Seeking a new career? Many try real estate

Stacy Wescoe//March 27, 2017

Seeking a new career? Many try real estate

Stacy Wescoe//March 27, 2017

What do these all have in common?

Many people who started out in those professions are now in the real estate industry.

With a strong real estate market, many are entering the field because of the opportunities they see. Many also are older professionals looking for a career change with, hopeful-ly, more money and excitement. Plus, for people with the right real estate stuff, the field offers many benefits.

“If you’re embarking on a second or third career, you’ve already established a network of contacts in your community. It fits any background,” said Joe McDermott, a former journalist and public relations specialist who sells commercial real estate. “Especially in the Lehigh Valley, which I call the world’s biggest small town. Your name gets passed around.”

Not only are many people making it a new career, others are taking on real estate as a second job while retaining their primary career.

“You can be as busy or relaxed as you want to be,” McDermott said.


Real estate is an attractive new second or even third career for people, said Sharon Kehres, associate broker with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Wyomissing and president of the Reading-Berks Association of Realtors.

She has had a successful 21-year career in real estate, but Kehres said the field wasn’t even on her mind when she graduated from high school.

Her first job was a legal secretary, then she became a stay-at-home-mother. When her children got older, she went into banking. It was a good career, but not the best fit for her personality.

“I decided I needed to be around people. I like people,” she said.

A friend suggested that Kehres try real estate. She did, and she never looked back.


Diane Fetzer, director of career development for the Greater Lehigh Valley Realtors, sees about 100 people seek out a real estate license in the Lehigh Valley each year. She said wanting to work with people is something she hears from many of those taking on real estate as a new career.

Fetzer said real estate really is an industry for “people people.”

“You have to have good people skills,” she said. “You have to have a little bit of a flare for networking.”


Of course, people skills are only one piece of the puzzle.

“There’s all different reasons why people are looking to start a second career, and real estate can mean many things to many people,” Fetzer said.

The main reasons people look into a new career tend to be layoffs, early retirement from another industry, job dissatisfaction or looking for more control, flexibility or earning potential than they were get-ting from their 9-to-5 job.

She said a real estate career can be a good fit for many of those circumstances.


McDermott who worked for The Morning Call, Allentown mayor’s office, Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp. and as a public relations professional before becoming a commercial real estate agent for KW Commercial in Bethlehem Township.

He said he was looking for a change and a way to use his people skills in a different career when his friend Joe Corcoran, suggested real estate.

Corcoran, who runs the Deb and Joe Corcoran Group of Keller Williams Real Estate’s residential office in Bethlehem Township, explained the advantages of switching to real estate.


McDermott liked everything he was hearing, including the low cost of entry and low time investment to get started.

“It doesn’t cost a lot to get into business,” he said, adding he already had an existing network of officials, businesspeople and businesses that could become clients or refer clients to him.

Kehres also noted there are few obstacles to becoming an agent.

“You don’t have to rent an office or hire a staff,” she said.

Also, with about 60 hours of classroom time in order to take the test for a license to practice in Pennsylvania, you’re not investing years in an entire new education.


When Joe Corcoran recommended a real estate career, he was speaking from experience. He also tried other fields.

He started in radio as an on-air personality and later as an ad salesman before going back to school for engineering.

After a few years as a design engineer, he concluded what Sharon Kehres did. He was bored. He wanted to work with people.

Corcoran said he found he had the right set of skills and grew his real estate practice to the point where he formed his own team and found the success he was seeking.


Today, Corcoran knows real estate is where he belongs.

As an agent, he likes that every day is different. He’s meeting new people all of the time and helping them make one of the most important decisions of their life.

That, he said, is exciting.

“I wish I had done this 20 years ago,” Corcoran said.


There are many reasons why older professionals get into real estate, said Christine Wilkins, executive vice president and general manager of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Wilkins & Associates in Stroudsburg.

She, however, was the opposite. A second generation Wilkins – her father Tom started the office – she entered at 19. And while she said there are plenty of people that start in real estate as a first career, she understands the reasons many don’t start young.

“When you’re a real estate agent, you’re really running an independent business,” she said.

That can seem like a lot of responsibility for someone right out of school that doesn’t have a lot of experience or business contacts.

“They feel like they have to be a little more established,” she said.


Agents cite the independence and flexibility that a real estate career offered as lures. Essentially, you get what you put into it.

“There’s that opportunity for growth if you’re willing to work at it,” McDermott said.

Kehres said people who think they can be a real estate agent part time should understand there is a challenge in that.

Those who work in real estate to supplement their existing income rather than as a new career might find it harder to get listings and sales if they aren’t available when clients need to meet with them.


Some, though, make it work as a second job. Corcoran noted his wife Deb works part time in their real estate group and part time as a nurse and finds time for success in both.

Kehres said for those who don’t need a full-time income, part-time real estate is a good way to make a little extra money.

Retirees, she cited as an example, can get into niche real estate markets that meet their interests, perhaps in a golf or retirement community. She said such work doesn’t just generate income, it gives agents a sense of satisfaction and is a great social outlet.


Ultimately, McDermott said, what he likes the most about his new career is the potential.

“Everyone everywhere is going to buy a home someday. Every business is going to need a location,” McDermott said.

And so the world is your potential customer.