4345 new Realtors in Greater Vancouver signed up in 2003

Saturday, June 26th, 2004

Reporter Gillian Shaw helps you chart your course with The Sun’s A-Z of jobs and training. Today, we look at why so many are catching the real estate bug.

Gillian Shaw

CREDIT: Stuart Davis, Vancouver Sun Realtor Aimee Gabor says being an agent was far different when she started in 1972. Then, it was hard for women to enter the business. Now, it’s ‘female-friendly.’

Vancouver‘s overheated real estate market is attracting more than buyers and sellers.

It’s also attracting people in record numbers who want to make real estate a career.

Enrollment in real estate licensing courses is up 60 per cent this year over last with 4,345 people enrolling in the hopes of cashing in on B.C.’s housing boom.

That’s way up from 691 who took the pre-licensing course in 2001. The figure has been climbing rapidly, with 1,548 signing on in 2003 and 2,688 making the move this past year. The numbers reflect Real Estate Council of B.C. tallies that run annually from July 1 to June 30.

“This usually happens as soon as the market picks up, everybody thinks people must be making a lot of money in real estate so it’s the time to come in,” said Rosemary Barnes, an agent with Park Georgia Realty in Coquitlam and vice-chairwoman of the real estate council, which administers the real estate act in B.C. “It also applies to some who may have dropped out over the years and now think it’s a good time to come back.”

With numbers like that, competition for clients is tough but Barnes said the number of sales people usually fluctuates with market demand.

“I think there is enough business to go around,” she said. “If you talk to some of the old-timers, they’d just as soon it stayed where it was in terms of numbers, but things change.

“The market takes care of it. If the market was to slow down, at some point people would drop out.”

Real estate attracts both young people just starting out and career changers. Young university grads searching for a job future, take the real estate pre-licensing course. Others are looking for new challenges after working at another job and it also attracts people who have been out of the workforce and are looking to launch or re-launch a career.

Barnes was a mother of two young children some 28 years ago when she “caught the real estate bug,” as she says, when she starting helping out doing reception and office work with a real estate firm. She found it so fascinating that she signed on for the pre-licensing course, which all agents much take as a first step and now works in partnership with her husband, Bill Barnes, selling residential real estate.

The pre-licensing course, which is done by correspondence, has a requirement to finish it within a year, although Anthony Cavanaugh, communications officer at the council, said some students finish in as little as two months.

“Then you have to find a company that will hire you, which isn’t a problem at all,” he said.

Once an applicant finds a company as a sponsor, he or she applies to the real estate council for a licence and two months after that, new licencees are required to take a one-week long post-licensing course.

“It takes the theory you’ve learned in the pre-licensing course and looks at it in a practical sense,” said Cavanaugh.

Licences, which cost $400, must be renewed every two years. There’s an additional $500 for errors and omissions insurance that must be paid every two years and is to safeguard consumers who may have to be compensated for losses suffered through agents’ mistakes.

The council receives about 330 complaints a year out of the 90,000 real estate transactions in the province and it has the power to impose disciplinary action, including removing an agent’s licence to practice. Starting next year, managers who take care of strata properties will also have to be licensed.

“There’s going to be a ramp-up period for the licensing of strata managers,” said Cavanaugh. “A lot of property managers do strata managing and they will probably be required to take a course within a year or six months, or whatever, and for people who have never been licensed, they will have to take a pre-licensing course.”

Real estate attracts people for more than just the potential for making a lot of money. It requires an entrepreneurial spirit, an ability to get along with all kinds of people and the ambition to be a self-starter. There are no clocks to punch but if you don’t work, you don’t make money. Barnes recommends people starting out be able to keep themselves for at least a few months because even if they make a sale early on, they don’t get paid until the deal closes and that could be some time.

“It’s a lifestyle, that’s for sure,” said Cavanaugh. “Some people love it because it gives them the flexibility to be with their kids, to be able to pick them up from school and still work in a professional industry.

“It is very entrepreneurial. The more you put into it the more you get out of it.”

It’s now a female-friendly business, but it wasn’t always the case. Aimee Gabor, an agent with Macdonald Realty in Kerrisdale, started her real estate career in 1972 when her children were aged two and four.

“It was a challenge for women at the time, there were only a few women in the business,” she said.

Gabor said when she started, one manager of a 40-person, male-only office refused to take on a woman as an agent. A male colleague who went on to become very successful recalled being told at 24 that he was too young to be in the business and should grow up a little first. All that has changed.

“Today it is a woman-dominated business,” said Gabor. “I sometimes look at all these women who go through my agents’ opens and they have no idea what it was like.”

While the most successful agents are the ones we read about, not everyone is making a lot of money selling real estate.

“It can be as low as almost zero and as high as you want to go,” said Barnes. There currently isn’t a regular earnings survey of agents in B.C. but the Canadian Real Estate Association reports that this year so far in B.C., 48 per cent of sales people gross from zero to $75,000 annually. Another 34 per cent are in the $75,000 to $150,000 range and just more than 11 per cent make between $150,00 and $225,000. Just fewer than four per cent earn from $225,000 to $300,000 a year.

From that, sales people have costs to pay, which can depend on the arrangement they have with their office. There are signs, business cards, advertising and some of the more successful sales people have assistants.

“You’re running your own business,” said Barnes. “A lot of people who enter the industry think they can set their own hours and you certainly have the option of doing that, but if you get busy and your clients are calling you, you need to be available.

“People who want to put a lot into it will get the return. It is all based on how much time you’re willing to put in and how much work you’re willing to do.”

© The Vancouver Sun 2004

Comments are closed.