Can A Felon Get A Real Estate License?

Getting a fresh start after being in prison can be challenging. There are not many professions that welcome felons into their ranks. That said, there are still good opportunities to be had.

One of the most liberating career options is in real estate. These jobs have many benefits that make them appealing to anyone that has been locked up. So can a felon get a real estate license?

This license is not mandatory to make a living in the real estate business. But it does come with certain perks.

With a license, you become better qualified to work as a full-time real estate agent. You can start your own firm, or seek employment at an established brokerage company. People are constantly buying and selling homes so the demand for such services is ever-present.

You can also make good earnings if you opt to be a part-timer. The job also requires much movement in and out of the office. The freedom of movement is greatly appreciated by former inmates.

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The training that is taken up to qualify for a license makes you more knowledgeable. You can use this to not only benefit your clients but also make your own real estate investments.

Being an insider also gives you access to a whole network of other related professionals. This allows you to network, opening up new avenues of business.

To stand a chance at enjoying all these benefits, you will need to take up certain courses and pass the exams. The state licensing board will also conduct a background check.

So again, what chance does a felon have at earning a real estate license? Let’s discuss this below.

Do State Licensing Boards Conduct Background Checks?

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As said, background checks are a part of the licensing process. Most states will require disclosure as you apply to sit for the state exams.

Just like in many other jobs, that require licenses, the goal is to ensure integrity and honesty. Licensing boards want representation that is professional and upstanding.

For felons, having a criminal record can make this difficult. Even those with serious misdemeanors can face a problem.

For the most part, many states do consider felons for real estate licenses.

They however often require a waiting period. This is a period the person has to wait to apply for a license after having completed their full sentence. That includes any prison term, fines, or other court-mandated penalties.

This waiting period often varies between 2-10 years. The period will also vary depending on particular state laws and the severity of the crime. The more severe the offenses committed, the longer the waiting period.

In making decisions on felon applications, state licensing boards will often consider many factors. Besides the severity of the crime, they will also want to know if it relates to the real estate business.

Remember that in some states certain felonies may entirely disqualify you from earning a license. In New York, a felony conviction bars you from getting a license unless you manage to restore felon rights.

State licensing boards will also consider the rehabilitation efforts that have been made since release. This can include any education, volunteer work, or treatment programs.

Each application is considered on a case to case basis. So there is no assurance that a felon will earn their license.

It can help to get in touch with the board and other professionals in the field. Their advice can guide you on what approach to take to boost your chances.

Applying for A Real Estate License

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The requirements for applying for a real estate license may vary somewhat depending on the state. Besides being a US resident and of legal age, most states will require a high school diploma or GED.

Broker licenses attract higher formal education requirements than salesperson licenses in many states.

You will need to undertake a real estate prelicensing course. In most states, this study can be carried out flexibly. You can undertake a home study course, go online, or attend classes.

While you can likely start on this training any time, do plan ahead. Aim to finish shortly before when state exams are scheduled.

Training and exams will require incurring some costs. This can vary anywhere between a few hundred to a few thousands of dollars.

When applying to sit the exams, those with criminal convictions may be required to submit certain documents.

This can include:

  • A copy of the charging document
  • A copy of the judgment, including all penalties applied
  • Written account of the crime

If successful in getting a license, you may need to meet other post-licensing and continuing education requirements.


As long as your particular offense does not bar you from getting a license, you stand a decent chance. You will however need to convince the state licensing board that you are of good moral character. Finding ways to prove you have reformed is helpful.

Having upstanding members of the community to act as references can be helpful. They can write recommendation letters to support your application.

You can also seek to expunge your records. Be sure to however check state guidelines. Some states may still require disclosure even if your records have been expunged or sealed.

Be sure to also prepare in advance. Run your own background check to be aware of all the board will discover. Prepare your application and supporting documents carefully to cover all disclosures.

Also, consult the licensing board. Some have helpful call centers you can get useful information.

Others offer some form of pre-assessment. This can help you learn what impact your particular offenses may have on your later application.

You can engage the licensing authority even before spending money on training to gauge your chances. Even if unsuccessful, know that there are still other meaningful jobs you can target even as a felon.

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