How to become a licensed real estate agent in Ontario

How to become a licensed real estate agent in Ontario

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How do you become a licensed real estate salesperson or broker in Ontario? It’s a question we’re asked a lot and so we decided to put together a handy guide to help you navigate the early steps of a career in real estate sales.

With over 64,000 licensed real estate Brokers and Salespersons in the Greater Toronto Area alone, the real estate industry has grown considerably in recent years. It’s clear to see why, with demand high and prices increasing, there is plenty of opportunity to carve out a successful and profitable career for people with the right approach, attitude, effort and support. But what are the first steps and how do you get started as a licensed real estate salesperson? Read on to find out…

Take Your Courses

As it is a regulated profession in Ontario, anyone looking to work in real estate sales must register with the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO). Before registering, however, you must complete mandatory pre-registration education courses and examinations.

The required program is known as the “Pre-Registration Learning Path” and is offered by Humber College. The course is very flexible and can fit around your current commitments. Learning materials are also accessible online, so remote learning is an option. To qualify for entry to the program, you must hold a Canadian secondary school diploma or GED certificate or an equivalent credential that the college accepts.

According to the Humber College website, the program will offer a variety of benefits for participants. That includes a learning path that will follow “the flow of a real estate transaction” and give participants valuable insights and an understanding of key aspects of real estate. Participants will also benefit from online data banks of searchable information, as well as vital information to help you get started in real estate sales and find your first sales position.

The program is split into five courses:

  • Real Estate Essentials – this looks at the role of a salesperson and important legal requirements based on the various codes and rules governing real estate in Ontario.
  • Real Estate Transactions – this course looks at the processes involved in listing, buying and selling residential real estate and also begins looking at marketing strategies and real estate contracts.
  • Additional Real Estate Transactions – following on from the previous course, this focuses on leasing and additional property types such as condos, new homes and rural properties.
  • Commercial Real Estate Transactions – this course looks at the processes involved in buying, selling and listing commercial properties, and the brokering the sale of a business.
  •  Getting Started – this course gives an overview on how to get started with a career in real estate.

Examinations will be held at the end of each course and these must be passed in order to move onto the next course.

In addition to the courses, there are two separate in-person simulation sessions that last a week each. In these sessions, participants will get a chance to apply their new knowledge in real-life scenarios.

The course needed to be taken in order and there are flexible schedules available, including online learning options for those who live far away. Because of the flexibility, completion time varies amongst candidates but, in general it takes nine months to a year to complete all the required parts of the program. Once you pass all your examinations and complete your simulation sessions, you will have successfully completed the program and can then move on to the next step.

Find a Brokerage

After successfully completing your pre-registration course, it’s time to find yourself a brokerage and a broker of record to work under. These come in all shapes and sizes in the GTA – from small independent brokerages to huge multinational corporations with franchises across the globe.

Each brokerage works differently, with different support services and marketing approaches, for example. However, most share common features in the way they hire and employ licensed real estate sales people. The most common feature is a regular fee paid by the salesperson to the brokerage. This can take the form of franchise fees, desk fees, brokerages or often a combination of those.

One brokerage that operates with a different model is Living Realty, which celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2020. It is a family-operated brokerage operating out of a large head office in Markham and with five office locations across the GTA and approximately 650 active real estate sales agents.

Unusually for a North American real estate brokerage, Living Realty does not charge any fees to its agents. No desk fees, no franchise fees, no office fees; nothing. At the same time, Living Realty provides industry-leading back office support and ongoing training – investing in its agents and helping them to grow into better and more successful sales people.  Many of the most successful sales people in the Greater Toronto Area started their careers with Living Realty and remain as part of the Living Realty family to this day. 

Register with RECO

Once you have completed the pre-registration education courses and associated yourself with a brokerage, you can apply to register with RECO. You must apply within 12 months of completing your final examination, otherwise you will be required to retake the entire program – so don’t take too long!

To apply to be a new registered salesperson, you must complete and submit the RECO application online and pay the relevant application fee, which was $590 for a new salesperson at the time this article was published.

The first two years as a newly licensed real estate salesperson is called your “articling” period.  During this time, you must complete several more mandatory continuing education courses within the 2-year articling period after which you will become a full-fledged sales representative. Thereafter, every registrant must continue to take Continuing Education courses offered by RECO every two years to renew their registration.


      • A criminal record check is required when applying to become a real estate salesperson but a criminal record may not disqualify someone, depending on the crime. RECO would be able to provide more clarity on this.

          • It is best to contact RECO for more clarity . Their website states that they “rely on Canadian Criminal Record & Judicial Matters Checks to assess an individual’s fitness for registration, under the Real Estate and Business Brokers Act, 2002.”

            It sounds like they assess on a case-by-case basis but I can’t confirm that.

      • Humber College has an option for remote learning. For costs, it is best to check with Humber. They post the fees on their website and say that you “pay as you go” meaning you only pay for the particular section of the course or exam at the time you register for it. Currently, the total cost for the pre-registration phase is $3,590 (including all courses and exams) and the cost for the post-registration phase is $570, making a total of $4,160. There are other fees involved, such as an application fee for the course, exam retake fees etc., so the total cost may be different. I do not know if there is any difference to the cost when taking the course online.

    • I am taking another course on diploma and passed the EGD exam on the college that was given. I don’t have A Canadian high school diploma but I am currently college now can I take this course with out having high school diploma?

    • In order to work in Ontario, you need to have the correct permissions. That could be permanent residency, citizenship, or a work permit. We are not experts in employment law, however, so please double check the information for yourself.

    • Currently, Humber College is the only place to take the required courses to become a registered real estate salesperson.

      • Hello, I actually enrolled in law clerk 2 year course in Seneca College. It is my last semester and in my 2nd semester and 3rd semester, I completed my real estate course in the program. Am I eligible for real estate salesperson license, and I also read somewhere that if we had done similar course then we are eligible to move directly to step 2 rather complete the first step which is Pre-registration phase. Please let me know if you know anything about this. Thanks

        • RECO allows some stages of the pre-learning to be skipped based on prior experience or education. You have to apply for an education equivalency assessment to see if the course you took qualifies:

          One of the examples they list as qualifying for exemption is “Completed a recognized real estate registration or licence program in a Canadian jurisdiction in the past five (5) years.” You would need to check with them whether your Seneca course falls into this or any other category.

          • As far as I know, credit checks aren’t required to get registered, so your credit rating shouldn’t have any impact.

          • Hello,
            1: I don’t have a degree in Canada, but I have done my bachelor degree from Bangladesh. Am I eligible for the pre-registration?
            2: Is it advised not to do any job during 1st year of studying?
            3: Can I take classes in person in humber college?

          • Hi,
            1. I cannot say for certain, but I would think that a bachelor’s degree would qualify as equivalent education. To be certain, you would need to check with Humber College.
            2. That comes down to individual circumstances to be honest, so it is a decision for you to make. When contacting Humber, you can ask about the workload and decide whether you are able to fit work around that.
            3. Yes. Humber College offers in-person learning

    • In Ontario and most of North America, a real estate salesperson cannot work independently and must be under the supervision of a broker. Only a broker can manage a brokerage.

      In order to become a broker in Ontario, you must gain additional qualifications and need to have been registered as a salesperson for at least 24 of the 36 months preceding the date of your application.

    • This is how they control people. Anyone should be able to sell as this just makes the brokers take a cut of your money. Ridiculous.

      • After 2 years, a salesperson can become a broker, which would allow them to open their own brokerage as a Broker of Record – either with staff under them or as a sole proprietorship.

        There are responsibilities required of a Broker of Record, to ensure that their brokerage complies with the Real Estate and Business Brokers Act, 2002 and other regulations. Quite simply, it takes time to complete the training and acquire the knowledge necessary to run a brokerage, even as a sole proprietorship.

        • I agree. What is ridiculous, is people educated in real estate law taking advantage of those who aren’t. This is why provincially-licensed brokerages exist. So that there is always a conduit of trust between the buyer, the agent, and the seller. As a buyer I know when I buy real estate through a proper broker that I will be protected by all aspects of the law, including if it ever comes down to the courtroom.

          It is important that you know all pertinent laws. You may think you know everything you need to know in order to sell real estate in Ontario but the only way to be sure is if all the pertinent information is taught to you, tested, and then your work is supervised.

  1. Question. I had my real estate licence for over 15 years but then I gave up my licence several years ago and stopped taking the mandatory courses, What would I need to do to get reinstated, is it possible thank you.

    • According to RECO, it depends on how much time has passed since your registration lapsed. If it is 2 to 5 years, you may need to take courses, but can apply for an exemption. If it is over 5 years, you will have to take the courses.

  2. There are many real estate agents selling homes that did not go to Humber. I am confused as it says that this program is ‘required’ in order to become licensed. Can you not apply for your license and write the test another way? with an established agency?

    • Previously, the courses could also be taken through “OREA College” but that option ended on June 11, 2021. Presently, Humber College is the only option but that may change in the future.

  3. Is this course available online? also is there a mandatory vaccine requirement for this courses. Finally why does the course take nine months to a year for completion?
    Thanks 🙏

    • Currently, the course is only available at Humber College. I am unsure of any provisions they may have made for online learning at this time so you would be best checking with them. In terms of vaccine requirements, Humber College appears to have a vaccine policy requiring staff and students to be vaccinated if visiting campus:

      The course takes nine months because the different sections and exams must be completed sequentially and cannot be done at the same time.

  4. I am a licensed realtor in the other province. If I want to move to ON and work as a realtor, what steps I must take to enable working there ? Do I have to attend the “Pre-Registration Learning Path” ? Thanks.

    • Usually, you do not need to complete the pre-registration learning path. Realtors licensed or registered in other provinces can generally take the Interprovincial Challenge Examination in Ontario. Upon successful completion of that exam, you can then apply to RECO to be registered as either a salesperson or broker. This examination is provided by Humber College so must be booked through the college.

      • Hi James
        What does the Interprovincial Challenge Exam consist of for agents From Quebec
        to get an Ontario License ?

        • According to CREA, the exam focuses on Ontario-specific skills and knowledge “such as: Ontario laws, including real property law, commercial and residential real estate transactions in Ontario, and RECO’s governing legislation, the Real Estate and Business Brokers Act, 2002 (REBBA 2002).”

  5. There are two programs on Humber college website to become a real estate agent. Real estate salesperson and real estate broker. Can someone go for real estate broker directly?

    • No, the first step has to be a real estate salesperson. When you apply to be a broker, one of the requirements is that you must have been registered as a salesperson for at least 24 of the previous 36 months.

    • You’re probably best checking with Humber College with regards to student visas as that’s not our area of expertise

  6. Is there a program for immigrants who are licensed in another country? I’m going to be moving to Ontario in the future, but am a US citizen. I will have been an active agent for several years by that time. Thanks!

    • As far as I am aware, the only program for converting a license or registration from elsewhere is the Interprovincial Challenge Examination, which is for people arriving in Ontario from elsewhere in Canada. I don’t think there is anything for realtors from the US.

      • Can you clarify what the simulation sessions are and how they work especially if I’m going to be online because of distance?

        • There are two simulation sessions (one for residential real estate and one for commercial real estate). They allow students to practice “core activities and tasks related to.. real estate transactions” and are done with an experienced real estate professional as a coach. So, you get to test your knowledge in simulated real-life situations. I’m not sure how different it will be online vs being in the classroom but the core structure will likely be the same.

  7. Hi,
    Thanks for sharing all these points.
    I need a few clarifications:
    1. How fast can a person go to become a licensed Real Estate Sales person. Is it possible to clear all the exams sequentially in 2 months, if someone is totally free to prepare?
    2. Once some clear all the exams and registered with RECO, can he start selling immediately? Or he needs to wait for some period to start?
    3.As you mentioned that there are so many different Brokerages in the Ontario Market. Do they charge same amount of fees and/or they provide the same commission?
    4. Is there any restriction on the Brokerages to charge fees from the Selling agents, from RECO.
    5.What is eXp Realty? I heard a lot about them through online. Are they a different kind of Brokerage house?

    Thank you so much for all your help.

    • Hi Anil,
      1. It wouldn’t be possible in two months. Because each step has to be taken sequentially, you cannot register for the next step until you have completed the previous step. Generally, it takes at least nine months to go through all the steps.
      2. Once you have passed the exams and registered with RECO, you can begin to work as a real estate salesperson straight away, although you will need to work under a broker of record at a brokerage.
      3. No. Different brokerages have different fees and commission splits. Most brokerages will charge some kind of fees for salespeople – they could be desk fees, franchise fees, offices fees or a combination. At Living Realty, we are unique in that we do not charge any such fees.
      4. RECO has lots of rules about fees and their use but, as far as I’m aware, they don’t put a limit on them.
      5. It appears that they are a brokerage

        • You can operate as a full real estate salesperson during your articling period, which includes representing clients in the purchase and sale of properties.

    • Hello Stacey,

      I also live in Northern Ontario and planning to take a course soon. May i know which north part are you applying from ?

      Thank you.

  8. Hello James,
    Thank you so much for the explanation and your responses to everyone’s questions I read all the comments. this is the first page I came across that made sense!
    I have a few questions:
    1- I have finished high school in IRAQ about 11 years ago. so it’s nowhere close to being a Canadian one
    how would that work when applying to Humber? I don’t have the diploma with me and it’s hard to establish since I am not there.
    2- I do live in Ontario but since I am able to take the courses online even the stimulation I don’t need to worry about the proof of vaccine correct?
    3- once I have taken the proper courses and have completed the necessary steps. When applying to Living Realty, is it very hard to get hired at such an established agency with no experience?
    4- These courses offered by RECO every two years to renew the license, on average how long and complicated are they are they?

    I am sorry I know those are a lot of questions but I am not quite knowledgeable when it comes to this area but I am very interested and curious about it.

    Thank you very much in advance.

    • Hi Reem,
      In answer to your questions:
      1. For people who do not have a Canadian secondary school diploma or equivalent, there is a Salesperson Admissions Exam that can be taken in order to qualify for the program. I don’t know too much about this but it looks like it is offered by the real estate program office at Humber College
      2. I don’t know if I can answer that. Humber College does have a vaccination policy for entry to their campus, so I imagine it depends whether you will have to be there in person at any point.
      3. At Living Realty, we are always on the lookout for newly-qualified agents who are hungry to learn and succeed.
      4. The difficulty depends on the individual but the courses don’t take as long as the initial course. Some of the mandatory courses are 90 minutes long, for example. You can read more about them here:

  9. Hi

    Thank you It was very helpful. I have a question about the time we need to work in find a Brokerage after course completion.
    I want to work as realtor as part time realtor in the weekend and other days evening.

    My question is:
    After course completion, If I find a brokerage to work there, is there any obligation from Brokerage to work for them as full time or it is up to me how to work.

    Thank you.

    • To be honest, it depends on the brokerage whether they allow part-time agents or not. What you also have to take into consideration is that a lot of brokerages will charge agents fees (desk fees, franchise fees, or office fees, for example). So, while you may choose to be part-time, you will still have to cover the cost of fees and that might make part-time work impractical.

      I don’t know the fees at other brokerages but at Living Realty we are unique in that we don’t charge any agent fees. That makes it easier for part-time agents and we have a good number of agents who work that way.

  10. Question about the time frames of the courses;
    After completing the first course, real estate essentials, for exemple, does the next course have to start right away with the schedule of the college or are you able to wait until your ready to continue the rest of the courses?

    • The real estate course does not follow Humber’s semester timetable so is more flexible than a traditional college course. Although you have to follow the steps for the course sequentially, you don’t have to start the next step immediately after the previous step, as far as I’m aware. However, you are allowed a maximum of 24 months to complete the entire course so you cannot delay a step for too long

    • According to the Humber College website, the real estate course does not receive any provincial funding and is therefore not eligible for OSAP.

  11. This was an awesomely informative article. I learned from every Q & A. What I didn’t learn is how does Living Reality recoup its costs from restate agents? Is there a larger broker fee from sales than is average in Ontario. What is the percentage of agents’ fees given to Living Reality and does that change with realtors’ experience/houses sold? I still think Living Reality is a wonderful opportunity and thank you so much for helping to clarify all Qs asked.

    • Like the majority brokerages, we have commission splits. I’m afraid I don’t know the exact numbers myself and can’t comment on how they compare to other brokerages as there is a wide range of splits across the industry.

  12. My credit is bad and am looking at starting afresh. If I take the real estate agent course, would I be eligible to register and practice considering that I have judgment against me. Thanks

    • As far as I’m aware, there are no credit checks involved in becoming a registered realtor – only criminal record checks. You must disclose if you have been declared bankrupt at any point, although RECO states that in “normal circumstances bankruptcies do not prevent registration.”

    • I don’t think there are any restrictions on re-taking the course but you would likely have to start again from the beginning if you do not complete within two years.

  13. This is a super informative article, thank you, James!
    I was wondering if it was mandatory to take the courses, or could you only register for the exams at Humber College (self learn the material for the 5 courses)?

    • As far as I am aware, the courses are mandatory since Humber states that you must complete the course before you are allowed to take the examination.

    • Salesperson and real estate agent are interchangeable terms. The first level is a salesperson, but according to RECO you can refer to yourself in advertisements as a salesperson, real estate agent,
      real estate salesperson, sales representative, real estate sales representative, REALTOR®, or REALTOR® salesperson.

      The next level is broker. You have to have been a salesperson for at least 2 years to become a broker.

  14. I live in Ontario and considering getting my real estate license. Will my license enable me to sell real estate in other provinces and abroad?

    • In Canada, real estate professionals are licensed/registered at a provincial level, with each province setting its own rules and regulations. Most provinces have ways to allow agents licensed in another province or territory to become licensed in that province. For example, realtors moving to Ontario do not have to go through the full training to become registered and can take the Interprovincial Challenge Examination instead if they are already licensed in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Saskatchewan or Yukon.

      So, to sell real estate in another province, you’d have to investigate that province’s rules with regards to obtaining a real estate license. I don’t know all the intra-provincial rules myself but, from what I’ve seen, some appear to be simpler than others.

      Selling real estate abroad would fall under the jurisdiction of whichever country you are looking to sell in, so you would have to find out the specific real estate laws and regulations for that country.

  15. Hi, thank you for all this great information.
    I dont have a secondary diploma and studied Business Marketing at Seneca as an adult student and received my diploma in 2019. Will they accept my college diploma as a credential since i dont have my second diploma? Thanks!

    • Hi Nelly,
      According to the admission requirements for the course, you need to have a “a Canadian secondary school diploma, General Educational Diploma (GED), or equivalent credential” to apply.

      “Post-secondary diploma or degree from Canada or the United States” is listed as one of the acceptable equivalent credentials. I assume that means your college diploma meets the requirements. It might be best to double check with Humber College to be sure.

  16. During your articling period are there any limitations on your real estate buying/selling abilities or can you function as a full agent?

    • You can operate as a full real estate salesperson. However, if you want to extend your registration beyond the initial two-year period, you must complete the articling education requirements.

  17. Hi, I want to start Pre-Registration learning path soon. My only concern is, during this study which may last for at least 9 months, will I be able to get any job in real estate ? How will I earn while I am studying ?

    • You cannot work as a salesperson until you have completed your pre-registration and then registered with RECO. However, there are many other jobs within real estate that don’t involve sales. For example, at Living Realty we have front office staff in each of our branches and a large back office team at our head office carrying out a variety of roles.

  18. Hi
    I am certified vendor builder from HCRA , i have passed 7 competences before getting the license
    in case of i would like to be a real estate , is there any subjects of courses may be can exempt
    please advise

  19. Is it neccessary to register with humber courses at their official site before taking exams? As other websites provide the study guides to prepare the exam.. we can’t just prepare from there by our own?? . Then , only can get register for the exams through humber?

    • I do not think this is an option. A pre-requisite for registering for any exam is that you have completed the corresponding course at Humber. In addition, part of the learning path includes simulation sessions, which are a part of the Humber salesperson course.

  20. Good day, i am moving to Canada, have 15 years experience as a property consultant in Dubai, to get license in Canada what’s documents do i need to have with me, thank you

    • To enroll in the Real Estate Salesperson course, you must have a Canadian secondary school diploma or GED certificate, or an equivalent education from another country. If you are using an equivalent from elsewhere, it needs to be assessed as being equivalent by a recognized assessment service, such as World Education Services (WES).

  21. As of Oct 24th 2022 is there still online courses? I am 18 going on 19 and I am in college still, do you think it’s a wise choice taking this on?

    • Online learning is still available and I imagine it will remain an option for the foreseeable future. As to whether it is a wise choice, that depends on your own circumstances. For example, one of the main questions you need to ask yourself is whether you can manage the workload alongside your other commitments.

    • Currently, Humber College is the only option for taking the required courses. If you have taken courses elsewhere, you can apply for an education equivalency assessment and it is possible that your previous education or experience will allow you to skip certain parts of the required courses. Decisions about this are made on a case-by-case basis.

  22. Thank-you James for the article and answering all of these questions. I was wondering, how does Living Realty brokerage cover its cost if it does not charge fees to its member realtors?

    • Excellent question. Different brokerages operate in different ways but, in general, most charge some or all of the following: desk fees, franchise fees, office fees. In addition to this, brokerages will have a commission split system, the percentage of which varies depending on the brokerage.

      At Living Realty, we only have a commission split. As such, the success of our salespeople is as important to us as it is to them and that is why we put a lot of effort into training, developing and supporting our salespeople.

    • There is no specific restriction on Property Managers as far as I’m aware. I’m not 100% sure so you are best checking the details with RECO and also with your property management company since they may have policies relating to real estate licences.

  23. This is a super informative article, thank you, James!
    I was wondering about the timeline. you mentioned in some of answer it take around 9 month. I know this is estimation but is this based on part time study or full time study hours ??

    • The nine months time frame is based on the fact that you must complete one course before you can move onto the next. Based on the timing of the exams, nine months is about as quickly as you can get through all the courses.

      I’d rather not say whether it is based on part-time or full-time because I feel that comes down to the individual. For example, Humber states that course 1 takes around 40 hours on average and recommends that you take 4 weeks to complete it. For some, that may mean it is part-time learning; for others it may take longer and they will perhaps view it as full-time.

    • As far as I am aware, non-residents are allowed to take the courses at Humber, although I’m not 100% certain so you’d be best checking with them. However, I can’t comment on the particulars of a work permit as it would depend on the terms associated with that work permit, which can differ between individuals.

  24. I am in my home country now. Can I take the preregistration and registration procedure online from my home country?

    • I do not know if you can take the courses at Humber College while outside of Canada, so cannot day for certain. You would need to contact Humber College to ask. The registration part of becoming a real estate agent involves you registering with RECO and one of their main requirements is that you are a resident of Canada.

  25. Thank you for you diligence in answering questions four years after this article was posted! I will be finished my online learning at Humber very soon, but am wondering if you would recommend a brokerage in London, ON similar to Living. I see Living is just in TO/GTA for now, is that right? Thanks for being so informative.

    • My pleasure. I’m happy to read that people are finding this page and the comments section useful.

      Our branches are all based in the GTA, with the Mississauga branch being the farthest west. We do have agents who operate farther afield, but not as far as London. To be honest, I’m not familiar with any London-based brokerages, so couldn’t make any recommendations.

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