Our homes, no matter where they may be in the world, are our sanctuaries. They are places where memories are made and peace is found. As most of you know, deciding where to make our home is not always an easy decision. The guidance of an expert can help us find and secure our ideal home, especially in an unfamiliar city.
For women with an interest in real estate, passion for helping others, and desire for work flexibility, embarking on a career as a Realtor can be a fulfilling path. WSB had the pleasure to learn about what it really takes to break into the real estate field with local real estate expert and licensed realtor Kelly Downing. We hope this interview will inspire you to follow your own passions and craft the career of your dreams!
Can you tell us a little about yourself and what brought you to Riyadh?
I am originally from the Washington, DC area but have lived in Chapel Hill, NC (for university) and Chicago (for work). I first arrived in Riyadh in 2012 after I married my Saudi husband. We now have a toddler son.
What inspired you to embark on a career in real estate?
A lot of things came together that encouraged my real estate career. First, I’ve had an interest in the industry for as long as I can remember. I used to bring home the advertisement magazines and chart out my own subdivisions for fun. Second, I have degrees in economics and business, so have always intended to use these skills for myself. Finally, many of my connections here in KSA were asking for advice on purchasing property in the U.S. That, combined with my own experience in the Riyadh real estate market, showed me that there was really a need for my professional services. This past summer, I fulfilled the licensing requirements and affiliated as a Realtor with Coldwell Banker in Rockville, MD. Now, not only am I continuing to work in the U.S. market from my Riyadh base, I am representing property owners in KSA who require personal service and dedicated service. I am also in the process of establishing my own agency here in Riyadh.
As a mother to a small child, how do you make time for your career?
I am fortunate that I genuinely am energized when I’m juggling different projects that I enjoy. That thrill really keeps me going. But, that isn’t enough to push through every circumstance. I have to manage the unexpected with moderation: I fill my time equally between the various areas of my life (work, baby, husband, socializing, me time, housekeeping). I make sure that they are all getting their fair share of attention. If one area is particularly neglected or demanding, I make sure to plan the following week’s schedule to put it back into balance. I think it’s very important to always be aware of both my priorities and limits. Additionally, I have help around the home which is a luxury we are able to enjoy as part of the lifestyle here.
Do you have tips or recommendations for families considering renting a home in Riyadh outside the compounds?
As cliché as it sounds, the most important thing to look for is location, location, location – and this preference is very personal. Envision where your family will spend the day-to-day but also where you will socialize. Riyadh traffic is pretty dense, so a short commute for all members of the family & their various activities makes a big difference in quality of life. Beyond that, you really can find exactly what you want and need in Riyadh real estate. It just takes more searching and determination than you may be used to. Which is why it really helps to have a true professional looking out for you. I always advise people to identify their 3 must-haves in a property. As long as those needs are met, you can be creative in meeting the others. For example, if your property lacks a driver’s room, you can consider finding one in the neighborhood and calculate that against your budget. If the layout or finishes aren’t just perfect, repurposing and remodeling can be done fairly easily and inexpensively in Riyadh, which is not true in many other markets.
What are the benefits and drawbacks of working in the real estate field?
The biggest benefit to me for working in real estate is that it’s something I truly enjoy. I can’t say it doesn’t feel like work (as the saying goes) but it is fulfilling. To be more general, though, the benefits of a real estate career include the flexibility of setting your own schedule, the ability to work remotely a majority of the time, the potential to earn limitlessly, the excitement of always meeting new people and constantly learning more in order to serve them. The drawbacks would be that there are many upfront costs and even more so if you are licensed in the U.S. Also, the earnings are less consistent and reliable. Additionally, as expats in Riyadh, you have to overcome cultural and language barriers in order to engage with others in the industry and you have to be willing to go out and explore. These may be better described as challenges rather than drawbacks!
What advice would you give to women looking to pursue a career in real estate?
I would welcome you to contact me! I’d be happy to help in any way I can. Additionally, although licensing courses aren’t required in KSA, I would strongly encourage anyone who wants to start a real estate career from scratch to take online courses to learn terminology and become familiar with the different scenarios you will need to navigate as a real estate agent.
Thank you Kelly for giving us insight into a career in the world of real estate!
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