How to Become a Property Manager in Washington State? (Step-by-Step Guide)


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As a property manager in Washington, 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 Washington, an applicant must be licensed as either a real estate managing broker or a broker (who works under the supervision of an employer broker). The broker license requires you to be at least 18 years old, complete 90-hour of pre-license education, and pass the real estate exam. 

You also need to submit an application, a fee and a background check to the Washington State Department of Licensing, Real Estate Commission. This is the entity that regulates licensees to ensure the real estate practice upholds the public interest.

In this guide, I will focus on the steps on getting the “real estate broker” license, so you may begin your property management by joining a licensed firm. By the way, this is the entry-level license. It is the equivalent of a “salesperson” in most other states.

You’ll also find out the income updates and other FAQs 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 real estate training. It is for general information only. Please always follow your State laws and best practices.

7 Steps to Become a Property Manager in Washington

Step-by-Step Guide to become a property manager in Washington

Step 1: Meet the eligibility requirement

  • At least 18 years of age
  • Have a valid Social Security Number
  • Hold a high school diploma or equivalent

Step 2: Complete the pre-license education

You will need to take 90 hours of pre-license broker education from a school approved by the Washington Real Estate Commission. This courses must include:

  • Real Estate Fundamentals – 60 hours
  • Real Estate Practices – 30 hours

Keep in mind you must pass the broker exam within 2 years that the courses were taken.

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. (**)

Step 3: Pass the Washington Real Estate Broker Exam

Writing WA real estate exam

The Washington Real Estate Exam is to test your knowledge and understanding of real estate law, principle and practices, and mathematics. You’ll be given 3.5 hours to complete the exam. The required passing mark is 70. The proctor will provide you with the result right after you write the test.

Before you can write the exam, you need to register at the Applied Measurement Professionals Inc. (AMP), which is the testing vendor. In there, you’ll submit the proof of pre-license courses completion and schedule in writing the exam.

At the day of the exam, make sure to bring along 2 forms of ID (not expired). They must include your name and signature, and at least one of them must have your photo.

Step 4: Submit Application to the Washington State Department of Licensing

After you pass the exam, you have one year to apply for the license before it expires. You can apply online through the Department website.

A screenshot from the Washington State Licensing Department website.

In addition to the application, you also need to provide:

  • Fees ($138.25 exam, $146.25 license)
    • You could paid by credit card (i.e.: Visa, Mastercard, American Express) or debt card
    • Here’s table with all their fee structure. It also includes the fees for other type of broker licenses.
  • Criminal history questionnaires
  • Other supporting legal documents

You could upload the documents on the website. If you have any questions, you could always contact the WA State Licensing Department at:

It typically would take a few weeks to process your application. Once the Department approves your application, they will notify you through email.

Step 5: Go through background check

The Washington Real Estate Commission has the responsibility to protect the public interest, so they will conduct a background check on all real estate license applicants. Your next step is submit one set of fingerprints through IdentoGo. This is their electronic fingerprinting vendor.

There will be a $42.8 processing fee. 

Step 6: Work with a licensed property management company

Joining a property management firm in Washington

After you pass the exam, you must work with a property management company who holds the managing broker license in Washington. This is the firm who would sponsor your real estate license. However, not all brokerage provide property management services to their clients. Most brokerages focus only on the buy-sell side of the business. So make sure you find one that specializes in property management in Washington.

At the time that I’m writing this guide, I can see online job postings looking for property managers in Washington. They are mainly from Seattle, Auburn, and Vancouver.

You may search through job forums such as ZipRecruiter, Glassdoor, or LinkedIn.

Step 7: Maintain the WA real estate license

You are required to renew your real estate license every two years. You can do so 120 days before the expiry day with the online services on the WA State Department of Licensing website.

Before the first renewal date of your real estate broker license, you need to complete at least 90 hours of continuing education. The curriculum must include:

  • Advanced Practices Course (30 hours)
  • Real Estate Law Course (30 hours)
  • Core Course (3 hours)

For subsequent renewals, you just need to take a minimum of 30 hours of continuing education classes. They must consist of Core Course (3 hours).

Here’s a snippet of what a property manager thinks about this career

“I’ve been a property manager for six years, and for three years before that, I was an admin and then an assistant property manager. Being a property manager is an excellent career. The schedules are long days but flexible. If you are a parent, you will be able to attend your kid’s functions as long as you are willing to work late to make up. It’s not a micro-managed industry, so you must have the drive and high standards all on your own, else you won’t last very long. The mistakes are bigger and cost more money than other real estate lines, but the pay is great, and you can create the life balance you need if you work at it.

My advice to someone wanting to get into property management is to learn everything you can as soon as you can. Take advantage of resources and lean on experience people’s knowledge and experience.”

– Nandi Cavil, Commercial Property Manager at Cushman & Wakefield

Here’s another post where you can read more on Nandi’s thoughts about the property management profession. In there, you can find my research and analysis on this career path and valuable insights from other property managers.

FAQ on being a Property Manager in Washington

Going through FAQ on the WA property management career

1) How long does it take to become a property manager in Washington?

It takes approximately four months to become a property manager in Washington. But it also depends on the time it takes you to complete the pre-license course, exam, background check, application, and get employed by a licensed property management firm.

You may speed up in getting in becoming a property manager by taking online courses. This way, you’ll have the flexibility to finish the pre-licensing education at a quicker pace.

2) How much does it cost to become a property manager in Washington?

Calculate the cost to become a property manager in Virginia

It costs approximately $641.30 to become a property manager in Washington. That is the cost to get the real estate broker license and here is the breakdown:

  • Pre-license courses with exam prep approximately $314
  • License fee $146.25
  • Exam fee $138.25
  • Background check $42.8

3) Can you become a property manager with a felony in Washington?

It is possible for an applicant with felony to obtain a real estate license and become a property manager in Washington. It is subjected to the WA Real Estate Commission’s evaluation. They typically be more alarmed on incidents that impact the applicant’s honesty, trustworthiness, character, and integrity.

So 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 another post 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.

4) Are there any exceptions to the real estate license requirement to work as property manager in Washington?

Generally speaking, you do not need a real estate license if you are just managing your own properties. I’m also reading the The Law Relating to Real Estate Brokers and Managing Brokers. In there, it states the following:

(13) Any person employed or retained by, for, or on behalf of the owner or on behalf of a designated or managing
broker if the person is limited in property management to any of the following activities:

(a) Delivering a lease application, a lease, or any amendment thereof to any person;

(b) Receiving a lease application, lease, or amendment thereof, a security deposit, rental payment, or any related payment for delivery to and made payable to the real estate firm or owner;

(c) Showing a rental unit to any person, or executing leases or rental agreements, and the employee or retainee is
acting under the direct instruction of the owner or designated or managing broker;

(d) Providing information about a rental unit, a lease, an application for lease, or a security deposit and rental amounts to any prospective tenant; or

(e) Assisting in the performance of property management functions by carrying out administrative, clerical, financial, or maintenance tasks

Quote from The Law Relating to Real Estate Brokers and Managing Brokers 18.85.151 Exemptions from licensing

Therefore, for other property management activities, you do need a real estate license.

5) How much do property manager make in Washington?

Figuring out how much do Property Manager Make in Virginia

Property managers in Virginia make an average annual income of $108,312. It typically range between $94,021 and $124,609. (*) 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 May 27, 2021

Here’s salary guide you may be interested. In there, you’ll find the income figures for residential and commercial property managers. What makes one earn more than others? How do education, experience, and certification play a factor in earning?

6) I have more questions about the real estate license in Washington, where can I get help?

You may contact the Washington State Department of Licensing:

4 Practical Strategies to Build a Property Management Career in Washington

Property manager inspecting properties

1) Obtain the WA 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 broker license, you may work under a licensed managing 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 real estate salesperson license is a “must”.

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

2) Network with other real estate professionals

Networking with real estate professionals in Washington

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 Washington REALTORS. It consists of mostly real estate professionals. If you plan to run your own property management company, this can be a great referral source for your business. They also have great resources such as the Legal Hotline, Tech Helpline, Education and RPAC resources.

3) Keep up to date with the real estate laws and best practices

Reading Washington real estate laws and best practices

Property managers are constantly tasked with new responsibilities and challenges. With the rise of online rental applications, environmental health and safety requirements, it’s important for property managers to be up-to-date on what their renters are looking for in a home.

The Board has a 62 pages file on the “The Law Relating to Real Estate Brokers and Managing Brokers.” It basically covers most of the topics on the roles and responsibility of a real estate licensee. You can find its link in the reference section below.

You may also consider taking the following courses to equip yourself with the property management knowledge. They are offered by Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM). IREM is an affiliate of the National Association of REALTORS®.

Even though they are not part of the pre-license education requirement, your enhanced knowledge will help to set you apart from other candidates in the job search.

4) Start your own property management company

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 licensed property managers, 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 obtain a real estate managing broker license in Washington, you must:

  1. Have at least 3 years of active real estate work experience;
  2. Complete 90 hours of pre-license courses from an approved education provider;
  3. Pass the Washington Real Estate Managing Broker Exam;
  4. Submit a Broker Application and fee to the Washington Real Estate Commission;
  5. Complete CE and license renewal requirement

Here’s a complete guide on getting a real estate broker license in Washington.

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.

(**) 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.

Reference:

  • Washington State Department of Licensing- Real Estate Commission (source)
    • Fingerprinting and background checks (source)
  • The Washington Real Estate Program Candidate handbook (source)
  • RedFin – Washington Housing Market (source)
  • Washington REALTORS (source)
    • Hottest Housing Market in Nearly 15 Years (source)
  • Salary.com – Property Manager in Washington (source)
  • Washington State Department of Licensing – The Law Relating to Real Estate Brokers and Managing Brokers (source)
  • National Association of Residential Property Managers (NARPM) (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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