REAL ESTATE ONE ACADEMY: For more than 20 years, Bonnie Richter, Director of Real Estate One Academy, taught the field to new realtors. This has changed over the years as technology and the real estate market have evolved. But Richter said she believes real estate education needs to change to meet the needs of consumers.
Real Estate One works with new agents to match them with experienced real estate agents to gain on-the-job training. Richter believes it will help keep more people on the pitch. She would also like to see more focus on education, in the hopes that more education will mean people better prepared to help consumers navigate the key financial choices of buying a home.
Is there more interest in real estate as a career now?
There is an extraordinary interest in the career. Our courses are still very comprehensive, in great demand, but this is largely due to the fact that it is not that difficult to obtain your license. That’s 40 hours of classroom instruction and you have to take an exam. You get a license. My personal opinion is that this is not enough. You can sell real estate, you can do almost anything after taking these courses. Once an individual gets their license and finds out what they need to do, it is not an easy task. It certainly takes a lot more time, expertise, investment – an investment of time and money that many people are prepared for. So the demand is there, but longevity is not what many people expect. I don’t think they expect it to be this difficult and demanding.
What would you like to see changed?
You know this won’t be popular with most people, but I think it’s about time our licensing instructions for getting your Michigan real estate license needed more instruction. I would recommend 60 (hours) as a minimum so that we can add additional information that would be part of our real estate industry day. There just isn’t enough time to figure it all out. I guess it’s similar to what you find in a regular educational environment in our schools, there just isn’t enough time so you gloss over things that would otherwise be very important.
Do you think 60 is enough?
For me, that’s the bare minimum. I also think that the continuing education requirement should be more specific than it is. … I say to our associates and brokers all the time, listen, you got a license, that’s the equivalent of doing brain surgery on someone’s financial life. It’s a big decision for most consumers and you should take the position you’re given seriously enough to say, you know, I’m going to take some crash-training and extra training, and it’s available.
Do people get started with it without understanding the amount of work that goes into it?
No question. No question. A classmate of mine once said to me, “You know, the problem with real estate is that it’s the easiest job but the hardest to do.” Because you are self-employed, because you are in business for yourself and most people really don’t understand what it takes to be self-employed and what it takes to start a business. Once they figure out what that means, it evacuates people… Some of our classes have recently been filled with people looking to change direction and career path from COVID.
Did you talk to them about what drove them to real estate?
Of course we have people looking to become investors and looking to change direction as such, they are going to buy real estate for a living. But we also have individuals, many of whom are from the old service professions, who say, you know, I’ve learned something about myself since COVID, I want to do something that’s on a higher level and I have too learned that I would like to have the flexibility of being self-employed.
Do you think most of them will be successful?
I can only say that the numbers are what they are. Most people who start their careers in real estate will not stay in real estate. … Twenty percent of real estate agents have been licensed for a year or less.
I’m curious if people find this not a good fit.
The job market is so robust right now that we have seen those who have returned to previous occupations. Some people returned to the medical profession because nursing was in high demand. … But on the other hand, we have also seen an increase in those who were in the teaching profession, the teaching profession, who have now stepped up their commitment to the real estate career and are making this change. … I just received calls today from people in the auto sales industry who want to get into real estate because they don’t have a product to sell.
Can you tell me why training is important to you?
Because it is important that the consumer is protected. We have an obligation, as a licensed profession, to ensure that consumers have the expertise to make one of the most important decisions they will have to make in their life.
What attracted you?
I was in the medical profession and at the time the medical profession was designed in such a way that it was difficult for me to come out of a pediatric ward of a hospital… My heart broke more in the medical profession that I couldn’t stand, so I went into another service business. It’s less heartbreaking and more rewarding.
What else are you doing when you don’t do this?
I am fortunate to have a family that expects my grandmother to be there when needed. … My neighbor got me into gardening because he said I can’t grow in clay and I proved him wrong. I grew cauliflower, broccoli, beans, eggplant. The main thing is to show my granddaughter that you can grow things and what they look like when they grow up.
What advice would you give to people considering a career in real estate?
Save your money. Make sure you can support your decision. Think a lot about what it means to be an entrepreneur and a business owner, someone who is going to rely on their own resources to grow their business. Make sure that you truly appreciate not only the industry but also the prospect of serving and being a servant to the public. If you don’t like it and don’t feel the customer comes first, you really shouldn’t be looking at real estate as a career.