How to Get a California Real Estate License

By Joe Stone
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You must satisfy the educational requirements, pass an exam and submit to a criminal background check to get your California real estate license. You also must meet age and legal residency requirements set by the Bureau of Real Estate, or CalBRE. The length of time it takes to obtain a license varies, but can be accomplished in about four months.

Basic License Qualifications

To obtain a California real estate license you must be at least 18 and a legal resident of the state, and you must pass a background check. Background check disqualifications are primarily due to past criminal convictions or pending criminal cases. If you're concerned about a background check, consult the CalBRE website for a comprehensive list of disqualifying factors.

Education Requirements

Before you can take CalBRE's real estate license exam, you must complete at least three college-level courses, called pre-license courses. Two courses are mandatory: Real Estate Principles and Real Estate Practice. The third course is an elective that you select from a list of approved subject areas, such as business law, escrows and general accounting. If you've already completed the eight college-level courses that are required for the broker exam or are a member of the California State Bar, you’re exempt from the pre-license course requirements.

Pre-license Course Standards

You can take the pre-license courses from an accredited university, community college or private education provider. The CalBRE website provides a searchable database of approved pre-license course providers. If you completed relevant courses at a college or university outside the U.S., CalBRE will accept them if the courses can be verified by an approved credentialing service.

Exam Application Process

After completing the pre-license courses, you have two choices when applying to take the CalBRE exam. You can apply for just the exam by submitting the Salesperson Examination Application (Form RE 400A) or you can submit a combined application for the exam and license using the Salesperson Exam/License Application (Form RE 435). The primary difference between these choices is the cost. As of the date of publication, the exam fee is $60 and the non-refundable license fee is $245. If you choose the combined application and do not pass the exam, you’ll forfeit the $245 fee. CalBRE provides an online system called "eLicense" that provides information for current exam dates and sites, as well as the exam format.

Getting the License

If you didn't submit the combined exam/license application, submit the license application after passing the exam. Along with the completed application (Form 435), you must submit State Public Benefits Information (Form 205 ) with documented proof of citizenship or legal residency. Although you’ll get your license after your application is approved, you can't engage in any licensed real estate activity without being employed by a licensed broker. Your license is good for four years before it has to be renewed.