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Presented by CENTURY 21 Signature Real Estate

Navigating the Licensing Process

Your comprehensive guide to getting licensed. Learn more about the courses, test, background check and application.

Read the transcript

Hi, Im Whitney Funkhouser, the New Agent Success Coach at Century 21 Signature Real Estate. This video will walk you through the pretty straightforward process of obtaining an Iowa Real Estate salesperson license, focusing on three main questions we are commonly asked: 

What steps are involved in the process? How much does it cost? And How long will it take me to get my license? If you stick me me until the end I’ll share some of the best practices, or tips and tricks, so that you can maneuver the licensing process with ease.

Here’s the process in a nutshell:

The Background Check
Iowa Law requires all real estate licensee applicants to complete a criminal background check. Start to finish, the background check can take 8-10 weeks, so we recommend getting started on this step first. You’ll need to download a fingerprint packet to fill out from the Iowa Professional Licensing Bureau’s, or PLB’s website by first creating a new user account. Follow the steps to submit a General Background Packet Request and print off the fingerprint card when you are finished. Take this fingerprint card and make an appointment at your local police department to get fingerprinted. Once you have your prints, mail the completed card, signed waiver included in your packet, and a check for $51 to the Iowa Real Estate Commission.

Next up is the 60 hour pre licensing class. There are a few different options for taking the class, so you can pick the class that works for you. If you have a flexible schedule and are able to carve out 8 weekdays in a row to attend a weekday class you’ll really benefit from the in person instruction, repetition and collaboration. If you can make it work, we’ve found that most people really prefer this option.
But, If you have a full time job and need to take your classes on the weekends or on a more spread out timeframe, you also have the options of a Weekend Classroom or Online Self Study. The weekend classes are three weekends in a row. The online self paced class can be taken at any time, but keep in mind that you have 6 months from the date that you sign up for the class to complete it.

The Iowa Association of Realtors website is one place you can go to find available classes, But keep in mind, there are other real estate schools and even some real estate brokerages that have the 60 hour class option.
Again, you have to choose what works best for you but make sure the class you take has been approved by IAR.

Once you’ve finished taking the 60 hour pre licensing class, you will receive a certificate that allows you to take the exam. Do not sign up for a time to take the test until you have completed your classes! The exam consists of 40 state level questions and 80 national questions. The test is administered by PSI Exams in different locations around the state. You can sign up for a time slot at directly through PSI Exams. Your exam certificate is good for 6 months, which is helpful because you have a few more classes to take and things to get in order.

Next up are three twelve hour classes, Developing Professionalism, Buying Practices and Listing Practices. Here’s where things get a little more interesting and practical. These classes will introduce you to more of what it looks like on a daily basis as a real estate agent. Just like the 60 hr pre licensing classes, these classes can be taken through a number of different channels, and have to be completed before applying for your license but keep in mind none of these can be taken online.

Ok, all of your classes are complete and you’ve passed your exam, so if you haven’t picked a brokerage yet, now’s the time. Every brokerage has something different to offer and you’ll need to identify what brokerage works best with your business and personal goals. Feel free to interview different brokerages around town to get a feel for who they are and what they have to offer.

When you submit your application to the State of Iowa, you’ll need to provide proof that you have enrolled in an Errors and Ommissions Insurance Policy. Again, there are a few different options for E and O, and hopefully the brokerage you have chosen will guide you down the correct path.

At this point, you’re getting close! The final two steps are submitting your application to the State, which makes you a licensed real estate agent, and then joining your local board of realtors.
Your application is submitted via My Iowa PLB, using the account that you already created when you submitted your background check.

Lastly, joining your local board of Realtors and most likely the National Association of Realtors as well! Joining NAR makes you an official REALTOR and gives you access to lots of benefits and materials to help you in your real estate career. The brokerage you have chosen will probably help you with this step, but it usually involves paying your fees to join and going through a brief orientation to get you familiar with how to use the board’s multiple listing service, so you can get out there and start showing properties!

Just like any business startup, there are many costs that add up to a significant chunk of money. We can break these down into three main categories: 1) getting licensed 2)joining your local, state and the national board of realtors and 3) the costs of items needed to run your business. Of course, these fees vary by market, and these costs are incurred over a three to six month time frame, (all before earning a paycheck) but here’s a general idea of what you can expect.

Getting licensed, which included classes, testing and background check will cost you about $1200. Joining the board of REALTORS will be your next large category of expenses. Again, these vary greatly depending on which local board you are joining, but the state and national entrance fees are the same. You can expect these costs to add up to between $850 and $1700. Finally, we have the expenses in the cost to do business category. You’ll have your E and O that you’ll renew once a year and costs about $250. Each local board covers lockboxes and lockbox access slightly differently, but these will be recurring and as needed costs depending on the board.

Other big ticket items to consider are things like transportation – Do you have a reliable car and insurance?  Office space and supplies – Are these things provided by the brokerage you chose or will you need to invest in things like paper and a printer? Start up marketing costs, like business cards, signs, a website, postcards and any other way you plan to market your business. Technology – Most commonly a laptop and a smartphone. Insurance – as an independent contractor, private health insurance can be costly.

Ultimately, the process is relatively simple. As long as you do your research up front, follow these steps and have saved for your start up costs.

To wrap this up, here are a few of our most helpful tips and tricks:
Meet with brokerages BEFORE starting the licensing process. Although you don’t NEED to choose a brokerage until you submit your application, some brokerages provide help along the way and partnering with them earlier in the process can be super helpful!
Don’t forget to submit your background check before starting your pre licensing classes as this can be the one thing that can hold you up.
Choose the style of pre licensing class wisely! Think about how you learn best and what type of class works with your schedule. If you’re able to set aside the 8 business days in a row for the weekday class, you will be glad you did!
Don’t sweat the test! If you paid attention in class and are willing to spend some extra time reviewing the study questions, you’ll do great!

We have included a link to some helpful resources that both map out the licensing process, costs and offer more guidance on the best path to take. Good luck!

Meet Our Agent Success Coach


I started my career in real estate when I was 19. I work as the New Agent Success Coach at Century 21 Signature Real Estate. I am passionate about equipping new agents with the tools and systems they need to start building a successful real estate career.


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