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From the Record:

Real estate as a 2nd career

Charlie Chichizola remembers the moment when he decided to switch careers. He was a cable TV technician in the 1980s, and found himself “hanging off a pole in the dead of winter at 3 in the morning, with icicles hanging off my face.”

Just as he thought, “There’s got to be a better way,” he spotted a real estate office across the street. The next day, he called a real estate school to get his license. Now he is co-owner of Re/Max Experts in Fort Lee.

Like Chichizola, most North Jersey real estate agents are people with a past. They used to be nurses, writers, musicians, teachers, actresses, computer geeks, hairdressers, lawyers, dental hygienists – and much more.

They left their previous careers as a result of layoffs, buyouts or burnouts. And they brought with them a variety of skills from their old lives.

Transitioning into real estate is relatively inexpensive and easy, compared with some other careers. It requires a 75-hour course costing $300 to $450, plus a total of about $300 in state testing and licensing fees.

“It’s pretty good to be able to put out your own shingle” for that amount, said Ria Bloss, supervisor of continuing education at Bergen Community College, which offers the real estate salesperson’s course for $415.

Not that it’s enough to just get a license, she added. “It is what you make it,” Bloss said.

“If you get your license and sit at home and wait for the phone to ring, you’re not going to make a dime,” because agents are paid on commission.

Real estate agents in New Jersey make a median $41,200 a year, compared with $47,700 nationwide, according to a survey by the National Association of Realtors. Agents work a median of 40 hours a week.

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