Step-by-Step Guide To Getting Your Real Estate License In 45 Days

So you want to become a licensed real estate agent, eh? It’s not really a difficult process,  but there are several details that most people probably aren’t interested to research, so I felt led to simply list out a step-by-step checklist of how to do so to make it easy. Since I live in Illinois, what I am suggesting is going to be for an Illinois real estate broker license, so if you’re in another state, you’ll have to adjust accordingly…but the concepts still remain the same (nothing Google can’t help you with!).

One thing I want to clear up before going any further, though, is that getting your real estate broker license (it’s a “broker” license even though people call us agents or Realtors most of the time, just to clarify the terminology a bit) is completely separate from joining a brokerage (Keller Williams, RE/MAX, Baird & Warner, etc). I’ll get into that below…just follow the steps, but know that you don’t NEED to join an office before getting licensed (although an office can HELP YOU get your license). Clear as mud, right? 🙂

Here are the basic steps of becoming a licensed real estate broker in the state of Illinois:

  1. 75 hours of online or classroom (your choice) pre-license study ($579). We thought we wanted to do the online course because we could do it at our own pace, but ended up fast-tracking the process by doing it in-class, and we’re very glad we did! Having a real human with years of experience in the class gives you the ability to ask questions and gain perspective on the topics being discussed. You can do either one, but we highly recommend the in-class option if it’s at all possible with your schedule. Obviously, most people can’t get off of work, but do it if you can. These classes are hosted at various locations, so you can choose where to go. Our class consisted of 8 consecutive weekdays from 8am – 5:30pm (although everyone in our class agreed to shorter lunches and only one break instead of three, so we got out earlier). Brings highlighters and lots of snacks. At the end of this 75 hours of instruction is a 100 (or so) question test, and you have to get a 70% in order to pass on to the 15-hour portion.
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     For an Illinois license, click here to visit the Chicago Association of Realtors (CAR) website to view class times/locations and sign up for the course. If you’d like to take the online self-study course, click here (this option is only $500, and you have 6 months to complete the course).
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  2. 15 hours of in-class (mandatory) application in an “interactive course” ($125). After passing the class exam, they’ll allow you to register for this 15-hour portion. This part of the training requires you to interact with other humans in person. You essentially get in groups and work through real examples of things you just learned from a book. They’ll give you 15 “word problems”, and you need to either do the math to figure things out, or role-play a real life transaction. It’s actually pretty fun, as opposed to the 75 hours of straight book lecturing and highlighting (can you tell I never enjoyed school??). After this portion, you’ll take another 25-question exam of (mostly) transactional math problems.
  3. Register for the state & national exam ($46). If you complete all 90 hours of instruction and pass both in-class “pre” exams, you’ll earn the right to take the 150(ish) question state/national exam. This will be hosted at a third party office somewhere…they’ll tell you where when you qualify to take it.
  4. Pass the state & national exam (about 150 questions). This is a doozy, with a whirlwind of brand-new information crammed in your head. You are able to take it 3 times before you’re required to take the class again. Hopefully you will pass the first time!
  5. Find a sponsoring brokerage & become a contractor with them. Once you pass the test, you will be presented with your official real estate broker license! Congrats! When you’re a new broker, you cannot conduct business on your own…you need to be sponsored by a brokerage of your choice. This is who will provide you training, insurance, resources, etc. For several reasons, we highly recommend you join Keller Williams, and we even wrote a separate article to explain why (click).
  6. Choose a Realtor board. Being a Realtor is simply a designation, and you cannot be called a Realtor until you join a certified realtor organization…once you have your license and are sponsored by a brokerage. Your sponsoring brokerage will set you up with this once you join them.
  7. Attend mandatory on-boarding / trainings of your sponsoring brokerage and Realtor board. There are certain training sessions you’re going to want to attend to get started on the right foot, and whatever Realtor board you join will very likely require you to go through an onboarding with them. If you decide to join our team and become a Keller Williams broker, we’ll make sure you are taken care of and have everything you need to succeed within the first week or two.

As far as the fees are concerned for a licensed real estate broker, they obviously vary based on where you go for your classes, which brokerage you join, and what Realtor board you’re part of. I want to provide a very rough estimate of what you can expect, but please know that these numbers are NOT exact, and what you experience will vary. Regardless of the deviation of the costs you see in your journey versus these estimates I’m providing, it’s a very small price to pay for gaining access to an entirely functional business system in which you can build a full-time career.

TOTAL ONE-TIME FEES: $750 per agent
$579 75-hour class + $125 15-hour class + $46 state/national exam = $750

TOTAL MONTHLY FEES: $150/month per agent
$65 Brokerage fees + $65 Realtor Organization + $20 MRED (MLS Access)

Per Illinois real estate license law, you must hold your license at an established brokerage for a minimum of two years before you can become a “sponsoring broker”, where you are the one who handles all the administrative, financial, legal, insurance, etc details for yourself and other agents that you hire. The benefit of becoming a sponsoring broker is that you get to keep 100% of your commissions. When you are a broker as part of a sponsoring broker, you’re typically (every brokerage has different compensation models) required to pay out a “split” of each real estate transaction you are part of. Again, this is going to vary wildly based on which brokerage you join, and the benefit of being your own “sponsoring broker” is that you don’t have to pay out a “split” of your commission. In my experience, you can expect to pay around 25% of each commission to your sponsoring brokerage in the form of a commission split. Most brokerages will have a “cap”, whereby you only owe your percentage split up to a certain amount of commissions earned. For instance, once you pay a total of $20,000 (per year) to the brokerage by way of your 25% split, you’ve reached your “cap” and you’ll then receive 100% of your commissions moving forward. Don’t worry if you’re confused…most people are until they start seeing the commissions and splits in their checks. 🙂

While I tried to make this as simple as possible, I’m sure you probably have questions, and I’m glad to help if you’re actually interested in becoming a real estate broker. Feel free to email me at or call 224-392-6500 and we’ll chat! I look forward to hearing from you, and explaining more about the benefits of becoming a real estate agent, and specifically part of the Keller Williams family (click here to find out why working with us is the best decision)!

If you want to make $60,000 as a real estate broker, here is a rough breakdown of how that would work. For this example, let’s assume the average price of a home (buying or selling) in your area is $200,000 to keep the math easy. Also, since a typical listing commission is 3% and a typical buy-side commission is 2.5%, I’m going to use an average of 2.75% commission across the board, and I’m going to start with the $60,000 goal and back my way out to how many deals you’ll need.

$60,000 Pre-Tax Income Desired
/ 75% Broker Commission Percentage (assuming a 25% transaction “split” with your brokerage)
$80,000 Total Amount of Pre-Split Commission Needed
/ 2.75% Average Commission Rate
$2,909,090 Total Sales
/ $200,000 Average Price
14.55…or 15 “sides” (either a listing or a buyer)

Now that you know how to get your real estate license, and you know how to make a $60,000 yearly income, time to get to work!

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