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Never too late (or too early) to become a real estate pro

Real estate professionals come from all kinds of backgrounds, bringing a variety of skills that enrich their careers. Some enter the profession at an early age while others enter real estate as second careers.

Realtor Bill Morris of Century 21 Maselle & Associates in Jackson has a financial and accounting background. A native of Waco, Tex., he worked for 30 years in the financial realm and was CFO for several companies. He moved to Jackson to manage an export assistance center.

“I worked in financial management since my early 20s, and I wanted to crown my career with something with more control for me,” he says of his career switch. “I was more or less reporting results more than making results. As a Realtor, I’m very much the master of my own destiny, whether it’s a buyers’ or a sellers’ market.”

In July 2005 at age 57, Morris received his Mississippi real estate license and went on to earn the Realtor designation. He believes his financial background is helpful in his second career.

“I look at real estate as an extension of that. I’m a financial manager of the investment that’s the most important one in people’s lives,” he said. “I try to help them make the most money they can when they sell their homes. It’s a high professional calling — the most challenging I’ve been in — and it has challenged all my abilities.”

Claudia Keyes of Gulfport also came into real estate as a second career after she and her family moved to the Coast from New Orleans in 1991. She was an event planner but found she was not so busy in the smaller market.

“I fell in love with the downtown area of Gulfport when I did a Christmas light show in Hancock Bank’s square. I wanted to be involved with saving the old buildings,” she answered when asked why she entered real estate. “There’s a lot of potential.”

Keyes works with Cliff Thomas in the commercial division of Keller Williams Realty in Gulfport. She is passionate about seeing the historic district’s buildings renovated and put to use, and has recently sold several buildings to investors.

Going back to school in preparation for selling real estate was demanding, but she’s satisfied she made the right decision. “Commercial real estate is where I need to be,” she said. “I can do the numbers thing, but I didn’t want the emotion of selling homes.”

Real estate sort of found Chris Wilson instead of the other way around. As a young man, the Laurel Realtor set out to find himself after college graduation and instead found real estate. That was 34 years ago, and the Laurel resident has no regrets about his chosen profession.

“I was just out of Mississippi State and traveling out West with a guitar over my shoulder,” he recalled. “I saw the vast land and sky and thought about something my Latin teacher had said, ‘Under all is the land.’ I looked out across this prairie and saw the land and sky. It dawned on me; this really is the foundation of everything.”

Wilson, current president of the Mississippi Realtors Association, decided he could use his marketing skills and go into real estate.

Kris Williams of Hattiesburg said he chose to enter real estate, but there was also a powerful family tradition drawing him in that direction. His father, Kim Williams, is a Realtor as was his grandfather, Bodie Beard.

“My dad always told me I had a choice, but I chose real estate and I absolutely love it,” Williams said. “It’s something I’ve been around all my life.”

He entered the field in 1992 and said it was a lucky time as many of his friends were returning to the area from college and were in the market for houses. “Every three or four years they’re buying new houses,” he said. “Most of our business is on referrals and we get a lot of repeat business.”

Williams has the GRI — Graduate Real Estate Institute — designation and takes 16 hours of continuing education classes each year.

When Bill Morris decided to become a Realtor, he took an online course consisting of 100 tests with 3,000 questions. He said it was more grueling than a classroom course.

“You have to be very disciplined and self-starting to take it online,” he said. “Then before I took the real estate exam, I closed myself up for a week and did nothing but study.”

The time and effort paid off when Morris passed the exam on the first try. Then it was on to extra courses, including ethics, to obtain the Realtor designation complete with taking the pledge and being sworn in.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynn Lofton at llofton656@aol.com.


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