How to Become a Real Estate Agent (2024 Updated!)

Real estate team shaking hands

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Getting your real estate license can seem intimidating, but it’s really not that hard once you know what to do.  We’ve broken down everything you need to know here including costs, timing, and eligibility. Just follow these simple steps to get your real estate license and start selling real estate ASAP.


Ask most people how to become a real estate agent and they will tell you that you need to take educational courses, pass the real estate exam, apply with the state, pay some fees and you will get your license. That’s not a bad summary but becoming a real estate agent takes a lot more than that. It includes deciding if the industry is right for you, studying, building your career and constantly striving to do better.

This guide will outline what you need to do to become a real estate agent so you can determine if it’s a career move that’s right for you.

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Step 1: Take a Pre-licensing Course

jotting down notes at a meetingTo become a real estate agent, you’ll need to take a pre-licensing course. The amount of coursework you will need will vary from state to state. For example, in North Carolina, you need to take 75 hours of classes before taking the licensing exam. In Texas, you need 180 hours of coursework.

There are many schools that offer real estate courses in a variety of formats. You can take them online at a ‘go at your own pace’ or livestream format, in-person or choose a self-study option. Decide which is best suited to your learning style and go with the school that offers your preferred method.

There are many things to think about when choosing a real estate school and going with a quality choice can make all the difference when it comes to getting off on the right foot with your career. Here are some to consider:

    • Price: Courses average around $350 but you don’t necessarily want to choose the cheapest one out there. Remember, you get what you pay for.
    • Business Building Courses: Some schools offer extras that will help you be successful once you become an agent.
    • Good Reviews: Look at what other students had to say about the school before signing up.
    • Pass Guarantee: Many schools provide a pass guarantee so you can retake classes or the exam for free if you don’t pass on your first try.
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Step 2: Take the Licensing Exam

Wooden,Classroom,Interior,With,Empty,Chalkboard,,Furniture,And,Daylight.,EducationAfter you complete your pre-licensing education, you will need to take the final exam. The exam is taken through the state and your real estate school should provide you with information on how to schedule and register for the test.

The exam is typically administered at a testing center and taken on a computer. It will be in multiple choice format. It will include national and state sections and you must get a passing grade on both sections. Usually, a passing score is 70% or higher but this may vary from state to state.

If you fail one or both parts of the exam, you will be able to retake the test. Each state has its own rules on how often the exam can be retaken, how long you must wait for retakes and the deadline for retakes.

You will also have to pay to take and retake the exam. The fee is typically between $100 and $300. Your school may reimburse you for retakes if this is part of their pass guarantee.

Step 3: Activate Your License

After your pass your exam, you will need to submit an application along with any required fees to your state real estate organization. Fees usually run between $200 and $400.

Once your application is approved, you will receive your real estate license in the mail and your name will be searchable under the real estate licensees’ section on your state website. Now you will be able to assist individuals with their real estate transactions. (Yay!)

Step 4: Join a Real Estate Brokerage

Arabic,And,Western,Business,People,Portrait.,Motivational,ConceptAs a new agent, you need to join a brokerage. The brokerage help you market yourself, find clients, and get valuable real estate experience.

When seeking out a brokerage, it’s important to find one that’s right for you. The brokerage will offer you educational, training and marketing materials. They will provide you with an office space and supplies. But you will have to pay fees in return for these materials.

Ultimately, you want to find a brokerage that provides you with quality materials, especially in terms of marketing and training, in return for a reasonable fee.

You will also want to consider how you are being paid. Most brokerages offer a commission split with 60/40 being the average split. If you complete a lot of transactions, you may start getting a larger split, but this depends on company policies.

And while most companies offer a 60/40 split, others offer a 70/30 or even a 90/10 split.  Obviously, you will want to go with a brokerage that provides its agents with a generous percentage. If you’re trying to do real estate part-time, you want to make sure you’re picking a brokerage with no or low fees.

After You Get Your License

1. Consider Becoming a Realtor

Real,Estate,Written,On,Notepad,With,Calculator,And,Pen,OnNow that you know how to become a real estate agent, you may want to think about becoming a realtor.

Many people use the terms real estate agent and realtor interchangeably, but they are two different things. Both realtors and agents assist people with the buying and selling of homes, but to be a realtor, you will have to join the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and follow its Code of Ethics.

Members of the NAR also have access to a variety of benefits including:

  • Business tools
  • Educational opportunities
  • Discounts on programs that will help you succeed in the industry
  • Real estate market data, statistics and research

For example, as a realtor you will have access to Realtors Property Resource, the largest real estate database in the U.S. It provides information on zoning, permits, mortgages and liens, schools, foreclosures and more.

2. Create a Strong Online Presence

Marketing yourself properly will help you attract more clients and earn more revenue. With 82% of buyers starting their real estate search online, it’s essential to have a strong online presence.

Beyond that, it’s advisable to work with a web site developer and/or a SEO expert to ensure your web site gets to the top of search engines. This will give you a leg up on the competition.

3. Develop Good Communication and Listening Skills

ron-abta headshot

Ron Abta, Founder of Polaris Realty says “Clear communication is an essential skill as a real estate agent. You will have to work face-to-face with a variety of personalities, so being able to listen properly and displaying patience and integrity is very important. There is no doubt that you will receive a lot of useful information from your clients, so taking in this information whilst making it clear that you are doing so can help to establish a rapport with them.

You can also work on positive body language and non-verbal cues such as smiling and nodding as a way to make your clients feel comfortable in your presence. Developing good communication and listening skills is important to radiate trust and confidence. This will ensure that your clients understand that you are fulfilling their needs and are on their side.

In terms of how you can seek to improve your communication skills, there are several resources to explore,  some of which are specifically aimed at the real estate market, and others which can give you basic communication tips. “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie catalogs some fundamental techniques to make yourself more approachable and influential in your field. Another one that is more relevant to the world of real estate is “The Book on Negotiating Real Estate: Expert Strategies for Getting the Best Deals When Buying”. This excellent guide is co-written by three authors who have all previously worked in real estate, and gives specific advice about each stage of the negotiation process, from the planning and making an initial offer, to the final settlement.”

4. Start your Marketing Efforts

Group,Of,Architect,Business,Team,People,On,Meeting,Looking,ModelAttracting clients requires more than just giving out business cards. Technology has created several innovative marketing tools and if you aren’t integrating them in your campaigns, you may be missing out. Here are some you can take advantage of:

Social Media Platforms: Social media platforms can be as important or more important than a web site when it comes to getting leads. Make sure you are visible on the platforms that connect you to your target audience.

Video Marketing: Video marketing is the most powerful tool in digital marketing today. It is terrific for learning and engagement. It’s audio and visual elements tell the entire story.

3D Virtual Tours: Nowadays, clients want to see homes virtually to gauge interest before seeing the property in person. Offering virtual tours will help you keep up with the competition.

Lead Generation Tools: Lead generation tools help realtors find qualified leads and nurture them to boost conversions. Check out our list of the best real estate lead generation for realtors

Real Estate Apps: Real estate apps can be downloaded on mobile devices to help agents improve their productivity and efficiency. 

5. Pick a Niche

Focusing on a niche will help you stand out in a crowd. While being available for general real estate leads may be less limiting, going for a niche like single family homes, luxury properties, specific neighborhoods, etc. will make your business unique. It will tell people that you are specialized in your field so they will know exactly where to go when they are looking for a property that falls under your umbrella.

6. Stay Active by Completing Continuing Education

Real,Estate,Agent,And,Sales,Manager,Team,Analysis,Pricing,OfIn order to maintain a real estate license, real estate agents will have to take continuing education classes throughout their career. This ensure that they are up to date on the latest in real estate law.

Every state has different requirements in terms of how many hours of continuing education classes you need and how often you have to take them. Contact your local real estate regulatory organization to find out what applies in your area.

In addition to continuing education to maintain your license, you can also do your part to further your education in other ways. For example, statistics show that agents with a bachelor’s degree will make 5% more than those who have just a high school diploma.

Portrait,Of,A,Young,Beautiful,Businesspeople,Shaking,Hands,Introducing,EachIf you choose to pursue a college degree, it will be best if you take classes in sales, business or marketing as these subjects will give you a leg up in the industry.

You should also stay up on the latest market trends so you can advise clients on when it’s a good time to buy and sell and how to get the best deals for their money.

If you were wondering how to become a real estate agent, you now know there are many steps you will have to take. These include determining if real estate is right for you, taking the required courses, passing the exam, marketing your business, continuing your education and more. However, if you think it’s a smart career move for you, it will pay off in lucrative income and the satisfaction of knowing you helped someone get through a critical stage in their lives.

Will you be taking the steps to get your real estate license?

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About the Author

Chris Heller brings 27 years of experience in real estate. Chris serves on the AgentAdvice Editorial Board and is the Chief Real Estate Officer at OJO Labs. Chris brings deep expertise having held influential industry positions including CEO of mellohome and former CEO of Keller Williams Realty International.

Last Updated: 2/1/2024