Getting your California Real Estate License can open the door to many opportunities, both for investing in property purchases for yourself, or your various career opportunities. Career options in the real estate industry are far broader than simply residential sales. With a real estate license, you may pursue jobs as a leasing consultant, foreclosure specialist for a lender, property manager, or a real estate assistant to a top producing agent. The possibilities are virtually unlimited.

California Real Estate License Essentials: Understanding the Licensing Requirements

Getting a real estate license in California is fairly straightforward. You must:

  • Be 18 years of age or older;
  • Complete 135 hours of pre-licensing education (three 45-hour courses: Real Estate Principals, Real Estate Practices, and Real Estate Finance)
  • Find a licensed California Real Estate Broker to work under;
  • Apply for the Salesperson exam and license (this includes getting a background check and fingerprinting).

How Much Does It Cost?

You can realistically plan to spend in the ballpark of $600 for your initial education and licensing. Costs you will have to consider to get your real estate license are the pre-licensing education requirements (required real estate courses), the live scan fingerprinting fee (typically a $49 processing fee) the real estate examination fee, and the license fee. Current fees for the examination and license are listed on the CA DRE website. As of 2019, the real estate examination fee was $60 and the license application fee was $245. Applicants wishing to file their examination and license application at the same time can submit a combination examination and license application (RE 435) and pay $305. Note that fees submitted are not refundable or transferable. Applications must be submitted by mail.

Once you get your license, you’ll have to pay a renewal fee every four years, currently $245 for on-time renewals. The price goes up to $367 if you renew late, so plan ahead and make sure the renewal date is on your calendar and budgeted for. You’ll also have to take required continuing education classes as part of the renewal process.

Finding a Sponsoring Broker

Depending on your level of skills, experience, confidence, and needs, you may select a broker to sponsor you that is extremely hands-on, or very hands-off. Your broker may receive a percentage of your commission, or a flat fee amount per transaction. You may even work for an agency where you are paid a salary and receive a bonus per closed transaction. Do not choose your broker solely based on your commission split amount. Choose a broker who will support you, and you feel comfortable working with. You may not need to work closely with your broker until you are in negotiations on a transaction and in desperate need of support. Although many brokers interview salespeople, as a salesperson, when you evaluate a broker you are considering, think of it as you interviewing them, and consider how they will support you in your transactions and business.

Real Estate Application Tips:

  • You Must Disclose Pending Criminal Charges and Convictions: If you have had criminal activity, the California Real Estate license application process may be lengthy. If you fail to disclose pending criminal charges, criminal convictions or disciplinary actions taken against you, your license may be denied by the DRE. Read the questions on the application carefully and answer truthfully and completely. Remember, a background investigation is completed on all applicants.
  • Failing an Exam: If you fail an exam, you have to pay the same exam fee ($60) for re-examination. If you don’t think you are ready, you can reschedule your real estate license exam for $15 for the first rescheduled exam, and $30 for a subsequent rescheduled exam.
  • Expedited Military Processing with DRE: Honorably discharged veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces are eligible for expedited processing of a California Real Estate License Application. See the last page of the RE 435 application for more information on Expedited Military Processing.

Whatever your career or investment aspirations are, a real estate license is a valuable tool worth considering. If you will be purchasing a home for yourself, the commission you receive on your purchase transaction may pay for your real estate license for the rest of your life.