It’s that time of year again when people flock to online resources to find out about getting a real estate license. Broker Teresa Boardman has the skinny on the critical info new agents need that they’ll never tell you in licensing class.

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This post was updated Aug. 1, 2023.

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It’s the time of year when people flock to my website to learn about how to get a real estate license. Among others, I usually get calls from a few first-time homebuyers who plan on getting a license so that they don’t have to pay real estate commissions when they buy a house. After I explain to them how to get a license and how commission splits work, they usually change their minds.

Sometimes the inquires come from people who want to sell their houses, and I explain that they do not need a license to sell their own home.


Some people believe that they need to work through a real estate company to get a license. Assistance navigating the licensing system is a great recruiting tool.

Most of the questions I get about licensing are about cost. People want to know what the lowest cost option for getting the required 90 hours of instruction is.

We do make this real estate thing look easy and the way people talk about “getting their real estate license,” it’s as if there is a license out there for everyone just waiting to be snatched up.

In the movies, getting that license is done out of desperation by people who have failed at everything else because we all know people who cannot succeed at anything else will be good at selling houses.

What they don’t tell you

Most people would be surprised to learn that getting a real estate license has little or nothing to do with selling houses. It’s quite possible to take the 90 hours of instruction and pass the test without having a clue as to how to write a purchase agreement or what to do with a listing contract.

Here are 11 things that they don’t tell you in real estate licensing school:

  1. Having a license isn’t the same as knowing how to sell houses.
  2. Even though new licensees can charge the same amount as the pros, they make less.
  3. Much of the training for new agents at real estate companies centers around promoting the company brand.
  4. Real estate companies generally don’t give agents clients or even leads for free. Don’t forget to ask about the referral fee before accepting the client.
  5. Selling houses is much easier than finding clients who will let you sell their house.
  6. Some real estate companies make most of their money by charging their agents for things that agents don’t need or want.
  7. Some friends and family will avoid you after you get licensed as they secretly plan to work with another agent.
  8. Taxes are not taken out of commission checks; agents need to set money aside to pay their own taxes.
  9. Being likable is far more important than competence.
  10. A bad client is a special kind of hell and can be far worse than the worst boss.
  11. Real estate agents are targets for scammers and nut jobs too.

What I know

I took my pre-license instruction in the days before online pre-licensing classes were allowed.

Classes had to be 90 hours of in-person classroom instruction. The was 20 years ago, and many of the same instructors are still teaching the classes.

I think I was in a constant state of shock during most of my first year as a real estate agent. As I recall, it took me a couple of hours to write my first offer. My first client was a buyer who was “captured” from the company website and sold to me for a hefty referral fee.

Several years ago, I “auditioned” to be an instructor. I didn’t make the cut. The last continuing education class took through that school was so poorly done it almost brought tears to my eyes.

The tests that are required to get a real estate license test are for something, but I’m not sure what.

They tend to have on things that are not needed on the job, or if they are, it is easier to look them up on the spot than memorize the answers. No one has ever asked me how many feet there are in a mile, nor have they ever asked how many acres in a parsec.

After real estate school and licensing new agents put out messages on social media that they are now ready to help people “buy or sell their dream home.” I am not sure if they learned about those dream homes in real estate school or if that comes later.

Teresa Boardman is a Realtor and broker/owner of Boardman Realty in St. Paul. She is also the founder of

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