A good real estate agent can be worth their weight in gold as they help consumers navigate the confusing home buying or selling process. While the majority of Realtors may be great, there is still that ever-looming question brought on by the low standards to become an agent: how can you know your Realtor isn't a criminal? The short answer is you can't.

Take, for example, the Texas Realtor who was caught doing drugs, and other things, in a home she sold just the day before in Houston. One commentator on the message boards of that story, Niko, claims:

Most consumers don't know that the real estate "profession" has quite a number of ex-felons working in it. People that have been convicted of drug offenses (not just personal use), assault, theft (major theft) and even robbery. Nice to know that most real estate commissions/boards don't see the need to protect the unsuspecting public. 

This, along with many other stories circulating about real estate agents such as this and this brings to the forefront the relative quality of real estate agents as a whole.

This begs the question, is real estate a becoming profession for ex or would-be criminals? 

[Agree? Disagree? Please comment in the message boards below.]

Upon first review by HousingWire, the answer is not simple, as it varies from state-to-state. Background checks as well as licensing requirements also vary depending on the state the prospective real estate agent is in.

While some states enlist barely any requirements, other states require many hours of work along with background checks in order for someone to become an agent.

In Massachusetts, for example, the only requirements are that the person is a least 18 years old, and take "24 credit hours of classes,” according to an article by Mark Ferguson for Invest Four More.  

For comparison, college students take a minimum of 12 hours of classes per semester, but many times will take even 15 or 18 credit hours. During the summer months one could easily take the last few to get to 24.

This means that while college students study for four or five years to get their degree and start their career, real estate in some states offers an easy solution that doesn’t take near as much work or time.

In Ohio, on the other hand, you must be 18 years old and have a high school diploma. If you have a felony conviction, you may be denied a real estate license. The applicant must pass a state real estate test and complete 120 hours of education.

While this does seem like it would prevent felons from becoming agents, that is not set in stone. If the applicant is honest about their conviction and has shown change, they may still be granted their license.

Other states, such as Colorado, are stricter with their background check. Click here to see the requirements in every state.

Becoming a real estate agent, for some, is just the first step. After that they look to become a member of the National Association of Realtors. With this membership they go from being a real estate agent to being a Realtor, but does it improve the likelihood of them not being criminals?

Should a member be found in violation of a crime, the local Realtor association has procedures to determine what the appropriate sanction should be, NAR said in an email to HousingWire.  Among them are suspension and termination of membership.

That being said, there are no background checks prior to becoming a member. They do, however, have some ethics training that is required for membership.

“Members pay an annual fee to belong to the organization and receive advocacy, education and other benefits,” the message from NAR said. “In addition to completing pre-license education, the National Association of Realtors requires mandatory Code of Ethics training; some local association bylaws also require additional education, such as legal liability training, but that varies by association.”