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December 2010
He is Mr. Real Estate
By Heather Head

     As a young real estate agent in the early 1980s, Bill Gallagher was flattered when Gary Taylor, school director of Mingle School of Real Estate, asked him to teach a class one Saturday morning. When he asked Gallagher if he’d pick up a couple more in the evening, he said, “Well, okay.”

     Soon it turned into four nights a week, and by the late 1990s, he knew he’d found his “highest and best use” as a classroom teacher.

     Now, Gallagher provides the state’s premier continuing education, licensing, and professional development learning opportunities through Superior School of Real Estate. A permanent 4,600-square-foot multi-classroom facility in Ballantyne, plus many classrooms around the state, provide the backdrop for Gallagher’s signature blend of humor, industry knowledge, and effective approach to teaching for the adult learner.

     Thousands of students have benefitted from the school, and Gallagher’s forward-looking plan and intense customer loyalty indicates that thousands more will continue to do so in coming years.

 

Staking His Territory

     A Charlotte native, Gallagher founded the Bill Gallagher School of Real Estate in 1998 when he was president of career development for Prudential Carolinas Realty. Under his leadership, the Bill Gallagher School turned training from an expense on the books to a profit-maker for Prudential, attracting students from all over the region and from many other agencies.

     The school grew quickly, continuously adding curriculum and students. Soon, Gallagher was responsible for all the company’s training in North Carolina and the Bill Gallagher brand name became recognized and sought-after in the real estate community.

     Gallagher decided to strike out on his own in 2004 when Prudential made the decision to stop offering training to outside agents. Gallagher’s brand recognition followed him to his new school, the Superior School of Real Estate. Students attending the old school, he says, would ask, “Where’s Bill?” And before long, nearly all of his 16,000 continuing education students had followed him to Superior.

     That kind of loyalty begins in the classroom, where Gallagher’s signature style keeps everyone laughing while they learn. The laughter is something Gallagher students have come to expect.

     Real estate professionals are required by government licensing boards to complete a certain number of pre-licensing, post-licensing, and continuing education hours, so the curriculum among real estate schools is pretty standard.

     Correspondingly, most real estate courses are as dry and dull as one might expect a state-mandated textbook to be: a trial to be suffered through, with an exam at the end to see if you were paying attention. About 74 percent of students statewide do pay enough attention to pass the exam.

     But students who attend Superior School average a passing rate of 83 percent, probably because they have so much fun getting there. One student put it this way: “I learn more by accident with Bill than I could by trying. His methods are untouchable.”

     Those methods are anything but dry and dull. Each course begins with ice-breaking small talk: “What brings you here tonight Pat?” And sometimes the ice breaking doesn’t shy away from the personal, “So you two came here together? Are you dating then? How long have you been a ‘thing’?”

     After some initial hesitation, nobody seems to mind. Before the class has fully begun, everyone is laughing and talking—and listening. Gallagher’s style is witty, forward, and repetitive without ever being boring. Factual information is peppered with personal stories and funny anecdotes. Signature phrases crop up again and again, building on each other.

     “After you get your license you’re going to be… what?” He pauses for rhetorical effect. “Hauling and hoping, driving and showing, sitting and wishing, listing and selling. Right?”

 

A Full House of Offerings

     If you only listen to Gallagher for a few minutes, you might mistake his comfortable patter for empty showiness. But below the fun exterior, lies a bedrock of information and expertise that students absorb almost “by accident” under his tutelage.

     In fact Gallagher has superior credentials and recognition to prove it. He was named the 2006 Charlotte Regional Realtor of the Year by the Charlotte Regional Realtors Association. He is also one of the fewer than 100 trainers nationwide to have earned his Distinguished Real Estate Instructor (DREI) designation. This is awarded by the Real Estate Educators Association to recognize excellence among real estate instructors who demonstrate outstanding knowledge of their profession, experience, and classroom performance.

     Real estate professionals in North Carolina must complete a 75-hour provisional broker licensing course and pass the N.C. Real Estate Commission Examination before beginning to practice. Within three years of obtaining a license, new agents must complete an additional 90 hours of training. Further, all real estate professionals must complete regular continuing education courses in order to maintain their licenses.

     All the requirements, paperwork, and general red tape can be confusing for new and aspiring real estate professionals, but the Superior School makes it easy. Gallagher hosts regular free “Career Night” sessions to help individuals get started, and hands each attendee an informational packet including a Broker Licensing Schedule.

     The Broker Licensing Schedule includes “Bill’s Plan,” a step-by-step guide to becoming a licensed N.C. Real Estate Agent. Also in the packet: the N.C. Real Estate Commission’s publication Real Estate Licensing in North Carolina, a schedule of classes including helpful information on how to meet licensing requirements at all stages of a career, a school bulletin, registration form, and information about additional study aids, and exam review materials for students.

     The Superior School of Real Estate offers a complete course of study, from pre-licensing to continuing education and hot topic electives. Professionals can keep up with the latest trends in real estate such as short sales and foreclosures, and using social media.

     Additionally, the company’s website hosts a blog covering topics such as this year’s revised residential property disclosure form, new lead-based paint renovation and repair rules, and important questions to ask a lender before attempting to sell a home. It also includes motivation, inspiration, and tips on accountability and productivity.

     One of the most popular features on the website is the Ask Bill page. With more than 25 years of experience, there’s hardly a law, issue or definition he doesn’t know. Seasoned and new brokers alike seek Gallagher’s advice through this forum. Gallagher personally responds to each one.

     Even when he’s not in the classroom, or talking to students online, he makes himself accessible. Gallagher can often be found meeting with experienced brokers, former students still coming to him for advice, as well as prospective students just starting out. He gives his cell phone number out freely and encourages people to call him.

 

Closing the Transaction

     Gallagher’s excellence in the classroom, rooted in expertise and augmented by style, is supported also by his attention to detail and operational excellence. When he founded the school in 2004, most of Gallagher’s training took place in hotel meeting rooms across the state. Much of it still does.

     But for those who attend class in Charlotte, the school now boasts an airy, comfortable, very slightly offbeat space in Ballantyne that is a tribute to Gallagher’s attention to detail, and his partnership with Superior School’s COO, Steve Connell.

     Connell spent months selecting the space, researching ergonomics, and designing the details—from the picture windows that let in natural light, down to the lime green roller chairs chosen after testing hundreds of furniture offerings.

     “It’s interesting,” explains Gallagher, “how lighting and comfort affect learning. I wanted to provide a space where people could come and be comfortable and learn without distractions.”

     Connell took a lead role in negotiating and designing the space. Gallagher describes his own highest and best use as being in the classroom, while Connell excels at operations. The two met in the classroom where Connell was a student in 2004. He was a marketing executive looking for a change of pace, and one night in February 2007 he happened to mention to Ken Park, a friend and fellow broker, that he needed something different. Park said, “Well, I’ve got Bill Gallagher on the phone. Why don’t you talk to him?”

     Remembering Gallagher’s excellence in the classroom, Connell was intrigued by the opportunity to work with him. The two found that they had similar ideas about Gallagher’s business and that Connell brought skills and talents that Gallagher needed in his organization.

     The Superior School of Real Estate has continued to grow every year, despite the enormous hit taken by the real estate market in this economy. “That may be due,” Gallagher says, “to the large numbers who continue to look for opportunity in the real estate market.” However, students in the continuing education courses accounted for the majority of the 2009 enrollment.

     “Even struggling agents, those who have taken full-time jobs elsewhere, and those who have moved into non-agent real-estate-related careers still usually maintain their licenses—which means that they still need to take the continuing education courses to earn referral fees,” Gallagher explains. “Once you’ve put in the hours to obtain the license,” he says, “you don’t want to lose it for lack of a $67 class.”

     Besides, Superior School makes it easy to complete the requirement by offering local classes as well as online continuing education courses. With timely topics such as “Foreclosures, Short Sales, REO’s and Auctions,” and “Sustainable Housing and Building Green: What Agents Should Know,” Superior makes earning those continuing education credits a valuable experience.

 

Good Faith Estimate

     On a recent evening, several students had arrived for the free “Career Night.” Their stories were what might be expected: laid off, unemployed, downsized, retired early, and graduates who can’t yet find a job. The economy is depressing, but there were no scowls in the classroom by the time Gallagher got done warming everyone up with his patter and jokes and personal questions, not to mention his boundless enthusiasm.

     He has good cause to feel enthusiastic. His school continues to grow, and students continue to clamor for him. In fact, his biggest challenge right now is trying to be in all the places where he’s wanted. The school has addressed the problem in part by finding and hiring the most talented real estate instructors who share Gallagher’s passion for real estate and teaching. The school partners with experts in the field who are also gifted in the classroom, ensuring that the caliber of instruction remains high.

     Gallagher also takes great pride in his a results-oriented team for always putting friendly personal service on the agenda. “Everyone at Superior School shares a passion for helping students attain—and often exceed their goals,” he says.

     In addition, online technology and upcoming licensing changes have Gallagher and Connell thinking in new directions. Connell is heading up a new endeavor that will package Gallagher’s signature teaching style into an online format, freeing the live Gallagher to continue teaching statewide classes—and increasing the company’s brand and leverage in the market.

     Gallagher is hopeful for the future of the real estate industry. “We’ve been through tough times before, and I am confident we’ll pull through this one too. For individuals considering a career in real estate,” he advises, “now is the best time to get started. When the market picks up again, they’ll be positioned to take advantage of it.”

     “With help from the Superior School of Real Estate, more people can find their own highest and best use in the market.”

Heather Head is a Charlotte-based freelance writer.
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