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Soccer moms, tech-savvy grads turn to real estate

For Sale! Economic conditions lead to influx of agent want-to-be's

With the rise of home sales last year, more people than ever are entering the real estate business, and soccer moms and tech-savvy grads are leading the charge.

“Times are good right now, and we’ve seen a tremendous increase in the number of people wanting to get into the business,” said Jo Usry, vice president of professional development for the Mississippi Association of Realtors (MAR).

Last year, the Mississippi Realtor Institute (MRI) handled more than 5,000 real estate education transactions, and that number is expected to grow in 2004. To meet the growing demand of new real estate students, MRI is ramping up its programming. In December, the first month MRI made available all real estate courses online, a record number of 48 people enrolled.

“We thought online courses would only interest people who were not living near a classroom course, but we’re seeing that anyone who is computer-savvy, even if they live across the street from a classroom course, want to take the course at night in their pajamas on their home computer,” said Usry.

MAR course advisor Jennifer White said an equal mix of students from rural areas and larger cities are enrolled online, and three students are non-Mississippi residents.

“We think it`s just too soon to tell what that trend will be,” she said.

Sixty hours of coursework must be completed before students are eligible to take the state exam required for a real estate sales license. A 60-hour classroom course costs $610; the online version only costs $225.

“We’re passing on our savings in overhead,” said Usry.

Attendance was down slightly for the first two classroom courses offered in 2004, but Usry said it was probably because she scheduled the classes earlier than usual in January.

“It could have simply been too close to Christmas and an economics issue,” she said. “We`ll have to go through the entire year to evaluate how the online courses have affected classroom courses.”

Online courses will never entirely replace the classroom setting, said Usry.

“Some students simply prefer a classroom,” she said. “A typical agent coming into the business is still a 55-year-old woman who wants a touchy-feely instructor that she can ask questions to, and likes the camaraderie that comes with a classroom setting.”

Tech-savvy folks are jumping on this new method of delivery, said Usry.

“Education doesn`t stop when people get their real estate sales licenses,” she said. “Sixteen hours of continuing education is required every two years, and those are the people who are really embracing online courses.”

Kevin Lawrence, a real estate agent for Kosciusko Realty, took his sales exam in December and by late January had eight listings and three working contracts.

“I plan to sit for my broker`s exam later this year and I`ll take those required courses online, plus all of my continuing ed courses online,” he said.

This year, the Mississippi Real Estate Commission (MREC), which licenses all real estate brokers and salespersons in the state, will make it easier for applicants to take exams. For now, MREC only has the capacity to give 30 to 35 tests per week, and only at its Jackson office. MREC recently issued requests-for-proposals (RFPs) for testing in all areas of Mississippi, and about four national testing centers are expected to bid.

“In our RFP, we’re asking testing centers to allow people to call, set up an appointment, walk in and take the exam,” said MREC administrator Robert Praytor.

The sales exam costs $120 and the broker`s exam costs $150. The fee covers the first year of licensing.

“We want applicants to be prepared when they take the exam,” said Praytor. “Whether they’re taking pre-licensing or continuing education classes, they need to make sure the educational provider has been approved by the MREC and has an approval code number.”

The knowledge required for a real estate practitioner to survive legally these days is paramount, said Usry.

“It`s very important to us to keep our material current with legal and ethical content so the consumer who leaves our school is prepared to enter the field and be in compliance with state law and ethics,” she said.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at mbj@thewritingdesk.com.

About Lynne W. Jeter

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