The simple answer to the question, can a felon be a real estate agent, is yes. However, there’s far more to it than just answering with a yes or no. When you dive deeper, you’ll learn the true answer to can a felon be a real estate agent?
There are some things that have to be considered first. What type of crime was committed? How long ago was the crime committed? What state do you live in? Was it one offense or multiple offenses?
Before we answer some of these questions, along with the main questions, there are a few other things to cover.
What’s Required to Become a Real Estate Agent?
In most states, you will need to do the following to become a real estate agent:
- Meet the basic requirements – Be at least 18 years of age with a high school diploma or GED. You will also need to be a U.S. citizen or a legal resident.
- Complete pre-licensing education – The number of hours varies from state to state, but this is a common requirement.
- Pass the national and state exams
- Pass a background check and application process
- Have a sponsoring broker
While the requirements do vary a bit from one state to another, they will look similar to this list. If you’re a felon, the one you’re likely most worried about is the background check.
Why do Real Estate Agents Go Through a Background Check?
Real estate agents are a part of the financial world. They help people with one of the largest, if not the largest, financial transactions of their lives. They must have good moral character.
As a real estate agent, you will need to be honest and trustworthy. In many states, this is the reason for the background check. It will help to determine the character of the individual.
Can a Felon Be a Real Estate Agent?
The answer is yes, but it varies from crime to crime and from state to state. For example, in Iowa, you will need to complete your sentence and wait two years before becoming a real estate agent. In some cases, such as theft, forgery, or other financial crimes, you will have to wait five years.
California will reject your application for a real estate license, if your offense, is “substantially related to the qualifications, functions, and duties of a real estate licensee.”
Alabama has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to any crime of moral turpitude. In other words, if the crime included immoral or dishonest behavior, you cannot become a real estate agent.
While most states won’t outright reject you for being a felon, they may reject your application for specific crimes. Most felons applying for a real estate license will be handled on a case-by-case basis. Expect to submit documents related to the felony.
There will likely be a review process that will look at the following:
- The activities of the applicant since completing their sentence including education, payment of restitution, employment, rehabilitation, and treatment
- Number of felonies and other crimes committed
- How long it has been since the felony was committed
- The severity of the felony
- How the crime related to the practice of real estate
- All the circumstances surrounding the crime
You may have to prove that you are suitable to earn a real estate license. About 50% of felons that apply for real estate licenses will be rejected, but that means 50% will receive a license.
Which States are the Hardest for Felons to Get Real Estate Licenses?
Every state is different, but the hardest states to obtain a real estate license in for felons include:
- Arizona – The regulations are pretty clear here and state, “the Department shall not issue a license to a person who has been convicted of a felony offense and who is currently incarcerated for the conviction, paroled, or under community supervision and under the supervision of a parole or community supervision officer who is on probation as a result of the conviction.”
- Alabama – As mentioned before in this article, if you have been convicted of a felony or crime that involves moral turpitude, you won’t get a real estate license.
- California – You have to come clean about all crimes committed in California.
- Georgia – This state has a 95% rejection rate for those applying for a real estate license with a criminal record.
- North Carolina – You must disclose all illegal activities with or without a felony conviction in this state.
If you want to become a real estate agent, as a felon, make sure you check your state regulations. The last thing you want to do is spend a ton of time and money to complete the steps only to find out you can’t get a real estate license.