If you’re considering a career in real estate but are relatively busy with work or family obligations, pursuing your training online can make a lot of sense. Fortunately, an array of online real estate schools offer various programs that can meet your needs. While some online real estate training centers offer courses in a self-paced virtual format, others offer live webinar courses with the option to interact with instructors.
The best online real estate school for your needs will likely depend on how you prefer to learn and receive information, as well as how much you are willing to pay. Meanwhile, you’ll need to compare online real estate schools based on the exact training they offer in the state you want to become licensed in.
But, how do you know an online real estate school is legitimate? Investopedia staff set out to investigate and answer this question before we began reviewing individual online real estate schools.
To come up with the information for our comprehensive reviews, we compared online real estate schools based on factors like length of time in business, accreditation, digital learning features, the cost of attendance, and refund or cancellation policies they have.
This guide explains the factors we compared in detail, as well as how we used various information to compose online real estate school reviews. We also explain why each factor matters, the rating system we used to compile data for our rubric, and what future real estate professionals should consider before deciding on a school.
Online Real Estate School Methodology
While online real estate schools all teach various courses related to the real estate industry, they don’t offer the same training options nor do they deliver content in the same format. Some schools also offer much better customer service options as well as various paths providing more interaction with real estate instructors and classroom peers.
With this in mind, we want to highlight each of the most important factors we considered when comparing online real estate schools, as well as the percentage that each factor impacted our internal rankings.
The following sections explain the various data we collected for each school to create our rankings, as well as why this information is important when selecting an online real estate school.
Reputation and Customer Satisfaction
While some industries have been around for a century or longer, real estate schools tend to be much younger and less established overall. This is especially true among online real estate schools, many of which have only been around for a few decades at most.
Based on this information, we compared online real estate schools on a few factors that impact their reputation and overall customer satisfaction.
- Time in business
- Money-back guarantee
Time in business
Considering some online real estate schools have only been in operation for a few years, comparing them can be difficult as it’s not easy to find many user testimonials or complaints.
We compared online real estate schools based on their time in business for this reason. Using the following timelines, we compared each online real estate training center based on the following scale.
In addition to time in business, we also compared online real estate schools based on their accreditation or their lack thereof. Schools were given a higher rating if they are currently certified by the Association of Real Estate License Law Officials (ARELLO) and the International Distance Education Certification Center (IDECC).
Both of these organizations exist to ensure the quality of online real estate education. Meanwhile, ARELLO has a stated mission of supporting jurisdictions in the administration and enforcement of its real estate license laws.
We used the following rankings to score schools based on their accreditation.
We also compared online real estate schools based on their money-back guarantee, if they have one. This factor was ranked on a “yes” or “no” basis in our internal study, and schools with robust money-back guarantees were rated higher.
We compared each school’s money-back guarantee offer and rated them using the following scoring system.
Customer experience is a crucial component of our online real estate rankings, mainly because it is of utmost importance to students who ultimately pay for courses and utilize each school’s platform. However, this category has several working parts that can impact the quality of education a student receives.
To rate each online real estate school based on their customer satisfaction levels, we looked at the following factors:
- Virtual or in classroom
- Website usability
- Online chat
- Student resources on-site
Virtual or In Classroom
Where some schools offer real estate training in an entirely virtual format, others have the option for in-classroom learning with specific dates and times available. Schools that do offer the option for in-person learning, as well as physical locations potential students can visit, were given preference in our ranking and a higher rating percentage as a result.
We used the following rating scale to score schools in this category:
Website usability is another important factor that can impact a student’s learning experience, and this is one that varies widely among online real estate schools. Where some online learning centers feature interactive websites with a plethora of information and tools, other school websites barely offer more than a virtual brochure.
We rated online real estate schools based on website usability using the following scores:
Online chat is an important feature for online real estate schools to have, mostly because it allows potential students to ask questions and get answers without having to call a customer service line. Meanwhile, existing real estate students can use an online chat feature to ask questions about upcoming courses, billing issues, and problems they may encounter during virtual training.
Because online chat is an essential function real estate schools should offer, we rated them using the following scoring system:
Student Resources On-Site
Student resources offered by online schools typically include informative articles and information, free webinars to learn about training offered, information on various state licensing procedures for real estate professionals, and more.
We gave preference to schools that offer as much helpful, correct, and updated information to their students as possible using the following scoring system:
Courses offered by online real estate schools often vary more than expected. For example, some schools only offer salesperson pre-licensing training in certain states, and the same is true for broker pre-licensing courses. Other types of training, such as exam preparation courses and continuing education, may also be available with some schools but not others.
To help students gauge which schools offer the best selection of real estate training courses, we rated each one based on the following courses and whether they offer them or not:
- Salesperson Pre-Licensing
- Broker Pre-Licensing
- Exam Preparation
- Continuing Education
Salesperson pre-licensing courses are for individuals who are thinking of breaking into the real estate industry in their state. Each school that offers these courses must tailor them to applicable state licensing requirements and offer a curriculum that helps students prepare for their state licensing exams.
We rated each school based on whether they offer salesperson pre-licensing courses using the following scoring system:
Broker pre-licensing courses can be more difficult for potential students to find, mostly because fewer online real estate schools offer this training. Either way, schools that offer broker pre-licensing courses have to use a curriculum that helps agents prepare for their broker licensing exam. Broker courses must also meet state licensing requirements in the states they are offered in.
We rated each school based on whether they offer broker pre-licensing courses using the following scoring system:
Exam preparation courses are supplementary training sessions that help real estate professionals prepare for their state licensing exams. These courses often include live webinars or pre-recorded online training sessions, practice quizzes, digital flashcards, and more.
Not all online real estate schools offer exam preparation courses. As such, we rated each school based on whether they offer exam preparation using the following scoring system:
Continuing education courses are designed to help real estate professionals complete the training required by each state to maintain their license. Continuing education courses can also help real estate agents and brokers enhance their skills, boost their incomes, and stay on top of changes within their industry.
Not all online real estate schools offer continuing education courses. As such, we rated each school based on whether they offer continuing education courses using the following scoring system:
Costs and Fees
Cost is an important factor for students searching for an online real estate school. After all, the cost of attendance, plus any applicable fees, can make the difference between being able to attend real estate school to start a new career or being stuck on the sidelines.
To help students gauge affordability and value for online real estate courses, we compared schools based on their pricing in the following areas:
- Salesperson pre-licensing
- Exam preparation
- Cancellation policy
Affordability is often a big issue for students seeking online real estate education, and we ranked schools based on this metric as a result. Generally speaking, online real estate schools with the most competitive pricing did better in this category than others.
We ranked online real estate schools based on the cost of salesperson pre-licensing courses using the following scoring system:
The affordability of online exam preparation courses is also important for students to consider. Thus, we ranked online real estate schools based on exam preparation cost using the following scoring system:
While cost is a factor that should be considered when comparing online real estate schools, cancellation policies are also important. After all, schools with a generous and fair cancellation policy make it possible for students to recoup their funds in a reasonable amount of time if they are unable to complete their coursework or they don’t pass their state licensing exam.
Within this category, we scored each school’s cancellation policy based on the rank order of the cancellation period, as shown in the table below. From there, we deducted points for cancellation fees charged (if any) and conditions that might apply for students to be able to cancel their tuition and receive a refund.
Since we think this factor is a crucial component of any school’s pricing structure, we ranked each online real estate school’s cancellation policy using the following scoring system:
Customer support is another important factor where real estate schools are concerned, and this metric is especially crucial when it comes to online real estate schools. After all, schools that offer virtual courses need to have customer support as well as technical support available.
To help students determine the level of customer support they may receive at various online real estate schools, we compared and scored each education center in the following categories:
- Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
- Number of test bank questions
- Coursework support
Frequently Asked Questions
When it comes to online real estate schools, it’s amazing how much information you can find within a well-written FAQ page. Generally speaking, frequently asked questions include information on pricing and cancellation policies, how long students can access their virtual courses, the delivery of information, and more.
We ranked schools on this factor using a simple “yes” or “no” format to show whether they have an FAQ page or not:
Number of Test Bank Questions
Some online real estate schools advertise impressive test banks with an array of questions to help students prepare for their state licensing exams. We scored schools based on how many questions they offer in their respective test banks, with preference given to schools with the broadest selection of test questions available.
Finally, we ranked online real estate schools based on their coursework support. Overall, we gave preference and higher rankings to schools that offer several ways to contact them as well as ample customer service days and hours available.
Schools were ranked on their coursework support using the following scoring system:
Choosing an Online Real Estate School
Online real estate schools are not all the same, which is why it’s crucial to compare them based on the factors that matter the most to you. For example, some virtual real estate schools provide all of their courses in a live webinar format, while others offer all their coursework via a self-paced online format that can fit around a busy schedule.
You’ll also notice that some schools offer more courses in general and that the specific courses you need may only be offered by a handful of online real estate schools that provide training in your state.
Either way, consumers should look for schools that fit the following criteria:
- Schools that are appropriately licensed and accredited
- Real estate schools that offer upfront and transparent pricing
- Schools with courses that fit around work and family commitments
- Training centers that deliver coursework in the best format for the way consumers learn
- Schools with plenty of information online about their courses
- Schools that boast excellent customer service and technical support options
When it comes to online real estate schools, you often get what you pay for. While choosing a school with the most affordable courses can help you save money, you may have to sacrifice customer service or interaction with instructors and peers.
Make sure to compare online real estate schools based on the factors we have outlined in this guide, and don’t settle until you find a school that offers excellent value for your needs.