Can a Felon Be a Real Estate Agent?

Real estate agents help people buy and sell houses. If you want to be a real estate agent, you will need a real estate license. Real estate agents make anywhere from $23,000 – $110,000 a year. A real estate agent is one of the few jobs that can pay a six-figure salary without a college degree. You would be a good fit for a real estate agent if you have a good understanding of your community.

A real estate agent needs to be likable. People need to trust you. It helps to be good with numbers. You will work nights and weekends. You have to be willing to always be on call. Buying a house is a long process. It’s a huge purchase. Most of all, you must be patient with people.

Can a person with a felony record get a real estate license?

Yes. Statistically, 50%  of people with a felony conviction who pursue a real estate license eventually get a real estate license. The only way to get a real estate license is to get licensed by your state. You will need to know the laws of your state.

Every state has different rules. It will depend on the rules in your state. Some states have fewer barriers than others. Before you do anything else check on the rules in your specific state.  There are some states that have reciprocity with other states.  That means you can practice real estate in more than one state. If your state lets you practice in more than one state, check the rules in both states.

The most difficult states to get a real estate license are Alabama, Arizona, California, Georgia, Michigan, and North Carolina. If you live in one of these states, you will have to make a decision. Consider whether it is worth your time and money. It is not impossible in these states, but it will take more effort. Get help from a lawyer or a non-profit organization for more specific information.

Many states have vague language when it comes to a felony record. For example California’s laws  say that you need to be honest and trustworthy. It says that conviction of a crime “can” prevent you from getting a real estate license. This suggests that there is a lot of room for interpretation. It also suggests that there may be a willingness to listen to your personal story. You may be able to show that you are living an honest and lawful life now. Any letters of recommendation from people in your community, schools, parole officers, and former employers can help. Volunteering in your community is also a way to show that you are contributing to society.

It’s easier in other states to get a real estate license. Luckily, there are not automatic dismissals of real estate applications from ex-felons. There will be extra scrutiny. The main thing that licensing boards are looking at is business ethics. Overall that means you will be honest. You have to advise people in good faith and handle money with integrity. Your felony history may or not be a problem if you can show the licensing board that your past will not interfere with real estate ethics.

Most, if not all of the states licensing boards, will run a background check on you.

Information about background checks

You need to give permission to have a background check run on you. If someone runs a background check without asking first, please alert  the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ( EEOC.)

You may be asked to pay for your own background check. This is legal.

It might be a good idea to run your own background check first. That way you can see what it looks like.  Sometimes there are errors on background checks that can be fixed.

Unfortunately, it is legal to discriminate against you due to your felony conviction, except for certain circumstances. It is not legal to discriminate because of gender, race, age (over 40), disability, gender identity, sexual identity, pregnancy, color, religion and genetic information.  Licensing boards can decide not to license you because you have a felony conviction, but they have to be fair. A licensing board can’t license a man with a felony conviction but refuse to license a woman with a felony record.

12 states only allow background checks to go back seven years. The states that have a seven-year limit are California, Colorado, New York, Kansas, Montana, Maryland,  Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, Texas, and Washington.

In the other 38 states, your felony conviction will show up on a background check.  However, the licensing board asking for the background check can choose how many years back to check. You can try to find out ahead of time how far back the real estate licensing board will check. For example, maybe the policy is to only check the last ten years. If the application doesn’t ask about a felony record and the background check won’t show it, you may decide not to mention it. This will  backfire if somehow the licensing board finds out.

The official advice is to be completely honest when filling out the real estate licensing application. Lying or false information is grounds for a license denial.  Disclosing a felony ahead of time can be a good idea, as it shows honesty.  However, if your felony conviction was long ago and you are certain that the background check will not go back that far in time, you may choose to stay quiet.

What is the process to get a real estate license?

You will need to complete a real estate education program before taking the licensing exam. The education program can be a little as 20 hours or up to 200 hours depending on your state. There are 3 options – online school, a community college that has real estate classes, or an actual real estate school.

As always, fill out the school application honestly and disclose your felony record as necessary.

The costs of real estate education vary, but on average it costs $1000.

After the education program, you can take the licensing exam. It costs about $150 to pay for the testing, fingerprints, and background check. Then you apply to your state licensing board. Depending on your state, you may have to work under supervision for several years. You will also have to get a special insurance. It’s called Error and Omissions insurance. This insurance  protects you from getting sued.

What are the requirements to get a real estate license?

You need to be 18 years old and have a high school diploma or a GED (General Education Diploma.) You need to be a U.S. citizen or a legal resident.  You need to live in the state where you wish to work as a real estate agent. Finally, you need to have paid any student loans or be current in your student loan payment schedule.

What is the best order to do this?

Your first hurdle is your state. If your state will not allow felons to even take the real estate license exam, there is no point in finding a school. Then, check to see if you think you will be able to pass the real estate license exam. Every state has its own exam, but there is a national portion that most states use. Obviously, your school will teach you the test information, but you will have to pass this test. If you think you can take that test, you need to find a school or program that will accept you. As always, you need to be honest on your school’s application.

In Summary:

A real estate license is possible. Some states are more difficult than others. It also depends on your felony. The good news is that you should be able to get the necessary information before you spend money. You can make a great salary with a real estate license.

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