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Firm recruits vets as brokers

For the past five years, national and local unemployment rates among military veterans have been higher than the national average, hitting 10.8 percent, well above the 7.8 percent national average.by: CHASE ALLGOOD - George Huertas, principal broker sales manager at Hillsboro's Prudential Northwest Properties office, believes that military vets are uniquely suited to succeed in the real estate business. Huertas is participating in the company's statewide Veterans to Brokers incentive program.

Even though veterans face obstacles to finding full-time work, employers like Prudential Northwest Properties are trying to change that. The Hillsboro office sees military experience as an asset and wants to help find a place for veterans returning to civilian life.

“Many of the traits learned in the military with respect to discipline, focus and tenacity are perfectly suited to real estate,” says George Huertas, principal broker sales manager at Hillsboro’s Prudential office.

Huertas’ is one of 20 Prudential offices statewide that is launching its own branch of the Veterans to Brokers program, a reimbursement effort to give former military the incentive to pursue careers in real estate.

The cost of embarking on this particular path can prove prohibitively high. With the state-mandated pre-license courses, exam and licensing fees and association dues, would-be brokers are sometimes compelled to invest more than $2,300 before they even enter the field.

Jason Waugh, Prudential Northwest president, saw an opportunity to address the dwindling number of new brokers and to make real estate a financially viable career for returning vets. Inspired by a similar program in Iowa, Waugh decided to launch a program wherein participants are fully reimbursed upon their first closed transactions — which is to say, successful home sales.

“In our recruiting efforts in 2013, we want to be more strategic and target groups of people that historically have had skill sets that have translated well into real estate,” Waugh says. “Looking at different demographics of people and backgrounds, we really wanted to start with the military. Really, they committed themselves to serving their country and this is an opportunity for us to help them transition from active duty to a secondary career. We’re willing to help absorb those costs.”

A natural next step?

Real estate is often a second or third career for most, Waugh says. “Very few brokers get into this as a first career choice. So they bring an experience in two or three different careers before they make the decision to become a real estate broker.”

Huertas recalled one colleague who had a background in criminal military interrogations. This made him an excellent judge of character and intent, which proved useful in what Huertas refers to as the “funny business” that is real estate.

“It’s the only industry in which our regulatory environment compels us to work with our competitor,” he said.

“If you look at the top brokers, they’re military-like in how they go about business,” Huertas explains. “They’re up early, in the office, following up, developing a marketing plan for the year or five years — there’s a lot to do.”

Because brokers draw their income completely from commission, it is up to each individual to propel himself and his business forward, Huertas said. Although Huertas supervises his brokers in a general way, they each act as their own business. And it’s not easy work.

“You can wear 20 different hats (as a broker),” he says. “From marketing consultant to lawyer, you name it. And we have to negotiate fairly complex contracts.”

Huertas himself comes from a military family and has noted the parallels between complex property transactions and complicated on-the-ground strategy.

Adaptability is key in a field where the law tends to change every year, he adds.

“Quite frankly, the military is very good at training someone to receive a lot of information very quickly, and implement it,” he says. “We feel that’s a good fit (in real estate).”

The launch of Veterans to Brokers was announced last December, and Prudential managers are working to identify the best methods of outreach and to work with veterans resource agencies to identify potential future brokers.

Huertas recently reached out to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which has a medical clinic two floors above his office in Hillsboro. He hopes to work closely with the branch to raise veterans’ awareness of the program.

Waugh hopes that by offering veterans the chance to ultimately break even on their real estate education, his company can show gratitude for their service to the country — and inspire vets to explore a new, exciting option.

“(Real estate) is the single greatest industry, when you think about it,” Waugh says. “There’s unlimited income potential. And then we’re helping people through certainly one of the most significant financial investments, and emotional transactions.”

For more information about the Veterans to Brokers program, visit pru-nw.com/veterans-to-brokers.aspx.



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