A career change may seem scary but sometimes necessary. I mean, how are we supposed to pick what we want to do for the rest of our lives at such a young age?? There are a lot of people who find out that they’re not where they want to be in life and guess what? You’re not stuck. Mia Petersen, now of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices The Preferred Realty, went through it and proves that a positive change can improve your quality of life. We sat down with her and are now thinking, “Should we be real estate agents?”

Career change
Mia Petersen of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices The Preferred Realty

What interested you about real estate that made you take that leap into becoming an agent? 

I spent roughly a decade after graduate school in a typical 8-5 style day job in education.  In that role, I realized that most of my enjoyment from my work came from being able to help others and build relationships with my students and families I worked with.  However, the pay was not always commensurate with my work ethic, dedication, or success.  I began looking for a career that would reward me for the work that I put in and the success that I had. 

When I met with my office manager to discuss my potential future in real estate, I saw a sign on the door that read, “Earn your worth!” It was in that moment that I realized that my success in real estate was within my control. The more I put in to my real estate business, the more I would get out of it. Real estate is the perfect fit for me because I get personal enjoyment from helping my clients, as well as the financial freedom that comes with a career in real estate.

If you could go back in time to when you were considering your career path – what advice would you give yourself now that you wish you could have given yourself then? 

I would tell myself to consider all of the pros and cons of different career paths before committing to a certain field.  A “traditional” Bachelors and graduate degree program may be necessary for employment in certain fields. However, they, quite literally, come at a hefty cost.  For many young people, including myself, being burdened down with student debt isn’t considered before heading down that path.

With a career as a realtor, I am able to provide myself with the opportunity to earn a substantial income and I didn’t necessarily need either of my very expensive degrees to do it. Of course there are costs associated with becoming a realtor, but they are a fraction of what students borrow in loans to earn a degree. So if a high school senior is interested in a real estate career, I would suggest that they do their research now, meet with different agencies, interview or even shadow agents to decide if this is an occupation they want to pursue, before signing themselves up for a lifetime of student loan debt.

Thinking about your decision to become a RE agent, what was a key aspect that made you choose to do it? 

I was pregnant with my 3rd child, and as any parent can attest, “the days are long but the years fly by.” I was looking for a career change that allowed more flexibility for my family. Let me be clear, by “flexibility” I do not mean “easier” or “more time off.” Sure, if I want to chaperone my child’s field trip or be home when they get off the school bus, I can do that. But in exchange, my weekends are busier showing houses or hosting an Open House.

I took my required courses, passed my licensing exams, joined The Preferred Realty family, closed on five transactions, and finished my real-estate training program, all while being pregnant with and welcoming our third child this past fall. I was able to do all of this because being a REALTOR allows you the flexibility to balance a career and family.

You probably had these visions and dreams of what it would be like to be a RE agent. In what ways has the career lived up to those expectations? In what ways has it fallen short? In what ways has it exceeded it? 

I think that everyone imagines their name and face being THE face of real estate in their local market.  We picture ourselves sitting at closing tables and showing houses and helping our buyers find the perfect home.  In some ways, I have already begun to experience some of that.  Hearing a client tell you how much they appreciate what you have done for them is beyond rewarding. Just like anything though, you have to take the good with the bad.

I’ve quickly come to realize that different factors can affect a transaction at any moment and as an agent, you have to be ready for anything. Issues such as competing bids, a bad inspection or appraisal, or financing falling through can all present challenges for even the most seasoned realtors.

When someone thinks “Real Estate agent” they get a certain idea in their head – mainly: buying/selling residential properties. But is that a misconception?

Being a real estate agent is so much more than just helping clients buy and sell residential properties.  Real estate can be a very complex business. My clients have made the decision to hire me, not just to help them buy or sell a home, but to be their real estate expert.

In addition to residential properties, real estate agents must have knowledge about rentals, investment properties, land use, new construction, and more, and be able to refer their clients to other professionals when their needs fall outside of the agent’s expertise (such as legal advice, mortgages, inspections, appraisals, etc.) When my clients hire me, they know that I am there to help guide them as seamlessly as possible through whatever their needs may be.

What skills do you find yourself relying on the most in order to be a successful RE agent?

I think that there is a common misconception that realtors are a dime a dozen salespeople only concerned about making a buck. However, I take pride in the fact that I really make an effort to build relationships, get to know my clients on a personal level, and always have their best interests in mind.

You have to be warm and personable or people won’t want to work with you.  If you aren’t organized, things will fall through the cracks.  If you can’t listen, you may miss your clients’ primary concerns.  My opinion is that you have to be a very well-rounded person to have a successful career as a realtor.

Did you already have all the skills going into this career or have you needed to learn new ones on the job? What has been the most challenging aspect of that? What has been the most rewarding?

I learn something new almost every single day. If I come across a question I don’t know, I won’t quit until I find the answer. In addition, The Preferred Realty has an incredible new CORE training program that they offer their new agents. It’s self-paced and consists of online classes, hands-on assessments, technology training, and instructors and mentors to guide and support you along the way. The President/CEO of BHHS even teaches some of the online courses himself! You are also able to apply what you are learning and begin selling real estate as you complete the program.

One of the many benefits of working for BHHS has been the incredible network of professionals that have helped me thus far. I would be lost without them and I have been blessed to work with a great group of people. Their support has set me up to achieve early success and I am so grateful for that!

Still have some questions or want to talk to more agents? Head to the HiringPittsburghCareer Expo presented by Dollar Bank on June 11.

This content was provided by a local, independent contributor to Made in PGH, a lifestyle blog.
Mo Macel

Mo is a pun-loving Pittsburgher who likes to take photos and write. She blogs at givegodyouryes.com and fullhipster.com.

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