Nearly every seat at the Ada County Association of Realtors classroom is taken during a recent training session. The 50 people in attendance are here to become realtors. ACAR director and class teacher Marc Lebowitz says as the Treasure Valley's housing market picks up, more people are signing up to become realtors.
“We’re going to go over so much stuff today, it’s going to make your head spin,” Lebowitz tells the class.
Realtors fled the industry when the housing market tanked during the Great Recession. Now, Lebowitz can now boast a 213 percent increase in new members this year.
He calls the period after the housing bubble burst in the Treasure Valley, the "dark days." Lebowitz says when the housing market crashed, association membership went from 5,000 members to about 2,400. Now, ACAR is approaching 3,000 realtors.
Being part of ACAR costs $500 a year and requires members to take classes.
Lebowitz says fewer than a dozen people attended ACAR's monthly classes when the housing market bottomed out back in 2008. But now, more people again see real estate as a viable career option. Johna Weber is one of them.
“I’ve decided to jump over into real estate because of a passion for looking at houses,” Weber says. She quit her job as a third grade teacher this fall to become a realtor.
“My entire life I’ve been drawn to looking at houses, attending open houses, going through all the Parade of Homes, looking at houses for fun on the weekends with my husband,” says Weber. “I just decided to take it to the next level and pursue it professionally.”
Weber admits it’s outside her comfort zone because she’s never considered herself a sales person. And it’s daunting to start a whole new career.
“I love the kids and I’m going to miss them greatly, but I hope to be able to still volunteer in this career that gives me the flexibility to do so,” she adds.
Ada County realtors sold about two times as many homes this July as they did in July 2008. The increase means there is opportunity for rookies like Weber.
In 2007, Beau Reinhard was a new realtor. But soon after he signed up, the market soured.
“Ignorance is bliss, I guess,” Reinhard says. “When I got in, a lot of agents who had been doing it for a long time were getting out because they got in when it was good and they didn’t know how to work, or do anything else when the market turned down.”
But Reinhard didn't love the work. With two young children, he also struggled to balance work with family.
“That would be tough, you know, on the weekends,” Reinhard says. “You’d get up on Saturday and you’d hang out for a little bit and they’re all planning out their day and going and doing things and you’re heading out to work. That just kind of starts wearing on you after a while.”
In August, Reinhard quit the real estate business and enrolled at Boise State. He’s studying to be a history teacher. He knows he’s quitting real estate at a time when the improving market could make him more money than he’ll likely ever make teaching.
Regardless of market strength, ACAR director Lebowitz says he’ll lose about 25 percent of his membership every year. Being a realtor just isn’t for everyone.
"It does take a special person," Lebowitz says. "It takes a person who is willing to be on call, literally, 24 hours a day. It takes a person who will work seven days a week."
The summer increase in Treasure Valley home sales has slowed this fall. Lebowitz says the number of people signing up to be new realtors has also decreased. But he doesn’t expect new realtor numbers to fall as far as they did a few years ago.
Copyright 2013 Boise State Public Radio