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Can a Felon Become a Real Estate Agent in Iowa?

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Becoming a real estate agent can be a lucrative and stable career in Iowa, but the first step to such a successful career is obtaining a real estate license in your desired location. Having a felony record can serve as a roadblock on this journey, but may not be a complete bar to the profession in certain jurisdictions. 

This blog is not legal advice, but instead outlines general state requirements for people with felonies to better understand how to receive a real estate broker license. The question this blog aims to answer is whether persons with felonies can obtain a real estate license in Iowa. 


Role of a estate agent: 

Real estate agents facilitate the buying and selling of commercial and personal properties. When working with a seller, a real estate agent may be referred to a listing agent. As a listing agent, the typical duties can include: 

  • Conducting market research to determine an ideal asking price;
  • Identifying assets that are the property’s attractive magnets and pinpointing improvement locations;
  • Staging the property;
  • Photographing the property;
  • Listing the property on the local Multiple Listing Service (MLS);
  • Advertising real estate properties to prospective buyers;
  • Hosting property showings and open house events;
  • Drafting and preparing documents, such as offers, contracts and closing statements;
  • Communicating with appraisers, escrow companies, lenders and home inspectors.

A real estate agent may also represent buyers. When representing buyers, real estate agents may be responsible for the following: 

  • Coordinating open houses;
  • Arranging meetings with prospective buyers;
  • Interviewing buyers to understand their needs and wants;
  • Scheduling property showings;
  • Coordinating appraisals and inspections;
  • Negotiating property repair requests and offers;
  • Drafting and reviewing documents and contracts;
  • Guiding buyers through the closing process.

Average salary: 

The average base salary of a real estate agent in the United States is estimated to be $105,100. In Iowa, the estimated annual salary of a real estate agent is $103,024. 

General Requirements: 

The requirements to obtain a real estate license varies state by state, however, the general requirements are the person be of good moral character, have some specified level of experience and specified education in real estate. The applicant must submit personal and professional information in their application, pass the state real estate license exam, undergo a background check, and pay a fee. The real estate license must be renewed pursuant to the state’s criteria.  

Iowa’s licensing requirement for real estate agents:

In Iowa, the state requires the following for a person to be eligible to obtain a real estate license: 

  1. Must “be a person whose application has not been rejected for licensure in this or any other state within twelve months prior to the date of application, and whose real estate license has not been revoked in this or any other state within two years prior to date of application . . .  
  2. Person shall be eighteen years of age or over . . .
  3. An applicant for a real estate broker’s or salesperson’s license who has been convicted of an offense specified in this subsection shall not be considered for licensure until the following time periods have elapsed following completion of any applicable period of incarceration, or payment of a fine or fulfillment of any other type of sentence:
    1. For an offense which is classified as a felony, an offense including or involving forgery, embezzlement, obtaining money under false pretenses, theft, arson, extortion, conspiracy to defraud, or other similar offense, or any other offense involving a criminal breach of fiduciary duty, five years.
    2. For any offense not described in subparagraph (1) involving moral turpitude, one year.
  4. After expiration of the time periods specified . . . an application shall be considered by the commission . . . and may be denied on the grounds of the conviction. An applicant may request a hearing pursuant to section 543B.19 in the event of a denial . . .
  5. An applicant for a real estate broker’s or salesperson’s license who has had a professional license of any kind revoked or suspended or who has had any other form of discipline imposed, in this or any other jurisdiction, may be denied a license by the commission on the grounds of the revocation, suspension, or other discipline.
  6. A person who makes a false statement of material fact on an application for a real estate broker’s or salesperson’s license, or who causes to be submitted, or has been a party to preparing or submitting any false application for such license, may be denied a license by the commission on the grounds of the false statement or submission.
  7. The commission, when considering the denial of a license pursuant to this section, shall consider the nature of the offense; any aggravating or extenuating circumstances which are documented; the time lapsed since the revocation, conduct, or conviction; the rehabilitation, treatment, or restitution performed by the applicant; and any other factors the commission deems relevant. Character references may be required but shall not be obtained from licensed real estate brokers or salespersons.
  8. To qualify for a license as a real estate broker, a person shall complete at least sixty contact hours of commission approved real estate education within twenty-four months prior to taking the broker examination. This education shall be in addition to the required salesperson prelicense course. The applicant shall have been a licensed real estate salesperson actively engaged in real estate for a period of at least twenty-four months preceding the date of application, or shall have had experience substantially equal to that which a licensed real estate salesperson would ordinarily receive during a period of twenty-four months, whether as a former broker or salesperson, a manager of real estate, or otherwise.
  9. A qualified applicant for a license as a real estate salesperson shall complete a commission approved short course in real estate education of at least thirty hours during the twelve months prior to taking the salesperson examination.
  10. An applicant for an initial real estate broker’s or salesperson’s license shall be subject to a national criminal history check through the federal bureau of investigation. The commission shall request the criminal history check and shall provide the applicant’s fingerprints to the department of public safety for submission through the state criminal history repository to the federal bureau of investigation. The applicant shall authorize release of the results of the criminal history check to the real estate commission. The applicant shall pay the actual cost of the fingerprinting and criminal history check, if any. Unless the criminal history check was completed within the two hundred ten calendar days prior to the date the license application is received by the real estate commission, the commission shall reject and return the application to the applicant. The commission shall process the application but hold delivery of the license until the background check is complete. The results of a criminal history check conducted pursuant to this subsection shall not be considered a public record under chapter 22.”

Recommended Action:

If you are interested in obtaining a real estate license, it is best to consult with the state’s guidelines. If you do have a felony conviction, always remember to be open and transparent on the application, as lying can reduce your chances of obtaining the license. 

So what do you think about this blog post about whether a felon can become a real estate agent in Iowa and the requirements for the license?  Have you or someone you know been in that situation?  What was that experience like and how did they deal with it?   Please tell us in the comments below.

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