How to Get a Real Estate License in DC: 2021 Requirements for Taking the District of Columbia Exam
This article is your go-to guide for all the information you need when getting your real estate license in the District of Columbia. It covers the topic from A to Z, providing pertinent instructions on the classes you need to take, how you should prepare for the exam, and more.
Let’s jump right in and go step-by-step.
DC Real Estate Salespeople License Requirements
The salesperson licensing process in the District of Columbia consists of a few simple steps. As a first-time candidate, you’ll need to complete the preparatory education, pass the licensing exam, and file an application.
But before you start the process, you must check to see if you meet all the eligibility criteria.
The District of Columbia Real Estate Commission stipulates that you must have attained adulthood (18 years old) and earned a high school diploma. If you have a corresponding credential such as a GED, that’s acceptable as a substitute.
You must also understand and be literate in the English language. And you must not have any of the following issues related to real estate licensing in the District or elsewhere:
- You cannot have a license with a suspension in effect when you file your application.
- You can’t have been denied a license within the past year unless you failed the exam.
- If you had a license revoked, three years or more must have elapsed since revocation.
If you’ve ticked all of the eligibility boxes, you can then take the step of meeting the education requirement. The prescribed course of study is a 60-hour pre-licensing class provided by an accredited real estate school. It provides you with the foundation and practical business knowledge you need to start your real estate career and pass the licensing exam.
The exam has two parts covering 15 content areas. The 80-question national section tests you on the skills and knowledge you need to work day-to-day as an agent. The state portion is a 30-question assessment of your grasp of DC real estate laws. All questions are multiple-choice. You need to score a minimum of 75 percent correct on each portion to pass the exam.
The test administrator, PSI Services, publishes a Candidate Information Bulletin for the exam. It’s a helpful reference tool in preparing for exam day. It also provides detailed instructions on registering for the exam.
After you’ve passed both portions of the exam and received your score report, the clock starts on submitting an application. You have six months from the date you pass to apply. If you fail to do so, you’ll have to retake the entire exam.
There’s an additional action item to activate your license. As a salesperson, you’re required to work under the supervision of a broker. So, you’ll need to pick from top real estate brokerages to hold your license. This decision is one of your first big career steps.
To make it easier, follow the tips in our article on choosing the right real estate brokerage that matches your business goals and work style.
DC Real Estate Broker License Requirements
Broker licensees must have reached majority age (eighteen), be a high school graduate or hold an equivalency certificate, and read, write, and understand English. The Code of the District of Columbia also specifies some license-related eligibility requirements.
You must establish to the Commission’s satisfaction that you’ve not had a real estate license revoked within the prior three years and did not have a suspended license when you applied. If you were denied a license in the previous year, you must prove that failing the exam was why.
Professional real estate agents in Washington DC applying to become a broker are also required to have two years of experience as a licensed salesperson. That experience must immediately precede your applying for a broker’s license.
What’s required as far as pre-licensing education and the exam are concerned depends on how you obtain your license. If you’re actively licensed somewhere other than the District and meet all the other criteria, you can apply via an expedited process. We’ve devoted a section of this article (Reciprocity) to what that entails.
If you’re a first-time broker applicant, you’ll get your license by examination. That means you’ll have to take 135 hours of approved pre-licensing coursework and subsequently pass both the national and state portions of the exam. To do that, you must score a minimum of 75 percent correct on each part.
You’ll be scored on 75 questions in the national section of the exam and 40 in the portion covering District of Columbia real estate licensing law. A good number of the national questions focus on contracts, principles of agency, and practices for brokers. The bulk of the state questions test your understanding of statutory requirements governing licensee activities.
You can reference the Candidate Information Bulletin for additional details on the content areas covered by the exam and the number of questions you can expect for each one.
When you’ve met the exam requirement, you’re good to go on filing your application for your new broker’s license. You have six months from the date you pass the exam to get that done.
What Is Real Estate License Reciprocity?
If you’re an active licensee outside the District of Columbia, you may wonder what you need to do to be licensed in DC. Will you have to meet another set of pre-licensing requirements? Not necessarily. You may be able to obtain a license by reciprocity.
Here’s how that works. The Commission offers a shortcut to applicants from states with which they have an agreement to recognize one another’s licenses. There are three requirements:
- You must provide certification of your current licensure (your license history).
- You have to complete a 3-hour Fair Housing course approved by the Commission.
- You must take and pass the DC portion of the licensing examination.
You don’t have to take the national portion of the exam, and the pre-licensing education requirement (60 hours for salespeople and 135 hours for brokers) is waived.
The Commission has a similar process for licensees from states without reciprocal agreements. It’s called licensing by endorsement. That also waives education and experience requirements and the national part of the exam.
However, you’ll have to meet the three conditions for reciprocity, plus prove that you’ve completed the required hours of education and years of experience to be eligible under licensing by endorsement.
US States Having a Reciprocal Agreement with the District of Columbia
Licensees in Maryland and Virginia can obtain a District of Columbia license via reciprocity.
How to Study for a Real Estate License Exam in the District of Columbia
Pre-Licensing Classroom Courses
If you perform better as a student receiving face-to-face instruction, you can study in a traditional classroom setting. Evening classes are available, as well as those taught during the day. So, if you’re otherwise obligated nine to five, you still have an option for in-person learning.
In addition to covering topics related to the principles and practice of the profession and real estate law, local real estate classes also devote time to real estate math calculations. You can expect at least ten math questions on the licensing exam.
The broker coursework, on the other hand, covers subject areas such as appraisal, financing, agency relationships, DC real estate licensing law, fair housing law, and code of ethics.
Pre-Licensing Online Courses
You can also meet the education requirement by taking the coursework online. This option lets you digest the material at your desired pace and work around your lifestyle.
Some of the brick-and-mortar schools offer online courses, too. There are also education providers that only have an online presence. Pricing for the two is typically in the same range. But online-only providers often offer package deals to choose between.
Some online-only providers are based outside the District. So, when you’re shopping for courses, double-check to make sure they are approved by the Commission.
No matter which school you pick, online classes provide the opportunity to finish your coursework a little faster if you buckle down and consistently study. But, you’ll trade off opportunities for live engagement with your instructor and peers.
We have a video guide that compares real estate classes online vs. classroom learning. There’s also a text transcript if you prefer to read the insights shared by two experienced real estate agents.
Where to Take the Real Estate Exam in the District of Columbia
The exam is an in-person test given at the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs building located at 1100 4th Street, SW. An appointment is required, and you must schedule with the test administrator PSI Services. You can register online any time of the day.
Before taking the test, read our article on how to study for the real estate exam for tips that will ensure you pass the exam on your first try.
How to File for Your License After the Exam in the District of Columbia
Your deadline to file an application is six months following the date you received a passing score report for the exam. If you miss that cutoff date, you’ll have to retake the test.
You must submit your application through the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs web portal. You can also upload any required supporting documents through the portal. Examples include your score report and a certificate of license history from another jurisdiction where you’ve been licensed if applicable.
You’ll need to upload a 2”x2” passport-style photo (.jpeg format) and a copy of an unexpired government-issued ID. Payment of the applicable fee is also required when you apply. The license fee is $295 for brokers and $255 for salespeople.
How to Receive Your Real Estate License in the District of Columbia
You won’t get a hard copy of your license. But you can print one from the digital version. The Commission issues electronic licenses, which are sent via email.
With your real estate license on hand, you’re now eligible to join a real estate team. This allows you to learn from and be guided by more experienced agents. To also make sure that you establish a solid real estate career in DC, read our guide on what to do after you get your real estate license.
Also check out the pros and cons of being a real estate agent to know what’s in store for you when working as a realtor.
How long does it take to get a District of Columbia real estate license when studying in the class?
The time from beginning to end will differ for each applicant. But, according to education providers, most candidates finish the licensing process in about four months.
At the front end, you’ll need to complete pre-licensing coursework. Here are some typical time frames:
- Salesperson: Three weeks (day class)
- Salesperson: Eight weeks (night class)
- Broker: Two months (on average)
On the other side of the education course, you’ll need to take the exam. Plus, you’ll have to wait for the application review. That typically takes five to ten days.
How long does it take to get a District of Columbia real estate license online?
According to education providers, most salesperson students complete the entire District of Columbia licensing process in about four months. That includes pre-licensing education, the exam, and application processing.
You’ll have three months from the start of the online salesperson course to finish it. But if you study at a brisk pace, you could reduce that time. For example, you can complete the coursework in a couple of weeks if you average 30 hours each week.
With the education done, the bulk of the required time is behind you. You’ll simply have to take the exam, apply for your license, and wait for the Commission to issue it. The latter usually takes five to ten days.
Is there a background check for a District of Columbia real estate license?
No, you do not have to undergo a background check for a real estate license in the District of Columbia. However, the Commission does ask about criminal convictions on the application.
In addition to disclosing that you have a conviction, you must also provide a description of the charges and submit the associated court documents when you apply.
How much does a District of Columbia real estate license cost?
You’ll pay a $69 fee to take the exam. And the cost is the same if you need to retake it. The license fee is $255 for a salesperson license and $295 for brokers.
Your investment in pre-licensing education will vary based on where and how you take the course, and whether you score a discount. The cost of the salesperson course ranges from $200 to $300. The price for the broker coursework can be about $1,300 for a livestream format.
How long do you have to wait to retake the real estate exam in the District of Columbia?
You cannot make an appointment for a retake at the test site. It usually takes up to 24 hours for the test administrator to submit scores to the Commission for any given exam day. So, wait until the next day to call and schedule the first available appointment.
How many times can you retake the District of Columbia real estate exam?
You’re not limited in the number of retakes you get if you fail the exam. And you’ll only need to retake the part you failed. But you must pass any failed portion within six months of your first try.
Do you have to pay to retake the real estate exam in the District of Columbia?
Yes, you must register and pay the exam fee for each retake.
How much does it cost to retake the real estate exam in the District of Columbia?
Every attempt will cost $69.
Can you get a real estate license with a felony in the District of Columbia?
A felony conviction doesn’t make you ineligible for a license. But it may negatively impact your ability to obtain one. The Commission may consider a conviction of an offense directly related to the occupation of real estate in its decision to issue a license.
The Code of the District of Columbia details what the Commission must and shall not consider in making its determination. The must-review list includes elements such as how long ago the crime took place, how old you were when convicted, and circumstances related to the offense.
The Commission must also look at other evidence that speaks to your fitness. Examples include your work history, letters of reference, and whether or not you have exhibited recidivism.
On the shall-not-consider side are things like juvenile adjudications, non-conviction information, and convictions that have been pardoned, vacated, sealed, or expunged. The Commission is also not allowed to consider a conviction until an applicant is found to be otherwise qualified.
Can you get a real estate license with a misdemeanor in the District of Columbia?
Ultimately, the Commission decides whether you will receive a license despite a misdemeanor conviction. But that decision is not a subjective one. The Code of the District of Columbia spells out the totality of factors the Commission must and shall not consider in that decision.
If you were convicted of an offense directly related to the real estate occupation, it could be considered. But the Commission can only do so after they’ve decided you’re otherwise qualified. In addition, they are obligated not to inquire into or look at any of the following:
- An adjudication that occurred when you were a juvenile
- Information that’s not related to the conviction
- An expunged, sealed, pardoned, or vacated conviction
They must consider factors like the circumstances surrounding the offense, your age when the offense occurred, and the amount of time that has elapsed since the crime was committed. Any other evidence that you present related to your rehabilitation and fitness must also be taken into consideration. Letters of reference and documentation of work history are examples.
Will a DUI prevent you from getting a real estate license in the District of Columbia?
There’s no rule that says you won’t get a real estate license if you have a DUI. But, real estate involves activities like driving clients. So, this offense could be viewed as directly related to the occupation for which you’re seeking a license for. That would put it on the Commission’s radar. They will look at factors specified in the Code of the District of Columbia and reach a decision.
Can I get a real estate license without a high school diploma in the District of Columbia?
If you didn’t graduate from high school, you could still get a license if you have an equivalency certificate for a diploma, such as a GED.
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