Real estate came to the rescue.
At the end of 2019, like most entrepreneurs, I said that 2020 was going to be “my year.” At the time, I was working as a communications director specializing in small business communications and my “anchor” client was a local real estate brokerage in Jacksonville, Fla. The next thing I knew, the coronavirus shut down everything, and I found myself laid off, as most of my clients now suddenly had zero marketing budget and an abundance of free time. I decided to take all of my sudden free time and stimulus payment and invest in myself by finishing my Florida real estate course and taking the licensing exam. I went back to work at Bold City Real Estate, too, but this time as a licensed agent.
I decided to become a real estate agent for many reasons. The biggest reason is that my husband wants to get out of the Navy in 2021. We decided as a family that we wanted to stay in Jacksonville, and as I worked for my broker, I realized that I could easily make just as much or more than my husband with my work experience in marketing and as a paralegal. Basically, I had almost all of the training I needed—I just needed to learn the laws and best practices so I could sell real estate effectively and ethically.
While I don’t plan to move to another state anytime soon, things may change for my family. My husband may decide to stay in the Navy, and if so, we would have to decide whether I should move to our next duty station or if “geobaching” would be better for our financial situation. Spouses who obtain professional licenses often do this while taking licensing reciprocity into consideration, which is when a professional license holder is able to obtain a license in another state without taking that state’s licensing exam.
If a licensed agent moves to Colorado from any state, they could simply take the Colorado-specific portion of the real estate exam and be licensed there, thanks to reciprocity. Not all states are so generous—Texas does not offer reciprocity with any state, unless you’re a military spouse.
If a military spouse moves to a military base in Florida with an active license from another state, Florida offers a temporary license to practice, provided that their spouse is active duty and stationed within Florida. This license is non-renewable and is issued for six months, allowing the spouse to continue working as they work on fulfilling the licensing requirements.
The Department of Labor hosts a page — Military Spouse License Recognition Options — that details the options available to military spouses with professional licenses in each state.
2020 is still “my year.”
In the middle of everything, it felt like the whole world was against me—I had four out of five kids in four different schools and suddenly became their teacher overnight; my son and husband both required surgeries during a pandemic; I had a complete mental breakdown; plus not being able to find cleaning supplies or some of our favorite foods; and, of course, losing my income. I am not going to lie and say that any of it was easy, because this year has been the hardest year of my life. But it has also been the most rewarding year of my life.
The pandemic forced me to work outside of my comfort zone and pursue a long-term goal that I had for myself so I could position myself over the next year to possibly become the breadwinner in our family.
I don’t know exactly where I’m going from here, but I’ll be helping a lot of military families find their new home at their new duty stations along the way.
Military Scholarships Available
With the My Career Advancement Account Scholarship Program (MYCAA), spouses of E1-E5 and O1-O2 service members can go through an approved real estate education program to prepare for the state exam at no cost.
In Florida, a real estate agent must first complete a 63-hour course, which I paid about $200 to take. The application fee is also waived for military spouses, though I still had to pay for fingerprinting and MLS dues, which in my area was nearly $1,000. Now, I am working through my post-licensing education requirement, which is a 45-hour course for $149 through the Florida Real Estate Institute. Every two years, we must also complete 14 hours of education, with three hours of that covering Core Law.