The Rhode Island School of Real Estate was established in January of 2018 by Wendy Brown, a broker and owner of the Brown Group Realty; Bill Fain, Office Leader for the Rhode Island offices of Berkshire Hathaway Home Services; and Cherie Roach, a mortgage loan officer for Webster Bank. Wendy was good enough to sit with us and give us the inside scoop.
Wendy had been teaching a pre-license class in Westerly for well over a decade, since the early 2000s, and was then joined by co-teacher Bill Fain in 2010.
“Within the last few years, Rhode Island real estate education began going through some major changes, with Kent Washington first splitting off from the Rhode Island Association of Realtors and then being merged back in, and the Department of Business Regulation changing the required classroom hours to 90. “It was a really exciting time,” Wendy explained. “But we felt that there wasn’t anything very new or different being offered.”
Wendy, Bill, and Cherie wanted to change that. With years of experience on the Education Committee, they decided to form their own school, right here in Westerly. They offer pre-licensing for both sales and for brokers, plus the crucial component of continuing education classes, as all licensees have to take 24 hours of CE every 2 years. Given their location, they also got approved to offer continuing education for Connecticut realtors. Of course, you don’t have to live right in town to take advantage of this new school – students from as far away as Cranston have already started taking classes.
Since their opening in January through April, they have been focused on offering continuing education courses while marketing themselves, and classes for pre-licensing will begin being offered in the fall. The three founders also act as the primary teachers, but they love reaching out to local experts and asking them to write and teach a class (both the class and the instructor must then be approved by the state). Outside instructors include local attorneys, such as John Gentile and Paul Kuhn, and a local home inspector, Peter Balone.
What sets the Rhode Island School of Real Estate apart is this community spirit, as well as its passion for teaching. “I love to teach,” Wendy shared. “Learning keeps me young, and the best way to learn is to teach because you have to learn the material first, but then you also learn from students. We have a true passion for being good educators.
By teaching through real-life experiences and seeking out innovative ways to engage students and encourage participation, she believes that they make the learning process both practical and enjoyable. “Can I talk for three hours? Yes. Should I? No,” she laughed. “A lot of these subjects are pretty dry – we cover 107 forms in one class, but we make it fun!”
Other courses offered cover topics including, but not limited to, Due Diligence, Code of Ethics, Real Estate Law and Contract Law, and Finances. As a real estate agent, Wendy explained that “you won’t be getting the mortgage for them, but you should know enough to point them in the right direction and help with the transition.”
Working in real estate requires you to pull from many disciplines; being able to read people and communicate effectively, marketing yourself and your properties, problem-solving and an ability to negotiate provide a solid baseline for the profession. “Negotiating skills boil down to removing yourself from the situation, remaining calm, quantifying problems, and not allowing it to escalate into drama,” Wendy advised. A good real estate agent must also understand the basic components of a home and the construction and repairs thereof, along with property management, fair housing, and zoning and planning. They must also know how to direct clients to the appropriate answers if they cannot provide one themselves.
“It’s never boring,” Wendy said. “If you’re interested in this profession, you must like people and you cannot be shy. Ethics help, along with photography skills and some tech-savvy. You must also have the ability to deliver bad news and be real with others; non-judgmental, non-threatening. You must be able to change course and be adaptable, you must want to always keep learning, and you must be willing to make an investment in yourself. You are a boutique in the mall, in business for yourself. The business you make is up to you. This is the ultimate entrepreneurial position.”
If this sounds appealing to you, the next decision you face is how you want to learn – through an immersive, accelerated pre-sales license program over the course of three weeks, or a more slow and steady approach, with three-hour classes, two nights a week, for eight and a half weeks. Fortunately, you won’t have to sacrifice your comfort during any of those long classes – the school sprang for really comfortable chairs.
“It’s very satisfying to help someone realize their dream, seeing their eyes light up when they walk into a home and they just know its the right property for them,” Wendy shared. “It’s also satisfying to help them through tough times, like selling their mother’s house when the time comes. It’s a very helping profession. I like being a fairy godmother and then disappearing after the ball. If I’ve done my job, they won’t forget my name.”
To learn new ways to help others while supporting yourself in an exciting profession, be sure to sign up for classes at the Rhode Island School of Real Estate!