LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — At one point, becoming a real estate agent was only a dream for Cason Barnhill. It took a pandemic for the former software engineer to ditch the computer and move into real estate.
Barnhill made the career switch in June of 2020, during the height of the coronavirus pandemic-- a time when many people were forced to reexamine their lives and how they paid their bills.
“Essentially put me in a position to have to make a decision of whether it was to continue in software or to pursue a passion," Barnhill said.
From layoffs, to parents looking for work-from-home options so they could take care of their children, the real estate industry drew a lot of people from other career fields.
"One of the reasons the pandemic kind of sparked a rush is that furlough and people had time, so then they had time to explore," said Stephanie Guinn with the National School of Real Estate. "Then the state opened up the possibility of online education through Zoom and live stream, so now not only could they do it on furlough, they could do it on furlough from their homes."
Two years after the pandemic began, and Guinn is still teaching students both in person and virtually.
Currently, Arkansas has more than 15,000 total real estate licensees, the highest number on record since 2007. More than 4,000 of those have happened from the time the pandemic began to now.
"I don't really think I’m that surprised by it, especially for Arkansas because we've been a state that is a little insulated from a lot of the activities that happen in bigger cities," Guinn said. "So we have a real low inventory of houses, which means our houses stayed really strong for a long time and that low inventory keeps prices up, keeps buyers excited."
Now before you get any ideas and maybe consider quitting your current job, there is a lot you need to consider.
Among a list of things, you need to complete 60 hours of real estate education, pass the licensure exam, apply for your license, and complete post-license education.
It sounds like a lot of steps, but Guinn said with a good work ethic, a little patience and a lot of planning, it can become a lucrative career field.
"If you're willing to put in the work and you're disciplined and you have a plan, there's a lot of success to be had," she said.
She's not the only one who thinks that either, Barnhill agrees and said that he's still happy that he made the change.
"It's definitely been the best career decision I’ve been lucky enough to take advantage of," Barnhill said.