Company aims to provide veterans better prospects in a second career

by: CHASE ALLGOOD - George Huertas, principal broker sales manager at Hillsboro's Prudential Northwest Properties office, is participating in the company’s statewide Veterans to Brokers incentive program.
For the past five years, national and local unemployment rates among military veterans have been higher than the national average. According to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, in December 2012, returning Gulf War II-era veterans — those who served in either Iraq or Afghanistan — had a 10.8 percent rate of unemployment, versus the national average of 7.8 percent.

Veterans face notable obstacles to finding full-time work. The lagging job market is hardly welcoming to those embarking on a new phase in their professional lives, and some businesses are wary of how strict military training can translate into the private sector.

But employers like Prudential Northwest Properties view military experience as an asset.

Prudential broker Janet Dalton is based in the company’s Lake Oswego office but does much of her business in Tualatin. In real estate, as in military service, she explained, discipline is essential. A broker must be self-motivated and able to push himself — much like anyone who has been through military training.

As a broker, Dalton said, “You’re your own boss. It’s like owning your own business. You make your own schedule. But a person has to have the intuition to be in this business. They have to pay attention to what they’re doing and work hard and hustle to get the work.”

Recruiting from the military

Dalton’s 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 personnel the incentive to pursue careers in real estate.

“Right now, believe it or not, is a great time to get into real estate,” Dalton said. “The market is changing. We’re coming out of the recession, and things are starting to turn around. It’s a good time to start selling. A lot of agents have gotten out of the marketplace, so the competition isn’t there that’s been there in the past. Because the industry has been slower and things are starting to pick up, there’s a need for real estate agents.”

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

“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 said. “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 said. “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.”

George Huertas, principal broker sales manager at Hillsboro’s Prudential office, 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.

Dalton, who has worked in the real estate industry for 18 years, sees significant parallels between qualities the military promotes and traits required for a broker to succeed in this market.

“You get out of it what you put into it,” she said, much like military training.

A broker must also be self-directed, even though he or she might have the guidance of a supervisor, she added.

There are also significant advantages to working in real estate — namely, that brokers are not stuck in a conventional office environment all day, and that they are able to set their own hours. All of this might appeal to someone with a military background, Dalton pointed out.

Trained to excel

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

Dalton plans to reach out to the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3452 in Tualatin, which she views as a key resource for returning veterans. Dalton has observed the VFW’s commitment to retired military during her more than 30 years as a member of the Tualatin Chamber of Commerce, and is confident she can work with them to spread the word about the Veterans to Brokers program.

Like Dalton, 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 veterans to explore a new, exciting option.

“(Real estate) is the single greatest industry, when you think about it,” Waugh said. “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

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