How To Become a Realtor: 7 Steps to Get a Professional License

Evelyn Long

Dec 29, 2023

realtor standing in front of a home

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Being a realtor is a dream job for some people. With a flexible schedule, you don’t have to worry about clocking in and out at specific times. The unlimited earning potential entices everyone to go down this career path. Most of all, helping and seeing others achieve their dream homes or properties is a satisfying sight. While it’s undeniably an amazing career to pursue, how do you become a realtor? Below, learn the seven steps to get from an aspiring to a licensed real estate professional. 

Understanding What a Realtor Means

how to become a realtor - an agent and property owner talking

Understanding what the term means is crucial. People often use the words realtor and real estate agent to refer to the same professional who helps clients buy, sell or rent properties. But they’re different in a few aspects. 

A realtor is any real estate professional, including a home appraiser, real estate brokers, counselors and property managers, who are active members of the National Association of Realtors or NAR. If you’re a real estate agent but not a NAR member, you can’t technically be called a “realtor.” 

Conversely, a real estate agent is a licensed individual who helps facilitate the selling, buying or renting process for a property. They aren’t registered as NAR members.

Being a NAR member as a realtor means you uphold high standards of code of ethics and practice established by the organization, boosting your reputation. By joining, you also acquire a network of realtors nationwide, plus access to business tools and educational opportunities to further your career and serve clients better. A realtor designation attached to your name or business carries some valuable weight. 

Now that you’ve learned the difference between an agent and a realtor, read this step-by-step process on becoming one. 

1. Research the Requirements in Your State

There’s no nationally recognized real estate license. You need a state license with conditions that vary per location to get into the industry. Find out the provisions set by your state. 

Some have reciprocal licensing laws like Connecticut, which is cooperative with Alabama, Colorado and several other states.  A cooperative license regulation means real estate agents in Connecticut can buy and sell a property in Alabama or Colorado. Some laws have conditions, so review your state’s policies regarding this. 

It’s the same with requirements, check your local government’s official real estate regulatory website to get a complete list of what documents you should have in hand.

2. Enroll in a Prelicensing Course

Your next move is to sign up for a prelicensing program, costing around $300 to $600, depending on your location and other factors. Since real estate schools offer multiple options, from pre-licensing to continuing classes, learning your state’s qualifications is important to get you on the right track.

These specifications are distinct for each local division, with Pennsylvania that requires only a 75-hour prelicense education, whereas New York demands 77 hours of qualifying coursework

You must have a clear understanding of the length of the prelicensing training before enrolling in any real estate institution. 

3. Pass the Licensing Exam

how to become a realtor - a person taking a licensure exam

You only become eligible for a licensure exam after completing your prelicensing training. However, check other requirements and complete them before the day of the exam. Many states include a criminal background check. People with felony convictions can’t get a license. 

Like other exams, this licensing test — in the form of multiple choice — will assess your knowledge of general and state-specific real estate policies. A passing grade will move you to the next level. The instructor will give the details on when and how to register for the licensing exam, for which you must pay $350 or more, depending on your state. 

4. Request an Activation Status of Your License

Did you pass the exam? Congratulations! Next is to lodge a license activation application on your state’s real estate regulatory office and pay for associated fees. 

Typically, you’ll be issued an inactive license status after passing the exam. That’s why you need to contact your real estate state division to file a form to request a status change. You can also get more information about this on the examination site. 

5. Become a NAR Member

how to become a realtor - an agent receiving an inquiry call

Is it necessary to register at the National Association of Realtors? If you want the realtor title — the answer is yes. The organization owns the trademark for the word “realtor.” If you want to use it in your business, signing up as a member is the only way to sidestep legal issues.  

NAR has more than one million members around the world. It’s a massive influence of real estate brokers, salespeople, appraisers and property managers you can tap on for network and support. More than the legal permission to use the word realtor, the organization also offers exclusive market data, discounted education courses and various opportunities to expand your career.

6. Build Work Experience

After taking care of the paperwork, get an on-the-job experience. In most states, they’ll initially expect you to work for a traditional brokerage firm for a few years to know the ropes of the industry. Selling a property that costs millions is unlike promoting usual retail goods. You must learn sales strategies, such as reading body language, which makes up 55% of nonverbal communication.

By applying for a job, you can be part of a larger organization, get a chance to shadow tenure realtors and know the ins and outs of the business before pursuing an independent career. 

7. Grow as a Realtor

You can take different approaches to grow your career as a realtor. By using the NAR’s network, leveraging it, and learning how to market properties the modern way, you’ll set the stage for success to roll in slowly. 

Running ads, setting up a website and social pages and blogging may accelerate your career growth. Market online and never hesitate to experiment with online strategies that give you winning results.

A Career as a Realtor Can Be Rewarding

The joy of receiving gratitude from your clients for helping them find their dream homes is satisfying. A career in real estate can be both financially and emotionally rewarding. If you put in some effort and dedication, it can be an excellent way to earn a lucrative living. Many realtors become successful people and you could be the next in line. If you decide to change work and go down this route, follow these seven steps for an exciting career path. 

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