Allen Norwood

How is selling real estate like practicing dentistry?

How is selling real estate like practicing dentistry? A month or so after changing careers, former Mooresville dentist Paul Williams can tick off the similarities.

One is, you still have a lot to learn after you complete that last class.

“Coming out of (real estate) school, I knew how to keep out of jail,” he said with a laugh, sitting in a conference room at Keller Williams’ Mooresville office. “Coming here, I’m learning how to sell real estate.

“In dental school, you learn to do teeth, but you don’t learn to run a business. That’s the biggest complaint among new dentists.”

Williams puts a face on a running conversation inside the real estate sales industry.

Some seasoned pros argue that it’s too easy to enter the field, that education and other professional requirements aren’t stiff enough. Much of the debate is insider stuff, but those of us who turn to the pros have a stake, too.

The number of licensed agents rises and falls with the economy. In Charlotte and across North Carolina, the peak came in 2007 and 2008, before the downturn. The bottom came in 2012. At the peak in 2007, there were 9,578 Realtor members of the Charlotte Regional Realtor Association. In 2012, there were 6,236; by midsummer this year, the figure had rebounded past 7,700.

So, Williams is part of a wave of newcomers.

Williams didn’t turn to real estate because the housing market has improved, but because arthritis and other health issues made it tougher and tougher to practice dentistry.

He’d been a dentist for 25 years in Pennsylvania and Mooresville. At 50, he hoped to practice four or five more years, but didn’t make it. Williams, who was my dentist, sold his practice on Oct. 2.

Why real estate instead of, say, dental equipment sales?

His father bought and sold land when he was growing up. Williams had owned apartment buildings, so he had experience as a landlord. (He also owned a laundromat, which meant he had to repair balky machines in the middle of the night. Real estate sounds way better than that.)

He completed classes at J.Y. Monk Real Estate School. Every Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Then he put in 90 more hours of continuing work.

He connected with Keller Williams – and faced more classes. Two hours with a closing attorney, for instance, two with someone from the register of deeds. All the pros at Keller Williams have been welcoming and helpful, he said.

Other similarities between real estate and dentistry?

Real estate is a relationship business. That might be true of most businesses, Williams said, and it’s certainly true of dentistry. “One professor told us that 95 percent of dentistry is listening.”

Just last weekend, he sold his first house and listed another – both thanks to connections with former patients.

Allen Norwood: