Take the next step in your California real estate career by becoming a broker.
A career as a real estate agent is immensely rewarding. In addition to helping clients buy and sell property, it can also prove financially satisfying.
One drawback, however, is the lack of flexibility. While you’re not tied to an office—a huge plus for many in the profession—to be a successful real estate agent, you’re required to be on-the-go at all times.
Weekdays, weeknights, and weekends—the most successful agents are there whenever their clients need them. While it can be rewarding, it can also be exhausting.
That lack of flexibility also extends to how you manage your business.
In California, an agent must conduct all licensed real estate activities under a licensed real estate broker’s supervision. That means that, as an agent, you’re required to work for or be sponsored by a broker.
Admittedly, this arrangement is ideal for most real estate agents. However, for those hoping to gain more consistency and control over their career—not to mention an increase in their potential income—it might be time to consider becoming a real estate broker.
If you’re a professional agent ready to take the next step in your career, read on as we explore how to become a real estate broker in California.
What is a Real Estate Broker?
Let’s first review what it means to be a real estate broker in California. The primary difference between agent and broker is the educational requirements. As an agent, you need 135 hours of pre-licensing education; for a broker, it’s 360 hours.
The second distinction between agent and broker is that as a broker, you may choose to work independently or develop a brokerage and have agents working for you. The three types of broker include a broker-owner, managing broker, and associate broker.
Broker-owners are just that: owners of a brokerage or an individual that carries controlling interest in a brokerage. Managing brokers most often oversee a brokerage’s day-to-day operations, including direct supervision of real estate agents. Both broker-owners and managing brokers may continue transacting real estate directly with clients if they so choose.
An associate broker neither owns nor oversees the brokerage and its roster of agents. Instead, they solely transact real estate. Another way to think of this role is as a real estate agent who has earned their broker license and who stands to generate a considerably higher income.
Regardless of your specific aspirations, at their most fundamental level, the requirements to become a broker are the same.
As with any licensing requirements in California, certain basic thresholds must be met. It starts with completing your Real Estate Broker Exam and License Application, administered through the California Department of Real Estate (DRE). The fee schedule for the broker application and exam include:
- License fee: $300
- Examination fee: $95
- Re-examination fee (if necessary): $95
All documentation can be sent to the Department of Real Estate P.O. Box 137001 Sacramento, CA 95813-7001.
If you’ve already earned your real estate salesperson license, then you’ll have no issues with meeting the requirements. They are, in fact, very straightforward:
- Be at least 18 years of age, verifiable with a state-issued driver’s license, passport, or birth certificate.
- Have at least a high school diploma or GED equivalent
- Submit to a background check and truthfully disclose any criminal history
Non-disclosure of pending criminal charges, convictions, or state or federal disciplinary actions can result in the denial of your application for a license. Common convictions that may result in the denial of an application include, but are not limited to:
- Criminal conspiracy
- Forgery or Fraud
- Grand or Petty Theft
- Possession of drugs for sale or transport
- Tax evasion
Residency within California is not required to become a broker within the state. However, you must have a California business address to conduct real estate business. Out-of-state residents must file a Consent to Service of Process form and submit it with their application.
Before making the transition to broker, California requires applicants to possess at least two years of experience as a licensed real estate salesperson. That experience must come within the last five years of your application date. Verification occurs by filling out the Employment Verification form.
While it’s optimal to fulfill the two years of real estate sales experience requirement—it helps lay the foundation for the additional broker education—California does allow for equivalent experience in lieu of the sales experience.
To be exempt from the two years of experience requirement, educational or equivalent activity may be submitted. These include:
Real Estate Degree
- Includes any applicant with a real estate degree from an accredited four-year college or university (degrees from two-year institutions are not eligible)
- The degree can consist of real estate as either a major or minor field of study
- A copy of your transcript is required
Two years of full-time experience in one of the following:
- As an escrow or title officer
- As a loan officer directly related to the financing or conveying real property
- As a subdivider, or speculative builder, where duties relating to the purchase, finance, development, and sale or lease of real property were performed (general contracting is not applicable)
- As a property appraiser
- As a licensed real estate professional in another state (note that California does not allow the transfer of licenses from other states)
- Should you qualify for an exemption, you must submit the Equivalent Experience Verification form.
Pre-licensing broker education in California is quite extensive. In all, you are required to take 360 hours of broker courses. You must take a total of eight courses, each of which is a minimum of 45 hours in length.
The course requirements include five core, college-level courses:
- Real Estate Practice
- Legal Aspects of Real Estate
- Real Estate Finance
- Real Estate Appraisal
- Real Estate Economics or Real Estate Accounting
In addition, an applicant must take three of the following 11 courses:
- 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
If you take both Real Estate Economics and Real Estate Accounting from the core requirements, you only have to take two courses from the additional course list.
You may take courses from accredited institutions of higher learning, comparable regional accrediting agencies, or from a private real estate school. The latter requires approval from California’s Real Estate Commissioner.
Taking the Exam
Crossing the finish line of 360 hours of course study is a huge accomplishment, but you’re not done yet. Upon completion of your coursework, you must pass the California real estate brokers exam.
You can take the exam in one of five cities—Fresno, La Palma (Los Angeles), Oakland, Sacramento, and San Diego. The administration of the exam is via an electronic format. There are fees involved should you need to reschedule or retake the exam, so ensure you plan ahead.
If the educational requirements weren’t indication enough, the broker’s exam is a lengthy affair. The exam itself takes four hours to complete and includes 200 multiple choice questions across seven major areas of real estate.
Prior to taking the exam, it’s advisable to spend plenty of time studying and refamiliarizing yourself with everything you learned prior. In addition to the educational materials you acquired from your coursework, the California Department of Real Estate features an online download of their Reference Book – A Real Estate Guide. You may also request to purchase a hard copy.
The department also recommends visiting your local bookstore or library for further reference and study materials to help you prepare for the exam.
Upon successfully passing the broker exam, which requires a passing grade of 75% or higher, you’ll receive the Broker License Application form. You should return the completed form along with the appropriate fees to the DRE within one calendar year of your passing the exam.
If you don’t pass the first time, don’t fret. You can take the exam as many times as necessary (assuming you pay the $95 fee) for up to two years after your original application date.
The final requirement includes submission of a set of classifiable fingerprints to California’s Department of Justice. The fingerprint processing fee is $49. Your broker license will not be issued until your fingerprints are received and the background check is completed.
Congratulations, you’re now a licensed real estate broker! First, take the time to enjoy the accomplishment. Becoming a broker is no small feat, and depending on the route you travel, it can take anywhere from three to five years to achieve.
Once you fulfill all of the requirements, you are now free to open your own brokerage and take advantage of the career flexibility and financial incentives that come with being your own real estate boss.