How to Get Your Real Estate License In Chicago

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Are you ready for a career in real estate? I’m here to help set you down the path to success.

Working as a real estate broker is an opportunity to work in an industry that is flexible, fast-paced, and always evolving. Here in Chicago, being a broker is a meaningful opportunity to help build up your community. It’s an exciting and rewarding career path, with high earning-potential — and there’s never a bad time to get started. 

In order to become a Chicago real estate broker, you first need to get your Illinois real estate license — which means attending classes, passing an exam, and joining the real estate brokerage that will be the right fit for you. 

What Does a Real Estate Broker Do?

Real estate brokers help people to buy, sell, and rent residential real property. (One thing to note? Here in Illinois, we use the term broker; in other states, you may see this same role described as a real estate “salesperson.”) In Illinois real estate, brokers serve an incredibly important role by acting as a key intermediary between buyers and sellers, developing and implementing a strategy to be successful and helping facilitate a transaction from contract to close.

In order to become a licensed real estate broker in Illinois, you must:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Have a high school diploma or equivalent degree
  • Complete pre-licensing coursework, including 15 hours of “applied” interactive training through a webinar or in-person
  • Pass the state of Illinois exam

Once you’ve passed the state exam, you can then apply for your estate license through the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR). Keep in mind that in order to apply for a license, you’ll need a Designated Managing Broker to sponsor you. A Designated Managing Broker is an experienced real estate professional who has been licensed to supervise other agents, work independently, and manage their own office or brokerage. 

Step One: Complete Your Pre-Licensing Education

The first step in becoming a licensed real estate broker is to complete the necessary coursework. There are a few different ways to fulfill your mandatory education hours, including in-person and online classes, or through a hybrid format that combines both styles of learning. 

Ultimately, I encourage you to make the choice that will be the best fit for your time frame and learning style. Looking to explore a few different opportunities? Here are a few options for finding state-approved pre-licensing programs available around Chicago: 

  • Illinois REALTORS®. The Illinois Association of REALTORS® is a great resource, and offers online or classroom course options. 
  • The Real Estate Institute (REI). The Real Estate Institute offers in-person and online learning options, with flexible classes that can help you set your own pace. 
  • Baird & Warner. Baird & Warner offers a flexible and comprehensive pre-licensing topics course through Illinois REALTORS® , which lets you learn at your own pace and complete the necessary work on your schedule. This program offers classroom learning opportunities, some of them right here in my office, as well as a hybrid course, held part online and part in-person. You can also take advantage of an exclusive Review Day to get ready before your exam, as well as extensive post-licensing training and continuing education opportunities.

Depending on the program and formats you choose, you may be able to complete your coursework in as little as a few weeks; if you need more flexibility, you can also extend this process over the span of several months. Similarly, the cost of getting your license will depend on the courses and programs you choose, the supplemental materials you invest in, and how many times you need to take the exam. Keep in mind that there are grants, scholarships, and tuition reimbursement opportunities available to help offset some of the costs of tuition and materials. 

Even in uncertain times, Baird & Warner continues to make it easier for anyone, anywhere to start their career in real estate. During the coronavirus outbreak, Baird & Warner is pivoting to meet the needs of pre-licensing students, while following the state’s “Stay-at-Home” order. During this unique time, Illinois REALTORS® has approved classes to be taught virtually, with live instructors set up through Google Hangouts. 

If you’re interested in learning more about your options for real estate licensing courses, or want to discuss if this career path might be the right fit for you, a managing broker can be a helpful resource! Before signing up for a class, you can schedule a call with me to ask questions and determine if this is a career you should potentially pursue. If interested, you can schedule a 15-minute phone call with me right here. 

Step Two: Take the Test

After you’ve completed your required real estate education courses, it’s time to take the state licensing exam. The state exam is administered through PSI/AMP, with testing centers located around Illinois. 

You must register for and take the licensing exam within two years of completing your pre-license education. If you do pass the state exam, you may retake the exam up to three times, on different days. If you do not pass the exam on your fourth attempt, you must retake pre-licensing courses before you can register for the exam again. 

Step Three: Submit Your Application

Once you’ve successfully completed the state test, you’ll need to choose a sponsoring real estate brokerage in order to apply for and receive your license. 

Now is the time to find the brokerage that will be the right fit for you — one that can provide the resources, tools, culture, and mentoring you need to get your career going. This is an important decision, and should involve a thorough and systematic process. Do research on real estate offices and brokerages in your area. If you need a second set of eyes, get the opinion of your friends or family. Explore real estate websites and social channels for reviews and testimonials, and try to get a better sense of each brokerage’s values and history. Finally, make time to interview with Designated Managing Brokers and visit local offices. 

It’s important to find an office environment and management team that can help drive your success. Your Designated Managing Broker will help provide education, coaching, and mentorship throughout your career. It’s crucial to find someone you trust to guide you into this next chapter in your life. Prepare a list of questions to discuss when you sit down together; some topics to discuss and explore might include: 

  • The manager’s training and coaching style
  • Who else in the office provides training and support for new brokers
  • Office culture and structure
  • Marketing materials, digital tools, and other resources available to agents
  • Fees and expenses associated with joining the brokerage — such what’s available to you for free, and what will you need to pay for out-of-pocket

Take a tour of the office and check out the shared spaces, marketing materials at your disposal, and working areas. Don’t be afraid to ask for the contact information of a few brokers, so that you can reach out and learn more about their individual experiences at the office. 

Want to Explore Your Options? Get to Know Baird & Warner Lincoln Park

Here at Baird & Warner Lincoln Park, our competitive advantage for new brokers is simple. We provide industry leading training, coaching and mentoring.  We invest more time and money into the success of every one of our brokers than our competitors. And we take the time to develop individual business plans and goals with each and every broker who joins our office.Looking to start the discussion? I’m here for you! After completing your pre-licensing class, come to the office or give me a call either just before or after your state exam. I’m here to hold a more thorough discussion about how Baird & Warner Lincoln Park can help new brokers launch their careers. You can schedule a time to meet, here.


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