Be sure to let your customers know how your hard work is compensated.

Real estate is a huge tent; I love how inclusive a career it is. All California residents over the age of 18 can obtain a license. Everyone is accepted, whether you have a high school diploma, a law degree or an MD. Just pass the state exam, work for a brokerage, learn the trade, and start helping clients. There is one client for each type of agent. Be aware: real estate is extremely hard work. You work for yourself. You set your own hours…as long as they are all your hours. I’ll see you in the caravan!

Marsha Gray has worked in Santa Barbara real estate for over 25 years. She works at Allyn & Associates, where she helps clients buy and sell homes and with loan services. To read more of Marsha’s Q&A articles, visit Contact Marsha at (805) 252-7093 or [email protected].

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