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How to Get Your Real
Estate License in

Have you ever wanted to sell the most luxurious townhouses in Des Moines? What about giving tours of mansions in Cedar Rapids? Considering you’ve found your way to this page, you must be considering getting your Iowa real estate license. Assuming that’s correct, I have some excellent news for you. There has never been a better time to get involved in the real estate industry than right now, and the state of Iowa is a red-hot market with homes selling faster and for higher prices than usual. 

Maybe it’s been your goal to become a real estate agent for a while now, or maybe you’re considering the real estate business as a new career option with more freedom and a higher earning potential. I know I’ve been there. No matter your reasons for thinking about this path, you can build an extremely successful career in real estate. Take it from me. I wasn’t always the No. 1 real estate agent in New York City selling over $1 billion in properties and starring in Bravo’s “Million Dollar Listing New York“.

You’re here because you want to know how to get your real estate license in Iowa. Generally speaking, the education requirements and overall licensing process are fairly similar throughout the United States, but you will notice some finer details vary, depending on your home state. Let’s start with the list of basic requirements you’ll need to fulfill to become a real estate salesperson in Iowa. 

  1. Meet the pre-qualifications. 
  2. Complete your pre-licensing courses. 
  3. Pass your education course final exam. 
  4. Pass the Iowa real estate license exam. 
  5. Complete your fingerprinting and background check. 
  6. Obtain errors and commissions insurance. 
  7. Find a sponsoring broker. 
  8. Submit your real estate license application. 

Let’s take a deeper dive into the following steps together and help you get your first salesperson license number. 

1. Make sure you meet the pre-qualifications. 

Before you’ll be eligible to begin your coursework, the Iowa Real Estate Commission (IREC), part of the Iowa Professional Licensing Bureau (IPLB) requires you to meet a few qualifications. Firstly, you’ll need to be at least 18 years of age and a legal U.S. resident. Your social security number will be needed as part of the application process. Additionally, you’ll need to hold your high school diploma or GED. 

You’ll also be submitting to a criminal background check as part of the process. Having convictions on your record doesn’t necessarily bar you from getting your real estate license, but the Real Estate Commission reserves the right to decide which crimes may affect your ability to practice real estate. You must not have had a felony conviction regarding a breach of fiduciary duty in the past five years, and you must not have been convicted of a crime of moral turpitude in the past year. Crimes of moral turpitude include assault, robbery, and fraud, among others. 

 2. Complete your license education. 

After taking care of the prerequisites, your real first step is to register for your required coursework. The state of Iowa requires you to complete 96 hours of coursework before you’re able to move on to the next step. 60 of these course hours will be spent on Real Estate Principles and Practices. This course may be taken in person, or you may take online courses. Either way, you’ll need to be sure that you’re fulfilling your licensing requirements with an approved education provider, such as a real estate school or local community college. 

You’ll also need to take an additional 36-course hours, which will be divided into three 12-hour education courses. These three courses are only offered in-person, so you’ll need to find the nearest approved licensing school. The three courses are Developing Professionalism and Ethical Practices, Buying Practices, and Listing Practices. All required education must be completed less than 12 months before submitting your complete application. 

Please note that completing your coursework does not guarantee that you’ll pass the license exam. The exam is intentionally difficult. It’s highly recommended that you study all mathematical concepts covered in your courses since this area is where most students struggle.  

3. Pass the final exam for your real estate courses. 

After you’ve completed your course hours, the next step is to pass your course final. This is not the same as the state’s licensing exam, but you can think of it as a sort of practice exam. Similar to the state exam, you’ll only be allowed scratch paper and a basic calculator while taking your course final. The state of Iowa doesn’t require that your course final be monitored by a proctor, so you won’t have to register with a testing service to take the exam online. 

You’ll need a minimum passing grade of 70% to complete your required education. After this, you’ll receive your certificate of completion for the course, which you’ll need to hold on to for your application. 

4. Pass your real estate license exam. 

Now you’re ready to take your real estate salesperson exam. You’ll need to create an account with PSI Online to register for the state exam. They’re the third-party provider that ensures the integrity of each exam.

When you schedule your exam, you’ll need to cover the $95 exam fee. You can schedule to take the exam at the nearest PSI testing center, or you can schedule to take the exam online with a proctor. Appointments must be made at least 24 hours in advance. 

When you arrive for test day, you’ll need to bring two forms of signature ID, and one of them must be a photo ID. You’ll also need your course certificate to be eligible to sit for the licensing exam.

The real estate exam is divided into two portions: one is a national portion, and the other is a state portion. The national portion of the exam consists of 80 multiple-choice questions on basic real estate practices. You’ll have 120 minutes to complete it. The state portion of the exam consists of 40 multiple-choice questions covering Iowa-specific real estate laws. You’ll have 60 minutes to complete this portion. To pass, you’ll need to earn at least a 70% on each portion of the exam. 

You’ll get your exam results immediately in the form of a “pass” or “fail” on your score report. Assuming you pass, you’ll receive your scorecard and written instructions on how to complete the rest of your application process. If you don’t pass the exam on your first attempt, you’ll be given a detailed report of your performance on each section of the exam, so you can better prepare for your next attempt. You’ll need to cover the exam fee for each additional attempt. For additional information on the state exam, please see the PSI Licensing Information Bulletin. 

5. Submit your fingerprinting and background check. 

Before you can complete your license application, you’ll need to complete your fingerprinting and criminal history check. To request the background packet, you’ll need to create a login for “My Iowa PLB” with the Professional Licensing Bureau, so they can send you the packet. You’ll then need to send your completed fingerprint card and packet, along with the $51 fee, to the Real Estate Commission’s office location at the following address: 

Iowa Real Estate Commission 

200 E. Grand, Ste. 350 

Des Moines, IA 50309  

6. Obtain errors and omissions insurance. 

O&E insurance, also known as professional liability insurance, protects you in cases of financial errors or negligence. The fees from lawyers and lawsuits can be enough to end any real estate agent’s career if they lack this insurance, so it’s important that you sign up before submitting your real estate license application. The state of Iowa has a group policy through the Rice Insurance Services Center (RISC), so you’ll need to choose a policy through them. 

7. Select your sponsoring broker. 

When you first receive your initial license document, your real estate license will be in inactive status. In order to activate your license, you’ll need to work with a sponsoring broker. While you can technically wait to do this step after you’ve submitted your application, it’s a good idea to take care of it ahead of time. That way, you’ll have virtually no wait when to activate your license. 

You’ll need to find a sponsoring broker because real estate salespeople don’t have the legal authority to complete real estate transactions on their own. A real estate broker, however, has the legal authority to oversee salespeople in real estate activities. Even if the state didn’t require this step, I would still highly recommend it. One of the biggest mistakes I made early on in my career was not joining a team. 

There’s one important piece of advice I can give you when you’re looking for a broker to work under. Make sure that the brokerage suits your needs and not the other way around. You’re making a big decision here, and it’s important to make sure you’re making the right one before you commit. 

Start by researching the reputation of each different broker you’re considering. Do they seem to be on solid ground and well regarded in your state? You’ll also want to ask each broker some questions about what their brokerage has to offer. What kind of additional education or training do they provide? How much room do you have to grow at this brokerage? Do they provide benefits or technology that can give you an edge? You’ll want to ask about their commission structure and desk fees as well. 

8. Submit your real estate license application. 

You’re almost there! The final step is to complete your license application. You can submit it online using your PLB account, or you can mail a paper application to the REC’s office location. Just make sure that your application form is also submitted with proof that you’ve completed your pre-licensing course requirements, passed the real estate exam, and obtained E&O insurance. You’ll also need to include the license fee of $125. You’ll need to submit the entire package no later than six months after passing the state exam. 

Assuming everything is in order, your application should be approved within three to five business days. Congratulations on becoming a new licensee and earning the ability to practice real estate!

I should point out, though, that getting your active license doesn’t automatically make you an Iowa Realtor. That’s because “Realtor” is a copyrighted term owned by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), and they have their own entry requirements. Each member of NAR is also bound by specific ethical standards. 


Does Iowa have license reciprocity with any other states? 

Yes, the state of Iowa has reciprocity agreements with the following states:

If you hold an active license in one of those states, then you may be licensed in Iowa with the same real estate company. 

How much time does it take to earn your Iowa real estate license? 

How long do you want it to take? That isn’t a trick question or anything. The truth is that you have a great deal of control over how long your real estate schooling takes. For most people, the license coursework and test preparation will take longer than any other steps. Students who treat their education like a job can finish in about three weeks and move on to other steps. It’s actually possible to finish the entire process in a couple of months, but it’s not uncommon for applicants to take up to six months. 

I can tell you two things for sure. The best time to get started on your licensing requirements is right now, and you can control your own pace once you get started. 

Is there anything aspiring real estate professionals can do to gain an advantage? 

You bet there is! In fact, I’ve created the training program that I wish I had when I was working on getting my license. My Sell It Like Serhant: Pre-Licensing Accelerator course package does more than prepare you for your exam; it also teaches you everything you need to know to succeed at selling in the most competitive U.S. markets. This is the only pre-licensing program where you’ll get your 96 hours of required coursework and learn the selling system that’s made me one of the top real estate agents in the world! 

This state-approved online course gives you support at any time from expert instructors, important course resources and exam prep as well. The course also includes two ebooks and my own “Quick Start Guide,” loaded with the latest tips and information you’ll need to pass your Iowa state exam. 

We’re giving you everything you’ll need to pass the first time. This includes 10 progress exams and five practice exams as well, three for the state portion and two for the national portion. We’re so confident that this course package will help you pass on your first attempt that we’ve even eliminated the risk for you. With our Pass or Don’t Pay guarantee, we’ll refund your purchase if you don’t pass your real estate exam on your first try! 

The value doesn’t end there. This course package also includes a membership to additional resources from my team members and me, including my Sell It Like Serhant: Real Estate Core online course. This 42-video course teaches you the same strategies that my team members and I use at the most followed real estate brand in the world! 

You already have what you need to earn your license and succeed in sales inside you. Let us help you unlock that potential, so you can start building a successful career of your own today! 

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  • Ryan Serhant is a founder, entrepreneur, producer, public speaker, bestselling author, star of multiple TV shows, and Chief Executive Officer of SERHANT., the rapidly growing tech-forward real estate organization comprised of two core businesses: brokerage and education. Founded in 2020, SERHANT. is a content-to-commerce technology ecosystem revolutionizing the sales industry. SERHANT. is home to the first ever full-service, award-winning, in-house film studio solely dedicated to real estate content, and its digital education platform is comprised of more than 14,000 members across 110 countries.