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Can a Felon Get a Broker’s License?

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Felons coming out of prison ask themselves how they can ever find a job. While there are many employers who will hire felons, a lot of positions remain unavailable to felons even though felons make good employees. Those with experience or interest in real estate may consider becoming a real estate broker.

This blog post will address the question of whether or not a felon can get a broker’s license.

  • What is a Real Estate Broker?
  • How to Get a Broker’s License
  • An Opportunity for Felons?
  • Recommended Action


What is a Real Estate Broker?

A real estate broker advises a client in the process of a real estate transaction. A broker lists the property for sale, advertises the property, and arranges and oversees any open house or showing.

In representing a client, a broker works with that person to determine his or her needs, locate properties, help the client with finances, and go with them to visit properties.

Any real estate agent who gives real estate advice must have a real estate license. A real estate broker can work as an agent, but an agent cannot work as a real estate broker without a broker’s license.

A real estate broker is a step above a real estate agent. Typically a broker has more education than an agent. In some states a broker’s license is required for any agent to be able to work by him or herself. An agent must work for a broker, whereas a broker can run his or her own business.

A real estate agent is a professional who has taken and passed all required real estate classes along with the real estate licensing exam in the state in which he or she will work. An agent may also be called a real estate associate.

A real estate broker has completed their education to real-estate-agent level and has passed their state’s real estate broker’s license exam. A real estate broker can work as an independent agent and can have other real estate agents working for them.

An agent that has passed the broker licensing exam but works under another broker is often called a real estate associate broker.

How to Get a Broker’s License

To become a real estate broker, a person must gain experience as a real estate agent. In most states, the sales agent trains for the job by completing a pre-licensing training course at a state-approved school. A pre-licensing course typically offers courses in:

  • Legal issues
  • Ethics
  • Finance
  • Contracts
  • Taxes
  • Insurance

A sales agent who has worked for at least two years as a real-estate-agent can take additional training, including:

  • Brokerage
  • Investments
  • Construction and development
  • Property management
  • Business law

In most states a candidate for a real estate broker’s license must be:

  • A citizen of the U.S. or a legal resident alien
  • At least 18 years of age
  • Resident of the state in which they wish to be licensed
  • Qualified through a moral character determination to be honest and trustworthy

A real estate broker must complete at least 270 hours of classroom real estate courses, including:

  • Principles of real estate
  • Law of agency
  • Law of contracts
  • Real estate finance
  • Real estate brokerage

These courses must be completed no more than two years before the application is submitted.

A real estate broker must be registered as a member of a national real estate association like the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

An Opportunity for Felons?

The specific requirements vary between states, but essentially each state wants to know if applicants are of good moral character. This involves disclosing any actions that might be considered unprofessional or illegal.

Of most importance in the real estate field are honesty, integrity, and trustworthiness. Agents work closely with clients and are involved with clients’ financial standing. Those clients expect and deserve someone whom they can trust to represent and assist them.

The determination of an applicant’s character is different in each state. Some states require fingerprinting and a background check. The specific requirements in any state can be located on that state’s real estate commission website.

In those instances where felons are not truthful about their conviction or other items, they will be viewed as attempting to fraudulently obtain a real estate license and will be immediately rejected in all states.

Typically, a state real estate commission will conduct an exemption review to determine an applicant’s suitability for licensure. The exemption review usually consists of:

  • Documents relating to the felony
  • Nature and severity of the felony
  • Period of time since the felony
  • Number of felonies or other similar incidents
  • Circumstances surrounding the crime
  • Relationship of the crime to the practice of real estate
  • The applicant’s activities since the completion of the sentence including employment, education, participation in treatment, payment of restitution, and other efforts of rehabilitation

An applicant is required by law to have fingerprints on file with the state department of public safety so a background check can be performed. A license will not be issued if the background check isn’t passed.

It’s important to be honest when applying for a dealer license. If a felony isn’t disclosed but is found on a background check, this is considered fraud and is punishable. It’s a crime to falsify an application which could result in being sent back to prison.

Having their record expunged can give them the chance needed to begin with a clean record and succeed in obtaining a broker’s license. Expunging a criminal record allows anyone to honestly state on a dealer application that he or she has not been convicted of a crime.

Recommended Action

It’s a significant challenge, but it might be worth it for a felon that wants to get a real estate broker’s license. Having his or her record expunged and also documenting any training programs or additional education could make the essential difference in a felon succeeding in getting their real estate broker’s license.

Having support from family, friends, or previous employers can make a huge difference. A felon doesn’t have to be defined by his or her crime. We are not defined by our mistakes but by how we recover from them. He or she can begin again and live an honest life no matter how difficult it might seem.

What do you think about this blog post? Have you or someone you know been in the situation of trying to get a broker’s license with a felony? What was that like for him or her, and how did he or she achieve success? Please tell us in the comments below.

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