How to Get Your Real Estate License in Pennsylvania 2021: All Requirements for Taking the Exam
Whether you’re planning to become an agent, upgrade your current license to broker, or expand your real estate services to Pennsylvania, this easy-to-use guide will help.
Our guide will thoroughly explain the process and requirements for getting a real estate license in PA.
Let’s start with the requirements for real estate salespeople.
PA License Requirements for Real Estate Salespeople
To be eligible to become one of the licensed real estate agents in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, you must first be able to check the “yes” box for two general requirements.
- You must have reached the age of majority, which is 18.
- You have to be a high school graduate or hold an equivalency credential.
From there, a good deal of what you’ll need to do to get your license depends on whether you’re starting your real estate career or you’re already licensed elsewhere. Those situations are handled differently when it comes to Pennsylvania real estate license requirements.
Specifically, the Commonwealth has two methods for issuing licenses: Standard and Reciprocal.
The Reciprocal Method applies to those licensed in specific states for which Pennsylvania will waive some or all of the steps required for new agents. As you continue reading this article, you’ll find more information on reciprocity and how it impacts what’s needed.
If you’ve never had a real estate license or have one in a state that doesn’t have reciprocity with Pennsylvania (as referenced above), you’ll fall under the Standard Method.
That means you must complete 75 hours of pre-licensing education through a course at an accredited college or in one of the top real estate schools in Pennsylvania.
Any of the following can also count toward fulfilling the educational requirement:
- A college degree with a major in real estate
- A juris doctor degree from an accredited law school
- An approved pre-licensing course in another state
You’ll also need to take both the national and state portions of the salesperson licensing exam. However, you can get an exemption from taking the national portion of the exam if you have held an active salesperson license in another state within the last five years.
Here are a couple of important things to know about the exam: First, you must register with PSI Candidate Services to take the test. Second, two hours are allotted for the 80-question national section and one hour for the state portion, which consists of 40 questions.
To pass the exam, you have to get 75 percent correct on each part. Once you’ve achieved a passing score on both parts of the exam, you can apply for a license. PSI will provide you with a score sheet to upload with any other required documents.
No matter which method you’re applying under, you’ll have to complete a criminal history records check as part of the application process. Before you submit your application, you’ll also need to identify a sponsoring broker who will train and supervise you as a new agent.
It’s essential that you pick a good broker who can provide what you need to get your start in the business. Our article on choosing the right sponsoring broker to work for can help you discern the type of brokerage firm you would want to get your start with as a new agent.
It also helps to browse through our directory of the best real estate brokerages in Pennsylvania, which provides a list of top-rated brokers in the area.
You also have a specific requirement related to your first renewal at the end of the two-year license period: you must complete a specific set of continuing education courses (14 hours) as a new salesperson licensee.
PA Real Estate Broker License Requirements
Pennsylvania has four types of individual broker licenses as described below:
- Associate Broker – a broker working under another broker’s supervision
- Broker Multi-Licensee – the broker responsible for the transactions of a brokerage firm
- Broker Sole Proprietor – a broker in a one-owner real estate firm
- Broker Corporation, LLC, or Partnership – a broker that has been registered as a corporation, LLC, or partnership
Before you can apply for any of these, you must be over 21 years old and have a high school diploma or a credential that validates equivalent academic knowledge.
The method under which you’ll apply is based on your current license. Pennsylvania has two licensing methods for broker applicants:
- If you’re an active broker in a state with an arrangement that says Pennsylvania will accept your qualifications, you’ll apply through the Reciprocal Method. When applying through this method, you may have fewer steps to take than a new broker would. We provide an explanation of this in the section on reciprocity.
- You must apply under the Standard Method if you’re upgrading your Pennsylvania salesperson license to become a broker. This is your method of choice as well if you’re a broker in a state that doesn’t have a reciprocity agreement with the Commonwealth.
To qualify under the Standard Method, you must complete 240 hours (16 credits) of education. You must do so at either an accredited college or a provider approved by the Commission.
As is the case in other parts of the process, there are some exceptions:
- A bachelor’s degree in real estate can be a substitute for the 16 credits.
- An approved pre-licensing course from another jurisdiction can be equivalent as well.
- The 16 credits are not required if you have a juris doctor degree from an approved school by the American Bar Association.
Besides the required education, you must also have at least three years of salesperson experience (unless you’re a lawyer). Plus, you have to demonstrate that experience by documenting 200 points. You get points for activities like sales, listings, leases, and the like. If you’re a lawyer, you can document your experience on a detailed resume.
You must also pass the broker exam and apply in advance to get approval from the Commission to take it. Once you receive your eligibility form, you can contact the testing company about scheduling your appointment.
A score of 75 percent or higher on each portion of the exam you take is needed to pass it. Once you achieve that, you can finish your application. You’ll get score sheets from PSI to upload with other documents you need to submit to the Commission for their review.
What Is Real Estate License Reciprocity?
Some states honor licensing requirements of other states that are substantially similar to their own. That acknowledgment is called reciprocity, and the terms of mutual recognition are typically spelled out in a written agreement.
Here are a couple of examples of when reciprocity may factor in when you apply for your Pennsylvania license:
- You’re moving from a state with a reciprocal agreement with Pennsylvania and transferring your license.
- You live in – and are licensed in – a neighboring reciprocal state and plan to keep your license active there.
The mutual agreement between the two states would apply in both those cases as long as you hold a current, active license. You won’t have to start over with education requirements or retake either portion of the exam.
You’ll have to meet the Pennsylvania requirements for criminal history records check. In addition, you must submit a Certification of Licensure/Letter of Good Standing from the other state. This document validates your licensure and includes disciplinary action history, if any.
You’ll also need to select the reciprocity option when filling out your application online. You’ll find comprehensive application instructions on the Pennsylvania Licensing System website.
Also, check out the Real Estate Commission Licensing Guide, which details eligibility requirements, timelines, and tips for reducing processing time for reciprocal licenses.
US States Having a Reciprocal Agreement with Pennsylvania
Currently, Pennsylvania has reciprocal agreements with the states listed below.
- New York
How to Study for a Real Estate License Exam in Pennsylvania
Pre-Licensing Classroom Courses
In addition to classes taught at brick-and-mortar schools, you’ll find live-stream formats for distance learners. Both options are available for the sales and broker courses. Schedules are varied, so you can do classes in the evening if you can’t attend during the day.
Those looking to complete the 75 hours of pre-licensing education to become an agent will need to take two courses.
- Real Estate Fundamentals (30 hours)
- Real Estate Practice (45 hours)
Some schools give you the option to take the courses separately or together. Others only offer them as a package. Typically, the standalone courses cost more than a package deal, but you may find it more convenient to schedule the classes at different times.
The broker licensing education consists of 60 hours of mandatory courses, 90 hours of core classes, and 90 hours in elective topics. The mandatory courses are Real Estate Law and Real Estate Office Management.
To meet the requirement for core courses, you must take at least three from a list developed by the Commission. You can also take additional courses from that list as electives. Topic areas include the following:
- Property Management
- Property Valuation
Classroom courses may better suit you if reading material from a computer screen doesn’t work well for you or class discussions help you learn. If you also want some flexibility, the distance learning option can provide the best of both worlds.
Pre-Licensing Online Courses
Online classes are a convenient way to complete your licensing education. Salesperson courses are readily available online, and like the classroom offerings, you’ll get a discount if you avail of the 75 hours as a package. As the courses are offered independently, you can take one in the classroom and one online, if that works best for you.
Online offerings for brokers include entirely self-paced courses and a hybrid model that allows you to complete a combination of self-study and live interactive lectures. To find an online course, use the licensing web portal to get a list of schools that provide Pennsylvania-approved real estate license training.
If you’re debating whether to take your coursework online or in a classroom, check out our guide that details the differences between real estate classes online and classroom-based courses to make a more informed decision.
You can also read these useful tips on how to properly study for the real estate exam to help you make the right preparations when aiming to pass the exam on your first attempt.
Where to Take the Real Estate Exam in Pennsylvania
The exam is given by PSI, a national provider for state licensing examinations. They offer two delivery modes: at a test center or remotely online. No matter which one you choose, it’s a live proctored test, and the fastest way to register for it is through the PSI website.
If you decide to take the exam in person, you must do so at one of PSI’s testing centers located in the following cities:
- Cranberry Township
- King of Prussia
- Bala Cynwyd
- Clarks Summit
How to File for Your License After the Exam in Pennsylvania
The Pennsylvania Licensing System is the online portal that all applicants must use. Paper applications are not available for any license. The portal has helpful resources to answer all questions about how to get your real estate license in PA, including application checklists for each license type detailing all of the documents needed to submit a complete application.
You can upload all of your paperwork when you apply using this portal.
If you are getting your real estate broker license in PA, you’ll need to return to your application after taking the exam to upload your score sheets. That will finalize your application.
If you are an in-state applicant, note that a request will be automatically generated for your criminal history records check . The fee will be included at checkout.
Once the Commission has received your complete application, including all the requisite paperwork, the estimated time for issuing a license is less than a week barring any issues with the criminal background check.
How to Receive Your Real Estate License in Pennsylvania
As soon as your license has been issued, you’ll see that under your Professional License Details dashboard in the Pennsylvania Licensing System portal. The Commission will mail a hard copy to your broker’s main office. Expect it to arrive within 7-10 days after issuance.
As a licensed real estate agent in Pennsylvania, you are now eligible to join a real estate team. When you have a team to back you up, you will learn everything you need to know about the real estate business and get connected with industry peers who will guide you as you begin your practice.
Our article on the next steps after passing a real estate exam and getting your license is also a good resource that will equip you with the right information while contemplating on the kind of real estate career you want to pursue.
How long does it take to get a Pennsylvania real estate license when studying in the class?
Plan on three weeks to complete the course to get your salesperson license if you can commit to an “express” daytime schedule. If you can’t, allow 6-10 weeks to finish the 75 hours.
For the broker courses, the short answer to how long is: it depends. One of the primary factors that will decide the time it takes to get your broker license is the amount of classes you can fit into your schedule.
Keep in mind that you need at least three years of experience as a salesperson before you’re eligible to become a broker. You can take licensing courses along the way. As long as you take the exam within 10 years of the first course, those hours will count.
Other elements that impact your timeline include the exam, your criminal background check, and the processing time once you submit your application to the Commission.
Booking an appointment for the exam is subject to availability. The time for your criminal background check, on the other hand, will vary based on the number of states involved. A background check by the Pennsylvania State Police can take as little as three days and as long as four weeks.
You’ll find timeframes for phases leading up to application review listed on the Commission website. The time between the Commission’s receipt of a complete application and issuance of a license (if no background check issues arise) is listed as less than a week.
How long does it take to get a PA real estate license online?
Some students finish online courses faster than others. It comes down to how much extra time you have to get the classwork done.
So, look at how many hours you can realistically study each week, and see where that places you with respect to your goals. Then, adjust your pace accordingly if you want to finish the course sooner or you’re okay with a later completion date.
After that, factor in the same post-course elements that apply to completing the education in a classroom setting.
Is there a background check for a Pennsylvania real estate license?
The Commission not only makes a criminal background check mandatory, but it also sets specific requirements for it.
First, you must obtain a criminal history records check from the state where you currently live. If that’s Pennsylvania, you have to get the report from the State Police. Your request for this is automatically generated when you apply for your license. If you are out of state, you can provide a criminal history records check from the equivalent state agency.
Additionally, the background check goes back five years. So, if you haven’t been in your current state that long, you must provide reports to cover that period. The Commission states that you’ll need to submit criminal history records checks from each state where you lived, worked, or completed training during that time. An FBI background check is acceptable in place of the individual reports.
Take note that criminal history records checks will not be accepted if they have an issuance date more than 90 days before you apply.
How much does a Pennsylvania real estate license cost?
You must pay $49 to take the licensing exam, whether you take one or both portions. If you get a criminal history records check from the Pennsylvania State Police, the cost is $22.
If you’re applying for a salesperson license, your monetary investment for education will vary by school. Salesperson pre-licensing averages about $450, and broker courses around $350 for each 30-hour course.
Application fees vary by license type:
- Salesperson: $97
- Associate Broker: $97
- Broker Multi-Licensee: $119.50
- Broker Sole Proprietor: $169.50
How long do you have to wait to retake the real estate exam in Pennsylvania?
You can schedule a new appointment as soon as 24 hours after testing unsuccessfully. You can retake the exam the very next day after that if PSI can schedule you then.
How many times can you retake the Pennsylvania real estate exam?
There is no limit on the number of retakes should you fail the exam.
Do you have to pay to retake the real estate exam in Pennsylvania?
Yes, you do. The exam fee is non-transferable. Therefore, you must pay $49 each time.
How much does it cost to retake the real estate exam in Pennsylvania?
The cost is $49 whether you retake only the national portion, the state portion, or both.
Can you get a real estate license in PA with a felony?
Felony convictions are part of the basis for the decision to issue a license or not. However, the Commission may grant you a license despite a conviction.
There is a two-stage process for evaluating how a past criminal conviction impacts your fitness for licensure. First, the Commission checks to see if your crime is on a list of convictions that can be a reason for denying a real estate license. That list includes:
- Inchoate crimes (solicitation or conspiracy)
- Burglary (including felony criminal trespass)
- Forgery and fraud
- Falsification and intimidation
- Theft and related offenses
- Computer-related crimes
- Violent crimes
- Sexual offenses
If the crime you committed is on the list, the onus is on you to provide proof of rehabilitation using a prescribed set of objective assessment factors.
If your offense is not on the list, the Commission will evaluate your case using the same criteria and must demonstrate why you should not be licensed if that’s the decision.
You can ask for a preliminary determination if you are unsure if your situation may be a serious impediment to obtaining a license. The fee is $45, and you get an answer within 45 days.
Can you get a real estate license with a misdemeanor in Pennsylvania?
Being convicted of a misdemeanor doesn’t bar you from licensure, but it’s a hurdle to overcome.
To get an idea of how hard that might be, check out the best practices guide for individuals with criminal convictions. It provides helpful information, including instructions for requesting a preliminary determination of how the Commission sees your circumstances.
Basically, the Commission has a list of convictions viewed as “directly related” to the real estate profession. It’s presumed that there are grounds to refuse a license if your offense is on that list. You have to provide evidence of rehabilitation using assessment factors, such as lack of continued criminal behavior, references from pertinent individuals, and the like.
Otherwise, the Commission will use those same factors to conduct an evaluation and decide whether to issue a license.
Will a DUI prevent you from getting a real estate license in Pennsylvania?
A DUI conviction is not on the list of crimes likely to keep you from getting a license. However, it will cause the Commission to do an evaluation. So, even though you may be able to get a real estate license if you have a DUI, the process will undoubtedly be more complicated.
Can I get a real estate license without a high school diploma in Pennsylvania?
The answer is “yes” if you have documentation that demonstrates you’ve earned a high school equivalency credential.
Now armed with useful information on how to obtain a real estate license in PA, you can confidently apply for one and be on your way to becoming a professional real estate agent. To fully prepare you for the job, read our article sharing experts’ insight on what makes being a real estate agent as a career worth it.
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