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How to Get a Real Estate License in Iowa: 2023 Requirements for Taking the Exam

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When you’re ready to get your real estate license in Iowa, reading this guide will help you better prepare to navigate the licensing process in the state.

We’ve detailed licensing requirements, pointed out strict deadlines, and answered the most frequently asked questions so that you understand what steps to take and when.

Keep reading to learn the key things you need to know.

How to Get a Real Estate License in Iowa

Iowa Real Estate License Requirements for Salespeople

Getting a background check is one of the first things you’ll need to do as part of obtaining your original real estate salesperson license.

You must submit your fingerprints for this check according to these instructions, which cross-references your prints against criminal history databases.

The criminal records search can take 4-8 weeks. So, getting this underway early in the process can save some wait time.

Do keep in mind that the report is only valid for 210 days.

So, factor in that expiration date when you’re timing out the completion of the remaining requirements.

Taking a pre-licensing course is one of those requirements. You must complete 60 hours of classwork in real estate fundamentals.

The course must be taken at one of the accredited real estate schools in Iowa.

As well as the pre-licensing course, you also have to complete three 12-hour courses covering the following topics:

  • Buying practices
  • Listing practices
  • Professionalism and ethics

Most people wait until they have passed the licensing exam before tackling the additional 36 hours of education.

You can take them anytime, as long as you finish before you apply. However, you are required to complete the 60-hour course before you can sit for the exam.

An independent testing company, PSI Services, conducts the exam. It’s a multiple-choice test with two parts: a national section and a state section.

You need a minimum combined score of 84 to pass. That’s 56 correct answers on the national part and 28 right on the state portion.

You can’t apply for a license until you’ve passed both.

PSI has an information bulletin that details what’s on the exam. Generally speaking, there are 80 questions on real estate principles and practices.

The state section has 40 questions covering Iowa real estate law and Commission rules.

Note that while you can take the exam before you turn 18, you must have celebrated your eighteenth birthday before applying.

That has to be within six months of passing the exam.

You‘re also required to sign up for errors and omissions insurance and provide proof of coverage when submitting your application.

E&O is a type of liability insurance that helps protect you against claims stemming from mistakes made in the delivery of professional services.

Since the Commission does not issue original salesperson licenses on inactive status, you must also commit to a brokerage before applying.

So, you’ll need to spend some time choosing the right real estate brokerage to work for.

You can search our database of the top real estate brokerage firms in Iowa before settling on one that best fits your needs.


Iowa Real Estate License Requirements for Brokers

Broker applicants must have worked as licensed real estate agents in Iowa for 24 months at a minimum.

They must also complete pre-licensing education, pass the broker’s exam, and submit a background check to obtain a license.

Being licensed already does not exempt you from the background check. You must have your fingerprints taken and undergo a criminal history records check.

You can start the process at any time, but you’ll need to watch the expiration date. The search can take four weeks or more, and the report is valid for 210 days.

So, you’ll need to complete everything else before then.

The pre-licensing education requirement for brokers consists of nine courses to be taken at a school approved by the Commission. Together, they total 60 classroom hours.

Eight of the courses are six hours each. There’s a 12-hour course as well that is focused on operating a real estate brokerage.

The courses are broken down into the following:

  • Appraisal and market analysis
  • Real estate technology
  • Ethics and safety issues
  • Laws affecting Iowa practices
  • Real estate and agency law
  • Contract writing and law
  • Real estate organization and administration
  • Real estate trust accounts
  • Real estate finance

You can take the courses in any order. Completion certificates are valid for 24 months.

So, you’re allowed to complete them anytime within the two years preceding the exam.

As for the exam, you’re given three hours to take both portions. You’ll have two hours for the national part and one hour for the state section.

There are 115 questions. Seventy-five cover the national content, and the passing score is 60. Forty questions are Iowa-specific, and 30 is the passing score.

You can consult the exam bulletin published by PSI Services for more details.

You can apply for your license as soon as you pass the exam. If you’re not ready, you have six months to submit your application.

Whenever you do, you’re required to prove that you currently have errors and omissions insurance coverage.


Reciprocal States

What Is Real Estate License Reciprocity?

When two states agree to recognize each other’s real estate licenses, they have a reciprocal agreement.

Their agents or brokers can thereby obtain a license in the other state without going through the entire process.

If you’re licensed in one of the states that Iowa has reciprocity with, the education, exam, and experience prerequisites you met may count toward a comparable Iowa license.

It’s not a sure thing. You must qualify by satisfying the following requirements:

  • Obtained your original license in the state from which you’re seeking reciprocity
  • Will place your Iowa license with the same brokerage that holds your current one

Then, to obtain your license, you’ll simply need to undergo a fingerprint-based background check and submit your licensing application.

You must wait until your background check is done before you apply.

You’re also required to provide a current certificate of license history (letter of good standing) and proof of errors and omissions insurance coverage in Iowa.

There’s also a streamlined process (Rule 5.3 Licensing) for licensees in states that don’t have reciprocity with Iowa.

If you qualify, no additional education is required. The background check is needed, however, and you must sit for the Iowa portion only of the salesperson exam.

Exceptions are licensees from California, Florida, New York, West Virginia, and Wisconsin who must take the entire exam.


US States Having a Reciprocal Agreement with Iowa

Iowa currently has reciprocity agreements with the following states:

  • Arkansas
  • Georgia
  • Louisiana
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • North Dakota

How to Study for a Real Estate License Exam in Iowa

Pre-Licensing Classroom Courses

Course options include those taught in a physical classroom. This format can work well for those who focus better in a structured setting.

The same holds true for individuals who prefer formal, instructor-led learning and absorb information through in-person engagement.

Pre-licensing courses are also available through a virtual classroom experience (via Zoom).

This format could be a good alternative for those who would choose in-person classes if offered nearby.

It provides the benefits of structure, real-time engagement, and teacher-directed instruction. The flexibility in where you learn is a bonus.

Both the in-person and virtual classes are taught on varying schedules. Day classes are popularly offered, and there are some evening and weekend classes.


Pre-Licensing Online Courses

Self-paced online courses are readily available for salesperson pre-licensing education.

Some broker courses are available via that format, but Zoom classes are more commonly offered.

Many of the online providers are located outside of Iowa.

Therefore, pay close attention to whether they are on the Commission’s list of approved schools before enrolling.

When you take classes online, you manage your pace and can work toward a shorter completion time.

You can also typically find promotions or discounts, making the price more affordable than in-person classes.

However, online courses do make it easier to procrastinate if that’s your natural tendency. This means you’ll have to navigate your own path to learning.

We have an A-to-Z video guide comparing real estate classes online vs. classroom courses if you’d like to weigh the pros and cons of these two learning experiences.


Where to Take the Real Estate Exam in Iowa

The Commission contracts with PSI Services to conduct the exam program for real estate licensing. So, you must book your exam appointment with PSI.

You have the option of taking the test in person at an exam center or online while monitored live by a remote proctor.

The in-person test is given at three exam center locations: Council Bluffs, West Des Moines, and Cedar Rapids.

Before booking your exam, read our article providing tips on how to study for the real estate exam, so that you’ll be able to pass the Iowa real estate exam on your first try.


How to File for Your License After the Exam in Iowa

Once you’ve passed the exam and have your score report, you can file for your license.

You have six months to apply. Mark your calendar, though, because that filing deadline is absolute.

Note that filing should be done on the last business day of the sixth month following the qualifying test date.

You’ll apply through the Iowa Professional Licensing Bureau web portal . You can fill out your application and upload applicable documents.

When PSI Services provides your passing score report, you’ll also receive instructions for submitting your application.

The Commission website has cheat sheets (Forms and Applications) that can help.

As you wait for your license application to be approved, you’ll have ample time to contemplate on your next steps.

Our article, I Just Got My Real Estate License, Now What?, is a good resource that outlines the actions you need to take once you get your license.


How to Receive Your Real Estate License in Iowa

The Commission delivers licenses via email to the broker and the licensee.

You can also find your license card when you login to your account on the Iowa Professional Licensing Bureau web portal.

As a licensed real estate agent in Iowa, you can now be a part of a real estate team. This is where you can learn from more experienced agents.

Read our guide providing information on how to join a real estate team.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to get an Iowa real estate license when studying in the class?

By all accounts, it can take three months or more to work through the licensing process. It all depends on your timing for each step.

If you do some of them concurrently, you’ll save time.

A big chunk of time is taken up by the background check. According to the Commission, the criminal history search can take a minimum of four weeks. And eight weeks is not out of the ordinary.

Since this doesn’t have to be finished for you to work on other things, you could initiate the background check to be done while you complete pre-licensing education.

How long your classes will take depends on how many hours they meet a week. Day schedules usually get you through faster than night classes.

So, course completion time can range from two weeks to two months. Broker students can typically finish within the lower end of that range.

You’ll also likely spend a good bit of time comparing brokerages if you’re getting a salesperson license. It’s up to you to decide how much time to invest in that step.

You’ll also need time to prepare for the exam. A rule of thumb is 2-4 weeks to study. You may need more or less time.

Once your application is done, the Commission estimates that turnaround time is 3-5 business days. That time will be longer if your application is incomplete.


How long does it take to get an Iowa real estate license online?

While the time it takes to get a license varies from person to person, be prepared to invest three months or more in the process.

And know that your approach can speed it up or slow it down.

Take pre-licensing education, for example. Applicants who take online courses can usually complete the coursework in less time than if they attended in-person night or weekend classes.

You could finish in a month or less even if you studied at a moderate pace.

The time needed for other requirements can also vary.

For instance, the Commission indicates that the background check can take a month at a minimum and sometimes eight weeks.

Either way, if you start the background check early on, you can do your pre-licensing coursework while the criminal records search is being done.

You’ll also need to set aside time for comparing brokerages. How much you need depends on how many firms you’ve shortlisted.

And allow time for exam prep based on what works for you.

The Commission typically takes 3-5 business days to review applications.

Sometimes the turnaround time is longer if any required information or documentation is missing.

For complete details on the time commitment involved in completing all the steps in the licensing process, read our article on how long to get an Iowa real estate license.


Is there a background check for an Iowa real estate license?

Yes, Iowa law requires a background check for everyone applying for an initial license.

That includes salespeople upgrading to brokers, as well as out-of-state agents and brokers obtaining an Iowa license.

Also note that previous background checks are not accepted for licensure.

This is a fingerprint-based criminal records check through the FBI, the state’s Division of Criminal Investigation, Iowa Courts Online, and the Iowa Sex Offender Registry.

There is a $51 fee for the background check, and it can take four weeks or longer to complete the search.


How much does an Iowa real estate license cost?

Direct fees associated with obtaining your license include those listed below.

  • Examination fee: $95
  • Background check: $51
  • Salesperson license: $125
  • Broker license: $170

The cost of pre-licensing courses varies depending on where you take them.

Expect to pay in the range of $300 to $500 for the 60-hour salesperson course, and $90 to $160 each for the three additional courses.

Virtual and in-person broker course bundles run about $750 to $900. The bundles include all nine courses.

Your errors and omissions insurance premium is another expense you’ll need to pay.

You can find information about the group coverage insurance policy selected by the Commission on the licensing bureau’s website.

Read our guide on how much a real estate license in Iowa costs for the complete breakdown of expenses associated with getting licensed in the state.


How long do you have to wait to retake the real estate exam in Iowa?

PSI Services needs time to process and report scores for a given exam day.

Therefore, you must wait until the day after you’ve tested unsuccessfully to make an appointment for a retake.


How many times can you retake the Iowa real estate exam?

There are no limits on the number of retakes you get if you fail the exam.


Do you have to pay to retake the real estate exam in Iowa?

Yes, you must remit the exam fee each time you take the exam.


How much does it cost to retake the real estate exam in Iowa?

The licensing exam costs $95 each time you take it, and the cost is the same for salesperson and broker candidates.


Can you get a real estate license with a felony in Iowa?

You could get a license, but you’re ineligible to apply until five years after completing all the conviction requirements.

And even if the wait period has elapsed before you apply, the Commission can still legally deny you a license based on the conviction.

The rules related to licensure and felony convictions are laid out in Iowa Code.

This statute also establishes what the Commission considers when reviewing applications for prior convicted felons.

Among the considerations are the nature of the crime, any mitigating circumstances, and any rehabilitation or restitution performed by the applicant.

If your license is denied, you’re entitled to a hearing. You must make a written request within 30 days of the Commission’s decision.


Can you get a real estate license with a misdemeanor in Iowa?

The Commission can consider certain misdemeanor convictions in reviewing your application. And they may view it as grounds not to issue a license.

They will look at the type of offense, when it occurred, any extenuating circumstances, and any other factors they deem relevant.

If you were convicted of a serious or aggravated misdemeanor specified in Iowa Code, you’d need to wait five years from when you completed sentencing or other requirements to apply.

For offenses involving moral turpitude, the wait time is one year.

You have the legal right to request a hearing if the Commission doesn’t accept your application. You must do so within 30 days of being denied a license.

Check out our tips for applying an Iowa real estate license with criminal record to know what steps to take when having a misdemeanor on your record.


Will a DUI prevent you from getting a real estate license in Iowa?

The severity of the offense can impact the probability that you’ll get a real estate license if you have a DUI.

The official term for driving under the influence in Iowa is operating while intoxicated (OWI).

This offense can be a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances.

The latter will disqualify you from applying for five years following fulfillment of all conviction requirements.

And the Commission can deny your license based on that conviction.


Can I get a real estate license without a high school diploma in Iowa?

You are eligible for a real estate license without a high school diploma, assuming you meet all other requirements.


Getting your license is a notable accomplishment and what you do next is equally important.

Know the benefits of being a real estate agent to put yourself in the right direction as you build your career.

Create an impressive first year in your new journey by making an action plan for sustained success.

To help you build and grow your real estate career quickly, we at Real Estate Bees created a directory for real estate professionals.

It’s designed to help you get more exposure for your business, including receiving leads. Create a free profile by signing up here.


If you want to contribute your expert advice on a topic of your expertise, feel free to apply to our Expert Contributor Program.


About the Author

Kristina Morales is a REALTOR® with over 20 years of professional experience. She actively practices real estate in Ohio but also has practiced real estate in California and Texas. Conducting her real estate business in three states has allowed her to gain unique experiences that make her a well-rounded realtor. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts in Business Management and her MBA with a concentration in Banking and Finance. Prior to real estate, Kristina had an extensive corporate career in banking and treasury. She ended her finance career as an Assistant Treasurer at a publicly traded oil & gas company in Houston, TX.

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