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Can a Felon Be a Real Estate Agent?

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Felons coming out of prison ask themselves how they can ever find a job.  After all, they have committed a crime, served a lengthy prison term, and may not have had the most stable job history before their conviction.

While there are many employers who will hire felons, a lot of positions remain unavailable to felons.

This blog post will address the question of whether a felon can be a real estate agent.

  • Requirements to Become a Real Estate Agent
  • Determining Character
  • What This Indicates
  • Reaching Their Goal
  • Supporting a Felon in Becoming a Real Estate Agent


Requirements to Become a Real Estate Agent

The role of a real estate agent involves assisting homeowners and potential homeowners in buying or selling a house.

In order to become a real estate agent, applicants must complete a number of steps.

Those wanting this career must be at least 18 years old, a U.S. citizen or legal resident, have at least a GED, reside in the state where they want to become an agent, and have not defaulted on a student loan.

Then, they must complete a real estate pre-licensing education, which varies from state to state. In most states, they will have to undergo a background check.

The pre-licensing education requirements vary from state to state.  While the number of classroom hours vary typically 48-180 depending on the state, completion of an accredited real estate school is necessary.

These schools can be easily located with easy signup even for felons.

Applicants must pass the state licensing exam, work under a real estate broker sponsor for at least the first two years, and obtain Errors and Omission Insurance (E & O).  This insurance reduces the risk of lawsuits for a real estate agency.

State Requirements

Since real estate licensing requirements vary from state to state, we’ve decided to make a blog for each and every state. Please select the applicable state to learn about the licensing requirements:

Determining Character

The specific requirements vary between states, but essentially each state wants to know if applicants are of good 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.

After all, 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 addition to reporting any convictions, felons must state any guilty pleas which they have entered.

In Iowa, for example, at least two years has to elapse since all aspects of the sentence have been completed before being considered.

For certain felonies in Iowa, such as forgery, embezzlement, theft, arson, or financial crime, felons have to wait at least five years before applying.

In California, felons will be rejected if their offense “substantially related to the qualifications, functions, and duties of a real estate licensee.”  In New York, extensive details of the felony conviction will have to be provided.

Alabama states that any felon convicted of a crime of moral turpitude is ineligible to apply.  These are crimes involving dishonesty or immoral behavior.

The background information obtained will be compared to that provided on the application.  Any discrepancies will have to be explained.

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 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
  • Applicants’ activities since the completion of the sentence, including employments, education, participation in treatment, payment of restitution, and other efforts at rehabilitation.

Applicants bear the burden of proving their suitability for licensure.

While such determinations vary from state to state, recent statistics indicate that more than 50% of felons who applied for a real estate license were successful in obtaining it.

What This Indicates

What stands out is that the real estate field is willing to consider felon applicants who are serious about successful re-entry into society.

These stipulations reveal what has been previously stated.  That is, felons must take their situation seriously and have a goal of working for as a real estate agent.  No, it won’t be easy to be accepted.

But there is an opportunity available to those who want it.

Doing the things that it will take to reach that goal and become a real estate agent will be challenging, but what hasn’t been since leaving prison?

Reaching Their Goal

Felons need to be willing to do what it takes.  After all, they succeeded in completing their prison sentence one day at a time.

Seeking expungement or sealing of their records can pay big dividends.

They can go through a re-entry program or get further education and training to get the knowledge and skills they need and demonstrate that they are rehabilitated.

When it comes to their employment record, having a quality resume is essential.

The Guide to Getting Employed is available to those who want that goal.  There are stories of success and tips for presenting themselves in a favorable light.

Supporting a Felon in Becoming a Real Estate Agent

For families of felons wanting to work as a real estate agent, take the time to help your loved one in their efforts to get further education or training.

Support them in returning to society and finding a way to succeed and make a difference.

An earlier blog post showed felons make good employees.

The real estate industry needs qualified agents.  There is no reason why felons can’t be that quality agent.

What do you think about this blog post?  Are you or someone you know been in the situation of trying to become a real estate agent with a felony?  What was that like for them, and how did they achieve success?  Please tell us in the comments below.

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