Sold on real estate

Training helps grads take advantage of market rebound

One of the industries hit hardest by the recession was metro Atlanta’s housing market. But after years of stagnation, experts say the business is back on track.

Low interest rates and low prices have spurred home sales, and builders are putting up new developments. That  bodes well for the area’s real estate agents and brokers, as well as those who are looking to the market as a viable career option.

“In the next 10 years, Atlanta will probably be one of the fastest-growing markets in the country,” said Bob Hart, director of education for the MLS Training Institute, an arm of the Georgia Metro Listing Service in Tucker. “The 2010 numbers indicate that Georgia’s population has increased as we’re getting more people from Florida and the Northeast moving here, and that’s also getting people interested in the real estate business.”

The institute’s main focus is training new agents, who are required to complete 75 hours of classwork and pass a state licensing test before they can begin selling. To enroll, students must be at least 18  and hold a high school diploma  or certificate of equivalency.

Classes are flexible, meeting three days a week, in the evenings or online. The cost, including books and materials, is $450 for classes or $250 for the online course that includes an extensive weekend review before the state exam. Agents also must pay a $170 fee to the Georgia Real Estate Commission for a four-year license.

“We have night classes here in Tucker, as well as Morrow and Duluth, that are popular with students who are working now but may be underemployed,” said Pat Timm, the institute’s training administrator. “They’re thinking about another way to add to their income, and this is an option. And with a big investors’ marketing going on now, we get many investors who come in to learn about the industry.”

After completing the course work and obtaining a license, agents affiliate with a real estate brokerage firm where they may receive on-the-job training and coaching on the finer points of selling.

“Usually, agents work for a company like Prudential or Keller Williams under the supervision of a broker,” Hart said. “Finding that broker is up to them. We give them a list of our members, but it’s up to them to find a good fit. Then they can go out and start getting listings.”

Even if they affiliate with a brokerage, many agents are considered independent contractors — an arrangement that  appeals to Thomas Blair Jr. The 60-year-old from Stone Mountain has spent 25 years as an optician but is launching a second career as an agent. He recently completed his course work at the institute.

“The one thing I am most attracted to is that you can be independent,” Blair said. “I was looking for a career field that will give me some flexibility, and this is a good fit. I also liked that the training to get into it wasn’t extensive; I didn’t want to spend four years going back to college.”

Blair had not thought about selling real estate  until he and friends began chatting about the positive changes in the market.

“I thought the upturn in the real estate market was a good sign,” he said. “I’ve been dealing with the public for years, so I know how to interact with people. I don’t consider the sales part too daunting, but I do want to learn more about the formal sales process.”

The fact that students can get the training they need in about a month is a plus, Hart said.

"And they can do it without taking out a student loan," he said. "They can get into it quickly and start working on a part-time basis, if they want. Most of them like the idea of being an independent contractor in a viable field."
More people are following Blair's lead, said Timm, who pointed out that the institute's enrollment has more than doubled in the last year, both for day, evening and online classes.
"There are good feelings out there about the direction the industry is going," she said. "And when it really starts taking off — and we know it will — people who are licensed will be able to take advantage of that spike."