There was a time when one could become a real estate agent by just calling yourself one. Over time, fraudulent activity by unethical individuals cost buyers, sellers and property owner’s untold fortunes. The industry became highly regulated as a result.

Doug Van Pelt

Doug Van Pelt

Today, becoming a real estate agent/broker is no easy task. A prospective real estate agent/broker must complete and pass as many as eight college-level courses (available at SBCC), be age 18 or older and show proof of legal presence in the state of California.

The required college courses are important because not only do they guarantee a quality industry within the state, but they ensure that new real estate agents/brokers can operate effectively within the industry and properly represent their clients. Students are taught everything from real estate principles, real estate law, appraisal, finance and more.

A prospective agent may then register to take a state Department of Real Estate administered — and highly supervised — test at one of the sites in California.

After passing the exam and before license issuance, the Department of Real Estate completes a detailed background check on all license applicants; a clean criminal record is a must. This includes the receipt and review of fingerprint reports from the Justice Department and the FBI.

The initial educational requirements are really only the beginning. Realtors must take approved continuing educational courses regularly to satisfy the requirements for license renewal.

The Santa Barbara Association of Realtors provides many educational opportunities to all member agents/brokers. Some of these opportunities are as informal as the weekly MLS meetings where a new topic is presented and discussed. Information is exchanged that helps agents/brokers navigate the complicated process of buying or selling a property.

Additionally, many agents/brokers begin course studies for various designations within the industry. Through the National Association of Realtors, there are more than 20 professional designations a Realtor can acquire. These certifications sometimes take more than a year to complete with many hours of study and multiple exams.

The real estate industry is regulated at both the state and federal level — and it’s no easy task to keep up with all changes.

Doug Van Pelt is a Realtor with Prudential California Realty. He can be reached at 805.879.8006, 805.637.3684 or