Image of a house for sale with the caption "Can a Felon Become a Real Estate Agent."

Have questions like; Can a felon become a real estate agent?  What States Allow Felons to Have a Real Estate License? Lets take an in depth look at these questions and provide some real world answers. Real estate agents make a decent living. According to Labor Statistics, the average real estate agent earns $53,000 a year, and the top 10% average close to $100,000. Depending on your state, that top cap could be considerably higher.

No, you probably won’t become a millionaire from this profession, but it’s still a great income and, if you’ve ever been out house hunting with an agent, you know they get to spend a lot of time out of the office. That’s a nice perk to any job!

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Can a Felon Become a Real Estate Agent

Becoming a real estate agent as a felon, or broker, doesn’t require a college degree. You usually just take a course and pass an exam to get your license. That’s not to say it’s simple or easy, but compare the earning potential for a licensed real estate agent versus the average earnings for new college graduate (who is expected to make $50,000 a year after spending four years in school and probably accumulated a massive tuition debt to pay back). Meanwhile, the pre-licensing coursework for a real estate agent only takes a few weeks and then they get started working!

So if college isn’t your cup of tea or you don’t want to have student loans, but you do want to be able to take home a decent pay check, real estate may be a great option. The only questions are, can a felon be a real estate agent? And if so, what states allow felons to have a real estate license?

Let’s figure it out!

The Very Basics of Becoming a Real Estate Agent

Even the length of the pre-licensing course varies from state to state, in part because every state has different regulations. That said, some things are consistent throughout. Also, all aspiring brokers have to be at least 18 or 19 years old, and you must be a legal resident of the United States. Again, you must pass a prelicense real estate course, followed by an exam. After that, you must find a brokerage to hire you, then wait for your license. That’s the basics!

What Does a Real Estate Agent Do?

Of course you have to understand what the job itself entails. Before you sign up for that course, do you really know the day in and day out details of what a real estate agent does? There’s a ton of self-sufficiency required, for starters.

Real estate agents need to understand how to manage their time effectively, how to generate the mountains of forms required for the sale of a property, how to locate properties to sell, how to work with those sellers, and advertise their real estate to potential buyers, how to convert those potential buyers into paying customers by showing them the properties and selling them…

A broad skill set is required to be a successful agent, along with a lot of patience and the ability to work on long term relationships with clients, both buyers and sellers.

There’s also got to be a firm understanding that many of those relationships and the time spent to cultivate them may never lead to an actual sale of any kind. Real estate agents may show a client a dozen homes and spend several hours reviewing details with them…but never close a deal. In other words, there are no guarantees that your day to day work will amount to a paying sale.

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How Real Estate Agents are Paid

No sale = no commission.

Part of any commission goes to the owner of the brokerage; the agent only gets a percentage and the boss gets the rest.

For this reason, selling property is a job one absolutely must be good at in order to survive. Unlike most professions where you earn a set wage, and often get paid whether your performance is stellar or not, a real estate agent lives on their successes and goes hungry if they can’t sell. And because the boss gets a cut, if the agent isn’t performing, the boss isn’t getting their taste, either…hence, they wouldn’t have much reason to retain that agent!

Sound cutthroat? Well, it’s not for the timid! And while most felons aren’t “timid,” they must take an honest and objective assessment of their personal attributes. Do they have the soft people skills needed to be a successful salesperson? Have they got the eye for detail required to fill in hundreds of pages of boring property-related forms, making sure they are all error-free? Does getting out and driving to properties around town to show them off to buyers sound fun, or more like a hassle?

Okay, if you’ve taken the above into consideration, and are still ready to learn more, then let’s continue to get into the nitty gritty!

What States Allow Felons to Have a Real Estate License?

Every State is Different

The state you live in and, presumably want to be a real estate agent in, has a real estate commission which has a website. Check that out and read up on all the state’s posted pre-licensing requirements. Pay close attention to any laws or rules regarding felony convictions. If it seems too daunting, just take a deep breath and read each step one at a time.

Broken down, it will look far more manageable, and it is! If it were not, no one would ever become a broker/real estate agent! So don’t let it intimidate you. If you cannot handle the pre-req’s, how can you handle the actual paperwork involved with selling a home?

Talk to Your States Real Estate Commission About Your Felony Record

The first step you should take is to communicate with your states real estate commission about your felony and/or criminal record. Explain the following to the real estate commission:

  • specific conviction
  • nature of the conviction
  • how long it has been since you were released from your sentence
  • How you have been rehabilitated and/or changed
  • Why you want to become a real estate agent

The point of doing this is to find out if they will give you a chance at getting your real estate license. You do not want to invest time and money into becoming a real estate agent all to find out in the end that the commission won’t grant you your license.

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List of Real Estate Commissions by State

Click on your state below and contact them in reference to getting a real estate license with a felony.

Enroll in a Real Estate Course

After you understand the state commission requirements, assuming you qualify you are ready to actually enroll in a course for the pre-licensing phase. As stated earlier make sure that your felony will not interfere with getting your license. There are a few options, because naturally any time there is a demand for something, there’s a business out there to supply that need.

If you can make it to a live class, there are plenty of locations to serve you. If you need to work online, you’ll be able to find online courses or at-home study options. Some realty firms and even technical colleges may offer a program near you. If you can go full-time, obviously you’ll finish faster; otherwise it could take a few months doing it part-time, after work.

Finding a way won’t be a problem if you are serious and persistent. Just ensure you take the course from a reputable center so that you’ll not only receive a proper education but you can use your credentials when applying for jobs later. You are not looking for the cheapest and easiest course out there; you are looking for the best you can afford, one that will give you a firm understanding of the field you’re about to enter into.

So it’s an investment. The more you learn, the more you’ll earn…but to truly learn well, you’ll need to enroll in a quality program with experienced instructors.

Apply for the Real Estate Agent Exam

Once the course is finished – and the length depends on the state-specific criteria, but ranges from 63 hours in Florida to 163 hours in Colorado – then you are ready for the exam. You’ll want to schedule this as soon as feasible, depending on the schedule put out by your state. Don’t miss the deadline to take the test…and do prepare to pay a fee for the exam, which is not part of the course you just took!

But we do need to stress, read your state’s guidelines closely, and don’t delay any step. Some places need fingerprints and background checks, and that takes time.

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Felony Review by the State Commission of Real Estate Agents

The state commission will do a exemption review, to screen for eligibility for licensure. They’ll review the nature of the felony and how long ago it was, and of course all the circumstances of the crime and how they may relate, or not, to a person’s ability to participate in the sale of real estate.

They’ll also take into consideration an applicant’s rehabilitative efforts, post-release from prison. The main thing they are looking for is some indication the felon has a strong sense of integrity and trustworthiness, which is crucial to selling property.

Finally, the commission will review previous jobs held by the applicant; further education obtained, if any; whether or not they committed other crimes since; whether or not they’ve paid or are paying restitution in a timely manner, etc. Long story short, it’s up to the applicant to prove themselves capable and desirable. They may even have to plead their case in person by appearing before the state Division of Real Estate. So it’s not always an automatic “yes” or “no” process to get approval for the exam, and unfortunately it is hard to learn in advance if you will receive that approval or not from the commission.

Not all Felons can Become a Real Estate Agent

Not all felons make the cut, but the average rate of successful application seems to be roughly 50/50. That’s just a national average, though, so be warned – state-by-state averages vary greatly!

For example, Michigan, Georgia, Arizona, North Carolina, and Arizona are named as the hardest states for a felon to get a real estate license. Georgia has a 95% denial rate for felony applicants!

California will deny you a license for felonies “substantially related to the qualifications, functions and duties of a real estate licensee.”

Alabama will deny you if you have a “felony or a crime involving moral turpitude.”

Meanwhile some states are more lenient but may require a 5 year waiting period before granting the application to take the test.

Can a Felon Become a Real Estate Agent… YES TECHNICALLY

So the answer is, all states technically can allow for an application, but some states are harder to get approval from than others…and some, frankly, are next to impossible (like Georgia!).

Bottom line, you won’t be able to even schedule your exam if these steps are not finished, so be proactive and stay ahead of the game. Consider this a test of your time-management abilities!

Taking the Real Estate Agent Test

As far as taking the test itself, yes you want to get it done but you must be fully prepared to take it. It’s not an easy exam, and just because you finished the course doesn’t mean you won’t want some time to study up.

Believe it or not, there are prep classes to help you get ready. You may not feel like going through yet another class, but if you don’t pass the test, then the previous coursework was for nothing!

Sure, you will get a chance to retake the test if you fail the first time…but what’s the point? Study hard and take a preparatory course if you believe you need additional help getting ready. Again, think of it as an short term investment in a hopefully long term career. Knock it out of the park your first try, if you can!

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Getting Hired

Assuming you pass the exam (and we know you will!), your journey is not yet over! Because now someone has to actually hire you.

As an agent, you need to find a brokerage that wants you to work for them. Indeed it doesn’t hurt to start scoping for such offices in advance of your course and test. Many places will talk to you in advance, and let you know whether or not they might have an opening for you if and when you complete the rest of the process

So having a firm connection with an employer in advance will put you ahead of the curve and maybe save you a lot of heartache later, if you find yourself in the unwanted position of having passed the test but not being able to find a job opening in your local area. You don’t want to be that guy or gal!

Once you are picked up by a real estate broker that wants you to work for them, they’ll help you finish up any lingering paperwork to file with the state, and from there you may begin to start working. Wow, easy, eh?

Felony Expungement – In a number of states it is possible to have your felony conviction either expunged or sealed. Imagine having your record swiped clean! Learn more here.

Getting Your Real Estate License

But wait! It could take time before the state officially grants your actual real estate license; in fact it could even take a year or two of getting some practical work experience under your belt. But the point is, you’ll be working while waiting, and you didn’t have to finish four or five years of college to get there!

And besides, if you are a felon who ever served time behind bars, you are very familiar with the waiting game. At least this time you’ll be getting some hands-on practical experience in the field you worked so hard to crack into, and you’ll be hopefully bringing in some fat commission checks soon!

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