Pursuing Real Estate Investing Freedom? Consider Getting a Real Estate License!

by | BiggerPockets.com

One of the most highly talked about and debated questions within the world of real estate investing is ‘should’ or ‘should you not’ get licensed in your state? There are numerous articles on BiggerPockets discussing pros and cons and everything in between, but I wanted to throw my $.02 into the debate.

There are a ton of financial reasons to pursue the license, but in this article, I’m going to focus on how another aspect. First though, to address what I see as the main concern of getting a license – Yes, there are costs associated with being licensed; however, if you want to make a career out of investing, the fees are actually a good thing.

How so? Look at the fees as a measuring stick. If you can’t cover your licensing fees each year, then either A) you aren’t working hard enough or B) you just aren’t cut out to be an investor. Perhaps a bit harsh, but a very realistic way to look at things.

With that financial point out of the way, let’s get to the gist of things. The key reason I am for getting your real estate license as an investor is: freedom. After all, isn’t that the true goal of anyone getting into real estate?

I define true freedom as living on YOUR schedule, and only YOUR schedule. You do ‘this’ activity when you want to. You then go and do ‘that’ activity when you want to. There are no “needs”, only “wants”.  Let’s look at a few examples…

Visiting Property Listings

I realize many investors build relationships with agents who just tell them the entry information on a property over the phone so they can go check it out on their schedule; however, that is technically breaking rules (at least here in Michigan), so I’m not going to allow that as a valid point.

As a licensed agent, you can go check out a home whenever you want. Assuming it is a foreclosure, you can look at it at 5 in the morning, or 5 at night. Your schedule is completely in your control.

As a non licensed person, you have to wait to be fit into the agent’s schedule. If they can show you only at 5 pm, you now all of a sudden you find yourself having to plan your schedule around someone else’s schedule. I personally do not consider that freedom.

Doing Due Diligence

If you are working with an agent, you won’t have to do this work, so yes, that does create freedom for you in the sense you can do other things with your time. However, do you really want the fate of a potential deal to be put into someone else’s hand because they potentially have other, more important needs on their schedule?

As a licensed agent, you can run comps from the comfort of your own home in your underwear.  When time is of the essence, wouldn’t it just be worth it to be able to A) do it when you “want” it and B) keep the fate of the deal in your own hands?

As a non licensed person, you have to sit around biting your nails wondering, “when oh when is my agent going to email me with the local comps?”  When a potential deal arises, there really is no time for waiting; you have to get on things and get on them now! Remember, if licensed you’d really only be serving yourself (unless you were doing buying/selling for other clients), your agent (if they’re any good at least) will have multiple people they are serving. A room filled with only you is much more favorable then a room filled with you and ten other people.

Writing Offers

After your due diligence is completed, this is a crucial step. As a licensed agent, you can fill out all the forms and contracts yourself and get them submitted with your signature. The best part is,  you do it when YOU want to. It would behoove you to do it as soon as possible; but, at the end of the day, you can do it on YOUR schedule when you feel like it.

As a non licensed person, you are at the mercy of your agent. Sure they fill these out for you, but they will still need your signature. You could be out with the family when your smart phone rings, the documents will be there waiting to be signed and sent back.

YOUR Schedule

Instead of sitting there “waiting” because you are at the mercy of another person’s life events, why not make your OWN schedule so that you can do things when you want to? The three examples above are just a few cases for being licensed, but believe me . . . the ways a license can “free you up” are truly worth the fees each year. The icing on the cake is that while you are living your schedule the way you want, you are also saving money due to the fact you are licensed. “A penny saved is a penny earned.”, so in all actuality,  you are being paid to have freedom. How convienient is that?

Photo: Wonderlane

About Author

Clay Huber

Clay (G+) is a licensed real estate agent and the owner of Huber Property Group, LLC, a real estate investment company located in Grand Rapids, MI. His company purchases distressed properties with the main exit strategy of fixing them up and reselling with owner financing, particularly, land contracts.


  1. Clay,
    I’m new in the game, own 1 rental and helping a few friends manage their properties. My very small income from this 3rd job (but true passion), has remained positive, which I assume that the same rules apply with real estate as any other small business, “don’t expect to see profits in the first 3 years”, so I’m doing well?
    I’ve already ordered my course work to prepare for the broker license, it is also required to officially manage properties in my state, and have worked with a local agency to get the 2 years required experiance before starting your own brokerage. I think this is an important step, work with an agent, run a few deals, earn a little extra from buying/selling, maybe manage a few to get your feet wet. I’m trying not to get too optomistic about my passion becoming a possibility, and I don’t have the money to flip anything at this time, but- is there anything else I can do to prepare for what I hope to be “free life” as you so elequently explain? Finally, how many additional deals do you think you get a shot at by having your real estate license versus competing with your agent with the “10 others in the room”?

    Thanks for your article, it reaffirms all my head aches of going back to school, chasing a passion, and striving for the “american dream” all over again.


    • Joe – with a broker’s license (which I do NOT have) and then your own brokerage, there are quite a few more revenue opportunities. You can have other people come work for you as agents and collect money off them while you pursue investing. Just one idea.

      I’m not sure if it makes any difference in “additional deals”. If some rookie comes in and overpays for something, I won’t get the deal. I believe it ‘does’ make a difference; however, I would never argue that as a sole reason to get licensed.

      As far as additional preparations, just keep on reading BiggerPockets. Lots of valuable information around here, and it is free.

  2. Excellent points Clay. I advise anyone that wants to invest in real estate full-time to become a Realtor. While you won’t learn anything about how to be a Realtor, or a real estate investor, in the required licensing classes you will learn a lot about the laws in your state, federal housing laws, as well as agency law. J. Scott and I have started flipping houses in the Milwaukee area and I’m currently working on getting licensed in Wisconsin. Fortunately, since I’m already licensed in Arizona I only have to take 13 hours of classes to take the state exam.

    • Very true Marty. Getting licensed in no way implies you will “learn” anything about how to be an investor, but learning how to protect yourself against the boatload of laws out there can never be a bad thing 🙂

    • Marty,

      I live in Wisconsin and I was considering getting my real estate license for the very reasons talked about in this article. Then, someone told me that if I do, I need to work for someone. For instance, I can’t just go and get my license and then be able to show properties and submit offers. Is that true? I don’t want to have real estate clients, as that would distract me from my investing business.

      • Clay Huber

        I believe what they mean by “work for someone” is that you need a broker to ‘sponsor’ you. Here in Michigan, you need to find a brokerage that will take you under their wing. It’s easy though as all brokerages are always looking to “recruit” agents, so more often times than not, you are doing the interviewing opposed to them interviewing you.

      • Kristie, Clay is correct. Once you’re licensed you’ll need to choose a broker. They’ll likely seek you out after you’ve completed the required coursework and receive your license. You can then interview these brokers to see which one is the best fit for you.

      • Ahmed Hamza

        Hello Clay,

        I’m new to Michigan and I’m currently considering investing in here. However, I’m in Kristie’s shoes right now, as I am originally and Engineer and I’m in other business fields as well, so I do not plan on being a Real Estate Agent as a full timer, I just want my license to pursue the Freedom that you talked and get MLS access whenever I need to, so the main question here, will I still need to “hang my license” in a broker’s office even if I won’t be doing any of the Real Estate Agents main job responsibilities and dealing with any other clients ?

        Thank you in advance.

  3. Really appreciate this Clay. I’m in no way ready to take the realtor exam now (working on another exam right now) but I like working from home on my schedule. Marty brought out a good point too that the course will familiarize individuals with the state laws…very important.

    • Good thinking on your part. You don’t want to overload yourself with too many tasks to worry about. One bite at a time!

      I agree, Marty made an excellent point, particularly in this “I’m gonna sue you” happy society we live in.

  4. Jeff Brown

    Allow me to be Devil’s Advocate here, please.

    Unless the investor has plans to make significant income from acting as an agent and/or owning a brokerage, here’s something to ponder. Every single offer you make must contain wording which clearly declares you as a licensed real estate agent/broker in that state. When most sellers read that, they almost alway assume you know more than they do, and that they’re missing something. At the very least, they think they’re at a disadvantage in potential negotiations. I’ve experienced it time after time. I’ll never know for sure how many failed offers might’ve succeeded, had it not been for the full disclosure of my status as a licensee.

    Just something to consider, as many of Clay’s points were well taken in this excellent post.

    • Jeff, I always love a good devil’s advocate. I try to do it as much as I can with myself to ensure I’m making the most efficient decision.

      I certainly can not argue the fact that putting the disclosure of you being an agent does add another variable to the equation, but for my current model, I’m for the most part either buying through wholesalers (so they’re the middle men) or bank foreclosures, and from my experience, the banks don’t seem to care ‘who’ they’re selling to.

  5. I had a real estate license for 30 years, every time I made an offer had to sign full disclosure. Working in an office you’re the first to know which has a huge advantage over other investors. It’s amazing how many sellers will avoid a realtor thinking their being taken advantage of. I now have an agent that knows what types of properties I want and as soon as or before it comes on the market, he lets me know, 24/7. With the right agent and the internet, one can quickly run the figures/comps and make an offer within minutes of hitting the market. Yes, there are a lot of pros and cons on both sides, but by not having a license, I have more latitude. Also happy that I don’t have to disclose that I’m an investor!

    • Pro’s and Con’s – no doubt. I mentioned this in another comment, but my current model only has me buying from wholesalers and foreclosures, so I don’t have the worry about people knowing I’m a licensed agent.

      On top of this, I can admit it, I’m sorta a control freak, so I like knowing that if something goes wrong (offer submitted late, improper comps run, checking out a property too late, etc.), I can’t point at someone else, I can only point into the mirror.

  6. This is a great article that clearly points out some reasons to obtain your real estate license. Visiting properties and due diligence is easier on your own schedule when you have a license, instead of waiting for agent.

    Thanks again for writing this well thought out article.

    • Clay Huber

      Exactly Loretta. I like things to go at my ‘pace’, not someone else’s. Not because someone else’s pace may be too slow, but it could also be too fast. If it is my pace though, I know I’ll be comfortable with it!

  7. Jason Grote

    Great post Clay, I agree wholeheartedly! The first 2 years of our investment business, we worked with agents and saw how much time and money were flying out the window… so… my wife got her license. The next best thing to me getting my license! It has worked out beautifully for us. Thanks for the thoughts!

      • Brandon, Not giving legal advise (the first thing you learn as a REALTOR!), but my .02 is that as long as you are buying it on your account, not with your wife as a co-owner (not as JT TN), you are probably OK. However, I don’t worry about it because I would personally write a disclosure anyway that identifies the relationship. I don’t think that you really gain much, if anything, trying to hide it. Most agents representing a seller would likely say that an offer by another broker is more solid and less likely to fall through.

      • Brandon – I am not a lawyer either, but I agree with Steve.

        A simple disclosure stating your relationship would be enough I’d think (again, not a lawyer). At the end of the day, your best bet would be to call an attorney.

        • In Texas you have to disclose if you are the buyer or a relative of the buyer. One of those few things that I learned in my licensing course work that was relevant. But I am not an attorney and every state has some laws. Also if your state is a community property state it’s difficult to do anything without spousal notification, even if your company is incorporated.

          By the way, to the best of my knowledge I’ve never had an offer rejected because I’m an owner/agent.

  8. Michael Walker on

    Outstanding Post/Article, I’ve been wanting to be completely immersed by real estate for a loonngg time. My life has consisted of jobs that have nothing to do with real estate at all. Yet I have an uncle that does whatever he wants and it’s all because of real estate and his properties.

    I have finally decided to become a licensed Realtor in the State of Texas. My wife told me to do this because that is all I read ( other than my Bible) and talk about.

    Clay, thanks for this article.

    • Nice Michael! Maybe you’ve already done this, but make sure you have a plan of action in place in regards to ‘what’ you plan on doing with your license. The last thing you want is to pass the test, get your license, and then have the “now what do I do?” question smack ya.

      • Michael Walker on

        Thanks Clay, My plan is to have 150-300 doors which average a monthly profit of 105-115 per door. I expect to be great. BiggerPockets and wonderful investors like you will only make this goal obtainable.

        I also plan to blog and post advise as I move forward in my new career.

        Once again, Thanks for your advise.

  9. Clay,

    I liked your article precisely because it wasn’t about the monetary reasons for holding a real estate license. I’m a realtor because I love having the “keys to the city”. I think you’re right about what you posted in one of the comments that there is a certain control freak gene that is necessary to be an agent/investor. If a person is okay with someone else’s schedule and timing there is no reason to get your license. I however, am not that person, waiting would make me nuts – my licensing fees are way cheaper than a shrink.

    • Clay Huber

      “I however, am not that person, waiting would make me nuts – my licensing fees are way cheaper than a shrink.”

      Well said! 🙂 The shrinks do not like that business model, but I know my family appreciates the fact that their husband/father isn’t in some padded room with a straight-jacket on.

  10. Hi Clay,

    Thank you so much for your article. I just enrolled in real estate classes here in California. I have a couple of rental properties and want to start wholesaling. I think getting my license will only help my investing. Thanks again!

    • Clay Huber

      Congrats Gina! I think it is a very wise decision.

      The added bonus (besides freedom) of a license will allow you to be legally able to collect those real estate commissions if you just work with a common buyer.

      Oh so many avenues when you are licensed!

  11. Very nice article Clay, although it looks like I’m a month or so behind reading this. I have been on the fence about getting a real estate license for some time, but I think it will help me two-fold:

    1 – What was mentioned in the comments – learning laws, practices, etc.
    2 – My goal is to quit my 9-to-5 job starting in 2014 and I believe having the license will help further that goal by giving me multiple income streams.

  12. Scott Meehan on

    Clay, Thanks for this article, very informative. Forgive the newbie question, but what are the typical fees associated with maintaining a Realtor license? Trying to wrap my head around the cost effectiveness of becoming a Realtor as I try to get my REI career off the ground. Thanks again!

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