Even before the passage of the federal Secure and Fair Enforcement for Mortgage Licensing Act (SAFE), California already had its own regulations in place. Currently the state has two agencies regulating mortgage brokers and lenders: the California Department of Real Estate and the California Department of Corporations. To apply for a license, you must pass federal and state tests, submit to a background and credit check, and pay the necessary fees.
Visit the websites of the California Department of Real Estate and the California Department of Corporations. Read their guidelines that outline the requirements for being a mortgage broker in California. You are responsible for knowing all of the laws and guidelines relevant to obtaining your license. Even if you have been a mortgage lender in the past, you should read these guidelines again because they may have changed more recently.
Register with the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System and Registry (NMLS). Both the federal SAFE act and California state law require you to take at least 20 hours of pre-licensing classes. These courses include the study of federal law, state law, ethics and nontraditional mortgage programs, plus several electives you can choose from. The NMLS supplies a list of approved education courses and providers.
Take the required federal and state exams and pass them with a 75 percent or better grade. The federal exam is valid in all 50 states. The exams include all of the items that were in your pre-licensing study requirements. If you do not pass the first time, you will be allowed to take the test again. If you have already passed the federal exam as part of obtaining licensure for another state you do not need to retake the federal portion.
Submit your fingerprints to the NMLS, who will forward them to the FBI for a required background check. You must also authorize the NMLS to pull a credit report. If you have been convicted of a felony involving fraud, misrepresentation or dishonesty or if you have other recent felony convictions, you may not be eligible for licensure. As of January 2011, the criminal background check costs $39 and the credit report costs $15.
Complete your application and include proof you have successfully satisfied all the license requirements. Submit your application along with all supporting documents for license approval. As of January 2011, the application fee is $130, which includes the NMLS processing fee.
Take your test as soon as you have completed your classes, since the material will be fresh in your mind. Take your time during the test and double-check your answers before you submit it. You will know if you passed or failed before you leave the testing center.