Lia Washington wasn’t always so sure of where her path would lead. The Chicago native and now Arkansas realtor worked in retail sales for six years and could feel an impending change. She was encouraged to shift from retail sales to real estate, but was hesitant on taking another commission-based job and was ready to head back to the Midwest. Lia decided to stay in the Natural State to obtain her realtor license, and went back to her retail sales job in hopes that she would figure everything out. Lia soon realized that she was holding herself back. “My challenges were more so mental. I was so afraid of being seen as a novice and trying to convince everyone that I knew what I was doing. In reality, I did not have a clue—being a realtor is all about trial and error. Experience is honestly the best teacher; no two transactions will be the same.”
What were you doing prior to initiating your current profession? Was there a defining moment that shifted your interest to real estate?
I worked six years in retail sales for AT&T and was tired of it. I knew that I wanted to change careers. In 2018, I went to a family party and my aunt knew that I was trying to change career paths. She told me that I would make a good realtor. At the time, I was trying not to enter another commission-based career. All of my extended family is in real estate, so I knew that I would have access to resources and support, but honestly, I wanted to go back to the Midwest.
I am not a true Arkansan. I have lived here for the majority of my adult life, but I’m originally from Chicago. Fast forward to January 2019, I decided to stay in Arkansas and I took the pre-license class. I completed the class but it took me six months to obtain my actual license. During this time, I had returned to my retail job and was trying to figure out what I wanted to do. At the end of June 2019, I finally become licensed and a few weeks later I landed my first commercial property listing. I felt l like I was on top of the world. Then, in August of 2019, I was involved in a hit-and-run accident. My world turned completely upside down. I spent the remainder of 2019 trying to mentally recoup from the accident. So by the beginning of this year, I told myself that I was going to give real estate my all. I was tired of contemplating, overthinking, and I was just going to do it!
What challenges did you face as a new realtor?
Where do I start? I will say that even though I did not particularly enjoy my job, I was able to get my license right after passing the exam, pay my fees, get cards, and all of the other business essentials to get started. Shameless shoutout to TBROCKART for creating my flyers!
My challenges were more so mental. I was so afraid of being seen as a novice and trying to convince everyone that I knew what I was doing. In reality, I did not have a clue—being a realtor is all about trial and error. Experience is honestly the best teacher; no two transactions will be the same.
Do you feel that there is decent representation when it comes to Black women in real estate, specifically?
Yes, I feel that Black or women of color are represented well within real estate. The women that are at the top or that you see with multiple closing operate as a business. Social media has made real estate seem glamorous, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg. My extended family members in real estate are mostly women, so I know up close and personal what it takes. That’s why I do my best to always do my best.
What have you learned along the way that has helped to define who you are as Black woman and realtor?
I have learned so much from real estate and it has really changed my perspective on life. My parents, aunts, and close friends have supported and helped me tremendously. In real estate you have a lot of days where you face rejection over and over again. I wanted to throw in the towel a few times.
I think it’s important to know why you want to be in real estate and I feel that generational wealth is a good answer, but are you going to be patient, disciplined, and hungry when times get hard? I have learned that the answer is never really “no”. Sometimes you have to find another way to execute the plan and rest when you’re tired, but don’t give up.
What misconceptions do people have about buying a home or home ownership in general?
The first major misconception of buying a home is that it’s hard. Financial literacy is not common knowledge. So, having the right realtor to guide you to the answers is very important. The second misconception is that buying a house is like what you see on “Selling Sunset” and “Home and Garden Tv”. The third misconception is that just because you have a “good” credit score that you can get approved for a loan. Pay your bills on time if you want to use down payment assistance programs because lenders are cracking down due to COVID-19. Most times a lender will review your credit history for two years to see your bill paying habits.
How do you find ways to stand out in your market?
I feel like being myself helped me to stand out. I am a millennial and I love social media. COVID-19 really changed the game this year. I was already trying to be an “influencer,” but taking away the physical aspect of real estate like meeting people and being able to network made it difficult for some people to continue their businesses. I already knew how I wanted to represent myself so when the pandemic happened, I just pivoted to make sure I was still in front of my audience.
Do you think that more millennials will shift into real estate, as realtors or even home owners?
Yes, real estate is a lucrative business. There are so many ways that you can succeed. I have learned so much that I want to teach my siblings and help them become homeowners. Purchasing a home is an avenue to financial literacy. The more people know, the easier it will be to create generational wealth and financial freedom.
What advice do you have for those who are unhappy in their current role and are afraid to seek other opportunities?
Don’t quit your job right away. Pay down your debt, save money, and use your pay check to fund your dream job or business. I had to learn to trust myself, accept that rejection is not personal, and ignore the negative comments from people close to me. Do not expect anyone to do anything for you and the sky is the limit.