How to Get a Commercial Real Estate License in 5 Steps

Olivia Elsher

Apr 4, 2024

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So you want to become a real estate agent. First you’ll need to obtain the proper professional credentials establishing your right to practice. Here’s how to get a commercial real estate license in five simple steps. 

1. Understand What Being a Commercial Real Estate (CRE) Agent Means

While residential and commercial real estate agents share common characteristics, they’re not the same. Knowing these distinctions is the first step to obtaining your real estate license. 

As a CRE agent, your main focus is working with businesses instead of individuals. These businesses can range from multi-use spaces to retail, office and industrial areas.  

Chances are you’ll earn more money than a residential real estate agent, as commercial properties are typically more expensive, which means a higher commission on successful transactions. Commercial deals have longer terms and tend to be more complex, so you’ll need to know how to navigate intricate situations. 

2. Research the Licensure Requirements in Your State

Every state has different requirements for getting a CRE license. Some regions are more lenient than others, so if you’re in one of those states, it might be easier to obtain your credentials. 

Research shows Texas is the most difficult state to obtain a real estate license, requiring applicants to undergo 180 hours of pre-licensing education and pass a background check. On the other end, Alaska, Vermont and New Hampshire are among the most lenient states for real estate licensing, requiring only 40 hours of education. 

Regardless of the state, you’ll need to be at least 18 years old, an American citizen or legal resident and have some form of formal education like the GED before you can take the licensure examination. 

3. Pass the Exam

After establishing your eligibility, it’s time to get into the actual work. Passing the real estate exam is a significant achievement as the questions are designed to test your knowledge on various topics. Some of the most common coverage areas include property ownership and land use regulations, contracts, real estate valuation, and laws of agency. 

The exam has a national portion and a state portion, so you must completely understand the specific knowledge requirements for your location. Many candidates enroll in prep schools to help prepare them for the exam. Consider doing the same, especially if this is your first attempt. 

How Hard is it to Pass?

Ultimately, it depends on how well you’ve prepared for it. Most states set a minimum passing score between 65% -75%, so it’s all about getting as many correct answers as possible. While there’s usually no limit on how many times you can take the exam, you may need to retake your pre-licensing education and begin the application process all over. Expect to pay around $350 for the exam fee plus whatever amount for the education courses and other expenses. 

4. Find a Commercial Real Estate Firm to Work For

After passing the exam, you will receive your real estate license. However, it will only be active once you find work with a licensed broker. Only then will you be able to change your status to active and begin practicing as an agent. 

Since the goal is to be a CRE agent, it makes sense to seek employment in brokerages that work with only commercial properties. This is the best way to gain relevant market experience and kickstart your career. Like any other field, name recognition is essential for getting ahead, so as much as possible, you’ll want to work with firms with a proven track record in the industry. 

You may luck up on a brokerage that offers a training program where you can get the best possible on-field experience and mentorship. 

5. Join Professional Associations and Earn Certifications 

Having an active CRE license is only the first step. You’ll often need to obtain additional certifications if you want to get ahead in this super competitive and fast-paced market. Joining associations is a great way to demonstrate credibility and build valuable relationships. Some top real estate professional organizations include:

  • National Association of Realtors (NAR)
  • The Commercial Real Estate Development Association (NAIOP)
  • Real Estate Roundtable
  • Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM Institute)
  • International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC)
  • Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA)

In most cases, you can only earn a designation by joining an association. For instance, only real estate agents who are members of NAR can call themselves realtors, a title that sets them apart in the industry. Select the ones that align with your area of expertise and can help build your portfolio and reputation. 

Key Skills For Success

Now you know how to get a commercial real estate license, it’s essential to acquire the relevant skills for a thriving career. These include: 

  • Negotiation: CRE transactions involve a lot of high-value dealings, so you’ll need to know your way around the negotiation table. Your ability to strike favorable deals for clients will drive your market value. 
  • Research: As a CRE agent, you’ll be doing a lot of research to find suitable properties for your clients, so you need to be constantly aware of what’s available.
  • Communication and Networking: You’ll need strong interpersonal skills to connect with potential clients and build professional relationships. Develop your ability to articulate ideas clearly and build strong rapport to attract new opportunities. 
  • Business Acumen: Knowing how to evaluate the financial viability of commercial properties and guiding clients to make informed decisions is an important skill. 

What’s the Career Outlook for Commercial Real Estate Agents?

The COVID-19 pandemic significantly affected the commercial real estate landscape as office vacancy rates have soared in the last few years. However, projections by JP Morgan show the industry is rebounding, with newer types of properties like data centers and cold-storage facilities gaining prominence in 2024. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not provide a specific career outlook for commercial real estate agents. However, it expects the employment rate for brokers and sales agents to grow approximately 3% from 2022 to 2032, with over 51,000 job openings projected yearly. 

Get Your CRE License 

Knowing how to get a commercial real estate license is the crucial first step in building a successful career in the industry. The process can seem daunting, but with adequate preparation and the right mindset, you can be on your way to becoming a licensed CRE professional. Use this guide as a starting point and get your real estate credentials. 

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