Do I need a Real Estate license to be a property manager?

Question

Do I need a real estate license to become a property manager?  Should I work for someone else to gain some experience?

Asked by: SC – Oklahoma
Answer

Many states require a real estate license to operate a property management company.  Licensing requirements are state-specific.  Often, there must be just one duly licensed person representing the company; thus, not everyone in the company is required to be licensed.  Below, see the five best training/certifications options for property management designations. 

If licensing is a requirement in your state, don't let that stand in your way.  It will take time and study to pass the test.  Getting licensed is a great way to dive into property management by learning the vocabulary of real estate along with standard rules, laws, and regulations that guide how real estate sales and operations fold into use in real life. 

The licensing process should not stand in the way of applying or being hired by a property management company.  As mentioned, it is usually just one licensed person required; however, it may be the company's prerogative that everyone is licensed. 

To answer your second question, should you work for someone to gain experience, that's an easy yes.  Most professions have formal or informal internship programs.  Doctors require a four-year residency after medical school, for example. Without learning from those already in property management, your probability of success as an upstart independent is minimal.  

Training for property management comes in many forms. Formal coursework does take longer, yes, but the rewards are there for those that finish the work and are prepared to enter the property management field with the added credentials. 

When considering designations, the right one depends on the size and type of residential rental property managed and whether your interest is in site management or asset management.  Here are a few to consider.

  • CPMCertified Property Manager is a professional designation awarded by the Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM). The certification is recognized by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) throughout the United States.  This designation is the most established and takes the longest to acquire.  It is well known and has a high level of acceptance industry-wide.
  • ARM –Accredited Resident Manager is a professional designation awarded by the Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM).
  • CAM – Certified Apartment Manager is a professional designation awarded by the National Apartment Association (NAA).
  • CAPS – Certified Apartment Portfolio Supervisor is a professional designation awarded by the National Apartment Association (NAA).
  • RAM – Registered in Apartment Management is a professional designation awarded by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).
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