How You Can Obtain a California Real Estate License

Before beginning, it is important to note that the licensing requirements set forth by the California Department of Real Estate can change at any time. Therefore, while the information in this article is accurate to the best of our knowledge, it is recommended that you contact the Department to ensure you have the most up to date information possible. Also, if you are seeking to acquire real estate licenses in several states it is best you contact each individual’s state’s real estate department and find out their specific requirements.

In California, there are some basic qualifications you need to meet before starting down the path of becoming a licensed real estate agent. The most basic requirements are that you are at least 18 years of age and you are a legal resident of the state of California. You can obtain a license if you are not a resident, but that falls under a different set of requirements.

Since the real estate profession and industry base their brand and their reputation on the honesty and integrity of each individual agent, your criminal background will be investigated. During the application process it is critical you are honest about any prior misdemeanor or felony convictions. There are two reasons for this. One, you will immediately demonstrate your honesty and integrity. Two, not every criminal conviction will be a disqualifying factor in determining you being granted a real estate license. Each application will be reviewed on its merits, so admission of a conviction will be evaluated based on how much time has passed since incarceration, the nature of the crime, and how you have moved forward to get back on the right track.

Next is to evaluate your real estate educational level. There are only three courses from the following list that are required to be eligible to apply for the license. Many community colleges offer some or all of these classes, so you can get the necessary background for very little cost. The first two are required of every applicant, and you can choose from one elective course.


  • Real Estate Principles
  • Real Estate Practice
  • One of these choices:
  • Real Estate Appraisal
  • Real Estate Economics
  • Real Estate Finance
  • Real Estate Office Administration
  • Business Law
  • Computer Applications in Real Estate
  • Common Interest Developments
  • Escrows
  • General Accounting
  • Legal Aspects of Real Estate
  • Mortgage Loan Brokering and Lending
  • Property Management

As with most licenses awarded by the State you will be required to take an exam to demonstrate your basic competence to sell real estate. With the Real Estate license it is mandatory you pass the exam before applying for the license. The exam is written, and after successfully passing it you will then be given the actual application to submit.

There are levels of real estate practice you can achieve, including becoming a real estate broker. This is a separate application and requires a minimum of two years of actual real estate selling experience under the supervision of a person who themselves are a licensed broker. You must have been actively selling real estate for two of the last five years, and also have gone back to school to complete an additional 8 courses in real estate from the following list:

These 5 are mandatory courses:

  • Legal Aspects of Real Estate
  • Real Estate Appraisal
  • Real Estate Economics or Accounting
  • Real Estate Finance
  • Real Estate Practice

Then you can choose from any 3 from the following list:

  • Advanced Legal Aspects of Real Estate
  • Advanced Real Estate Finance
  • Advanced Real Estate Appraisal
  • Business Law
  • Computer Applications in Real Estate
  • Common Interest Developments
  • Escrow
  • Property Management
  • Real Estate Principles
  • Real Estate Office Administration
  • Mortgage Loan Brokering and Lending

Of course, meeting the requirements means you will have to also come up with some money for the examination fee. The basic real estate agent license exam will cost you $60, while for the broker’s exam it will be $95. If this sounds reasonable, it is because it actually is a fair price. Once you get your license it will be required for you to renew it every four years. When you come back for renewal your fees will increase to $245 and $300 respectively for the basic real estate license and the broker’s license. On top of the renewal fee there is a charge for you to get fingerprinted, which for both renewals is $49.

Overall, the process is actually very simple, so all you need to do is make sure you have your ducks in a row. Initially your costs will be very low. But once you start selling real estate (and make the sales commission attached to it) the state of California apparently thinks you should share a part of that income every 4 years by paying more for your real estate license. If you are planning on being a career real estate professional it is generally best to move up and get your broker’s license as it will give you more flexibility in the more challenging real estate markets.

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