How to Get a Michigan Builders License

by Kacie Goff on 2019-07-24 3:04pm

You want to build residential homes in the state of Michigan. But, first, you need to get properly licensed to do so. Even if you grew up on various job sites and have years of personal building experience, securing your Michigan builders license is important. 

Why a Michigan builders license matters

If you’re interested in building homes for money, you’re going to need to secure projects. And you’ll be hired for those projects by individuals who are highly invested in seeing them get built successfully. That’s why many people check a potential builders licensure before hiring him or her. 

And Michigan’s Department of Licensing & Regulatory Affairs (LARA) makes it easy to do that. They have a “Verify a License” webpage that allows any individual to check and see if the contractor they’re thinking of hiring is properly licensed. This way, they can rest easy knowing the person they hire has appropriate contractor training and is verified by the state.

Without a current Michigan builders license, you risk losing jobs. If it comes down to you and another contractor and the other contract has a license but you don’t, the decision is easy if the homeowner or project manager decides to check your licensing. 

How to get a Michigan builders license

But don’t worry. Getting your Michigan contractor license is a straightforward process. (And the process is that same if you want to become a licensed residential maintenance & alterations contractor.) You just need to do a few things:

  • Complete the required 60 hours of prelicensure education at a LARA-approved institution
  • Send the state your course completion certificate, your Michigan builders license application, and the relevant fees
  • Be of good moral character (i.e., don’t be fraudulent, deceitful, or dishonest)
  • Pass the Residential Builder or Maintenance & Alteration Contractor examination

Now let’s break these down step-by-step. 

Step 1: Complete your prelicensure education

First things first, you need to be able to show the state — and future job prospects — that you’re educated on relevant topics. And Michigan ensures you are by asking you to complete 60 hours of approved prelicensure courses. (Don’t worry; you won’t have to go to school. You can take them online). 

The “approved” portion is very important. The state only accepts courses from LARA-approved schools so make sure you choose one that fits the bill. You can do that by using this webpage

Once you’ve picked your school, you need to complete your courses. And you can’t just take 60 random hours. LARA requires that your 60-hour residential building license course includes:

  • 6 hours in the Michigan Residential Code
  • 6 hours in MIOSHA construction safety standards
  • 6 hours in business management, estimating, and job costing
  • 6 hours in design and building science
  • 6 hours in contracts, liability, and risk management
  • 6 hours in marketing and sales
  • 6 hours in project management and scheduling

From there, you have 18 hours you can use freely to take courses in other approved topics that interest you.

These 60 hours aren’t just a formality, either. They prepare you to take the Residential Builder or Maintenance & Alteration Contractor exam you have to pass in order to get your license.  

The right LARA-approved school will make it easy for you to take the courses you need to get your Michigan contractor license. Several institutions will prepackage all of the residential builders license course work you need into a contractor training that covers all of your bases. You can see examples here and here

What’s more, some of these schools will give you the ability to print your certificate of completion as soon as you finish your course. That way, you don’t have to wait for anything to be filed or mailed to you. Theoretically, you could even send in your Michigan builders license application the day you complete your contractor training. 

Step 2: Submit your application and confirm your moral character

Once you’ve completed the relevant residential builders license course work, you’re ready to send in an application to the state. 

The application is technically called the “Residential Builder or Maintenance & Alteration Contractor License or Relicense Application” and — good news — it’s just two pages long. 

The application asks you a couple of questions about your criminal history, ensuring you’re meeting the good moral character requirement mentioned above. Then, it gathers your personal details (name, address, etc.), and asks you to select the type of license for which you’re applying. Finally, you simply have to input a little bit of information about your prelicensure education. 

Once you have your application filled out, it’s time to gather up your application materials. You need to submit:

  • Your completed application
  • The certificate showing you completed your residential builders license course
  • Your license fee* (it’s $195 for first-time licensees and $185 for relicensure)
  • A copy of your personal ID (e.g., driver’s license, state personal identification card)

*If you’re a veteran and you can show that you separated from the armed forces with “honorable or “general under honorable conditions” standing, you’re exempt from the licensing fees. Just make sure you include a copy of your DD Form 214 or DD Form 215 in lieu of your application fee. 

Once you have your application, fees, and the relevant documentation packaged up, mail it to:

Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs

Bureau of Construction Codes/ Licensing Division

P.O. Box 30255

Lansing, MI 48909

You should know that everything you submit to LARA becomes their property at the time of submittal. Nothing will be returned to you, so it’s a good idea to keep your own copies for your records. 

Once LARA has received your application with all of the necessary information and materials, they’ll approve you to take your residential builder or maintenance & alteration contractor exam. 

Step 3: Pass your exam

Next up, it’s test time. The exam you need to pass to become a residential builder is administered by a company called PSI and consists of two parts: a 75-minute business and law section and an 180-minute practice and trade section. 

Scheduling your exam

Once LARA has approved you to take your exam, you can schedule it with PSI using this webpage

They have seven exam centers across the state that offer testing six days a week. Those exam centers are located in:

  • Dearborn
  • Holt
  • Southfield (PSI has two Southfield exam centers)
  • Grand Rapids
  • Gaylord
  • Marquette

Show up your exam 30 minutes before your start time so you can sign in and PSI can verify your identification. You’ll need to bring two types of ID: one current, valid, government-issued photo ID with a signature on it and one form of ID with a signature that matches the one on your photo ID (e.g., credit or debit card, military ID, or school ID). 

Preparing for your exam

The exam is closed book and taken at a computer. The 60-hour prelicensure training you completed should have educated you on everything you need to know to pass your exam. But if you want to take an extra step to ensure you’re prepared, you can review PSI’s bulletin about the exam. Starting on page 6, it has a comprehensive list of the topics that will be covered in each question you’ll be asked. 

Paying for your exam

If it’s your first time taking the test or you need to retest both parts, the fee is $117. You can also retake the business and law section for $70 or retake the practice and trade section for $80. 

Once you pass

When you pass your exam, PSI issues an electronic notice to the State of Michigan. Then, they mail you your Michigan builders license or maintenance & alteration contractor license. 

Once you get your license in the mail, you’re officially licensed by the State of Michigan. Congrats!

How to keep your Michigan builders license current

Your Michigan contractor license isn’t a one-and-done thing. You need to take the appropriate steps to keep your license current by attending to your Michigan builders license renewal.

Continuing education requirements

If you got your license in 2008 or earlier or have been licensed for more than six years, you need to complete three hours of CE courses every three years:

  • 1 hour on building codes and laws
  • 1 hour on safety
  • 1 hour on construction and business management laws

If you were licensed in 2009 or later and have been licensed for fewer than six years, you need to take:

  • 3 CE hours each year
  • A total of 21 CE hours during each 3-year period with courses including:
    • 1 hour on building codes and laws
    • 1 hour on safety
    • 1 hour on construction and business management laws

The other 18 hours need to be in approved courses, but you can pick which are most relevant to you and your business. You can get more info on the approved additional courses here

License renewal

Every three years on May 31st, you need to renew your license. The state will mail you renewal info to the address they have on file 90 days before you need to renew. By your renewal date, you need to be ready to prove completion of the above-specified number of continuing education hours. Then, you can complete your renewal online. The renewal fee is $150.

Armed with this information, you’re ready to complete your contractor training, ace your exam, and get your Michigan builders license. If you want to get started, sign up for your residential builders license course today.