How to Become a California Real Estate Broker

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Are you a California real estate agent that’s ready to take the next step in your career? Or maybe you’re a real estate professional that wants to go straight to owning a brokerage? If this sounds like you, here are the seven steps to becoming a California real estate broker.

7 Steps to Becoming a Real Estate Broker in California

  • Meet the Minimum License Requirements
  • Gain Real Estate Experience
  • Complete Eight College-Level Broker Courses
  • Get Fingerprinted If You Haven’t Already
  • Submit the Combo Exam/Licensing Application and Fees
  • Schedule Your Exam
  • Pass the Real Estate Broker Exam

Step 1 - Meet the Minimum License Requirements

For any type of real estate license in California, applicants must meet three basic requirements:

  • Age - You must be at least 18 years old.
  • Residence - California resident (out-of-state applicants can apply but must submit a Consent to Service of Process form)
  • Honesty - This refers to your character and criminal record. When filling out the exam and license application you must be completely honest in the history portion. Failing to disclose information may result in an application denial.

Step 2 - Gain Real Estate Experience

In addition to the basic requirements above, applicants are also required to have a certain level of real estate experience before they can become a broker. If you’ve been a full-time real estate agent for two of the last five years or part-time for four years, you’re good.

There are two other ways to meet the experience requirement:

  • Earn a degree from an accredited 4-year college or university with a major or minor in real estate.
  • Have equivalent real estate-related experience that’s equal to two years of sales experience. Examples include working as a: licensed real estate professional in another country or state, property manager, real estate developer, builder, escrow officer or loan officer for real property.

You’ll need to document your experience and provide this information when you apply to take the broker exam. Even licensed full-time agents will need to submit an Employment Verification form signed by their broker. Those who are claiming equivalent experience must submit an Equivalent Experience Verification form with detailed descriptions of the experience and signatures from two people who can vouch for you.

Step 3 - Complete Eight College-Level Broker Courses

Unless you’re part of the California State Bar, you’ll have to complete eight college-level broker courses before you can apply to take the broker exam. Those courses include:

  • Real Estate Practice
  • Legal Aspects of Real Estate
  • Real Estate Finance
  • Real Estate Appraisal
  • Real Estate Economics or Accounting
  • Three elective courses (Unless you take Real Estate Economics and Real Estate Accounting, then only two elective courses are needed)

Like the required California salesperson real estate courses, the broker courses can be taken at an accredited institution of higher learning or a private real estate school that’s been approved by the California Department of Real Estate (DRE). Courses are either three semester-units, four quarter-units or 45 hours in length depending on where you take them.

Make sure to get an official copy of your transcripts and course completion certificates. You’ll need them when you apply to prove you’ve met the education requirements.

Step 4 - Get Fingerprinted If You Haven’t Already

If you’re already a California real estate agent you can skip this step because it was already completed when you applied for a salesperson license. All other real estate pros that are getting a license for the first time will need to get down to a live scan service location in California to get fingerprinted.

California requires that all applicants get fingerprinted so that they can do a thorough background check before approval. Bring the Live Scan Service Request Form with you so that the provider can fill out Part 3. You’ll also need to pay the $49.00 fingerprint card processing fee at the time of service. A service fee may be required as well.

If you get your fingerprints taken before taking the exam, submit a copy of your completed Live Scan Service Request Form with your exam application or send it to:

Department of Real Estate P.O. Box 137002, Sacramento, CA 95813-7002 Attn: Fingerprint Desk

Step 5 - Submit the Combo Exam/License Application and Fees

After completing the eight broker courses it’s time to apply! Fill out the Combined Broker Examination and License Application. Attach all the supporting documents that prove you meet the experience and education requirements. Don’t worry, the application has a handy checklist with everything you need to submit.

On the application, you’ll be given the option to have the DRE schedule the exam or you can choose to self-schedule. You’ll also need to note any fictitious business names that will be used.

The final step is to pay for the exam and license fees. You can pay by check, cashier’s check, money order or credit card. Don’t send cash!

All applications, fees, and transcripts must be mailed to:

Department of Real Estate Examination Section P.O. Box 137001 Sacramento, CA 95813-7001

*You can submit the Broker Examination Application on its own, but it’s quicker and easier to submit the Combined Broker Examination and License Application. The only difference is you have to pay the license fee upfront which is non-refundable if you don’t pass the exam within two years.

Now you’ve got to wait patiently. It takes the DRE at least 6-8 weeks to process applications.

Step 6 - Schedule Your Exam

If you choose to have the DRE schedule your exam for you then you’ll receive an Examination Schedule Notice with the date, time and location (based on what you selected on the application). If you choose to self-schedule, an authorization will be sent letting you know you can now pick a test time.

To self-schedule or reschedule the broker exam you’ll need to login to the eLicensing online system.

Step 7 - Pass the Real Estate Broker Exam

You’ll have two years from the time your application is filed to pass the broker exam. Exams are given regularly during the week at one of five locations across the state. All you need to bring with you is a valid photo I.D.

You’ll have five hours (two 2.5 hour sessions) to complete the 200 multiple choice questions. The questions fall into seven categories:

  • Contracts
  • Financing
  • Laws of Agency
  • Practice of Real Estate and Mandated Disclosures
  • Property Ownership and Land Use Controls and Regulations
  • Transfer of Property
  • Valuation and Market Analysis

Today the broker exam is taken in electronic format, which is good because you’ll get your test results immediately. You can also check the results using the eLicensing system five business days after taking the exam. As long as you make a 75% or higher you passed!

Didn’t pass the first time? No sweat, it happens to a lot of people. Once you receive your notification of failure and test results you can schedule a time to retake the broker exam using the eLicensing system without having to resubmit your application. You can take the exam as many times as you need in the given two-year period.

If you submitted the combo application passing the exam is the final step. Now all you have to do is sit back and wait a few days for your California broker license to be issued!