How to Become a Real Estate Agent
So now that you have decided to pursue a career in real estate, you may be wondering how to get licensed?
For the purposes of this blog, and since it’s the only licensing experience I have, I will focus on the steps for completing the Virginia salesperson licensing process (there is a different course of action to become a Broker). While the process is similar in most states, Virginia might be different than what is required in your state. Please consult your state real estate licensing board/department for more advice.
This is a multi-step process that can take a few weeks, or even months depending on how long it takes you to complete and pass the required pre-licensing class.
Let’s get started!
Before you begin, you must know the requirements to qualify to get your real estate license in Virginia, and they must be met in this order:
- Be at least 18 years of age
- Complete a required 60-hour approved pre-licensing course
- Pass the Virginia salesperson licensing exam
- Complete fingerprinting and a background check
- Affiliate with a brokerage firm and apply for a state license
Let’s break each one of these requirements down into steps to complete the process:
Step 1: Be at least 18 years of age
You must be 18 years of age, a US citizen or lawfully admitted alien, and have a high school degree or equivalent.
Step 2: Register and complete required 60-hour pre-licensing course
You must complete the 60-hours of the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation (known as DPOR) Board approved Real Estate Principles pre-licensing course. This course can be taken in one of three ways – online, in a classroom setting, or by correspondence. I do not recommend the correspondence option as you will have no guidance or assistance studying the material, you basically teach yourself by reading a book.
The online option gives you more freedom to complete the course at your own pace. They offer tons of downloadable material to study and review. The sections are timed, and you must complete a full 60-hours minimum of online activity (there is a timer in the course). This is the method I chose, and I’m glad I did. I opted for a course with Real Estate Express. I found it to be very thorough and well organized. The Virginia portion was first, then the National portion. They offer live daily webinars where you can ask the instructor any questions you may have. You are also assigned an instructor of record whom you can email anytime. When you complete the course, you will take a final exam and then an additional proctored exam at a testing center. Some local libraries will do this as well. I took my proctored exam at Huntington Learning Center and they charged me $50. Google “testing centers in my area” to find one near you. If you are interested in online learning, you can use this link for 35% off courses with Real Estate Express (if this link doesn’t work for you, contact me so I can get you a new one). There are other online course options out there – CE Shop, Kaplan, Moseley and more.
In-classroom courses can be completed quicker but are usually way more intense. I have heard stories that some of the instructors basically just read the book out loud and it can be very boring. If you are a person who learns from interaction, an in-person, in-classroom course may be best for you. These classes are offered at different times of the day in numerous locations all over the state of Virginia. All of the class options require a LOT of reading and note-taking. Check out my Study Tips blog post too for great advice to help you pass on your first try! Don’t be afraid to use supplemental study material and make sure to download the DPOR Real Estate Rules and Regulations document to ensure you pass the Virginia state exam part. This document has ALL of the answers in it! Please trust me on this.
Step 3: Take the Virginia Real Estate Salesperson Licensing Exam
Once you pass your course final, and your results have been submitted by your school to PSI Services, LLC (a private testing company), you may log on to PSI to apply to schedule your exam. Here is the link: https://candidate.psiexams.com/catalog/fti_agency_license_details.jsp?fromwhere=findtest&testid=466. Exam appointments are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Once you register and select your testing center, date and time, you will be required to pay the $60 registration fee.
Make sure to download the Candidate Information Bulletin from this page as well, as it offers VERY useful information in preparing for the test including additional study resources and a content outline of how many questions there will be in each section of the test. I would suggest downloading this document while you are studying to use it as an additional resource.
The bulletin also includes:
- Instructions on how to register to sit for the exam
- Exam center locations
- Required ID needed and more
Here are my tips for the day of your exam: (more tips can be found on this post)
- Get some good rest the night before.
- Have a positive mindset. Your mind is a very powerful tool. If you go in with a poor attitude and thoughts of failure, you will most likely fail.
- Most Virginia testing centers offer two test-taking times per day, a morning and afternoon time slot. Before you pick your time, ask yourself these questions: do you test better in the morning or in the afternoon? How is the traffic in the morning getting to the testing center? Will you be fighting rush hour traffic to get to the testing center?
- Aim to get there at least 30 minutes early. Use the restroom before you sign in. If you are late, they will NOT let you take the test. You will have to reschedule and pay the $60 fee again!
- Once you are checked in and are told which computer to report to, get comfortable and take three long, deep breaths to relax and center yourself.
When you arrive, you will be asked to present two forms of ID. Per the bulletin:
You must provide 2 forms of VALID (not expired) identification. At least one must be a VALID form of government-issued identification (Driver’s License, State ID, Passport, Military ID) which bears your signature and has your photograph. The second ID must have your signature and preprinted legal name. All identification provided must match the legal name that you used on the registration form for the examination. If the name in the PSI system does not match the name on your government-issued ID and 2nd form of ID, you will not be permitted to take the examination and the examination fee will be forfeited. Failure to provide ALL the required identification at the time of the examination without notifying PSI is considered a missed appointment and you will not be able to take the examination at that time. You will have to reschedule and pay the $60 fee again! (notice a theme here?)
Do not bring anything else with you. You do not need to bring a calculator or paper and pencil; they will supply them for you. If you do bring anything, you will have to lock it up in a locked bag (you take it into the test room with you, but they have the key).
There are two portions to the exam:
National – 105 minutes – 80 questions, 56 correct required to pass (70%)
State – 40 minutes – 40 questions, 30 correct required to pass (75%)
*Please note, you may have a few extra questions in each section, as PSI is testing out new questions for future exams (but you will have no idea which ones they are).
Upon completion of the exam, there is a ten-question survey (about PSI), once you hit submit, you will be notified immediately whether you passed or did not pass (it’s NOT failure). If you do not pass, you will immediately receive an unsuccessful notification on the screen along with a diagnostic report indicating your strengths and weaknesses by test category. An official score report will be printed and given to you before you leave the examination site. If you pass, you will not be given details as to how well you did (and they will not tell you!).
Step 4: Complete your fingerprinting and background check
Fingerprinting is mandatory for ALL Virginia real estate license applicants. It is highly recommended that you get electronically fingerprinted at the PSI site immediately after passing your exam. This will cost you an additional $55. They send the data directly to the state police who then send their findings (or hopefully lack thereof) directly to DPOR. Your fingerprints are valid for 45-days. If you do not affiliate with a brokerage firm or place your license into inactive status, you will have to redo your fingerprints and pay an additional $55.
UPDATE – Should you chose not to be finger printed immediately upon passing the state licensing exam, you now have an option to have them done at a later date and location. According to the VirginiaRealtors.org, as of June 2020, you can schedule an appointment at a local Fieldprint Fingerpriting location to have your fingerprints done. To read the article in full, click HERE. This is a great option for people who have not yet selected a brokerage firm to affiliate with and think they may not do so before the 45-day fingerprint expiration deadline.
Step 5: Apply for your Virginia Real Estate Salesperson License
The next step is to affiliate with a brokerage firm and apply for your license! A good brokerage firm will have applications preprinted and will help you complete the document as well as send it to DPOR for you. A license will not be issued until your application is 100% accurate and complete, all documentation and fees attached ($170), and fingerprints that have been sent to DPOR. You can find the application here (the salesperson activate form) The interactive form is fillable, but hand-completed applications are accepted too. http://www.dpor.virginia.gov/Boards/Real-Estate/Forms/Salesperson/#activate The managing or principal broker MUST sign the application. Your selected brokerage firm should help you complete this application and send it in for you.
When your application is received at DPOR, it is first sent to the finance department where they take your money (cash your check or charge your credit card). Then the application is forwarded to the appropriate board. This process can take as little as 1-2 weeks or as long as 4-6 weeks during heavy licensing periods (typically the first few months of the year). The DPOR offices are closed on weekends and every holiday, so take this into consideration while you wait for them to process your application. You can check to see if your license has been issued by using the “License Lookup” menu item on the left-hand side of the DPOR website. Once your license has been issued, you are a legal licensed real estate agent (not a REALTOR). The paper license (that hangs in the brokerage firm) along with your pocket license are sent directly to the brokerage firm you affiliated with.
Hopefully, the firm you selected has a great onboarding process and will help you choose a Real Estate Association, join the MLS, and get you up and running in the necessary systems (this differs in every brokerage firm). This is definitely something to ask about when you are interviewing brokerage firms!
*Note – you have one year to affiliate with a brokerage firm or place your license into inactive status or you will have to take the state/national exam again. Obviously, your fingerprints will have expired too, so you will have to redo these as well.
Step 6: Complete your required Salesperson Post-Licensing Education (PLE) / Continuing Education (CE)
First Time Renewal Qualifications: You will need to successfully complete 30-hours of approved education called your Post Licensing Education (PLE). This must be completed within one year of the day you were issued a salesperson’s license. For a complete list of required PLE credits, visit DPOR’s website. Having just completed my PLE, I would recommend NOT waiting until the last minute to complete this.
Subsequent Renewal Qualifications: Renewal is required every two years from the last day of the month you were licensed. You will need to successfully complete 16-hours of approved Continuing Education. This can be completed anytime during the two-year period. For a complete list of required CE credits, visit DPOR’s website.
Simple, right? Now do you see why this process can take longer than most people think? The end result is well worth all the time and effort you place into following these steps! For those that do not pass on the first attempt, do not give up! The test is tricky and was designed that way for a reason … Look for my next post on study tips for passing the exam coming soon! Again, please check your state real estate board website for the specific requirements in your state. Good luck!
*Side note – to apply for an Associate Broker license, you must complete additional courses, take an examination, and have been active as a salesperson for at least 40-hours per week during 36 of the 48 months immediately preceding your application submission. An experience verification form must be completed by your broker as well. Just something to think about for the future.
Please remember that the DPOR website is a wonderful resource and I highly recommend that you review the site for additional information. http://www.dpor.virginia.gov/Boards/Real-Estate/
(this article may contain paid links)