There is more than just joining the association for MLS access Mike. Also be sure that your license is in an active status with the state. You can be 'inactive'. If you go active, you must conform to state regulations, have a place of business with correct signage and have locking file cabinets to store files, etc.
If the only reason why you took the test is so that you can buy/sell properties for yourself, it may still be necessary for you to have a license. You may want to consider affiliating yourself with a brokerage, making sure that you relay your purpose to the broker who will discuss your commission split with you.
Reconsider representing yourself due to the potentil liabilities (do you have any kind of E & O insurance?)
If you're going to look at several properties that will require a lockbox key, you could
a) ask the listing agent to show them to you, but be sure you explain that you will represent yourself, and not use his services should you write an offer
b) ask the broker you may work with to assign an agent to work for you, and you can give that agent a pre-agreed referral fee for the work,
Somehow, somewhere, you will need assistance to buy/sell, and you will pay someone for that assistance.
Here's what I would do if I were you. In order to learn more about how to fill out the forms and to know more about the practical way that real estate works. You may want to become a "Broker Associate", for a Real Estate Brokerage there in your area.
That way you can still collect your commission and represent yourself but also be under the instruction of a broker who can help you learn to use the tools of the real estate profession correctly.
I actually did this myself before I became a broker and most brokerages will give you more of a commission split for YOUR OWN transactions than they will if you are representing someone else.
For example: You will receive approximately 60% of a commission for a sale where you are representing someone else, and 80-90% for your own transaction.
Interview several Real Estate Brokerages in the area, be upfront and tell them what you want to accomplish. Many will welcome you and be happy to have you as a member of their team. Go with the one who makes you feel that it will be a win, win situation for both of you.
Best of luck to your future in Real Estate!
Since you are not active in real estate, your best option might be to refer your business out to an active Realtor (double-check RESPA rules if you arrange to have a referral fee paid to you by the Realtor). That way, you don't have to join the MLS, sign up for a lock box key, get E&O insurance or worry about potential liability for not being current on real estate practices (for example, generally a licensed Broker would know the answer to the question you've asked).
Regardless, no one needs a license to represent themselves when purchasing real estate ... it would be foolish to do so in my opinion but it is legal.
If you want access to the full mls and the lockboxes you will need to join the local mls... most jurisdictions allow an mls only membership which will give you internet access to the mls and allow you to pay for a lockbox key. Using the lockbox key will provide the mls and the listing agent with the record that you visited the property. If you want to go the truly cheap route you can ask the listing agents to meet you at the property, but with the predominance of REO's and short sales in most areas those agents will not be inclined to do that ... simply because they do not have the time to babysit an agent who is too cheap to pay the fees necessary to join the mls. Most agents insist on the use of CA Association of Realtor contract forms which are only available if you belong to the full association rather than mls only
You do not come across as having much experience in real estate ... the basic CAR contract including Advisories is at leat 20 pages long and often exceeds 25 pages. if you have not studied these forms carefully you could find yourself spending way more than any commission you might save. Do yourself a favor find an agent you trust and use him or her to represent you in the purchase of property... in the long run you will be glad you did
Broker / Owner
I took the test but trying to decide whether I need to pay the fees to join a local real esate assoc? I want to buy property but wondering when I see MLS listngs would I just call the selling broker? In order to get access to lock boxes I would need to join as an inactive member? I have no interest in buying or selling for others just for myself.
Suzanne Looker, http://www.suzannelooker.com