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HOW TO GET A REAL ESTATE LICENSE IN CALIFORNIA

The Definitive Guide (2022)

By: Ciprian MorariuCreated: 14 September 2022


Welcome to this extensive guide that will help you obtain your real estate license in California! 

Would you like to start a career as a real estate agent in California? In this guide, you will learn:

Would you like to save money and time while studying to get a real estate license in California? This updated guide will help you do it!

Introduction to Real estate license California Guide.
Real Estate License California Basics

Chapter: 1

California Real Estate License: The Basics
Steps To Get Your Real Estate License in California.

Chapter: 2

California Real Estate License: Becoming Licensed
How Much Does It Cost to Get a California Real Estate License?

Chapter: 3

California Real Estate License: The Costs
How Long Does It Take to Receive Your California Real Estate License?

Chapter: 4

California Real Estate License: Time Needed

CHAPTER 1:

California Real Estate License: The Basics


This chapter will introduce you to the basics of real estate licensing in California.

First, we will tell you why you need a real estate broker license in California and why it is useful to have one!

Next, you will read how to start a successful career in real estate in California.

Real estate license California Chapter 1 basics.

Who Is Required to Have a Real Estate License in California?

Having a California real estate license is requisite for anybody who wants to conduct real estate transactions in the state of California. Licenses are granted by the California Department of Real Estate (DRE).

Being an unlicensed real estate broker or salesperson is against the law.

Let’s look at the different licenses offered by the California DRE.

Real Estate Salesperson

Real Estate Broker

Requires 135 hours of real estate training

Requires 360 hours of real estate training

No experience required

Should have worked as a real estate Salesperson for 2 years 

Works under a Broker’s supervision 

Brokers may work alone or own a firm and hire agents to work for them

Receives commission from the Broker

Receives commission from the client

If you’re starting fresh in the real estate industry, you will need to get a California real estate Salesperson license.

This guide will cover in detail the process you must follow to get a real estate salesperson license in California. 

 

How Much Can a Real Estate Salesperson Earn in California?

The average annual salary for a licensed Real Estate Agent in California is $115,752 including commissions. For updated information you could refer to Indeed.com.

Here is how you can search for this information:

  • Access the Indeed.com website using your web browser.
  • Type “real estate agent” in the What box.
  • Type, “California” in the Where box.
Salary information for real estate agents in California.

Information on the highest paying cities for real estate agents in California is also available on Indeed.com.

Below you can see how much a CA real estate agent can earn in San Jose, Los Angeles, Irvine, San Diego, Sacramento, Long Beach, Santa Ana, Bakersville and Huntington Beach.

Information for highest paying cities for real estate agent in California.

Now that you know what a real estate Salesperson does and their potential earnings, let's dive straight into how to get a real estate agent license in the state of California. 

Please check out our article: How Much Do Real Estate Agents Make in California in 2022

CHAPTER 2:

California Real Estate License: Becoming Licensed


To get a real estate broker license in California, you need to take four steps.

In this chapter, we will discuss each of them in detail.

Let’s start!

Chapter 2 Steps to get real estate license California.

In a nutshell here is how to get your real estate license in California.

Pre-requisites

  • You must be at least 18 yrs of age or older to be eligible to apply for a license.
  • You must have a social security number or an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN).
  • You must be a resident of California. If you are an out-of-state resident, you must file the Consent to Service of Process (RE 234) with the California DRE.
  • You must be honest and truthful. You may be denied a license if you do not disclose information about prior convictions in your application.

Step #1

You must complete three, 45-hour courses (135-hours in total). These courses must be approved by the California Department of Real Estate.

Step #2

Submit your combined application for your California State State Exam and Salesperson License online with the California Department of Real Estate.

Step #3

Once your application is approved, you must schedule and then take the California Real Estate State Exam.

Step #4

As soon as you pass the State Exam, you can print your license from the DRE website!

Let's now look at each step in detail.

Step #1: 

Complete the Pre-Licensing Education

To get a real estate license in the state of California, you need to first complete 135-hours of pre-licensing education. This education is split across 3 courses. You will also need to pass the exams at the end of each course

The California pre-licensing education is as follows:

  • Course 1: Real Estate Principles (45 Hours)
  • Course 2: Real Estate Practices (45 Hours)
  • Course 3: This is a 45 hour elective course that covers one of the subjects below:
    1. Real Estate Appraisal
    2. Property Management
    3. Real Estate Finance
    4. Real Estate Economics
    5. Legal Aspects of Real Estate
    6. Real Estate Office Administration
    7. General Accounting
    8. Business Law, Escrows
    9. Mortgage Loan Brokering and Lending
    10. Computer Applications in Real Estate
    11. Common Interest Developments

The pre-licensing courses are provided only by education providers who are approved by the DRE. 

The California Department of Real Estate website contains information about courses provided by the community colleges and universities in California. 

You will also find information about courses that can be taken at foreign universities.

Home page of the California Real Estate Commission site, showing the ‘List of Statutory /Pre Licensing Course Offerings’ link highlighted.

If you scroll lower on the page, you will find a link to more information on approved pre-license courses.

Home Page of the DRE website with the Search for approved statutory/pre-license courses link highlighted.
DRE Website page for searching approved course providers.

After you complete each 45-hour course (for a total of 135 hours of education), you will also need to pass the end-of-course exams. 

You will have two attempts to pass each course exam. The passing score for each exam is 70%.

You will need to submit evidence of having completed 135 hours of qualifying education when you submit your application for the California State Examination. 

This evidence includes official transcripts, certificates, or State Bar Cards.

Note:

If you are a member of the California State Bar, you are exempt from the college-level course requirements. In this case, you only need to provide a photocopy of your California State Bar membership card (both sides of the card). All such evidence is to be submitted in Step 2.

Step #2: 

Submit Your Application

Once you have successfully completed the 135-hour qualifying education courses and the end-of-course exams, you may apply for the California State Examination

The California State Examination is a separate exam from the qualifying course exams. Don’t confuse the two! You cannot get a real estate license if you fail the State Examination (even if you passed the course exams)

When applying for the CA State Exam, you have two options to choose from:

  • Option 1: You can choose to apply for the State Exam and the Salesperson License separately. This is a ‘pay as you go’ option. But you will have to do the application process twice. Once for scheduling your State Exam and then again after you pass the Exam.

OR

  • Option 2: You can submit a single form, which is a combined application for the State Exam and the Salesperson License. This option is also called a ‘Combination Application’. Here, you pay all the required fees in advance, and the fees are non-refundable. However, this option has a shorter process. 

Further in this guide, we’ll look at the steps involved in each option separately. 

Whichever option you choose to go with, you can complete and submit your application online or via mail. 

The online process happens via the eLicensing portal on the DRE website. 

Note:

The DRE recommends using the eLicensing portal because it can speed up the application processing time.

We will focus mainly on the Combination Application process via eLicensing. 

So, here is what you need to do.

Create Your eLicensing Account

You must begin by creating an eLicensing Account, if you don’t already have one. Access the website https://www.dre.ca.gov/.

1. On the homepage, click on LICENSEES, and then click eLicensing

Home Page of the DRE website with the eLicensing link highlighted.

2. Click the Register/Apply button under ‘Applying for an exam or exam/license and don’t have an eLicensing account?’.

eLicensing Login Page on the DRE website.

3. Accept the Terms and Conditions presented on the next page. Scroll down on the page, and click Accept.

Terms and Conditions Page for eLicensing on the DRE website.

4. Next, you will need to enter your Social Security Number/ITIN, and also your Birth Date. Once done, click Continue

You will also be asked to provide your Real Estate License Identification Number (which you can update on the site once you have received your license). 

You will be asked to provide an email ID (for future communication from the DRE) and a Username and Password.

New User Setup page on the DRE website.

Your eLicensing account should now be ready and you should be logged into the DRE website. 

You are now ready to start the application process.

Let’s look at the two application options now:

‘Examination Only’ Application 

You must complete the following steps when applying for the Examination Only:

1. Log into your eLicensing account, and select Online Exam License Application from the Options menu.

2. Next, select the Salesperson exam application from the Options list.

3. Complete the application by answering the questions and by uploading all of the required documents. When completing the form, you will need to:

  • Decide how to schedule the state exam. You will see a question asking if you prefer to use ‘eLicensing’ to schedule your own examination date.

    If you select Yes (which is recommended by the DRE), you will receive a notification email when you have qualified for the examination. Once you receive this email, you can then go to the eLicensing section on the DRE website and select the location, date, and time when you wish to take the exam.

    If you select No, then you must complete the information that appears directly below in the form (see image). The DRE will then assign you a date, and it will cost money to reschedule that date!
Screen grab of the Salesperson Exam form.
  • Provide information about any criminal history and prior convictions. If you withhold any information related to a criminal record—no matter how insignificant you think it may be—your application may be denied.
  • Include information about course completions. This includes copies of your original college transcripts and/or certificates of completion from private schools approved by the DRE.
  • Complete and attach the Reasonable Accommodation Request for Examination (RE 413) form with your application, if you need a disability-related reasonable accommodation.

4. Verify that your application is complete and that all information provided is correct. An incomplete application will be rejected and will only add time to the overall application process! 

5. Pay the Examination Fees. The examination fee for the Salesperson exam is $60. You may choose to pay by cheque or by money order payable to the DRE. If you choose to pay via credit card, you will need to provide your credit card information in the RE 909 form and upload this document with your application. The DRE never accepts cash.

6. Submit your application.

Combination Application  (this is the more popular option)

The process for completing the Combination Application (application for Salesperson Exam and License), is a bit different. You must do the following:

1. Complete a Live Scan Service Request (RE237) form and take it to a Live Scan service provider to get fingerprinted. Pay the required fees to the Live Scan service provider ($49).

If you are an out of state applicant, refer to this page on the DRE website for more information regarding the live scan fingerprinting.

2. Collect and keep ready the following documents:

  • Course completion certificates or school transcripts.
  • Reasonable Accommodation Request for Examination (RE 413) form, if you need such an accommodation.
  • Any name change documentation that may be required to support errors in your name as it appears on your prior records, course transcripts, certificates, etc.

3. Now, log into your eLicensing account, select Online Exam License Application from the Options menu.

4. Next, select the Salesperson exam application from the Options list.

5. Complete the application by answering the questions and by uploading all the required documents.

6. Verify that your application is complete and that all information provided is correct.

7. Pay the application fees (approximately $305).
In the combination application, you will need to pay all the required fees upfront; i.e. Examination Fee ($60), License Fee ($245), Fingerprint Fee ($49, payable directly at the Live Scanning Service by California residents or to the DRE by non-residents).

8. Submit your application.  

After Submitting Your Application

Wait for the DRE to approve your application. The DRE will send you an email, confirming that they received your application and that it is being processed. Once you receive the email from the DRE, you could check the expected application processing time for your application on the DRE’s website. 

The page you see presents information about the different application types being processed each week. 

This information is updated on a weekly basis. Check the site frequently.

Page on DRE Website showing current processing times for applications, renewals, and license changes.

Step #3: 

Pass the California Real Estate State Exam

Once your application is approved, you must schedule and then take the State Exam. 

Remember, you must pass the California State Exam to be eligible to apply for your CA real estate license.  

When completing your application, if you chose the option to schedule your State Exam, then you can do so using the eLicensing portal on the DRE website

First, check the available exam slots by doing the following.

1. On the Home Page, click the ‘I am a…’ drop-down list and select Examinee or Current/Potential License Applicant.

Home Page of DRE Website with the ‘I am a…’ drop-down list expanded.

2. Then, click the ‘I want to…’ drop-down list and select Schedule an Application.

Home Page of DRE Website with the ‘I want to…’ drop-down list expanded.

3. On the next page, click the Check available exam dates link.

DRE website page with the Check available exam dates link highlighted.

4. Next, select the area(s) and also the type of exam, and click the Get Exam List.

Check for Available California Real Estate Exam Dates page on the DRE website.

You will now see a list of available California Real Estate Exam dates based on your selections. You can use this information to select the date, time and exam location best suited for you.

Check for Available California Real Estate Exam Dates page on the DRE website.

5. Next, login into your eLicense account on the DRE site. 

6. Select Schedule Examination under Options. 

You will now be able to select the date, time, and location for the State Exam. 

Remember, you must pass the State Exam before you can apply for your license.

Note:

If you did not choose the option to schedule your State Exam via eLicensing, then the DRE will assign you a date and time slot. 

The California Real Estate License Exam has to be taken at testing centers in either one of the following cities: Fresno, San Diego, Los Angeles, Oakland, or Sacramento. 

The Exam has 150 multiple-choice questions, which you must answer within 3 hours and 15 minutes. 

You must score 70% to pass the exam. 

Those who do not pass the exam may choose to retake it.

Step #4: 

Print Your License

After you pass the CA State Exam, the steps for getting your Salesperson license will vary depending on whether you chose the Examination Only Application or the Combination Application.

Let’s take a look at both options.

Examination Only Application

If you chose the Examination Only Application, you will need to apply for your Salesperson License via the DRE Website.

  1. You will need to submit the license application within the same year that you pass the State Exam. The application will be available to you via eLicensing.
  2. You will need to pay the remaining fees ($245 for the Salesperson License).
  3. You will need to complete the Live Scan fingerprinting at this point.
  4. You will then need to wait for approval and you will receive your license within a few weeks, once the DRE approves your application.
  5. You can then print out your license via eLicensing. 

Combination Application

If you chose the Combination Application, then you do not need to do anything else after you pass the State Exam. 

You will receive your license the very same day that you pass the State Exam. 

You can print your license via eLicensing on the DRE website.

CHAPTER 3:

California Real Estate License: The Costs


It will cost money to obtain a real estate license in California. You can better comprehend your spendings by reading this chapter.

It is possible to distinguish fixed and variable costs. Your expenses for the application fee, the examination price, and the background check charge are all fixed expenditures.

Variable expenses include the costs of the education courses you need to take. Online education is less expensive than traditional classroom courses. Your choice of school will also affect the costs. 

Do you want to learn more?

Real estate license California Chapter 3 California real estate license cost.

What are the Variable Costs?

Online Licensing Courses

Online real estate Salesperson license courses for California will cost between $60 and $179. 

The cost varies across education providers. 

You will also pay less if you choose an online class over a classroom course. The advantage of online courses over classroom courses is that they offer savings in terms of time and money. 

We have provided details about the California Real Estate Salesperson Online Course from RealEstateU below. This will help you to study as per your schedule and plan. 

For your reference, we have also included courses from other schools. They follow the same curriculum provided by the state. So most courses are similar. 

NOTE: 

Please conduct your own research since pricing may change after this page is published.

RealEstateU® offers the 45-hour California Real Estate Licensing Course Online for $99.

Advertisement for the California Real Estate License Course from Real EstateU

Kaplan Real Estate Education’s online real estate salesperson pre-licensing course packages start at $179 and go on to $949. The price varies across package types, which range from On Demand, Home Study, to Live Online.

 

Advertisement for the California Real Estate License online course from Kaplan Real Estate

Vaned offers the California 135-hour standard package at $60.

Advertisement for the California Real Estate License online course from Vaned.

The CE School offers the California 135-hour course package at $96.75. They also offer additional packages that range from $149.25 to $333.75.

Advertisement for the California Real Estate License online course from The CE Shop

Physical Classroom Licensing Courses

Apart from the online courses, there are real estate schools in California that provide in-person classes. 

Let’s have a look at the available options. 

The Realty Academy offers The VIP Program for in person classes at $699.

 

Advertisement for the California Real Estate License Live Crash Course from The Realty Academy

CA Realty Training offers a Live Crash Course for California Real Estate License starting at $175.

Advertisement for the California Real Estate License Live Crash Course from CA Realty

There are two major differentiators between an online and in-person (classroom) course: 

  1. Cost - The difference between the lowest classroom program and online course is $105, which is a significant difference.  
  2. Flexibility - Only an online class provides you the flexibility to study as per your own time and schedule. 

Next, let’s look at the fixed costs you can expect when acquiring a real estate Salesperson or Broker license in California.

What are the Fixed Costs?

Here we have provided information for both the CA Real Estate Salesperson as well as the CA Real Estate Broker licenses. 

EXAMINATION FEES 

 

Salesperson

Broker

Original Examination

$60

$95

Re-Examination

$60

$95

First Rescheduled Exam

$15

$20

Subsequent Rescheduled Exam

$30

$30

 

ORIGINAL LICENSE FEES 

 

Salesperson

Broker

License Fee

$245

$300

Fingerprint Fee

*

*

Total Due to DRE

$245

$300

* Original license or examination applicants who reside in California will pay a $49 fingerprint processing fee directly to the live scan fingerprint service provider. Original license applicants who reside out of state should submit the $56 fingerprint processing fee to the DRE with their application and license fee.

COMBINATION EXAMINATION AND LICENSE APPLICATION

 

Salesperson

Broker

Examination Fee

$60

$95

License Fee

$245

$300

Fingerprint Fee

*

*

Total due to DRE 

$305

$395

* Original license or examination applicants who reside in California will pay a $49 fingerprint processing fee directly to the live scan fingerprint service provider. Original license applicants who reside out of state should submit the $49 fingerprint processing fee to the DRE with their application and license fee.

We can now determine the total costs of obtaining a California Real Estate Salesperson License by adding up the variable and fixed expenses.

If you choose to take the California Real Estate Salesperson Licensing Online course from REU, your total costs would be as follows:

Description

Cost

REU California Real Estate Salesperson Licensing Course

$ 99.00

Original Examination Fee

$ 60.00

License Fee

$ 245.00

Fingerprinting Fee

$ 49.00

TOTAL FEES

$ 453.00

CHAPTER 4:

California Real Estate License: Time Needed


You may also be wondering:

  • How long would it take me to prepare for the California license?
  • How long will it take to complete the application process?
  • When will I get the results of the state exam?

You will find answers to these questions in this chapter.
Let’s discuss them.

Real estate license California Chapter 4 how to get your real estate license in California.

Estimated Time to Complete the Pre-Licensing Education

Expected Time: 5 to 6 months

On the whole, it should take you approximately 5 - 6 months to complete the overall process for the California real estate Salesperson license. This includes the time you would need to complete studying for the 135-hour pre-licensing course. 

NOTE:

The DRE requires that you spend at least 2 and 1/2 weeks studying for each course. This means the earliest you could complete all 3 pre-licensing courses is 7 and 1/2 weeks.

California Real Estate License mandatory completion time example of 2.5 weeks per course as shown on the CA DRE website.

The time you would need to complete the pre-licensing course online will depend entirely on how much time in a day you can dedicate to studying. 

If you are able to study for 3 hours a day, you should be able to complete the pre-licensing course in approximately 45 days.

This estimated timeframe will also include the time required to complete and submit your applications for the State Exam and the License (if you choose the Exam Only application route). 

You should also factor in the time that would be required for the DRE to review your application and approve it.

Pro Tip:

Your best bet to get your license in the shortest amount of time is to apply via the Combination Application option.

Not only will you be submitting a single combined application for your State Exam and the license, but you will also receive your license immediately after you pass the Exam.

With the Exam Only application route, the DRE will need 2 - 3 weeks to review and approve your license application before you receive your license.

Here’s a step by step guide to become a licensed real estate salesperson or broker provided on the DRE website

Steps to becoming licensed real estate salesperson or broker.

This will help you understand the process for getting your Salesperson and Broker licenses in California.

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