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.
The Transition 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 in 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 elementary school.
Why Do Teachers Make Good Realtors
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 seemingly 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 to 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.
What Are the Similarities and Differences Between Teachers and Realtors?
Teachers and realtors have a number of similarities and differences worth exploring. We put together a list after speaking with a number of realtors who worked previously as teachers.
Similarities Between Teachers and Real Estate Professionals
Communication Skills: Both teachers and realtors require strong communication skills. They need to effectively convey information and ideas to their clients or students.
Client Interaction: Both professions involve interacting with clients regularly. Teachers interact with students, parents, and colleagues, while realtors interact with buyers, sellers, and other real estate professionals.
Knowledge and Expertise: Both teachers and realtors need to possess knowledge and expertise in their respective fields. Teachers should have a deep understanding of the subjects they teach, while realtors need to be well-informed about the real estate market, laws, and regulations.
Adaptability: Both professions require adaptability. Teachers need to adjust their teaching methods to cater to students with different learning styles, while realtors must be flexible to meet the diverse needs and preferences of their clients.
Differences Between Teachers and Real Estate Professionals
Role and Objective: Teachers primarily focus on educating and facilitating the learning process for students. They create lesson plans, deliver instruction, and assess student progress. On the other hand, realtors help clients buy, sell, or rent properties. Their objective is to guide clients through the real estate transaction process and secure the best deal.
Work Environment: Teachers typically work in educational institutions such as schools or colleges, while realtors often work in real estate agencies or as independent professionals. Realtors may spend a significant amount of time traveling and visiting properties, while teachers usually have a fixed classroom or teaching space.
Licensing and Education: Realtors often require specific licenses and certifications to practice legally. They may need to complete real estate courses and pass exams. In contrast, while teachers may need a teaching degree or certification, the requirements can vary depending on the jurisdiction.
Compensation Structure: The compensation structure differs for teachers and realtors. Teachers generally receive a fixed salary based on their experience, qualifications, and the educational institution they work for. Realtors, however, often work on a commission basis, earning a percentage of the property’s sale price or rental income.
How Do You Know If Real Estate Is the Right Fit?
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 during 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.
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”.
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 upfront.
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 allow them to stay ahead of the competition, producing satisfied clients closing after closing.
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 Thinking of Going From Teacher to Realtor For Your Second Career?
You may be better prepared than you think! Teachers generally possess many skills that transfer easily into real estate. Patience, adaptability, good communication and listening skills, and excellent problem-solving abilities are a few of the talents that make teachers excellent real estate professionals. In addition, teachers often have deep roots in the community, and this local knowledge also can contribute to a successful career as a realtor.
Here are a few of the frequently asked questions we hear from individuals thinking of going from teacher to realtor.
Can teachers sell real estate part-time while continuing to teach?
Yes, it is possible for teachers to sell real estate on a part-time basis while continuing their teaching career. However, they will need to manage their time effectively to balance both responsibilities.
What qualifications or licenses are required for teachers to become real estate agents?
The specific qualifications and licenses required to become a real estate agent vary by jurisdiction. Generally, you will need to complete a real estate pre-licensing course, pass a licensing exam, and fulfill any additional requirements set by your local real estate regulatory authority.
How can teachers gain knowledge and expertise in the real estate field?
Teachers can gain knowledge and expertise in real estate by taking real estate courses or pursuing a real estate certification program. These programs cover topics such as real estate laws, market analysis, property valuation, and sales techniques. Additionally, engaging in networking events and seeking mentorship from experienced real estate professionals can also enhance knowledge in the field.
What are the advantages of teachers selling real estate?
Teachers selling real estate can benefit from their strong communication skills, knowledge of local communities, and ability to educate and guide clients. Teaching experience often translates well into real estate, as it involves effective communication, patience, and the ability to adapt to different individuals’ needs.
Are there any drawbacks to teachers selling real estate?
Real estate income may not be as consistent or predictable as a teacher’s salary. It takes time and a lot of effort to build up a profitable business.
How can teachers transition from teaching to a full-time career in real estate?
Transitioning from teaching to a full-time real estate career involves careful planning and preparation. It may involve obtaining the necessary licenses, building a client base, saving an emergency fund to sustain oneself during the initial stages, and gradually increasing real estate activities while phasing out teaching responsibilities. Seeking guidance from experienced real estate professionals and considering mentorship programs can also be beneficial during this transition.
More About Donna Leibow
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, and 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.
originally published June 12, 2021
updated July 15, 2023