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Home Inspection in the Spot Light
Newspaper and Media Articles on Home Inspection


Boom Time
As other industries continue to shed jobs, real estate is looking increasingly attractive to those seeking a new—or second—career
Friday, August 1, 2003

Michael Hart thought he was ready to retire last December. After 25 years of working for the city of San Diego, most recently as a criminal investigator, he just wanted to relax. But after three months of surfing and sleeping in, Hart, who is 57, reconsidered. “It was time to do something,” he says.

A FRIEND OF his who worked for Coldwell Banker suggested he become a home inspector. The training was easy, Hart figured, and there would be plenty of work for him once he got his certification: In California, home sales in June jumped 7.2 percent from a year earlier. Hart signed up for a fast-track course at the Kaplan Professional Schools school in Oceanside and a few weeks and about $1,300 later, he was already at work. Hart has now postponed retirement indefinitely to focus on building up his business instead—he’s already doing about two inspections a day. “I enjoy every inspection,” says Hart. “I feel like I’m doing a dream job and getting paid for it.”

Real estate has been flooded with career converts during the past couple of years—many of them like Hart, midlifers who are attracted by the autonomy, flexibility and earning potential for an investment of relatively little time, money and coursework. “You don’t have to have a whole bunch of money to enter the profession—all you need is a computer, a car, a phone and some business skills and a willingness to learn,” says Dirk Zeller, CEO of Real Estate Champions and author of “Your First Year in Real Estate: Making the Transition from Total Novice to Successful Professional” (Prima Publishing). “You can make a lot of money for a little investment.”

Since 1995, membership in the Association of Home Inspectors has leapt more than 50 percent. Other real-estate fields have enjoyed similar growth: the rolls at the National Association of Realtors have increased 25 percent in the past four years to more than 936,000. The number of active real estate brokers has also grown, by about 5 percent in the past two years to nearly 540,000. Meanwhile, the number of agents or salespeople with active licenses increased by more than 7 percent in the same period to about a million, according to the Association of Real Estate License Law Officials, a national organization that oversees state real-estate licensure and registration.

Kaplan Professional Schools—which runs a number of real-estate schools nationwide, including Hart’s—has seen enrollment in its real-estate-related courses nearly double over the past two years to about 150,000 students at the end of last year. And Andy Rosen, president and COO of Kaplan Inc. (owned by The Washington Post Company, which also owns NEWSWEEK), says he expects a 40 percent increase in enrollment this year. “There’s just enormous growth. We find our projections are constantly outstripped,” Rosen says.

As the number of sales agents and brokers grow, and sales slow—and they inevitably will—competition could drive down the cost of service and commissions and drive some out of the business altogether. For now, though, there is still plenty of demand for various real-estate jobs—from sales agents to appraisers. While other industries struggle to recover from the economic downturn, the housing market is still soaring. The National Association of Realtors predicts 2003 will be another record year in the number of homes bought and sold nationwide, thanks in part to lower interest rates, which have helped bring mortgage rates to their lowest levels in nearly 40 years. Mortgage loans are expected to hit an all-time high of $3.4 trillion this year (about $2.3 trillion in refinancing loans and $1.1 trillion in home-purchase loans), according to the Mortgage Bankers Association of America. Continued demand is also expected to push home prices up again this year nationwide, by 5.4 percent for existing homes and 3.3 percent for new homes.

There are signs that real estate is becoming an increasingly popular career option among college and graduate students, too—even at business schools. Susanne Cannon, associate professor and director of the new real-estate center at DePaul University, which is open to both M.B.A. and undergraduate students, says enrollment in her introductory real-estate analysis course has tripled in the last few years. And this fall, the school is offering four real-estate courses, each capped at 50 students. “They were filled up almost immediately—now we’re looking for more faculty [to add more courses],” says Cannon. “Students who might have thought about investment banking a few years ago are realizing there aren’t as many jobs there now and so they want to try something else. They see the housing boom as meaning more jobs.”

True, the economy is beginning to improve and there’s little doubt that the federal funds rate—and, therefore, mortgage loan interest rates—will rise over the next two years. But even if the housing market flattens out over the next couple of years, sales should remain strong.

And if students opt out of real estate as the nation’s overall job market improves, Kaplan’s Rosen says, “It [real estate] is always a good fallback—something to keep it in your back pocket.” You never know when you might need it again.

Source: Newsweek, Inc.  http://www.msnbc.com/news/947281.asp


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