And now for something completely different – that really isn’t. On Wednesday, November 8th, I passed the exam for becoming a real estate broker in the state of Washington. I also breathed a great sigh of relief. Taking tests is hard, just ask the anxiety attack that threatened to derail the attempt. But, success! Listening to hints from the universe isn’t easy, either, but several of them (as well as many of my friends) convinced me to add yet another skill to my career set. As if I wasn’t already dealing with being “overqualified.” At least now I get to use my qualifications as a fan of Whidbey, helping people achieve their goals, and a wide variety of communications skills. One concession: I won’t be wearing shorts as often.
Astute readers noticed that I have been posting less frequently here, on Facebook, or on stock discussion boards, lately. For the last few months I’ve been fitting in 90 hours of required class work, dozens of hours of highly-recommended class work, and the logistics involved in taking the 3.5 hour test. All of that was happening while maintaining all of my regular gigs. The training sounded easy because I’ve bought and sold several houses since I moved to the Seattle area. Then, I learned that the exam delved into the issues that brokers see that I ignored as a buyer or a seller. The tall stack of forms got that tall because some issue created the need for yet another legal clarification. Add in the fact that most real estate deals involve fractions of a million dollars, and it is easy to see why people care about clauses, contingencies, and reducing confusion.
Big life changes are rarely made for only one reason.
Seattle has already become unaffordable for many. That’s true because so many are making so much that it’s affordable for them, even as prices and rents rise. That’s good for Seattle’s economy, but causes cautions about sustainability. Whidbey Island, where I live, is beginning to be affected by Seattle, though dampened by distance. I look forward to living on the island, but must admit that I’m concerned about my long term sustainability. A recovered stock portfolio could alleviate those concerns, but that hasn’t happened, yet. Winning the lottery jackpot would also take care of the issue, but that’s hard to realistically plan for. Being turned down for yet another job (overqualified, again) inspired me to consider the possibilities.
So, in true and proper consultant fashion, I conducted an economic analysis of my situation. I won’t repeat the entire analysis here, but the summary is simple. Three ways to keep up with rising costs is to either increase income, increase net worth, or both. My portfolio, house, and lottery tickets were working on the increased net worth. Increasing income is something almost every entrepreneur is doing (except for some frugal folks, and religious types like a Buddhist monk I know). Jobs on the island that have a chance of growing income as expenses grow are things like professions (doctors, lawyers, and such), full-time gigs with the few large companies on the island (where my applications seem to vanish), and jobs related to the largest collections of assets on the island (stocks and real estate.) Becoming a doctor or lawyer takes too long and costs too much. I’ve tried the companies, alas. I enjoy stocks, but there are more positions in real estate than in financial planning. Process of elimination = real estate.
Real estate isn’t just about buying and selling homes. Besides brokers there are appraisers, inspectors, mortgage brokers, and people working in title and escrow companies. There’s a lot to choose from. Becoming a broker had its appeal, but so many friends are brokers that I didn’t want to compete with them. Unfortunately, none of the other options worked out because of logistics, bizarre regulations, and no demand for new employees. I mentioned that to several brokers and was surprised at the response. Competition? Sure. But there’s also a lot of cooperation. A lot of encouragement came my way. At some point, I decided to listen.
That was the analytical path. The emotional path clinched the deal.
Instead of thinking about buying and selling I realized I could look at a broker’s job as helping. As I learned as a consultant, one of my life joys is helping people pursue their projects, helping them get things done. For me, buying or selling houses wasn’t about investing, it was about moving from one phase of life to another. Life changes, goals change, and a house that made sense ten years ago may not make as much sense after those changes. Jobs change. Families grow and shrink. Hobbies can shift from a basement workbench to the acreage required to hold a horse or three. Someone needs to find a quiet place to retire, recover, or play? Sure, I’m happy to help them meet that goal. Thinking about real estate that way is actually inspiring.
This blog is about personal finance. While real estate is part of personal finance, I don’t intend to turn this blog into a long series of stories about houses. I’ll continue to comment occasionally, but I’ll be starting a separate blog that talks about island life, various aspects of Whidbey Island, and possibly what it’s like to be a fresh real estate broker at my age.
At my age, there’s an interesting coincidence. I’m almost 60, but not yet. My Dad found himself in a job that he had to leave for moral, ethical, and legal reasons. They were doing things he didn’t want to be a part of. At 58 years old he quit his job, recreated himself, and grew his way into retirement. His choice and actions were impressive and inspiring. I’ll be happy if I can do well enough to live comfortably sustainably, while staying on the island.
I’ll launch the other blog soon. First, there’s an amazing amount of paperwork behind becoming a broker. Any new job comes with a sweep of forms for new accounts, passwords, rules, procedures, and generally being a newbie. Amongst that, I’ll find time for my regular gigs because they all share my life joy in helping people. My title isn’t changing, just another one to add to my long list; “Real Estate Broker, Consultant, Writer, Speaker, Teacher, Photographer, Engineer, Entrepreneur, etc.” I suspect a much shorter title will end up on the For Sale signs, something like, “Tom Trimbath, Real Estate Broker – Coldwell Banker”.
Give me a call. You know I enjoy talking – and helping.
Hey! They already loaded up my agent’s profile.