Career changes lead locals to real estate | VailDaily.com

Career changes lead locals to real estate

Edward Stoner

Preston Utley/Vail DailySid Towle check his email at his office in Edwards. Towle, a former ski patroller now works as a real estate agent for Keller Williams.

EAGLE COUNTY – After he got married and had a child on the way, Sid Towle of Edwards knew he couldn’t work as a ski patroller anymore if he wanted to support his family.”I thought, OK, ski patrol is not cutting it,” he said. “I’m not making enough money.”

So he turned his eyes to selling real estate. Following last ski season, after four years as a Vail ski patroller, two years as an instructor and various summer jobs, he took a job as an agent at Keller Williams in Edwards.”I finally decided to grow up,” he said.More and more people are making that jump into the valley’s hot real estate market. while longtime valley Realtors caution it’s far from a get-rich-quick endeavor.There are now 674 real estate agents registered with the Vail Board of Realtors, a 39 percent increase over the beginning of 2003, when there were 485 Realtors registered with the board. The overall population of Eagle County has grown, too, but at a slower pace. The population increased 11.1 percent between 2000 and 2004, Census data shows.Christine Stasnek of the Vail Board of Realtors said a majority of Realtors who have registered with the board over the last couple of years are people who have just received their real estate licenses.Real estate sales in Eagle County reached a record $2.2 billion last year. This year, each month’s sales have exceeded last year’s.Selling real estate in a resort area appealed to Towle, he said. “My feeling is there’s always going to be someone willing to come in with money to buy something in a resort,” he said. Towle is still working a second job as he tries to break into the business, which he said can be “cutthroat.” But the job is giving him more free time for his family, including his 6-month-old daughter, Ella, and the job has the potential to make much more money than ski patrolling ever could.RE/MAX Vail Valley owner and managing broker Bill Wilto, who has been selling real estate in the valley since 1984, said he would have some serious words of caution for someone who’s thinking about becoming a Realtor in the valley.”Words of advice would be don’t even think about doing it unless you could work 60 hours a week for two years taking classes, learning the inventory and learning about developments,” he said.When Wilto deals with a new real estate agent, he recommends they have a year’s worth of savings tucked away while they learn the business.But he noted that many real estate agents are getting older and will be leaving the industry in the next five or 10 years. He said there are probably too many real estate agents in the valley, but he thought there were too many back when there were only 300 in the valley.”There have always been more people entering the business than we thought was healthy,” he said.He estimated that only 10 percent to 20 percent of the valley’s agents are doing really well, another 40 percent to 50 percent are surviving, and the rest are relying on real estate for part or none of their income.

Of the 674 registered agents, Stasnek estimated that only a couple hundred of those agents rely on real estate for most of their income. Others work just part of the year in real estate while working other seasonal jobs like ski instructing, she said.Georgette Van Buren of Edwards recently made the transition to working in real estate after owning Eagle River Trading Company in Minturn for more than 11 years. Her now-closed Minturn business sold art and souvenirs. She cited expensive property and a subdued art market when she closed her store.”It’s still sales,” she said. “The real estate market is especially strong here – and competitive. I felt like I could make some inroads there.”She got her real estate license a year and a half ago. She’s now working full-time for Thurston Real Estate in Edwards selling residential properties.She said she knows it will be tough to be successful in a competitive marketplace. “It’s a different career, but it’s a good career path for me,” she said.Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 604, or estoner@vaildaily.com.Vail, Colorado