Like any professional industry, real estate is regulated and has requirements for licensing. Staying
compliant with these requirements is essential to legally practicing as a real estate agent. In fact,
you cannot carry out real estate agent work without proper and up-to-date licensing. A proactive
approach to license management can save your real estate brokerage significant time and hassle. Stay in
good standing and avoid lapsed licenses with our full-service real estate compliance services. For a
free evaluation, contact us to speak with an Account Manager.
Below, we outline the important role that brokerage licensing plays in regards to real estate. In most
cases, real estate brokers can work as agents, but agents cannot work as real estate brokers without a
broker’s license. With few exceptions, any person or business entity that engages in brokerage must have
a real estate license. Real estate brokerage firm licensing requirements vary state-by-state, so it’s
important to stay up-to-date regarding your location’s specifications.
The good news? An experienced, dedicated compliance partner can help you take a proactive approach to
maintaining real estate licensure and certification.
Contact Harbor Compliance today to
help you simplify the professional licensing process.
The following guide contains an overview of real estate practice licensing and specific board
requirements in each state.
Overview of Real Estate Industry Licensing
Industry-specific licensing covers a wide range of activities. In general, an individual or company
engaged in selling, exchanging, purchasing, renting, leasing, negotiating, listing, auctioning, or
advising others on real estate is subject to oversight. Licenses are frequently required for:
- Offices of Real Estate Agents and Brokers
- Residential & Commercial Property Managers
- Other Real Estate Asset Management Services
- Other Real Estate Lessors (e.g. self-storage units)
- Real Estate Appraisal Services
- Real Estate Escrow Agencies
- Real Estate Listing Services
- Real Estate Fiduciaries' Offices
- Auctioning Real Estate for others
- Selling time-share condominiums for others
- Real Estate Schools
The real estate industry is primarily regulated at the state-level. Each of the 50 states and
the District of Columbia has a board or commission dedicated to administering regulation of the
real estate profession.
Real Estate Brokerage Firm Licensing
A business entity offering real estate brokerage services to the public typically must register with the
real estate commission before conducting business activity. Firm registration is currently required in
41 states. Real estate firms should become properly licensed
prior to practicing to ensure compliance and avoid state fines or penalties.
Licensure for brokerage firms usually follows incorporation or foreign qualification of the business
entity with the secretary of state. Some states do, however, require real estate brokerages to have
their name approved by the real estate commission before filing with the secretary of state.
After registration with the secretary of state, firms must apply for a real estate brokerage license
through the real estate commission. Every state that issues firm licenses requires the appointment of an
individually licensed real estate broker to oversee the firm’s activities. Depending on the state, the
appointed broker is often called either a qualifying broker, designated broker, or principal broker.
In addition to the firm license, companies with branch offices will often need to apply for separate
branch office licenses. Branch offices generally appoint the same designated broker as the main office,
but they must also appoint a broker or salesperson as the on-site manager of the new branch.
Although brokerage firm licenses are similar across many states, there are some unique requirements to
be aware of. For instance, Massachusetts based firms must send a letter of legal existence and a $52 fee
to the real estate board in order to receive an initial license application. Brokerages in Hawaii are
only required to license one branch office per island.
Initial Registration Fees
Fees for initial licensure range from $10 to $705, with an average license fee of $185. Pennsylvania
charges only $10, while Connecticut filing fees total to $705.
Brokerage firm license renewal varies by state. Slightly over half of the states that require firm
licensure call for licenses to be renewed every two years. Almost all other state licenses renew
annually. Tennessee is one exception to this rule, as they do not require a renewal filing.
Like initial application fees, renewal fees also vary by state. There is no fee in Arizona, while
Connecticut charges $383 to renew a license. Firms can expect to pay closer to the national average of
$150 when applying for a license, however, the most commonly applied fee is $170.
Table of Company Licenses
Looking for real estate broker certification requirements in a particular jurisdiction? The following
table summarizes firm licensing requirements across the United States. Click on any state for the
licensing information specific to that state.