How to Become a Property Manager in California? (license| income| FAQ)


How to become a property manager in California?

(**) Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning our website, RealEstateCareerHQ.com, will get a commission if you decide to make a purchase through the links, but at no additional cost to you.

As a property manager in California, your duties may include finding and screening prospective tenants for a property, negotiating the lease terms. You could also be responsible for rent collection, property inspection, maintenance, repair, providing updates, and communicating with the property owner.

To become a property manager in California, you need to obtain a real estate salesperson license from the California Department of Real Estate (DRE). This requires you to be at least 18 years old, complete 135 hours of pre-licensing education, pass the CA Salesperson Exam, and work with a broker who would sponsor your real estate license. You also need to submit an application and a $245 license fee to the DRE. 

The California Department of Real Estate (DRE) is responsible for issuing licenses to real estate salesperson and brokers. They also have the duty to ensure public interest can be safeguarded.

If you are interested in knowing about the property management career in California, this is the guide for you. You’ll learn about the steps to become a property manager in California income updates, career outlook, and FAQ about this profession.

But before we start, I want to give a brief disclaimer. This post is not intended as legal advice or state/federal property management training. It is for general information only. Please always follow your State laws and best practices.

When choosing a real estate school, I prefer one where you could take the courses online. This way, you could study at your own pace whenever and wherever. RealEstateExpress is a trustworthy real estate education provider. You may click here to see whether they offer pre-licensing course in your state. (**)

7 Steps to to Become a Property Manager in California

7 Steps to to Become a Property Manager in California

Step 1: Meet the Eligibility Requirement

  • US citizen or lawfully admitted alien
  • At least 18 years of age
  • Have a valid Social Security Number
  • Hold a high school diploma or equivalent

Step 2: Complete the Real Estate Salesperson Pre-Licensing Education

California property manager pre-licensing courses

You have to complete 135 hours pre-licensing education from an approved education provider. The syllabus must consists of:

  • Real Estate Principles (45 hours)
  • Real Estate Practice (45 hours)
  • An additional course (45 hours) from one of the following:
    • Accounting
    • Business Law
    • Common Interest Developments
    • Computer Applications in Real Estate
    • Escrows
    • Legal Aspects of Real Estate
    • Mortgage Loan Brokering & Lending, Property Management
    • Real Estate Appraisal
    • Real Estate Economics
    • Real Estate Finance and Real Estate Office Administration

However, if you are a member of the California State Bar, then you may be exempted from taking these the pre-licensing education.

You could consider taking online real estate courses because they are a lot more convenient and you could study at your own pace. You’ll have access to the study materials 24/7, whenever and wherever.

Step 3: Submit an Application to the California Department of Real Estate

Submit California property manager application

You need to fill out the Salesperson Exam/License Application. (RE 435) and provide:

  • Exam fee of $60; License fee $245;
    • Cheque payable to Department of Real Estate. If you are paying by credit card, then you’ll need to fill out form RE 909.
  • Supporting legal documents
  • Proof that you have fulfilled the pre-licensing education requirement

When you have prepared all the necessary documentation, you could mail them to the Department of Real Estate. P.O. Box 137001, Sacramento, CA95813-7001.

It typically would take 6 weeks to process your application.

Once the Department approves your application, they will provide you with instructions to self-schedule the Real Estate Salesperson Examination. This can be done through their eLicensing online system.

Step 4: Perform a Criminal Background Check

The DRE needs to protect the public interest, so they will conduct a background check on the real estate license applicant.

After you submit the application, you need to submit one set of fingerprints to the State Department of Justice (DOJ). It will be submitted electronically through the DOJ’s Live Scan Program.

You need to fill out the Live Scan Service Request form and take it to an approved live scan service provider. There is a $49 processing fee. Then you would return Part 3 of the completed form to the DRE.

Step 5: Pass the California Real Estate Salesperson Exam

California Real Estate Salesperson Exam

This is a closed-book exam is to test your knowledge on the real estate topics that are covered in the pre-licensing education.

They are typically administered in testing center located in Fresno, San Diego, Los Angeles Vicinity, Oakland and Sacramento. The test will be in electronic format.

The California real estate salesperson exam has 150 multiple-choice questions covering 7 major topics.

California Real Estate Salesperson Examination Content

Exam OutlineApproximate Weighting
Property Ownership and Land Use Controls and Regulations15%
Laws of Agency and Fiduciary Duties17%
Property Valuation and Financial Analysis14%
Financing9%
Transfer of Property8%
Practice of Real Estate and Disclosures (Includes Specialty Areas)25%
Contracts12%

The required passing score is 70% and you’ll have 3 hours and 15 minutes to write it.

RealEstateExpress is an online school that I like. They offer pre-licensing courses and also have excellent exam prep materials. Their programs have a “Pass or Don’t Pay Guarantee” in most of the states. That’s how confident they are. You may click here to view their courses. (**)

Step 6: Work for a Property Management Company

Work for a licensed California property management company

After you pass the exam, you must work with a licensed real estate broker who would sponsor your real estate license.

However, not all real estate brokers provide property management services to their clients. Most of the brokers focus only on the buy-sell side of the business. So make sure you find one that specializes in property management in California.

Step 7: Maintain the California Real Estate Salesperson License

Renewing California property manager license

To continue working as a property manager in California, you need to renew your real estate salesperson license every four years. The Department will also mail you a reminder letter approximately 60 days prior to the expiry date.

To do so, you’ll need to fill out the Salesperson Renewal Application.

In addition to the application, you must complete 45 hours of approved continuing education courses, which includes:

  • Five classes (3 hours each): Agency, Ethics, Fair Housing, Risk Management, Trust Fund handling
  • 18 hours of consumer protection classes
  • The remaining course work could be related to consumer protection or consumer service courses

When you submit the application, you also need to provide $245 of renewal fee and the continuing education course verification form (RE 251).

A Quick Table Summary of Becoming a Property Manager in California

EligibilityEducationExamFees
US Citizen or lawfully admitted alien

At least 18 years of age

Have a valid Social Security Number

Hold a high school diploma or higher
135 hours of pre-licensing course



45 credit hours of continuing education every four year
3.5 hours

140 multiple-choice questions

Required passing score is 70
Pre-licensing courses from $85 to $315

Exam fee $60

Background check $49

Application fee $245

How much does it cost to become a property manager in California?

How much does it cost to become a property manager in California?

It costs approximately $646 to become a property manager in California. This includes the expenses to obtain a CA real estate salesperson license. Here is the breakdown:

  • Pre-licensing courses with exam prep is approximately $292
  • Exam fee $60
  • Background check $49
  • Application fee $245

How long does it take to become a property manager in California?

How long does it take to become a property manager in California?

It takes approximately four months to become a property manager in California. But it also depends on the time it takes you to complete the 135 hours pre-licensing course, exam, background check, application, and get sponsorship by an actively licensed CA real estate broker.

Can you become a property manager with a felony in California?

Can you become a property manager with a felony in California?

An applicant with a felony may not obtain a real estate license in becoming a property manager if the California Department of Real Estate (DRE) determines that the offense is severe. They would typically be more alarmed on incidents that impact the applicant’s honesty, trustworthiness, character, and integrity.

What is the nature of the crime? Does it have anything to do with the honesty, truthfulness, and reputation of the applicant? Is the applicant currently under probation or parole? All these are factors that may affect a real estate license application.

The DRE will evaluate each case independently. They may also require you to provide further documents and explanation about the incident.

But don’t get discouraged as everyone has a past. The most important is that you can demonstrate that you will serve the public in a fair, honest, and open manner.

Here’s an article that covers how to apply for a real estate license with a felony record. In there, you’ll find practical ideas which could help your application.

Whom should I contact if have more questions about becoming a property manager in California?

You may contact the California Department of Real Estate:

  • Phone: (877) 373-4542;
  • Fax number: (916) 263-8943;

How much do property managers make in California?

How much do property managers make in California?

Property managers in California make an average annual income of $112,271. It typically range between $97,463 and $129,166. (*) Your earning as a property manager would depend on your skills, knowledge and experience in managing the properties. The type and number of real estate in your managing portfolio may also affect your compensation.

At the beginning phase of your property management career, you could be working as an assistant for a property manager. So your earning could be limited at that time.

But once you have developed the necessary skillset and demonstrated your ability to work independently, there should be a significant improvement to your earning.

(*) Source: Salary.com Dec 28, 2020

Practical Tips to build a property management career in California

property management career in California

Tip#1: Obtain the CA real estate license

Although there are certain activities you may perform without a real estate license, the things you can do are very limited.

Once you have a real estate salesperson license, you may work under a licensed real estate broker in providing key components of property management. For example, rent, list, negotiate property rental agreement, rents collection.

If you want to move up in the field, getting a CA real estate salesperson license is a “must”.

Tip#2: Familiarize with the California real estate laws

California real estate property laws

Violating the regulatory rules can lead to severe consequences such as penalties or license suspension. As a property manager, it is critical to know the real estate laws and regulations.

In addition to completing the pre-licensing and continuing education, below are some good references on the California real estate laws and regulations: 

Tip#3: Network with other real estate professionals

California property manager association

You may consider joining the National Association of Residential Property Managers (NARPM). This allows you to connect with other property managers, thus learn from their valuable experience and share ideas with one another. You will also find updates on the housing markets, changes to the laws and regulations.

Another group you may consider is the California Association of REALTORS. It consists of mostly real estate salespeople and brokers. If you plan to run your own property management company, this can be a great referral source for your business.

Tip#4: Start your own property management company

Set up a property management company in California

Rather than working for someone else, you may consider getting a real estate broker license and start a property management company.

This allows you to hire other property managers with a real estate license. Thus, lead to a scalable business model.

However, running a company is very different from working as an employed property manager. You need to figure out all the different aspects of the business, such as marketing, branding, prospecting, hiring, training, and accounting.

The expenses will also be a lot higher. In addition to the broker license, you also need to account for business insurance, staff’s salary and benefits, office rent, furniture, office supplies, software, many more.

To get a real estate broker license in California, you must:

  • Be at least 18 years and have a valid SSN;
  • Hold a high school diploma or higher;
  • Have at least 2 years of real estate salesperson experience in the previous 5 years;
  • Complete 8 college-level courses;
  • Pass the California Real Estate Broker Exam;
  • Submit an application and $395 fees to the California Department of Real Estate

Here’s a complete guide on how to get a real estate broker license in California.

Tip#5: Focus on doing the right thing!

Becoming a property manager could be a rewarding career. Not only in terms of financial sense, but you also get the chance to interact with many people and work on different properties.

It is very fulfilling when you can help your clients manage their property and find the right tenants.

Yet, it could be challenging to find the balance between costs saving for the property owners while keeping their real estate in good shape. You need to keep in mind that honesty, hard work, and always putting your client’s interest first will eventually lead a long-term success.

I hope you find this career guide helpful. If so, please share it! Thanks!

If you are reading up to this point, I bet you must be interested in getting a real estate license. Your first step is to complete the pre-licensing courses. You should select one that has an excellent reputation and long-term track record of satisfying students. RealEstateExpress is exactly that! You may click here to check it out yourself. (**)

(**) Affiliate Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you. Our website, RealEstateCareerHQ.com, will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking on the link. Please understand that we include them based on our experience or the research on these companies or products, and we recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions we make if you decide to buy something through the links. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you achieve your goals.

Disclaimer: The information in this post is for general information only, and not intend to provide any advice. They are subjected to change without any notice, and not guaranteed to be error-free. Some of the posts on RealEstateCareerHQ.com may contain views and opinions from the interviewees. They do not reflect our view or position.

Reference:

  • California Department of Real Estate (source)
    • Examinee List (source)
    • Taking the Exam (source)
    • Licensee and Examinee Statistics (source)
    • Fingerprint Requirements (source)
    • Avoid Potential Denial of Your License Application (source)
    • Real Estate Law (source)
  • Salary.com – Property Manager in California (source)

Jacob Coleman

Jacob is a content writer and a real estate investor. He has experience working with different real estate professionals throughout the years. (i.e., appraisers, real estate agents, property managers, home inspectors.) In order to build a career you love, Jacob believes not only you need a thorough understanding about the profession, but you also have to find out what type of jobs could match your personality, lifestyle and expectation.

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