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From Teacher to Realtor-Two Careers That Are More Alike than Different

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by Leslie Farin

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Am I too old to become a realtor?

Absolutely not. In fact, according to the National Association of Realtors, the median age of all REALTORS® is 55. Real estate makes a great second act, especially if you were a teacher in your first career! If you feel it’s time for something new, you can find purpose, passion and a paycheck as a realtor. I like to add “people” to that list too, as real estate provides great opportunities to meet a whole new mix of people.

From teacher to realtor

At first glance, there seem to be few similarities between teachers and realtors. However, the skills of a teacher, a really good one, translate heavily into the world of real estate. The two professions truly have a great deal in common.

Donna Leibow, now a successful Dallas based Keller Williams Real Estate Agent, is a great example. She started her career as an elementary school teacher after college. For years she found self-fulfillment helping students learn and grow. Donna went into education for the same reason many do; she wanted to help others.  A noble goal, but teaching actually requires much more than just a desire to give of themselves to benefit others. In my opinion, teaching is one of the most underrated and difficult professions in America. Donna entered real estate with an enormous variety of skills she learned at the elementary school.

How is a teacher like a realtor?

The ability to impart knowledge with patience and empathy to other humans in a way they can absorb and understand is a gift few people possess. Not only do teachers educate young minds during the work day, they are never really “off” because they take work home at night and on weekends. They must figure out how to get along with the seeming endless parade of personalities of students, parents and faculty. Resourcefulness is important to meet needs outside their area of expertise. Organizational skills are essential too, as is the ability be flexible when necessary. Finally, teachers must be self-starters who are comfortable working independently.

Think about the life of a realtor. Outstanding real estate agents are passionate about helping others, just like teachers. They must constantly educate themselves, their clients and sometimes other professionals about the ever changing real estate marketplace. Realtors need to connect well with many different types of people and determine how best to meet their individual needs. As is the case in teaching, resourcefulness is a necessary skill; outstanding realtors have a network of vetted professionals to call upon when needed such as a mortgage broker, house inspector or house stager. Other qualities found in good teachers, like organizational skills, flexibility and an entrepreneurial spirit, help propel realtors toward success.

“Dream Big!”

When Donna felt it was time to transition to a new career, real estate felt like the right fit. She knew getting started might not be easy.  And it wasn’t – it requires a license, training, continuing education and a lot of hard work. That was okay with Donna though; life wasn’t particularly easy as a teacher either. She wasn’t afraid to go the extra mile and she knew the skills developed during her teaching career would help tremendously in real estate.

Donna shared with me her favorite saying, “Dream Big!”.  Determined to make this new journey successful, she used her time and energy in creative ways to cultivate a client base.  For example, she volunteered to host open houses for other realtors in her office every weekend her first year. Donna set a goal to knock on 200 doors in the neighborhood at every open house. And yes, she kept track. When the homeowner answered the door, Donna introduced herself and asked if they knew anyone who might have an interest in the house for sale. Sometimes they did, sometimes they didn’t, but a number of the people she met that first year became clients or referral sources.

With that level of tenacity and determination, it’s no surprise Donna is now a Triple Diamond award winner, mega agent and ranked No.7 out of 450 Keller Williams Agents. Still an educator at heart, Donna gives back by sharing her expertise with new agents entering the profession. 

donna leibow

Specific skills teachers bring into a second act career in real estate 

  • Empathy and Negotiation Skills
    Experience dealing with conflict resolution between students goes a long way in the listing and negotiation phases of real estate.  Donna learned through experience that every listing or closing in which she assists is different than all those that came before it. Unique situations arise and she enjoys helping clients with the stress of moving. It would be nice if all closings went smoothly, but unfortunately that’s not real life.
  • Strong people skills
    Teachers understand how to reach, educate and connect with people. They figured out what made their fourth graders tick and can apply the same skills to homeowners. To gain clients and maintain them as referral sources long-term, building and maintaining relationships are essential. Donna works hard to cultivate clients who become “clients for life”.
  • Flexibility
    Elementary education is a lifestyle, not a nine to five job. Real estate is the same. Between open houses, continuing education, networking events and more, realtors do not have a typical work schedule. To be successful, that needs to be understood up front.
  • Organization
    The busy multifaceted life of a realtor may seem relatively calm in contrast to coordinating multiple subjects, tests, quizzes, homework assignments, lesson plans, field trips and more as a teacher. The organizational skills a former teacher brings into a real estate position allows them to stay ahead of the competition, producing satisfied clients closing after closing. 
  • Perseverance
    Just as a good teacher doesn’t quit on a student until they exhaust every avenue, a real estate understands sales is a numbers game. It’s important not to give up when the going gets tough. Even if you have to knock on 200 doors every weekend for a year.

Changing Lives in a Different Way

Real estate is the perfect industry to continue to make a difference in people’s lives. As a realtor, you still have plenty of opportunities to educate and help others in a variety of ways. And the satisfied feeling you get when you match a client to a new home is comparable to helping a struggling student understand a new concept. 

Are you a teacher thinking of transitioning from teaching to a career in real estate?


Donna Leibow

donna leibow, realtor

A native of New Orleans, and with a degree from LSU, Donna started as an elementary school teacher. For many years, she found self-fulfillment by helping her students learn and grow. In 2008, she made a career change to real estate with Keller Williams. Clearly this was not the ideal time to begin a career in real estate, but Donna’s never quit attitude is summed up by her favorite saying, “Dream Big!”

It was because of Keller Williams’ support system and continuing education that today Donna is a Triple Diamond award winner, mega agent, and is ranked No.7 out of 450 Keller Williams agents. And like Keller Williams, she strives to “pay-it-forward”, by sharing her knowledge and experience with new agents as they enter the profession. Donna works with all ages and her motto is simple: “My clients are clients for life!”. Donna is certified as a Seniors Real Estate Specialist® (SRES®), but works happily with all age groups in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.

Learn more about Donna: website  | (972) 897-7638  |

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