How to get your San Francisco real estate license

Golden,Gate,,San,Francisco,,California,,Usa.San Francisco is one of the world’s most expensive housing markets, with houses selling for upwards of millions of dollars. Regardless of the high prices, houses sell at a fast rate with an average house selling after just 14 days on the market. There’s a lot of money to be made in the San Francisco real estate industry, with the inflow of people looking to invest in new properties or buy vacation houses. Here are some statistics that show you just how desirable of a market San Francisco can be.

  • Median Home Value: $1,522,827
  • 1-Year Appreciation Rate: 7.3%
  • Median Home Value (1-Year Forecast): 8.6%
  • New Listings: 294.5 (-27.8% year over year)
  • Active Listings: 2,218 (-40.9% year over year)
  • Homes Sold: 323 (+13.7% year over year)
  • Median Days On Market: 14.6 (-6.6 year over year)
  • Median Rent: $2,270 (+9.5% year over year)

The Bay area has a lot to offer, and people continue to flock there from all over the country. San Francisco is known for it’s mild climates, a rich diversity of cultures, and exciting activities. Although the cost of living in the Bay Area is high, there are spots outside the city where you can get cheaper housing.

If you are looking to start a career in the San Francisco real estate industry, this article details the information and requirements to become a successful agent.

Steps to becoming a real estate agent in San Francisco

Classic,View,Of,Historic,Traditional,Cable,Cars,Riding,On,FamousTo obtain a San Francisco real estate license and work as an agent you must be a legal citizen of the United State and must be of legal age (18). If these requirements are met, the following steps will guide you in becoming a real estate agent in San Francisco.

  • Pre-licensing education: Aspiring real estate agents are required to complete 135 hours of pre-licensing education. Both online and in-person classes are available, depending on which you prefer.
  • Apply for salesperson exam: Following completion of the required educational hours, you can apply for your real estate salesperson exam by completing either a salesperson examination application or a combined salesperson examination and license application and paying all associated fees.
  • Fingerprints: All applicants are required to submit a set of fingerprints for a background check. Applicants have the option of either submitting their fingerprints after passing their exams or after submitting an exam application.
  • Pass real estate licensing exam: To become a licensed real estate agent in San Francisco you must take pass the California real estate licensing examination and have a score of at least 70%.
  • Sponsor broker: You need the sponsorship of a California real estate broker to become a practicing real estate salesperson.

There are thousands of registered brokers in California to choose from. Some questions to consider before choosing a broker:

  • Commission splits
  • The kind of support and mentoring the brokerage offers
  • Is it a franchise or an independent broker?
  • It’s reputation in the Bay Area

It is advisable for applicants to have a potential broker before receiving their license so they can get to work as soon as they get their license.

Top real estate schools in San Francisco

Numerous real estate institutions in California offer online and physically taught classes. These schools help provide materials and tutoring to help pass the licensing exam. Some schools provide a foundation for their students to go into the real estate business.

Here are a few top real estate schools in San Francisco, California

Mbition Online Real Estate Schoolmbition

Mbition is an online real estate school that offers packages to help fulfill the pre-license class requirement to become an areal estate agent in San Francisco. Mbition provides customer support, e-books, and printed resources to help students navigate through their program easily. They offer 3 different packages, the basic package at $129, the gold package at $269, and the platinum package at $339. The gold and platinum package includes a Mathmaster which puts you through all the calculations needed to work in the real estate industry. Mbition helps students spread payments out by choosing individual courses as they are needed.


AceableAgentaceableagent logo

AceableAgent is an online licensing school that offers easy-to-use PDF materials to real estate aspirants in California. AceableAgent is approved by both IDECC and ARELLO and was recently certified in California, so they offer recent and up-to-date courses. Aceable has a one course package at $149 and has a refund or cancellation policy that allows a student who hasn’t completed the courses to ask for a refund. AceableAgent has a pass rate of 78.04%, however, many find it to be very difficult to get through the course because it isn’t interactive or easy to study on-the-go. It is an emailed PDF format that requires lots of reading and brain power to get through.


The CE Shopce-shop-logo

The CE Shop is a modern real estate school that opened in 2005. Although they haven’t been around for too long, they have gained popularity in the real estate world because of their high pass rate and good reviews. They are ARELLO accredited and offer four packages. The course only is the basic package that gives materials needed to pass the exam and enter the real estate world at $129, the standard package which is $189 is similar to the course only package, but in addition, has a pass guarantee that refunds student if they don’t pass the exam. The value package entails the standard package and resource that will help in building a business when a student gets licensed at $229 and the premium package is the value package and one year of continuing education requirement. The CE shop boasts of a pass rate of 70.64%.


Kaplan Real Estate Educationkaplan logo

Kaplan Real Estate Education offers both online and physically taught training courses to students. They have educational centers in many areas of California. Kaplan offers a basic package that gives you the materials needed, as well as access to study webinars and practice questions to help pass the exam at $179. The online video content courses start at $399. The Kaplan California online live classes that give students access to live online tutoring starts at $549 and the live classes offer a classroom lecture on their faculty in San Francisco at $749. Kaplan has a high pass rate of 80%, but many complain about the website glitches and how difficult it is to access courses.

Real Estate Brokerage in San Francisco

After obtaining your real estate licensing you’ll need the guidance of a real estate broker to venture into the San Francisco real estate industry. The broker supports and guides you through building your career in the real estate business.

Factors such as commission split, training method, desk fees, and company review should be considered before deciding on a brokerage. Here are some of the best real estate brokerage firms in San Francisco.

Keller Williams Realtykeller-williams-logo

Address: 1624 California Street, San Francisco, CA 94109

Keller Williams is one of the top real estate companies in the country. KW was founded in 1983 and has since grown to have over a thousand offices across the State. They have a top-notch company culture that helps create career-lasting relationships with their agents. KW agents make money through commission earned from a sale and e company program called profit sharing, which is a form of recruitment and retention strategy to make additional cash.

At KW, each office has an annual cap (an amount to be paid to KW in commission) that must be reached by every agent. The precap commission is shared 64% to the agent, 30% to the market center (local office), and 6% to the franchise (national brand). After meeting the annual cap, the agent gets 100% of his commission.

Coldwell Banker Realtycoldwell banker

Address: 1390 Noriega street, San Francisco, CA 94122

Coldwell Banker is a long-standing real estate company that is committed to training and mentoring new agents. Their top-down training resources and frequent encouragement (funding included) of their franchisees demonstrate their commitment. At Coldwell, there is no fixed Cap, split, or desk fees. They are negotiated on an agent by agent basis at the local level and a franchise fee of 8% per commission is to be paid after reaching your annual cap.

eXp Realtyexp realty logo

Address: 2603 Camino Roman Suite 200, San Ramon, CA 94583

eXp Realty, founded in 2009, is one of the fastest-growing real estate brokerage firms in the world. eXp is a virtual brokerage that makes use of a cloud-based platform to connect her real estate agent community. At eXp, you work at your own pace and time.

eXp Realty has a fixed annual cap of $16,000 and a commission split of 80 to 20 with 80% going to you. After meeting your annual cap, 100% of your commissions is yours with no desk fees, royalty fees, or franchise fees. As a perk of working with eXp, you can invest 5% of your commission into EXPI company stocks at a 20% employee discount. EXP also pays a percentage of the commission of an agent you recruit.

RedFinredfin logo

Address: 1 Montgomery St, Suite 800, San Francisco, CA 94104

RedFin is another great real estate company in San Francisco that genuinely caters for their real estate agents. New agents, regardless of experience or sales, can get up to $20,000 per annum to cover expenses as well as holidays, leaves and health care benefits. It’s a great place to begin a Real estate agent journey.

Realtors Association

Joining a realtor association after becoming a realtor is a career-boosting step in the real estate industry. This doesn’t just impress your client but also gives you access to the perks the association offers.

San Francisco Association of Realtorssfar_logo23

Address: 301 Grove Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

In San Francisco, The San Francisco Association of Realtors (SFAR), is an association for realtors that are affiliated with and chartered by the National Association of Realtors. Realtors Association is part of the web of associations of Realtors both locally and across the state. The association provides services such as educational programs, publications, and legislative representation for members and operated the SFAR Multiple Listing Service (SFARMLS). SFAR was founded on the 6th of February 1905 as a nonprofit association and represents over 4,000 realtors in San Francisco.


Bay East Association of RealtorsBayEast-Logo

Address: 2490 Mariner Square Loop, Suite 200, Alameda, CA 94501

Bay East provides support, advocacy, professional development, and resources designed to help our diverse community of real estate professionals grow their business, meet clients’ expectations, and facilitate daily tasks.

Mission: “To help our members succeed as real estate professionals.”

Vision: “To set the industry standard in leadership, innovation, professionalism, and service.”

Values: “Collaboration, Integrity, Vision, Inclusion, Leadership”

Culture: “We love to delight, We promote compassion, We are transparent, We listen then we act, We value results”



Address: Market Center, 575 Market St #2125, San Francisco, CA 94105

The San Francisco Bay Area Chapter was founded in 1977 (originally as the Northern California Chapter) and today serves eight of the nine Bay Area Counties; San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Sonoma, Napa, San Mateo and Solano. The Chapter’s membership is comprised of the Bay Area’s leading owner/developers and a wide variety of service providers.

The mission of the chapter is to support the San Francisco Bay Area commercial real estate industry by proactively influencing legislative policy, providing superior educational events, and fostering networking opportunities.
NAIOP provides strong advocacy, education and business opportunities, and connects its members through a powerful North American network.

Need Some Help?

Becoming a real estate agent in San Francisco is not as difficult as people think. With the right education, quality guidance, and professional advice, you can become one in no time. We can help you on your career journey to becoming the best Real Estate Agent in San Francisco. For more information on how to get started, contact us. Let’s get you all set for your future.

Chris Heller Headshot

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: 3/20/2023