According to the most recent U.S. census, only about 40 percent of Americans with a disability are employed. If you are a disabled job seeker exploring opportunities for employment, diving into the real estate market as a realtor might be a good option for you.
In addition to the many perks of becoming a realtor, this guide will help you figure out how to get started in the field and even use your disability to empower you in the market. With the proper information and preparation, you can find a successful and rewarding career in real estate.
Why Real Estate? The Perks of Becoming a Realtor
There are many benefits to the real estate game. To start, realtors often set their own schedule. Because you’ll often be working with clients who have jobs during regular business hours, your hours will need to be flexible as well. This can give you much-needed freedom during the day to run errands (you can actually get to the bank before it closes!) and can make a huge difference if you’re a parent. You’ll have more freedom to make it to your child’s afternoon play, take him to the doctor if he’s sick, even pick him up after school. And if you have an evening meeting with a buyer, your spouse will be home to take over in your absence.
You can also opt to work full time or part time. Full-time employment can give you financial security and employee benefits, and if you love what you’re doing, you can even work more than the average 40 hours. On the other hand, if your spouse does very well at work and you’re only looking for supplemental income (or an excuse to get out of the house), you can choose to work part time. It can be an excellent way to keep you busy and give you a sense of career fulfillment while still leaving plenty of free time to spend with your family. As your needs or preferences change, you can make the shift to a full-time position later on.
Workspace in the realty game also tends to be flexible. Depending on the agency you work for, you may need to have a certain amount of “floor time” at the office each week to meet and speak with potential clients, as well as attend any team meetings. Aside from that, however, much of the work outside of showings can be done at home. Realty jobs are also available no matter where you go, so should you ever need to relocate, you’ll likely have little trouble finding work.
Becoming a real estate agent can be a truly rewarding experience for many reasons. Your goal is a reward in itself: you get the opportunity to help your clients find their ideal homes and achieve the American dream of becoming a homeowner.
As someone with a disability, you also offer a unique perspective to any clients who have specialized needs. A recent survey found that nearly half of homebuyers with disabilities report having trouble finding a home that suits their needs, and 83 percent said having an agent familiar with accessible housing would be beneficial. Anyone can study ADA requirements and accessible housing, but an agent with actual first-hand experience in this area gives you a remarkable edge. You may even be able to spot the need for accommodations to make day-to-day living easier that your client may not have even considered. This can be especially beneficial to clients who have children with disabilities—while they may still be learning about the kinds of modifications necessary for a simplified life, you’ll have vital knowledge on hand.
There’s also a major opportunity within the real estate market to be more focused on access, especially since some markets are seeing significant growth in demand for accessible housing. It makes sense: an estimated 1.7 million Americans sustain a traumatic brain injury every year, veterans may return home from battle with injuries, and millions of adult children open up their homes to elderly parents who likely have limited mobility or a disability. There’s a need for a wider range of search terms to make filtering through listings easier on those with accessibility needs. As an agent with a disability, you’ll be able to help create more valuable listings that give information that makes it easier for disabled homebuyers to shop. You’ll also have a keen eye for listings that will actually work for those with specialized needs and eliminate those that don’t, making the process quicker and easier for your buyer. Further, those in the community tend to have a better understanding that not all people searching for ADA-accessible housing are in wheelchairs, and each has diverse needs. Becoming a realtor gives you the opportunity to become an advocate and be the voice for those with disabilities in the market.
In addition to the required education you’ll need to attain your license, there are classes and programs that specialize in accessible housing training. These kinds of classes can help you gain a more thorough understanding of loans and programs available to your disabled clients. They can also provide additional training on finding the perfect home for every need as well as potential home modifications that can dramatically increase accessibility. Taking this extra step can make you a highly-sought expert in the market.
The longer you’re in the game, the more well-versed you’ll become in the general areas ideal for your client to shop in. For example, if the west part of town tends to be behind the pack when it comes to accessibility, you’ll be able to easily eliminate those listings from your batch of possible homes. Again, you’ll be able to keep special considerations in mind for each area. If your client has a child on the autism spectrum and she’s interested in a house you know is near a relatively wooded area, you’ll recognize that it wouldn’t be ideal for her family since children with autism are prone to wandering. Your clients will value your perspective and be all the more excited to refer you, helping you build a wide client base.
The requirements to become a real estate agent vary from state to state, but no matter where you are, you’ll need to start with pre-licensing education. Some states require a certain number of pre-licensing classes, while others may go by a set number of hours completed. The agency you join may also have its own education requirements, so you may have to take additional courses after being hired on, or if you know for sure ahead of time the group you’ll be joining, take all the classes you’ll need before starting work.
There are real estate scholarships available as well as scholarships specifically for those with disabilities. You can choose to find a trade school in your area, or attend a local college that offers a major or courses in real estate. Quite a few schools and websites offer online courses, giving you the freedom to work around your own schedule right from home. This option can even save you money on the cost of daycare if you have young children you normally look after during the day.
When the time comes to find an agency to officially start your career, it’s important to be familiar with the equal employment section of the Americans with Disabilities Act. An agency can’t refuse to consider you for employment based on your disability alone, nor can employers refuse to make reasonable accommodations to the workplace.
Whether you are a first-time disabled job seeker or hoping to make the change to a new career, real estate is certainly worth your consideration. The flexibility of becoming an agent combined with your unique perspective to clients with specialized needs can pave the way to a rewarding, flourishing career!
Redfin is currently looking for real estate agents; you can check out open positions at Redfin.com/jobs.