Most states require that people engaging in property management activities have a real estate broker’s license. This is confusing to some, because many state real estate statutes don’t even mention the words “property management.” However, they do describe activities that are typically undertaken by property managers as the types of activities requiring a real estate broker license.
What does this mean in plain English? Depending on which state you live in, you may need a real estate license if you get paid to do any of the following activities:
- Advertise the availability of rental property
- Prepare or discuss a property management agreement with an owner
- Negotiate leases or lease terms
- Show a rental property
- Drive or accompany a potential renter to a rental property
- Collect rents
As always, there are exceptions to these rules – individual states regulate real estate activities, and they are not uniform in their treatment of property management. Some states (such as Idaho, Maine and Vermont) do not require a real estate license to engage in property management. Other states (such as Montana, Oregon and South Carolina) allow property managers to work under a property management license rather than a broker’s license. However, the vast majority of states require a property manager who is engaging in renting and leasing activities to have a real estate broker’s license, or to be a real estate salesperson working for a real estate broker. To become a licensed real estate broker, states typically require that you meet certain requirements:
- Age: Depending on the state, you need to be at least 18 or 19 to be eligible to be a real estate salesperson, which is typically a required step in the process of becoming a real estate broker. Some states require that brokers be at least 21.
- High School Diploma: Most states require that you have your high school diploma or equivalent.
- Experience: To get your broker’s license you’ll need to demonstrate 2-3 years of experience (in recent years) as a real estate salesperson, or show that you have the equivalent experience (such as having been a real estate attorney for a certain amount of time.)
- Residency: You must be a U.S. citizen. Some states also require state residency.
- Real Estate Education: You must take certain classes required by the state, at a state approved educational institution.
- Exam: You must pass the real estate broker’s exam.
- Trustworthiness: You must submit evidence of your trustworthiness. This usually consists of a criminal background check, and infrequently a copy of your credit report.
The experience requirement is often waived for attorneys or equivalent experience. In addition, individual states often soften the requirements for real estate salespeople and brokers who are licensed in other states, or offer reciprocity. For more information about these possibilities, please check with the state real estate commission.
Many states require real estate companies to designate a “managing” broker. This is usually someone who will have day-to-day responsibility for managing and overseeing the real estate office. Typically the requirements to be licensed as a managing broker are more stringent than for being a regular broker – for example, to be a managing broker, applicants are often required to take a “Broker Management” course and to take additional management questions on the licensure exam. For more information, please check with your state real estate commission.
Property management companies that are LLCs, corporations, or other business entities, and that engage in real estate activities in their business name are often required to obtain a broker’s license in the name of the firm. This is a requirement that varies depending on the state. You should be able to search for a company’s license on the state license search/lookup page as well as the individual broker.
Most states have license applications available for viewing and print out on their websites. It is a good idea to review these applications before you start the process of getting a license so you have an idea about the information you will be required to provide.
The information below should be considered a general guideline only. Information should not be considered to be all-inclusive, and should not be taken as legal advice. Always contact your state real estate commission before making any decisions or taking any actions to make sure that the information you have is current and accurate.