How to become a Real Estate Broker in California
By Colin Ryan
From the redwood forests of the north, to the desert landscapes of the south, 12 percent of Americans call California home, making it the most populous state by a wide margin.
The California housing market is currently among the strongest in the nation: as of May 2019, the median home price has increased to $550,000, compared to just $300,000 in 2012. That means California has the third-highest home values in the country, behind only Washington, D.C. and Hawaii.
Every day, more California real estate agents are deciding to take the next step in their career by earning a broker license. Becoming a broker enables you to earn more money and expand your possibilities by starting your own firm and hiring a team of agents.
If you’re looking to become a California real estate broker, you’re in luck: with the state’s relatively simple requirements, it’s possible for an existing agent to earn their broker license in less than a year. In this guide, you’ll learn exactly what it takes to get your California real estate broker license.
How Much Money Can a Real Estate Broker Make in California?
As in other states, the vast majority of real estate brokers in California do not make a fixed salary. Instead, they earn a commission on each real estate transaction that they close, as well as a portion of their agents’ commission.
With mean annual earnings of $80,820, California real estate brokers are among the highest paid in the country, coming in above the national average. Depending on your market, you could make significantly more—take San Diego, for instance, where the mean annual broker salary is over $102,380.
Plus, California ranks number one in the country in total employment for real estate brokers, with 5,570 currently active. At the same time, California employs just 0.33 brokers per thousand jobs (compare that to North Carolina, which employs 1.11 brokers per thousand jobs). That means demand and opportunity for brokers in California is especially high.
California Broker Qualifications
To qualify for a real estate broker license in California, you must:
- Be at least 18 years of age;
- Be a legal U.S. resident; and
- Have a minimum of two years full-time licensed real estate salesperson experience in the last five years, or a four-year degree from an accredited college or university including a major or minor in real estate.
5 Steps to Become a Licensed Real Estate Broker in California
The California Department of Real Estate’s process for qualifying and certifying brokers in California essentially boils down to six key steps:
How Long Does it Take to Become a Broker in California?
How long it will take to earn your California broker license depends on how much experience you have in real estate to begin with. If, for instance, you’re already an experienced real estate agent in California, you may be able to get your broker license in less than a year.
However, if you’re new to the real estate industry, it may take as many as three years to meet the California real estate broker requirements.
Step #1. Satisfy The Experience Requirements
As noted above, in order to qualify for a broker license in California, you must possess an active California real estate agent license, and have 24 months of work experience within the five years prior to your application.
Step #2. Complete Education
All broker license applicants must complete the following 6 required college-level courses:
- Real Estate Practice
- Legal Aspects of Real Estate
- Real Estate Finance
- Real Estate Appraisal
- Real Estate Economics or General Accounting
In addition, broker candidates must complete three courses from the California DRE’s approved list of topics, which includes:
- Real Estate Principles
- Business Law
- Property Management
- Real Estate Office Administration
- Mortgage Loan Brokering and Lending
- Advanced Legal Aspects of Real Estate
- Advanced Real Estate Finance
- Advanced Real Estate Appraisal
- Computer Applications in Real Estate
- Common Interest Developments
Each course must be a minimum of 45 hours in length, can be completed at either an accredited higher education institution, or a private real estate school approved by the state.
Note: Members of the California State Bar are exempt from the education requirements above, but must still demonstrate their experience in the form of two years as a full-time licensed salesperson, or two years of real estate-related law experience.
Step #3. Apply for the California Real Estate Broker Exam and License
Once you’ve completed your broker education and experience requirements, you can submit an application to the DRE. This will enable you to take the broker exam and obtain your California broker license.
In addition to completing the DRE’s exam application form, you must also enclose transcripts showing successful completion of the broker education requirements, along with documentation of your agent experience (form available here). When you’re ready, mail your completed application and supporting documents to the California DRE for verification.
Step #4. Pass the California Real Estate Broker Examination
Once you’ve met all the above requirements, you can apply to take the California real estate broker exam by submitting an exam application form and supporting documentation to the DRE. Once your application is processed (usually within six weeks), you’ll receive a notice to schedule your exam via California’s eLicensing system.
The California broker exam can be taken electronically or via pen and paper in the following cities:
- Los Angeles (La Palma)
- San Diego
The exam consists of 200 multiple-choice questions. Real estate broker license applicants have 5 hours to complete the examination, split between two 2½ hour blocks. To pass, you must correctly answer at least 70 percent of the questions.
The California DRE website offers an overview of the broker exam sections, along with specific topics covered in each. (Applicants can also find sample questions and quizzes like this one on various test preparation websites.)
There is no limit on the number of times you may retake the exam. However, if you don’t pass within two years of submitting your original application, you’ll need to reapply.
Step #5. Submit Fingerprints & Activate Your Broker License
Finally, once you’ve passed the California real estate broker exam, you can activate your license by submitting fingerprints via the California Department of Justice’s Live Scan program, or an FBI Applicant Fingerprint Card. For a list of Live Scan service providers, click here.
If you’re applying for a California broker license from out of state, you’ll also need to submit a completed and notarized irrevocable Consent to Service of Process form.
Reciprocity and Portability for California Brokers
If you’re a licensed real estate broker from another state, you’ll face some restrictions when it comes to practicing real estate in California. For instance, California only allows out-of-state brokers to conduct business remotely. This means you can send clients to showings, submit offers, and negotiate transactions in California, so long as you remain in your own state.
Some states have reciprocity or mutual recognition agreements, which allow real estate brokers from other states to more easily earn their in-state license by using their out-of-state broker license as proof. Unfortunately, California does not have reciprocity agreements with any other states, so if you’re relocating to California, you’ll have to meet all the same requirements as an in-state applicant.
You are not required to be a resident of California in order to get your real estate broker license. However, you must maintain a California business address if you plan to actively do business in the state.
Resources to Start (and Run) a Successful Brokerage in California
Once you’ve secured a California real estate broker license, you are eligible to open your own brokerage business.
Here are some tips to get your brokerage off to a running start:
Real Estate Broker Website
As a new broker in California, you’ll need a real estate broker website to market your expertise. By building a modern, mobile-friendly website that integrates with your MLS, you’ll have a place for visitors to search active listings, as well as an opportunity to share content that demonstrates your credentials and experience.
Resources for Real Estate Broker Websites:
- 39 of the Best Real Estate Websites Powered by Placester
- The Right Way to Build a Real Estate Website: 10 Simple Optimization Steps
While much attention has been paid to the value of social media for real estate professionals, email remains a powerful tool for generating new business. In fact, 73 percent of millennials prefer to receive business communications via email.
A robust email platform can help you leverage your existing sphere of clients, colleagues, vendors, and prospects through marketing newsletters and campaigns that promote your brand and expertise.
Resources for Email Marketing:
- 16 Perfect Drip Marketing Emails for Your Real Estate Leads
- Anatomy of a Real Estate Newsletter: How to Create Enticing Emails for Leads
Lead Management (CRM)
Once you’ve captured a lead, you’ll need an effective system for managing your relationship and guiding them toward a purchase. A great client relationship management system (CRM) can help you view all of your leads in one place, assign them to your team, and follow up with more quickly, ensuring you never miss an opportunity.
According to Salesforce, CRM applications can help increase sales by up to 29 percent.
Resources for Lead Management:
- Real Estate Marketing Basics Bootcamp: Website & CRM
- How to Organize All of Your Real Estate Leads in a Single CRM System
Additional California Real Estate Resources
- California Department of Real Estate website homepage
- Instructions to License Applicants: California Department of Real Estate (PDF)
- California Department of Real Estate Reference Book
Published on May 29, 2019