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Real Estate License Reciprocity Guide for 2021

So you got your real estate license in one state, but you are moving to a different one. What now? First of all, you must note real estate is an industry with laws and licensing requirements that are specific to each particular territory. This is why you need to learn and understand all applicable regulations where you live before you can start working.

‌While having a real estate license in one state and "transferring" it to another one isn't always possible, it does not necessarily mean you will have to start the licensing process from scratch in most cases. However, there are two terms you will need to get well-acquainted with before your big move: real estate reciprocity and real estate portability.

 

What Is Real Estate License Reciprocity?

‌License reciprocity in real estate refers to an arrangement between your home state — or the territory where you got your license —  and one or several others in the U.S. It allows you to get your paperwork in order and to work in different locations without re-starting your real estate education or potentially having to take a new licensing exam.

License reciprocity, however, does not mean you will not have to get a license in the new state you are interested in. Still, it makes the whole process much more manageable. It might allow you to take merely a few complementary courses to review the real estate laws in a different location before you can start conducting transactions there. Please note that only a state's licensing board is qualified to decide whether agents can bypass the pre-license requirements altogether or not. 

So, for example, if you want to move to Washington but are a licensed broker in Missouri, you will have to have a look at their particular real estate laws. In this case, Washington has reciprocity with all other 49 states, so all you would need to do is retake your licensing exam, and you would be ready to start selling in no time.

‌Unfortunately, it is not the same case for every state. That’s why understanding the reciprocity between territories can be somewhat confusing. Do not fret. We will help you delve deeper into the concepts and requirements state by state. This way, you can learn how much time and effort it will take for you to get your license in your new home state. 

 

Types of Reciprocity Agreements Between States in the U.S.

As previously established, each territory in the U.S. has different views regarding real estate reciprocity. All agreements and requisites may also vary from one location to another and even change over time. But, generally speaking, they fall into one of three categories:

  • No reciprocity: You have to start the licensing process from scratch, even when you hold a valid license from another state. On the bright side, you get to refresh your previous knowledge.
  • Partial reciprocity: You only need to pass limited education and examination requirements if you hold a license from a reciprocal state. This type of agreement saves you time and money and allows you to focus on other factors in your transition.
  • Full reciprocity: You can transfer your real estate license to another state with minimum requirements. This category is the best-case scenario, but it currently applies to just 12 out of 50 states.

‌Full and partial reciprocity agreements will make the process of moving to a different state less of a hassle for agents from coast to coast. Yet, if you are not looking to relocate, reciprocity is not for you. Agents who only want to conduct out-of-state business once in a while must learn which portability laws apply to them.

Real Estate License Portability

Do real estate licenses transfer to other states? Different real estate laws allow out-of-state agents to conduct transactions in neighboring territories without needing a new real estate license. This short-term solution will let you "expand" your coverage area, but it is not viable if you plan to relocate.

‌Say you live in Massachusetts, for example, and you want to sell property in Rhode Island. The portability agreement between these states will allow you to legally help your client without a Rhode Island real estate license. However, if you were to move to Rhode Island and establish your practice there, you would need to check the rules on reciprocity between the two neighboring states.

‌Before you get too excited about real estate portability and its many benefits, you first have to fully grasp the three main categories of license portability laws:

‌1. Cooperative State

This classification allows you as an out-of-state real estate broker to enter the territory you are conducting business in and do all sorts of real-estate-related activities there, including:

  • Showing property
  • Negotiating a transaction
  • Closing a deal

‌However, an out-of-state co-brokerage agreement is strictly necessary in all cases. This means you would have to make a legally binding document between you and another agent and agree to work in cooperation with them.

‌Currently, there are 24 cooperative states in the U.S. Keep in mind that some of them might impose some limitations for out-of-state agents. As mentioned above, you must always get acquainted with the local laws before deciding to conduct business in any location you are not licensed in. Yes, even if it is a cooperative state. 

Example of a Cooperative State Transaction

‌If you live in Mississippi and want to help a client buy a ranch in Louisiana, the property must be listed with an agent who is already licensed in said state for you to make the transaction. You would then have to co-broke the sale with them for it to be legal.

‌2. Physical Location State

There are currently 21 states that abide by physical location real estate portability laws. This modality lets you conduct out-of-state business. However, you may not physically enter the other state for any real-estate-related activities at any point in the transaction. You will need to find a licensed agent in the state selling in and conduct all activities remotely.

‌In this case, your clients may visit the state they are interested in and explore their options. You are also allowed to submit offers before closing, but you cannot physically move from the state you are licensed in during the whole process. 

‌Example of a Physical Location State Transaction

‌If you have a New York real estate license, but your client wants to buy a home in Maine, you can help them get all the work done from your New York desk. Your clients are free to visit Maine as many times as they want in order to find their dream house, and you can make offers and negotiate on their behalf if — and only if — you agree to stay put in New York at all times during the property selling process. 

‌3. Turf State

In this last classification, you may not directly conduct out-of-state business in person within the state borders of the location in question, nor can you do it remotely. The correct way of making transactions in a turf state is to refer your clients to a real estate license holder in the location they arere interested in.

‌As of 2021, there are only six states that follow these restrictions. Turf state is a more viable option for agents who already work in partnership with a real estate agency that has offices in several locations. If you are an independent broker, turf state laws will limit your possibilities vastly. 

‌Example of a Turf State Transaction

‌If you typically conduct real estate business in New Hampshire, but your client wants to buy property in Utah, you would need to refer them to a licensed agent in that state. However, you would not be allowed to get involved in any step of the transaction. These restrictions include showing any properties, making offers, closing deals, etc. Do not worry about your earnings, though. You could still earn a referral commission if the sale closes successfully.

Real Estate License Reciprocity by State

Now that you are familiar with the main real-estate concepts in terms of out-of-state licensing and mobility, you are one step closer to knowing what to do once you relocate. Keep in mind that the Florida real estate license reciprocity rules might be different than those in California. To get a clearer idea of what the real estate broker reciprocity and portability rules are by state, take a look at the lists below.

States With Full Licence Reciprocity

Full license reciprocity states will let you skip the first few courses in the licensing process if you have a current real estate license in any of the 50 states. This way, you can complement your already acquired brokerage knowledge by learning only the state-specific real estate laws.

‌You must make sure that your real estate license is not expired. If it is, you will have to apply for a license renewal before proceeding. You might even have to start the process from scratch, which clearly defeats the whole point of a full license reciprocity agreement. 

‌Be careful with any unsettled issues related to your current license. Suppose you have any disputes in your home state where your business practices and ethical standards are in question. In that case, you would most likely have to resolve those items before you decide to apply for reciprocity. Here are the states that currently abide by full license reciprocity laws:

Alabama

Offers reciprocity agreements for agents moving from: Most states. However, you will need to do some coursework before you can start any real estate activities.

Real estate license portability: Cooperative.

Alaska

Offers reciprocity agreements for agents moving from: Any other U.S territory if they have been active license holders for over a year and are able to pass the Alaska state segment of the real estate licensing test.

Real estate license portability: Physical location.

Colorado

Offers reciprocity agreements for agents moving from: Any other state. However, you will have some exam requirements to comply with.

Real estate license portability: Cooperative (with some limitations).

Delaware

Offers reciprocity agreements for agents moving from: Any other state. You must either meet the minimum experience requirements or successfully pass the Delaware real estate law quiz.

Real estate license portability: Physical location.

Georgia

Offers reciprocity agreements for agents moving from: Any other state. However, you must clear some real estate license history and background checks before you can start selling property in this territory.

Real estate license portability: Cooperative.

Kansas

Offers reciprocity agreements for agents moving from: All other states after processing a waiver.

Real estate license portability: Cooperative.

Kentucky

Offers reciprocity agreements for agents moving from: All other American territories after accrediting the licensing exam's Kentucky real estate law segment.

Real estate license portability: Cooperative.

Maine

Offers reciprocity agreements for agents moving from: All U.S. states after successfully passing the Maine real estate law segment of the licensing test.

Real estate license portability: Physical location.

Mississippi

Offers reciprocity agreements for agents moving from: All states, but rules may vary.

Real estate license portability: Cooperative.

Missouri

Offers reciprocity agreements for agents moving from: All U.S. territories upon passing the Missouri part of the real estate licensing test.

Real estate license portability: Cooperative.

Virginia

Offers reciprocity agreements for agents moving from: All states. However, you must have been an active agent for at least 24 of the past 36 months.

Real estate license portability: Physical location.

Washington

Offers reciprocity agreements for agents moving from: All states. Still, the board will check your recent license activity, and you must submit the necessary forms.

Real estate license portability: Cooperative.

States With No License Reciprocity

The board in these territories requires you to re-take all your real estate courses from scratch, regardless of the state you are relocating from. This regulation also means you would have to pass all relevant examinations as well.

‌Fortunately, only 11 states out of 50 abide by these real estate rules. Below you will find the full list of territories where no license reciprocity laws apply. 

Arizona

Offers reciprocity agreements for agents moving from: No other state.

Real estate license portability: Cooperative (with limitations).

California

Offers reciprocity agreements for agents moving from: No other state.

Real estate license portability: Physical location.

Hawaii

Offers reciprocity agreements for agents moving from: No other state.

Real estate license portability: Physical location.

Indiana

Offers reciprocity agreements for agents moving from: No other state.

Real estate license portability: Cooperative.

Michigan

Offers reciprocity agreements for agents moving from: No other state.

Real estate license portability: Physical location (with limitations).

Montana

Offers reciprocity agreements for agents moving from: Alberta, Canada.

‌Real estate license portability: Physical location.

New Jersey

Offers reciprocity agreements for agents moving from: No other state.

Real estate license portability: Turf state.

South Dakota

Offers reciprocity agreements for agents moving from: No other state.

Real estate license portability: Cooperative.

Texas

Offers reciprocity agreements for agents moving from: No other state.

Real estate license portability: Physical location.

Vermont

Offers reciprocity agreements for agents moving from: No other state.

Real estate license portability: Physical location.

Wyoming

Offers reciprocity agreements for agents moving from: No other state.

Real estate license portability: Cooperative.

States with Partial License Reciprocity 

These territories have an agreement with only some other states in the U.S. Their laws are different in almost every case, so you need to review them carefully before conducting any business in their territory. After all, you do not want to break any rules that might cost you your real estate license. Below you will find the 27 states that provide agents with partial real estate license reciprocity:

Arkansas

Offers reciprocity agreements for agents moving from:

  • West Virginia
  • Washington
  • South Dakota
  • Pennsylvania
  • Oklahoma
  • Ohio
  • New York
  • Nebraska
  • Mississippi
  • Louisiana
  • Kansas
  • Iowa
  • Georgia
  • Florida
  • Colorado
  • Alabama‌

Real estate license portability: Physical location.

Connecticut

Offers reciprocity agreements for agents moving from:

  • Rhode Island
  • Oklahoma
  • Ohio
  • New York
  • Nebraska
  • Mississippi
  • Massachusetts
  • Indiana
  • Illinois
  • Georgia
  • Florida
  • Colorado
  • Alabama

Real estate license portability: Cooperative.

Florida

Offers reciprocity agreements for agents moving from:

  • Rhode Island
  • Nebraska
  • Mississippi
  • Illinois
  • Georgia
  • Connecticut
  • Arkansas
  • Alabama‌

Real estate license portability: Physical location.

Idaho

Offers reciprocity agreements for agents moving from:

  • Wyoming
  • Oregon
  • Montana

Real estate license portability: Physical location.

Illinois

Offers reciprocity agreements for agents moving from:

  • Wisconsin
  • Nebraska
  • Iowa
  • Indiana
  • Georgia
  • Florida
  • Connecticut
  • Colorado

Real estate license portability: Physical location.

Iowa

Offers reciprocity agreements for agents moving from:

  • North Dakota
  • Mississippi
  • Minnesota
  • Massachusetts
  • Louisiana
  • Georgia
  • Arkansas

Real estate license portability: Physical location.

Louisiana

Offers reciprocity agreements for agents moving from:

  • Pennsylvania
  • Oklahoma
  • North Carolina
  • Mississippi
  • Iowa
  • Georgia
  • Colorado
  • Arkansas
  • Alabama

Real estate license portability: Cooperative.

Maryland

Offers reciprocity agreements for agents moving from:

  • Pennsylvania
  • Oklahoma

Real estate license portability: Cooperative.

Massachusetts

Offers reciprocity agreements for agents moving from:

  • West Virginia
  • Tennessee
  • Rhode Island
  • Pennsylvania
  • New Mexico
  • Nebraska
  • Mississippi
  • Iowa
  • Georgia
  • Connecticut
  • Colorado

And limited broker reciprocity to agents relocating from:

  • Oklahoma
  • North Carolina
  • New York
  • New Hampshire
  • Maine

Real estate license portability: Physical location.

Minnesota

Offers reciprocity agreements for agents moving from:

  • Wisconsin
  • South Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • North Dakota
  • Nebraska
  • Iowa
  • Colorado

Real estate license portability: Physical location (with some special circumstances).

Nebraska

Offers reciprocity agreements for agents moving from: All other states based on recognition instead of reciprocal licensing.

Real estate license portability: Turf state.

Nevada

Offers reciprocity agreements for agents moving from:

  • West Virginia
  • Washington
  • Utah
  • Texas
  • South Carolina
  • Oklahoma
  • Minnesota
  • Louisiana
  • Kentucky
  • Iowa
  • Indiana
  • Illinois
  • Idaho
  • Delaware
  • Colorado
  • Arizona

And broker-salesperson reciprocity with agents relocating from:

  • Wyoming
  • Virginia
  • Tennessee
  • South Dakota
  • Rhode Island
  • Pennsylvania
  • Oregon
  • Ohio
  • North Dakota
  • New York
  • New Mexico
  • New Jersey
  • Minnesota
  • Michigan
  • Maryland
  • Maine
  • Florida
  • District of Columbia
  • Connecticut
  • California

Real estate license portability: Cooperative.

New Hampshire

Offers reciprocity agreements for agents moving from:

  • Georgia
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Vermont

Real estate license portability: Cooperative.

New Mexico

Offers reciprocity agreements for agents moving from:

  • Massachusetts
  • Louisiana
  • Georgia

Real estate license portability: Turf state.

New York

Offers reciprocity agreements for agents moving from:

  • West Virginia
  • Pennsylvania
  • Oklahoma
  • Mississippi
  • Massachusetts
  • Georgia
  • Connecticut
  • Colorado
  • Arkansas

Real estate license portability: Physical location.

North Carolina

Offers reciprocity agreements for agents moving from: All states if their real estate licenses have been active within the last three years.

Real estate license portability: Cooperative.

North Dakota

Offers reciprocity agreements for agents moving from:

  • Minnesota
  • Iowa
  • Georgia

Real estate license portability: Cooperative.

Ohio

Offers reciprocity agreements for agents moving from:

  • Wyoming
  • West Virginia
  • Oklahoma
  • Nebraska
  • Mississippi
  • Connecticut
  • Colorado
  • Arkansas

Real estate license portability: Cooperative.

Oklahoma

Offers reciprocity agreements for agents moving from:

  • South Dakota
  • North Dakota
  • Nebraska
  • Maryland
  • Louisiana
  • Iowa
  • Arkansas
  • Alabama

Real estate license portability: Physical location.

Oregon

Offers reciprocity agreements for agents moving from:

  • South Dakota
  • Nebraska
  • Georgia
  • Alberta, Canada
  • Alabama‌

Real estate license portability: Cooperative.

Pennsylvania

Offers reciprocity agreements for agents moving from:

  • New York
  • Massachusetts
  • Maryland
  • Louisiana
  • Georgia
  • Arkansas

Real estate license portability: Turf state.

Rhode Island

Offers reciprocity agreements for agents moving from:

  • Massachusetts
  • Florida
  • Connecticut

Real estate license portability: Cooperative.

South Carolina

Offers reciprocity agreements for agents moving from:

  • West Virginia
  • North Carolina
  • Georgia

Real estate license portability: Cooperative.

Tennessee

Offers reciprocity agreements for agents moving from: All states provided they complete a reciprocal application.

Real estate license portability: Cooperative (with limitations).

Utah

Offers reciprocity agreements for agents moving from:

  • Mississippi
  • Georgia
  • Alberta, Canada

Real estate license portability: Turf state.

West Virginia

Offers reciprocity agreements for agents moving from:

  • South Carolina
  • Puerto Rico
  • Pennsylvania
  • Oklahoma
  • Ohio
  • New York
  • Nebraska
  • Mississippi
  • Massachusetts
  • Iowa
  • Georgia
  • Arkansas
  • Alabama

Real estate license portability: Physical location.

Wisconsin

Offers reciprocity agreements for agents moving from:

  • Indiana
  • Illinois

Real estate license portability: Physical location.

Bottomline

License reciprocity and portability laws might seem a lot more complicated than they actually are. Following this guide will help you better understand what to do if you are trying to relocate. However, keep in mind that real estate rules and regulations change periodically.

‌Always make sure to touch base with the local board before attempting to conduct any real-estate-related transactions at a location you are not familiar with. Doing so can spare you many headaches along the way and can even prevent you from getting fined or losing your current license.