More people go to real estate school as Florida housing market improves

Feb 11, 2015

Real estate agent for sale signLast year, 24,183 people passed the state test required to become licensed sales associates. That was 36 percent more than in 2013 and by far the most since 2009.

“We started seeing the increase in 2012 and it’s been a steady increase since,” said Bob Hogue, whose St. Petersburg-based real estate school prepared 6,500 students for the test last year. “And it’s been building for the right reason; in other words, it’s not crazy price increases.”

In the frenetic days of the boom, Hogue’s classrooms were packed with would-be Realtors hoping to cash in on the dizzying upward spiral of home prices. Classes that once drew 60 students shrank to barely a 10th of that during the recession but have since bounced back to an average of 30 or so.

Among the recent graduates: 45-year-old Joseph Sullivan of Tampa.

After 17 years in the accounting department of a Tampa hospital, Sullivan realized he was “tired of sitting in a cubbyhole all day.” So he took Hogue’s intensive seven-day course in November, passed the state test and hung his license with a Coldwell Banker office in South Tampa.

Then came every new agent’s dream.

“Thanksgiving morning at 6 a.m. I was walking my dog and this man was out there smoking a turkey so we just started talking. He’s from Minnesota and is renting and wanted to buy a house. I said, ‘I recently got my license,’ and he said, ‘I like to give new people a shot.’ ”

After Sullivan showed him several houses, the man settled on a three-bedroom, two bath place in Brandon. The closing is Feb. 2.

Chalk one up for Sullivan as he joins the 145,525 Florida sales agents with “current and active” licenses. Another 73,000 have inactive licenses, including many who got out of the business when home sales plunged but who might rethink that decision as the market continues to improve.

Although final figures for 2014 aren’t yet available, sales of single-family homes in Florida through November showed solid gains over the previous year. And both sales and median prices are expected to rise another 10 percent this year, thanks to a strengthening economy. Read more