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How to Become a Real Estate Agent in California

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Selling real estate has been profitable for many people, but not everyone qualifies. In California, real estate agents must be at least 18 years old, take a series of real-estate courses and then pass the state licensing exam. You don't have to be a California resident to get a license there.

Why Sell Real Estate?

Lots of careers don't require this much effort, but selling real estate has some serious advantages. As a California agent you must work under a broker, but you're still an independent contractor. You can set your own hours, develop your own client base and market yourself. Rather than earn your pay punching a clock, your income ties directly into your efforts and your success. When you want to take a vacation, you don't have to ask a boss for permission to leave town. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, real estate salespeople in California have a mean annual wage of $65,790 as of May 2016.

Education and Examination

You may think you know your stuff, but the state wants proof. To qualify for your licensing exam, you must take three college-level real estate courses. One course covers real estate principles, a second covers real estate practices and you choose the third course from a list including:

  • Business law
  • Real estate law
  • Property management
  • Appraisal
  • Mortgage loans
  • Accounting

Once you've obtained your license in California, you have to join forces with a broker before selling real estate because they have more experience in the field. If you're from out of state, you can use a transcript showing you've completed some or all of the coursework in your own state. Even if you're licensed there, you'll still have to pass the California test.

Background Check

Applicants for a real estate license must submit their fingerprints and pass a background check. The California Bureau of Real Estate may reject your application if you've been convicted of a crime, and covering up a criminal history can also cost you your license.

A Day in the Life

A positive aspect of the real estate life is that there's no such thing as a typical day. The exact mix of activities varies, depending whether you're showing houses, completing additional real estate courses or doing research, but here are some activities to expect:

  • Prospecting for new clients
  • Researching the local housing market and the development in local neighborhoods
  • Paperwork
  • Continuing education
  • Showing homes to clients
  • Arranging home inspections

Succeeding in this field takes good organizational skills and the ability to be flexible if other peoples' schedules change. If you've got the skills, the license and the determination, you may have a good shot at success.


About the Author

Over the course of his career, Fraser Sherman has reported on local governments, written about how to start a business and profiled professionals in a variety of career fields.. He lives in Durham NC with his awesome wife and two wonderful dogs. His website is

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