If you've ever gone to real estate school in the Tampa Bay area, chances are Deborah Diesing was your instructor.
Through boom, bust and boom again, Diesing has taught an estimated 1,200 students of the Bob Hogue School of Real Estate what they need to know to pass the Florida real estate exam. She also teaches continuing education courses, traveling as far as the Panhandle.
A Wisconsin native, Diesing, 60, moved to Florida in 1982, got her license three years later and worked with her father in his Gulfport real estate company. She has her own brokerage, Arbor Realty Group, but says: "I found my passion in teaching.''
Diesing recently spoke with the Tampa Bay Times.
How did you get interested in teaching real estate?
In 2000, I had an opportunity to work for the Supra lockbox company as a trainer under a one-year contract. I had the best time doing it. It was teaching Realtors the technology with the lockbox system (contains keys so Realtors can show a home at any time) and when it was over I was feeling kind of bad because I really liked it. About that time I met Bob Hogue at a technology show and he had a sign that said: Have you ever thought about being a real estate instructor? I said, "I think I would like that" and he said, "Okay, good, see me tomorrow at my office." He handed me a bunch of books to read and said to go down and take the instructor's test. I started with him in 2003.
How do class sizes now compare to what they were in the past?
They are larger than they were before the bust. Because of the strength of the real estate business, a lot of people are thinking, "I want to get in on that" and they are doing it. During the lean years, Bob cut the schedule in half. I had a couple of daytime classes, one with only four students, the other with five. Now we're averaging about 50.
Is the type of student different these days?
They're a lot younger. It's unusual because I don't think too many guidance counselors are sending them. I'm wondering if they're having trouble in the regular job market. Many are coming in because they're going into the family business, they do very well. Many young people, though, come in because real estate is a bit glamorized on television shows like Million Dollar Listing or people who flip houses in California.
Then you have the people that have careers and are taking a week off from work. Those are the very, very serious students. They have a time crunch and have to get it down.
What's the first thing you tell students?
I say, "You're going to have to study and your input is extremely important." It is not an easy class. They are all afraid to ask the question: How do you get paid? How do you earn a living in real estate? I usually explain how it works — if you're here because you love watching (Home & Garden Television ) and you think you only have to show three houses (to make a sale), your eyes are going to be opened in this class. I try to stress the fact that just because it's a weeklong course and not that expensive ($295), you might think it's easy and it's not.
What are the hardest things for students to grasp?
Truly, it's the thing that seems like nit-picking laws, but they need to know the laws, just the basic laws involved in having a license. We don't teach people to go out and sell real estate, we teach people how to be on the right side of the law.
The multiple-choice Florida real estate exam has several math questions, like figuring someone's property taxes when they have a homestead exemption. Is that tough for students?
I always have at least a handful of students who come up to me almost shaking, they're so math phobic. I tell them, "Just listen carefully" and I take them through it step by step. One time somebody was talking about strategy for taking a multiple-choice test and said, "if you don't know the answer always pick the letter C." I had one student who was so math phobic that when I corrected her (practice) test she had all the math problems wrong. She had checked C for every math problem, and none of them was correct. But those people who are good at math love it, they wish the whole test was math.
Your weeklong classes are very intensive, 8:15 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. Do students ever nod off?
Let me put it this way — not every student comes into class for the same reason. Some are more involved than others, and I feel badly for students who think it's going to be easy and find out it isn't. Those are usually the students who don't take it seriously enough at night (with homework) and don't get enough sleep. They go out to party.
What advice do you give students about taking the state test?
Read the darn question! Read the question carefully and do not overanalyze it.
Do you ever hear from people after they leave your class?
They have my number, I invite them to call me. In the first week or two (after class) I generally get a lot of calls and texts saying "I passed." There is a much larger number I never hear from again. I wonder how they did. A lot of students never take the state exam. They're fearful of it or they get a job somewhere else.
Does passing the state exam mean you can go out and do well right off the bat?
You are deemed to be minimally competent to practice real estate. That's the lowest bar. What that means is that when you get out in the real world you're going to have to become further educated. In this profession, you never stop learning. You'll learn something with every transaction.
Susan Taylor Martin can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8642. Follow @susanskate.