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Realtors are ‘every 10 feet’ in Florida but more want in the business

ST. PETERSBURG ó Tired of working as a yacht captain, Pancho Jiminez decided to get into real estate even though he knows itís a highly competitive field in Florida.

"Realtors are every 10 feet around here," he says.

Nonetheless, Jiminez is among 30 students who started classes this week at the Bob Hogue School of Real Estate in St. Petersburg, one of 16 locations where Hogue instructors are currently coaching would-be sales agents.

Florida already has 180,000 Realtors battling it out for commissions at a time when there are so few homes on the market. In January, only about 4,000 homes sold in the four-county Tampa Bay area, which worked out to less than one sale for each Realtor in the area. And the ranks of agents keeps growing ó last year, 32,223 first-timers took the licensing exam statewide, just slightly off of 2016ís applicant pool.

RELATED COVERAGE: Tampa Bay homes prices soar by double-digits in January

Yet talk of a hot market continues to lure aspirants like those whoíve paid $295 for the week-long course at Hogueís St. Petersburg headquarters.

"Itís been holding steady,: Hogue says of enrollments. "Itís actually doing a little better than I would have thought what with the new president and so forth but the economy is moving forward and weíre getting a good supply of people.íí

Among them: Chantel Leavitt, who said she had a good run selling clothes on ebay until sales plunged 50 percent because of competition from Amazon. Meanwhile, her sister, a ReMax agent in Brandon, has been enjoying success in real estate.

"She has urged me to do this for years," Leavitt, 50, said of getting a license. "So Iím going to switch gears even if itís out of my comfort zone, which is retail."

Colt Caywood ó sporting a black T shirt that said "Rogue" ó is an ER assistant helping doctors during open-heart surgery. But he wants to be his own boss and thinks the way to do that is get into real estate because Floridaís market is "phenomenal."

"Just like you need health care, you always need somebody to sell a house," said Caywood, 35. "Iím going to step my foot in to see what itís all about and if itís a good fit, I will make a change."

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During a break he was chatting with Jiminez, the yacht captain.

"Iím done being owned by other people and at their beck and call," Jiminez, 47 said. "I want a job with flexibility." Having a license will help him not just with his own real estate investments --- "I donít want to pay a commission" ó but with those of friends.

""I know a lot of yacht captains with a lot of cash," he said.

The current class may be a little atypical in terms of age. Hogue says heís noticed that students ó who must be 18 to get a sale associate license ó seem to be younger than in the past.

""Iím surprised at how many were born in the Ď90s," he said. "Weíll soon be getting our first person born in this century."

And if the past is a guide, a majority of current students wonít make careers in real estate. Between 57 percent and 61 percent of those who took the licensing exam last year failed it, according to monthly statistics compiled by the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Of those who do pass, many find that selling houses is a lot harder than they thought.

"We try to warn that itís not for everybody," Hogue says, "but they still keep coming."

Contact Susan Taylor Martin at [email protected] or (727) 893-8642. Follow @susankate

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