Boom in real estate study filters down to 6th graders

In recent years attention has been focusing more and more on the importance of real estate education. Now that the cost of mortgage loans is settling down to a more livable level, the need and demand for additional sources of education is intensifying.

During the last 10 years, educational programs not only have become more numerous and comprehensive, but they are targeted to an ever-younger age group.

First, many states set stiffer educational requirements for persons obtaining a real estate license. Then came ''continuing educational requirements'' for persons already licensed, an effort by state real estate commissions to keep their licensees knowledgeable and competent.

At the same time, more colleges and universities were adding real estate courses to their curriculum, and some began offering majors in real estate.

Then came news that high schools were offering innovative courses in a variety of real-estate-related studies. Several such courses even taught students the basics of constructing a house, including the actual construction of a full-size house during the school year.

The first high school course to include a home-construction project was developed and launched by the Santa Barbara, Calif., High School District. After several years of highly successful operation, however, the program was canceled, because of budgetary cutbacks.

The most recent development in the continuing expansion of real estate education has surfaced in Mississippi. This time it's an elementary-school class that has shown enthusiasm for a real estate educational program.

A sixth-grade class in Gulfport, Miss., launched into a real-estate-learning project that included home-purchasing, real-estate-investing, and financing procedures. Most of the students were fascinated with the subject, and the teacher reported on their savvy and creativity.

The innovative project was structured this way: The small class of 12 students was paired off, each two-student unit representing a family with a randomly assigned income level and credit history. Some of the ''family'' units were eligible for Veterans Administration loans, while some had serious financial problems, including bankruptcies. Others had large equities in their existing homes. Some had very little.

The student units were to look for, make offers for, and purchase the home in their community that most appropriately met their assigned family needs, capabilities, and limitations. They could work through local agents using computerized information systems.

At least two homes were shown to each student unit. The youngsters then made selections and presented ''offers to buy.'' The classroom teacher acted as the seller, countering, accepting, or rejecting offers.

It's interesting to note that the parents of the students became involved in the project, advising them in budgeting. The parents also provided information on costs of homeowners' insurance, utilities, and other facets of operating a house.

''The children gained a real appreciation for the job their parents do in providing a home for them,'' says Sandy Cazier, a realtor who worked closely with the students in the project.

When it came to the more complex matters of real estate investing, the students surprised both teacher and parents with their understanding and perception, often coming up with creative ideas on syndication and purchasing power.

''These youngsters had a much more sophisticated approach to their buying ability at the end of the class than we had originally expected,'' the teacher says.

The course took one full day each week for about eight weeks. In addition, homework was assigned to the students each week.

The educational project was so successful that it is now expected to become an annual event. It illustrates how interesting and challenging real estate can be, even to a restless class of sixth-graders.

The move toward more and better educational programs, for both real estate professionals and consumers, is reflected in the growth of education-related associations and functions.

Two years ago, for example, the Real Estate Educators Association was formed. Since then, its membership has grown rapidly and steadily. Shortly after this group was organized, the National Association of Realtors began planning an annual National Real Estate Educators Conference, which will be in San Francisco this year.

''Education - the Foundation of Professionalism,'' the theme for the 1982 conference, accurately describes the feeling of most real estate leaders about the importance of education in today's market.

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