Category Archives: Featured

The 5 Best Online Real Estate Schools In California

At the time of this writing, there are currently 146 accredited schools providing California real estate courses. On the surface, they all appear to be offering the same thing. However, that could not be further from the truth. 

Some schools develop their own courses, while others are merely reselling the courses from other schools. Some programs require proctored final exams and mandatory quizzes while others do not. There are ones that come with hardcopy textbooks and a money-back guarantee. Not to mention the wide variety of available options when it comes to instructor support and getting technical assistance. 

After researching through the entire list of schools, here is our pick of the top 5 schools for obtaining your California real estate license. 

1. Allied Schools

Allied Schools Review | Real Estate License

Price Range: $188 to $348

Allied Schools is currently the top online real estate school in California. They were recently acquired by Real Estate Express. However, they are still operating under their own platform. 

The Allied Schools program is great for the self-starter that wants to learn independently. You are given one full year of unlimited online access to complete the courses at your own pace. There are hardcopy textbooks available, and the quizzes are even optional. You only have to pass the final exam with a score of 70% or higher to complete the course. 

What I like about Allied Schools is that there are no hidden fees. You can take the quizzes and final exams as many times as you need within your one-year term without having to pay a re-testing fee. What I don’t like about it is that their user interface needs a serious cosmetic facelift. Although it is easy to navigate, it looks like they are using the same design from the 1990s. 

Best suited for: the Go-Getter

Because there is so much “freedom” to study however you want, you really have to be disciplined and motivated about your studying habits to finish the program with Allied SchoolsOverall, it is a little higher on the price range and if you can look past the aesthetics, it is a solid program that is student-friendly.

Learn more at www.alliedschools.com

2. Real Estate Express

Real Estate Express Review | Real Estate License

Price Range: $119 to $449

Real Estate Express is the rising star in online real estate education in California. They have high marks in pretty much every category. The courses look very clean and modern. There are 4 packages available to meet anyone’s studying needs. You can opt for just the online courses if you are confident in your test-taking skills, or if you want more support, you can go with the full program that includes the textbooks, dictionary and exam cram videos. 

The top two packages at Real Estate Express include weekly Q & A sessions where you can ask questions directly to a certified instructor. These packages also include the Pass or Don’t Pay Guarantee, so if you fail the state exam on your first attempt, they will give you a full refund on your courses. 

I wasn’t thrilled about some of the fine print. You do have to take all the quizzes and pass them with a score of 80% or better to advance to the next chapter. Also, you are given 6 months to complete the entire course and 2 attempts to pass the final exams with a score of 70% or better. If you are not able to complete the program within those guidelines, then there is a re-enrollment fee to continue the program. 

Best suited for: the Value Shopper

Real Estate Express provides the best overall experience and most value for the aspiring real estate agent. They offer high-quality content that will adequately prepare you for the state exam. They also have frequent promotions, so you can usually get a great deal.

Learn more at www.realestateexpress.com

3. Kaplan

Kaplan Real Estate Review

Price Range: $149 to $1,099

Kaplan Real Estate education provides industry-leading content in many different industries. They offer the most variety in terms of study formats, ranging from online video courses to live classes. However, they are one of the most expensive education providers out there. 

If you prefer the traditional way of sitting in a classroom and listening to the instructor, then you can select their Live Class Package. A single live course takes about 5 weeks and consists of 3-hour sessions that typically meets 1 to 2 times per week. They have locations in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Costa Mesa, and San Diego. 

If you are unable to make it to a class, Kaplan Real Estate has online options where you can attend class virtually from home or study On Demand at your own pace. You can watch pre-recorded instructor-led video courses or take their text-based courses which is like reading an online book.

Best suited for: the Interactive Learner

If you want to be in an active learning environment and have an unlimited budget, then this program from Kaplan Real Estate will be perfect for you. The teacher-student interaction you get in the video and live courses will keep you engaged the whole time.

Learn more at www.kapre.com

4. The CE Shop

The CE Shop review | Real Estate License

Price Range: $129 to $239

These courses from The CE Shop are unique from other schools in that they require active learning. They are text-based, so you are reading an online book. However, the quizzes and final exams have a variety of question formats (i.e. matching, multiple-choice, fill in the blanks, etc…) This has been shown to help you retain the information better, but you may find yourself spending more time in the course. This is simply because you can’t cut any corners and have to read every question and answer carefully. 

The content in the course is based on real-life scenarios and actual situations that real estate agents have encountered. This will not only prepare you for the state exam but also after you get licensed. The CE Shop boasts a pass rate of over 90% on their website. This is based on their own self-reported surveys, so you should take this information with a grain of salt. Nonetheless, after personally seeing how rigorous and thorough the program was, I am entirely confident in the integrity of their high pass rate. 

The CE Shop also provides industry-leading support hours, covering all 7 days of the week via phone, email, and live chat. 

Best suited for: the Knowledge Seeker

This is great for people who genuinely want to take their time to learn as much as possible so they can set themselves up for a successful career in real estate. The CE Shop is the perfect program for the book worm. 

Learn more at www.theceshop.com

5. 360training.com

360training.com review | Real Estate License

Price Range: $99 to $145

360training.com is one of the leading providers in online education across industries. They offer over 6,000 regulated and non-regulated courses that have served over 4 million students in 67 different countries. They only provide 2 packages for the California real estate program, but they are both pretty cheap. 

Their program is an online correspondence course that includes a downloadable PDF. The lesson quizzes are mandatory, and you do have to score at least a 70% or better in order to move on to the next lesson. You are given one year to complete the program and 2 attempts to pass the final exam. This should not be hard since you only need to score 60% or higher on the final exam to pass. 

The prices at 360training.com are among the lowest in the industry. However, they do not provide very much additional study materials. Also, they have one of the most stringent refund policies that I have seen: you have 72 hours to request a refund provided that you have not completed 50% or more of the course and have not attempted any portion of a test. 

Best suited for: the Budget Shopper

360training.com is really geared for someone who already has a lot of experience in the real estate industry and wants to spend the least amount of money to fulfill the education requirements.

Learn more at www.360training.com

How to Find a Supervisory Appraiser

Finding a supervisor will feel like trying to scale Mount Everest... if you don't know what you're doing.

If you want to become a licensed real estate appraiser, you’ll have to obtain experience as a trainee. This is basically an apprenticeship position under a certified appraiser (Certified Residential or Certified General level). They will be your mentor and teach you the ins and outs of the trade. They are the ones who will show you how to actually write an appraisal report.

Most states require trainees to obtain 1,000 hours of experience in no less than 6 months. California and some other states have the highest requirement at 2,000 hours in no less than a year.

You can work with as many certified appraisers as you want.

Now, to address the elephant in the room. The #1 question (and concern) for anyone trying to get into appraisal is:

“How do I find a certified appraiser to hire me?”

The easiest, and most obvious, way is if you already have a friend or family member who’s a certified appraiser.

Another option is to contact banks or Appraisal Management Companies (AMC) and see if they’re hiring. Some of them even pay you on a salary.

If you’ve exhausted those options, then you’ll have to find one by reaching out to them yourself.

I hear a lot of people complaining that they can’t find anyone. And you know what? I’m not surprised.  The reason why so many people struggle is that they have the wrong expectations and wrong approach.

I personally didn’t know anyone in the industry when I started. I didn’t have any prior connections, and I’ve been able to successfully find multiple supervisory appraisers. They’re definitely out there. In fact, I know some who are actively looking to take on new trainees all the time.

How did I do it?

Set the right expections.

I’ve heard a lot of people say something like “I’ve sent my resume out to 50 appraisers and haven’t heard back.”

What I’m thinking is: why should you expect to hear something back?

I mean, if you were to randomly send your resume out to 50 companies for any other profession, do you really expect them to respond? Or just hire you out of the blue?

You have to put yourself in their shoes. You’re not the first person to ask them for a job.

And since you’re the one looking for the job (not them), you have to first prove that you’re even worth talking to.

It’s also a good idea to know what you’re getting into. This isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme. You’re going to be required to invest a lot of time and energy from the start. This entire process is going to be a marathon, not a sprint. You have to pace yourself. If you set your hopes up too high in the beginning, then you’re only setting yourself up for failure. 

You’re not going to be making very much money as a trainee. This inconvenience is only temporary. Keep your eye on the prize. Remember, you’re building the foundation so you can have a successful 10+ year career.  

The Approach

The #1 way to get hired is by talking to a certified appraiser face-to-face. I cannot stress how valuable meeting someone in person is. They will remember you and get a good feel for the type of person you are.

Here’s my secret on how to contact them in person:

As a trainee, you’re required to take continuing education (CE) courses to keep your appraiser’s license active. Find live courses in your area, and use your CE as an excuse to meet other appraisers. 

Triple Play Appraisal CE Class by Doug Vairo

You can find live CE courses at McKissock, the Appraisal Institute, appraisal coalitions, and at trade associations in your state. 

Don’t take all your CE hours at once. You’ll want to spread your CE schedule over a long period of time, so you have a better chance at meeting more people.

This makes breaking the ice much easier. You can just causally strike up a conversation, and say something like “so how long have you been in the industry?”

Remember, if you introduce yourself, you’re on the “clock.” Your interview has started.

They are sizing you up as a person and as a professional. They are consciously (and sub-consciously) looking at how you dress and present yourself. They will remember you, so make sure you leave a good impression.

Keep in mind, there are good mentors and bad mentors out there, so you want to be vigilant about who you work with. If they come to class with a disheveled appearance and papers spilling out of their binders, probably not a good sign that they’ll make a good supervisor.

If you do find someone that presents themselves professionally and seems knowledgeable, simply ask them if they’re willing to take on any trainees.

If you’re in a remote location or there aren’t very many live classes in your area, then you’ll have to just pick up the phone and call them. Fortunately, you can easily search the National Registry of Appraiser’s to find one in your area. Your state board also provides a directory.

Whether you meet them in person or call them, they will most likely say “no.”

Expect this to happen, but don’t get discouraged. A “no” today isn’t a “no” for tomorrow.

This is where you can separate yourself from people who complain on internet chat rooms that they can’t find anyone.

If you met them in person, ask for their business card. If they didn’t bring one, ask for their phone number and email address.

You're still in the "interview" process.

You must send them a follow up email within 24 hours. Timing is CRUCIAL. This is a small window where you have a chance to prove that you know proper business etiquette.

Keep it casual but professional. Don’t over-analyze the message. Simply tell them it was great to meet them, and that you hope to have an opportunity to work with them in the future.

You are planting a seed in their mind. If you want, you can attach your resume.

Connect with them on LinkedIn. Before you do though, make sure your own LinkedIn profile is polished and up-to-date.

At this point, you’ll need to follow up with them every 1-2 months. Calling them over the phone gives you the best chance of getting hired. If they don’t pick up, then just leave a message.

If you’re an introvert like me and don’t like making phone calls, you can alternate between phone and email.

It doesn’t matter if they respond or not. What’s happening is that they are getting to know you. They get to see your communication and writing skills. They get to see your work ethic and drive. And hopefully, they are even starting to like you.

How long do you have to keep following up? It’s up to you. This is YOUR “interview.” It ends when you quit.

Remember, you only need to find one supervisor. 

Some Last Thoughts

Finding someone to train you doesn’t have to be hard.

Most people struggle because they’re stuck in an “I can’t do it” mindset. Remember that every contact you make with a potential mentor is a “test,” so you should always put your best foot forward. Certified appraisers, and pretty much every company, want to hire people with an “I can” attitude. If something’s not working, then try something else.

That’s not to say that finding a supervisor will be easy. But if you set the right expectations for yourself and be patient with the process, your persistence and hard work will pay off.

How to Get a Real Estate License in Texas

Go big or go home!

Unfortunately, the Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC) took that to heart when they drafted the requirements on getting a Texas real estate license. Out of all the states, Texas requires the most amount of education, plus they’ll eventually require you to be a Texas resident as well.

The good news is that it’s one of the best real estate markets in the country. During the Great Recession, the real estate market in Texas barely dipped. It’s historically been very stable despite what’s happening to the rest of the economy.

Short Answer

  1. Meet basic eligibility requirements
  2. Complete the 6 qualifying real estate courses
  3. Pass the state exam

From start to finish, it takes about 3 to 4 months on average.

Long Answer

1. Meet Basic Eligibility Requirements

You have to be at least 18 years old, and a US citizen or lawfully admitted alien.

Texas also requires residency at the time of application. This means that if you’re out-of-state, you can begin working on the courses even if you don’t have a Texas address yet. 

There will be a background check at the end. If you’re concerned about this and want to find out before doing all the work, you can submit the form Moral Character Determination and a $50 fee to TREC.

2. Fulfill Education Requirements

You’ll need to choose an accredited school to complete the following 6 required courses (180 total hours):

30 hours – Principles of Real Estate I
30 hours – Principles of Real Estate II
30 hours – Law of Agency
30 hours – Law of Contracts
30 hours – Real Estate Finance
30 hours – Promulgated Contract Forms

Special Exemptions

Attorneys or law school graduates should contact TREC to see if your law courses will satisfy any of the core courses.

Course Duration

TREC has a waiting period of 3 days before you can take a course final exam. Luckily, they don’t require seat time, so you don’t have to study for all 180 hours if you’re a quick learner.

Proctors

TREC now requires the course final exams to be proctored. A proctor is someone who monitors you during the test to verify it’s you taking the test (and not someone else). Generally, they’re there to make sure there’s no cheating going on.

Fortunately, there are all types of proctors available. You can find proctoring services at your local college and public universities. Clergy members and military officers are also good options.

My personal favorite is the public library because they are typically free.

There are also online proctoring services. This is the most convenient option but there’s a fee of $20 to $40 per test attempt. You can take the test from home and they will watch you through a webcam. ProctorU and Examity are the biggest ones out there.

Sales Apprentice Education (SAE)

The SAE courses are really just an extension of the 6 core courses. They have the same format as those courses and require a proctored final exam. You’re required to complete this on your first renewal after you get licensed.

You have the option to complete all 270 hours (180 hour core courses plus 90 hour SAE courses) of education before you take the state exam. The advantage of doing this is that you have that extra 90 hours of knowledge under your belt. This will help you on the state exam and when you get licensed, you’ll be ready to hit the ground running. Also, most schools offer big discounts on their 270 hour packages, so you’ll save money in the long run.

Here are the acceptable courses that meet the SAE requirement:

30 hours – Real Estate Appraisal 
30 hours – Real Estate Law
30 hours – Real Estate Marketing
30 hours – Real Estate Mathematics
30 hours – Property Management
30 hours – Real Estate Investments
30 hours – Residential Inspection for Real Estate Agents

Cost

You can find online real estate programs ranging from $349 to over $1,000. Because of the large amount of education and exam requirements (and the fees you’ll have to pay if you need to re-take them), I believe choosing the right school is especially important.

Choosing a School

Luckily for us, TREC publishes the exam pass rates for online schools, so you can see which ones are the best. At the time of this writing, these are the top four online schools that have over 1,000 exam attempts along with their pass rates for the Sales Agent License.

School NameExam CountExams PassedPass Rate
American School of Real Estate Express1,7251,21870.61%
Champions School of Real Estate19,09311,47960.12%
Allied Business Schools1,48079653.78%
The Real Estate Business School1,68085150.65%
Overall Average30,39418,19359.86%

You can easily see that American School of Real Estate Express has the best track record while Champions School of Real Estate has the most students.

After checking their prices, Champions is 2x to 3x more expensive than American School of Real Estate Express.

I don’t know about you, but that makes it an easy decision for me:

The clear winner is American School of Real Estate Express.

3. Pass the State Exam

After you complete the courses, you can apply for the state exam online or by mail.

I don’t advise mailing your application because it takes longer and there’s a $20 processing fee.

Texas has contracted with Pearson VUE  to administer the state exam. They are a national testing service so it’s really easy and convenient to find a location near you. You can search for a Test Center here.

It costs $54 to take the state exam, which consists of 110 multiple choice questions, broken up into two parts: national and state.

You have 2.5 hours to answer 80 questions on the national portion, and 1.5 hours to answer 30 questions on the state portion. You have to score a 70% or higher on both sections to pass the exam.

If you fail after 3 attempts, you will have to complete an additional 30 hours of qualifying education for each failed portion of the state exam. It costs $54 to re-take the test. 

Almost at the finish line...

After you pass the state exam, you’re ready to complete your license application.

You’re required to have your fingerprints on file with the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) through MorphoTrust. They will use this to run a background check. It’s a quick and easy process. The fingerprint fee is $37 and the background check is $28.25.

You’ll also have to pay for the license itself. The Initial Sales Agent Application fee is $205.

Finding a Sponsor

Once you pay all the fees and meet all the requirements, you’ll receive your real estate license. However, in order to actually use it, you’ll need to find a licensed Texas broker to sponsor you.

There’s a wide range of brokers out there, so make sure you find the one that gives you what you want. There’s the big name players like Keller Williams, Coldwell Banker, and RE/MAX. There’s also small boutique and mom and pop shops that are more family-focused. Every broker has their pros and cons, so it’s important to do your due diligence. I recommend visiting at least 3 to 5 brokers in your area. You’ll want to ask them about their commission split, culture, reputation, and support.

After a broker sponsors you, your license will officially be active and you can start your real estate career!

Renewing Your License

The Texas real estate license is on a 2 year cycle. To renew it, you’ll have to complete the appropriate education and pay the $116 renewal fee.

If you’re on your first renewal, you’ll have to complete 90 hours of Sales Apprentice Education (SAE) courses plus 8 hours of Legal Updates.

If you already finished them when you did your 180 hour core courses, then you’re ahead of the curve. Just pay your renewal fee online and you’re all set for the next two years!

Beginning on your second renewal, you’ll only need to do 18 hours of continuing education. There are different types of CE courses for a Sales Agent and a Broker’s license, so make sure you get the right one.

How to Get a Real Estate License in California

Getting a real estate license in California can prove to be a lucrative opportunity. It’s the 6th largest economy in the world, so there’s plenty of opportunity for growth. It’s also one of the easiest states to obtain and maintain a real estate license. Although it can be quite competitive in certain markets, that makes the journey just as rewarding.

Short Answer

  1. Complete 3 real estate courses
  2. Pass the state exam
  3. Choose a broker

From start to finish, it takes about 3 to 4 months.

Long Answer

Basic Eligibility Requirements:

  • You need to be 18 years or older at the time of applying for the state exam.
  • You must have a valid social security number or be a legally admitted alien. 

1. Fulfill Education Requirements

You’ll need to choose an accredited school to take the 3 required courses: Principles, Practices, and one elective course.

The elective courses are completely up to you. You can choose from Finance, Appraisal, Property Management, Legal Aspects, Office Administration, Escrows, Mortgage Loan Brokering and Lending, Business Law, General Accounting, Common Interest Developments or Computer Applications in Real Estate.

I personally recommend the Finance course because there’s an entire section on Finance on the state exam, so it’ll help you the most later. Legal Aspects is a strong second choice.

Special Exemptions

If you’re a member of the California State Bar, you are exempt from the courses but you still need to take the State Exam.

If you’ve taken a college course in Accounting, Micro/Macro Economics or Business Law, this can count as your elective course.

How long do the courses take?

California has a restriction on how fast you can complete the courses. You have to wait for at least 18 days before taking the final exam, and you take one at a time. That means for 3 courses at 18 days each, the fastest you can finish would be 54 days.

How much does it cost?

I’ve seen online schools offer the program anywhere from $99 to $500. I’m a strong believer in “you get what you pay for.” I don’t recommend going for the cheapest ones. They won’t give you the right amount of preparation for the state exam, and you’ll end up paying for it later anyways if you don’t pass it on your first attempt. I also wouldn’t go for the most expensive ones (unless they’re on promotion). Usually, the best value is somewhere in the middle.

Choosing a School

There’s a dizzying list of real estate schools out there. So, it can be hard to decide which one to go with. Each school has their own pros and cons; so ultimately, it depends on what you want.

2. Pass the State Exam

After you’re done with the courses, you’ll mail the course certificates along with your application to take the state exam.

The state exam has 150 multiple-choice questions. You get up to 3 hours and 15 minutes to finish and need a score of 70% or better to pass.

It costs $60 to take the exam, and you take it at one of the California Department of Real Estate (DRE) offices.

The main offices are in Sacramento, Fresno, Oakland, San Diego and Los Angeles. However, there are satellite locations that may be closer to you. The tests are held 3-4 times per week, every week. Every time I’ve looked they’ve always had availability. You can see the exam dates and availability here.

If you’re in a hurry, the state has a fast track application option, where you pay the $60 exam fee and $245 license fee upfront. This cuts down on the paperwork going back and forth, allowing the DRE to finish processing your application faster.

If you don’t pass the state exam on the first attempt, don’t get discouraged. You can re-take it as many times as you need.

Almost home...

Congrats! You passed the state exam!

Just a few more house-keeping things to wrap up.

License Fee

If you didn’t choose the fast track option from before, this is when you’ll pay the DRE the license fee of $245.

Finger-printing

You’ll also need to verify your identity through electronic finger-printing program called Live Scan. It’s a very quick and painless process, but costs $49. You can find a location near you here.

Background check

The DRE may deny your application if you’ve been convicted of a substantially related crime. What does that mean? You can read about it under the section Criteria of Substantial Relationship

Any court-ordered child support must be current.

3. Choose a Broker

You’ve got your real estate license! Now you’re ready to make some money!
In order to use your license for any real estate transaction, you have to hang your license with a broker. 

Finding a broker is easy, choosing one is hard.

I suggest going out to visit at least 3 to 5 brokers and see what they have to offer. You’ll want to evaluate their culture, reputation, support, and commission split.

In my experience, company culture is the #1 deciding factor for determining happiness and whether you’ll want to stay there. There are a lot of indirect benefits you get when you find a great company to work with (even if they don’t have the highest payout). It’s not a coincidence that the best friends I’ve made in my own life came from the company that I had the most fun at. 

Also, I wouldn’t stress about it too much. If you pick one that you regret joining, you can always quit and find another company that’s a better fit for you.

Renewing Your License

Your real estate license is good for four years. To keep it active, you’ll have to renew it.

Luckily, it’s super easy to do: you just need to complete 45 hours of approved CE and then pay the renewal fee.

You can complete the 45 hours of CE at any time during your 4 year cycle. However, you’ll have to wait at least 90 days before your license expires to turn in the certificates.

Once you’re done with the courses, simply turn in the certificates on the DRE’s online eLicensing portal.

California will mail you a courtesy notice to remind you of your renewal date, but I definitely wouldn’t rely on it. A lot of people mistake it for junk mail and throw it away.

Some Final Thoughts

If you’re going to be in real estate, California is the best place to do it. It’s one of the strongest real estate markets in the world with huge upside potential. There’s plenty of business to go around.

Maybe a career in real estate will work out for you, maybe it won’t. It only takes a couple of hundred dollars and about three months of your time to find out. If you’ve kept reading up to this point, I think the only thing you’ll regret is if you didn’t give it a try.