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A Complete Guide to Getting Your Real Estate License in New York

by | Apr 24, 2023

According to Google search trends, the #1 job-related search between January 2021 and January 2022 was “how to become a real estate agent”—and for good reason.

A career in real estate comes with a low barrier to entry and huge earning potential, not to mention the sense of purpose you’ll feel from helping people make one of the most important decisions they’ll ever make. “Finding a new home is an important time in my client’s life,” says The Agency agent Hila Peled. “I always feel so lucky and grateful that they choose me to help them.”

Another appealing benefit of being a real estate agent is the ability to set your own schedule and be your own boss. Says The Agency agent Lauren Schaffer, “What I love most about real estate and being self-employed is that I am in complete control of my own destiny. Each and every day, it’s up to ME to make things happen, and nobody else.”

Adds The Agency broker Chloe Godin, “I have loved stepping into the CEO role and creating a business true to me and my core values: integrity, dedication, and success.”

So, if you’re thinking about becoming a licensed real estate agent in New York, you’ve come to the right place. Read on to learn how you can get started today.

Step 1: Meet Department of Real Estate Licensing Criteria

Before you can start the process of applying for a real estate license in New York, you must meet the following criteria from the Department of Real Estate:

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Hold a current New York driver’s license, non-driver ID card, or Photo ID card

Step 2: Complete State-Approved 75-hour Salesperson Course

Now that you’ve confirmed you meet the state’s eligibility requirements, you can begin the 75-hour pre-licensing course from a Department of State-approved provider. The course, which can be taken in-person or online for those with busier schedules, will teach you everything there is to know about real estate. The course topics include:

  • State License Law and Regulations
  • Law of Agency
  • Legal Issues
  • Contracts
  • Finance
  • Land Use
  • Construction and Environmental Issues
  • Valuation
  • Fair Housing
  • Insurance and Taxes
  • Condominiums and Cooperatives
  • Commercial and Investment Properties
  • Property Management

It’s important to note that the course isn’t considered “complete” until you pass a final exam, which is separate from the New York real estate license exam. The course exam takes most people about three hours to complete and requires a minimum score of 70%. Upon passing the exam, you’ll receive a certificate of completion to confirm you can move on to the next step in the licensing process.

Step 3: Take the NYS Real Estate License Exam

Covering everything you learned during the 75-hour pre-licensing course, the New York State license exam consists of several multiple choice questions which must be answered within 90 minutes. Did you know? The exam is also offered in Spanish, Korean, Russian, and Chinese.

To sign up, register for an account via eAccessNY, then click on “Apply to Take an Exam” in the main menu, and then follow the instructions. You’ll later use this account to view the exam results, which will be issued as pass/fail. If you pass, your test results are valid for two years; if you fail, don’t worry—you can retake the exam.

Step 4: Get Sponsorship from a NYS Licensed Real Estate Broker

To operate as an agent in New York, you’ll need to be sponsored by a licensed real estate brokerage. This brokerage will serve as a mentor as you start your career, so it’s not a decision that should be made lightly.

There are many things to consider when looking for a sponsor, such as whether you want to work at a larger brokerage or a smaller, boutique firm. While newly-licensed agents can thrive at both types of brokerages, boutique firms such as The Agency often appeal due to the level of comprehensive support and structural accountability they can provide—both of which are especially important at the initial stage of your career—vs. the more hands-off nature typical of larger brokerage firms.

Here are a few other things to consider when looking for a firm:

  • What tools and technology do they utilize to empower the real estate process for their agents (CRM, etc.)? What about their clients (predictive analytics, etc.)?
  • What is their process for providing agents with leads and making those important first introductions?
  • What does their administrative and marketing support look like? What are they doing to help their agents stand out from the crowd?
  • What is their reputation with clients? A good indicator of this is their NPS score, a customer service metric used by many businesses (The Agency included).
  • What does their company culture look like? Speak to agents who work there and visit a physical office to get a feel for it.

Step 5: Submit An Application and Required Fee to the Department of State

Once you pass the New York Real Estate license exam, you will need to complete the New York Real Estate Salesperson application and pay the required fee before you can officially obtain your New York Real Estate license.

The application can be found on the New York Department of State Division of Licensing Service website, or you can complete it online using your eAccessNY account, if you have one.

As part of the application process, you’ll be asked to:

  • Provide your sponsoring broker’s license number
  • Provide information about your pre-license education provider
  • Pay the $65 initial license fee

How Long Does It Take to Get a Real Estate License in New York?

While the amount of time it takes to get your real estate license depends on a number of different factors, the typical timeline for getting licensed is four to six months, with the bulk of that time being spent on the 75-hour pre-licensing course.

How Much Does It Cost to Get a Real Estate License in New York?

Most people can expect to pay about $500 to obtain their real estate license, which breaks down to the following:

  • Pre-Licensing course tuition and exam: $300-450 (range based on different providers)
  • State exam: $15
  • Application: $65

How Much Can I Expect to Make as a Real Estate Agent in New York?

Working as a real estate agent can be highly lucrative—especially in New York, where agents are among the highest paid in the country: According to Glassdoor, agents licensed in New York make an estimated total pay of $117,667, with an average gross commission income, or GCI, of $86,668. Agents who have been successful in the business for a few years or more often make half a million a year to one million+ in GCI, such as The Agency agent and Million Dollar Listing New York star Tyler Whitman. Still, a six or even seven-figure income isn’t achieved overnight and requires dedication to your job as an agent.

“When I first got my real estate license, the best advice I received was to NOT think about the money,” says The Agency’s Lauren Schaffer. “Why? Because when you don’t think about the money, that’s when the money comes. It’s a simple way of saying that when you shift your focus away from the money, it allows you to focus entirely on doing right by your clients. When you get the job done and your clients are happy, the money will follow. I promise.”

The takeaway: If you focus your energy on providing the best possible service to clients, money will likely follow.

What If I Want to Transfer My License to Another State?

Real estate reciprocity is the ability to transfer your license to work in another state vs. having to go through the process of getting licensed again (you’ll still have to take the state exam, but it’s a small price to pay).

Reciprocity varies by state, but if you work in New York, you can transfer your license to the following states:

  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Georgia
  • Massachusetts
  • Mississippi
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • West Virginia

Ready to Become An Agent?

While there’s no doubt that being a real estate agent comes with many perks, it’s about helping people first and foremost. “Be purposeful about the opportunities you pursue, rather than falling into something, or being short-sighted and romanced by something like commission or the perceived company cache,” says The Agency’s VP of Marketing Shelly Huang. “The day-to-day work you do and lessons you learn along the way are what builds your character and experience.”

To all the soon-to-be-licensed agents reading this, good luck on your real estate journey!

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