From Teacher to Commercial Real Estate Broker: How I Made a Successful Career Change

By Rick Ofman


Teaching and brokerage are similar in many ways, and success, in both careers, can be achieved in a variety of styles. After twenty-three years as a student and seven years teaching and coaching, I decided to leave the world of education and explore real estate.  The scope of this blog, thankfully, is not to analyze and explain that decision; I’ll save that for another time. Instead, I’ll share how the skills and traits I worked to instill in my students have allowed me to succeed as a broker.


  1. There is no substitute for hard work

I wish I could say I have worked hard at everything I’ve ever done, and that if I was to do something, I was going to do it well.  Truth be told, I coasted through high school and college, earning decent enough grades, but I didn’t start putting my all into school or work until graduate school.  As soon as I chose to be a teacher and a role model for others, I knew I had to lead by example.  Something clicked.

This trait, for better or for worse, will be the reason that I’m successful in brokerage.  Similar to sports, I’m not the biggest, or the fastest, and certainly not the most talented player in the game, but I’ll be damned if someone is going to out-hustle me.


  1. Be genuine and empathize

Children, often without realizing it, are the best at spotting a fraud.  Any teacher who claims to care about their students’ well-being or learning but fails to back it up through action is easily identified.  Same thing with a broker who is only interested in the commission.  Connecting with my students and genuinely having their best interests at heart, earned me their trust.  Empathizing with their concerns was necessary to understand what they needed from me to help them learn best.

As a broker, my early success has been a result of the same genuine desire to improve the business of my clients.  I want them to be successful, and I’m going to do all that I can to help them achieve their goals, regardless of whether their goals result in my earning a commission. Empathizing with people as they work through the challenges of managing property allows me to be more than the typical broker only interested in buying and selling buildings.  I am more proud of helping a client find a tenant in a pinch and helping another client with a refinance than I am of any of my recent closings.


  1. Be the geek

Caring about students’ success and developing a trusting relationship are not enough on their own to lead students to success; essential were my deep knowledge about the subjects I was teaching and my passion for the content.  I have fond memories of my students calling me a history nerd or making fun of me for getting, admittedly, way too excited about solving systems of equations in algebra. That love for history and math was contagious, and my students would get swept up in the energy of the room. Aside from being a passionate geek, I knew my stuff.  It was impossible to prepare for every possible question students would have on any given subject, but that didn’t stop me from trying.  In fact, not knowing an answer to a tough question was one of the best opportunities for learning, and pushed me to study with more tenacity than before.

It’s no different in brokerage.  That same level of preparation and content knowledge gives me an edge over my competition.  The more knowledgeable I am about the market, construction costs, changes in relevant legislation, new trends, or even new ideas and techniques some landlords are using to solve everyday problems allows me to be a valuable resource for my clients.   As for passion, I have no doubts that some of my clients today leave building tours thinking “no sane person should get that excited over the $175 rent increase I was able to get by putting in individual HVAC in units.”

There are hundreds more overlapping traits and skills of successful teachers and brokers; however, I’ve found these three (or five) have stood out among the rest.  I know that as I continue into my second full year of brokerage, my work ethic, ability to empathize, genuine desire to help others, over-preparation, and a level of passion for the work that borders on geekiness will result in greater success.


Kiser Group Staff