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How To Become A Real Estate Broker in California

By Elizabeth R. Elstien

So you want to become a real estate broker in the State of California? Most people have the wrong impression of real estate as a get-rich-quick occupation. In reality, real estate is a tough business where you may face long and often irregular hours, can be on call to clients at any time and must wait weeks or months (especially with a short sale) to close a sale and get paid with no assurance that the sale will actually close.

On the positive side, active real estate brokers have several essential freedoms that real estate sales agents do not -- namely, a broker can start her/his own firm, hire agents to work under them (if they wish), and receive commission payments directly, without splitting it with any managing broker working above them.

Broker candidates must have an active California real estate salesperson license and show proof of two years of experience as a real estate salesperson in the State of California. California Bureau of Real Estate (CalBRE) administers the licensing and laws that help protect the public when buying or selling real estate.

Here's a complete rundown of the requirements you need to meet to take the next step in your career and become a real estate broker in California:

  1. Be at least 18-years old.
  2. Provide proof of California or U.S. legal presence.
  3. Possess the aforementioned two years' full-time experience as a licensed salesperson.
  4. Take additional licensing requirements to include eight college-level courses, as required, with colleges approved by CalBRE. Each of these five courses must be taken: (1) Real Estate Practice, (2) Legal Aspects of Real Estate, (3) Real Estate Finance, (4) Real Estate Appraisal and (5) Real Estate Economics or Accounting. Then, three additional courses need to be taken from the list on the CalBRE website, but only two courses are needed if both Real Estate Economics and Accounting are taken from the subject list. Courses must be three semester units or four quarter units.
  5. Obtain the state Real Estate Broker Examination Application for the CalBRE website or at one of their offices. Complete and submit the application along with the required test fees of $95. Tests are five hours long and scheduled according to the volume of broker exam applications received for each testing location.
  6. Take and pass the brokers examination given at broker examination facilities in Fresno, San Diego, Los Angeles, Oakland and Sacramento. Passing score is 75% or greater. Most applicants will receive test scores within five minutes after completing the exam.
  7. Apply for broker license after passing the broker examination by sending in a completed application along with the required $300 licensing application fee, complete set of fingerprints done through an approved provider ($49 paid directly to the provider) plus all other required documentation.
  8. Receive your California broker's license from CalBRE. Do not practice until this license is received.

For varying reasons, some brokers elect to continue working under another broker (in which case they are recognized as an associate broker). But for those who elect to start their own firm, the capital needed is relatively small, but you will still need several thousand dollars to get licensed, acquire and maintain Errors and Omission (E&O) insurance, post a bond, join real estate associations, market your firm to potential home buyers or sellers, and perhaps recruit agents to work under you.

Then, as with any real estate career, it may take months until you get your first sale and the commission check that comes with it and/or get income from your agent's sales, so it's recommended that you have financial stability, whether through a second job, a spouse or several months of savings, to survive this time period as your business gains momentum.

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About The Author

Elizabeth R. Elstien has worked in real estate for over 15 years as a real estate...

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