majority of Americans expect to retire at least at age 66, according to polls, but many Illinois REALTORS® have passed that milestone and aren’t looking back.

In fact, there are more than 6,700 REALTORS® in the state who are 66 or older, according to Illinois REALTORS® records. They are among the 429,000 REALTORS® nationwide who are 60 or older and still in the business.

“Yes, I will retire someday,” says Betty Treat, 83, a broker for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Elite Properties in Edwardsville. “But I like what I do. I’m happy. My cognitive skills are good, and l like providing good service to my customers. Not only do I help them sell their homes, but sometimes they will call me and ask for recommendations when they have plumbing problems or need to replace a door.”

Lorraine Epperson, 92, the managing broker/owner of Century 21 Purdum-Epperson in Macomb

Lorraine Epperson, 92, the managing broker/owner of Century 21 Purdum-Epperson in Macomb

“I enjoy challenges,” says Lorraine Epperson, 92, the managing broker/owner of Century 21 Purdum-Epperson in Macomb. “And as long as I like what I’m doing, I won’t consider retirement. If I wasn’t working, I would be busy volunteering. I keep working because it is stimulating, enjoyable and challenging.”

This attitude represents what the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) is emphasizing with its “That’s Who We R” campaign which highlights the service more than 1.3 million members provide.

Local CEOs see trends

Why are so many REALTORS® still in the business well past retirement age?

“In this business, nobody tells you that you have to retire,” says Three Rivers Association of REALTORS® CEO David McClintock. “But your mind has to be active to compete with younger people.”

Mainstreet Association of REALTORS® CEO John Gormley

Mainstreet Association of REALTORS® CEO John Gormley

Mainstreet Association of REALTORS® CEO John Gormley says real estate can provide a career for people who don’t want to retire in their 60s.

“Real estate can provide a nice supplemental income for people who are at this stage of their lives,” says Gormley. “In the last couple of years, we’ve seen an influx of new members who are already nearing retirement age. Many are interested in property management or real estate investment as a financial supplement to Social Security and their 401Ks.”

Gormley and McClintock say veteran REALTORS® often have incentives for remaining active in the business as peers in other careers retire.

For example, independent contractors may supplement their retirement savings because they either do not have pensions or the pensions are too small. Business owners may continue to make sales because their children refer clients to them.

Veteran brokers and property managers may continue to work simply because they enjoy the business.

Three Rivers Association of REALTORS® CEO David McClintock

Three Rivers Association of REALTORS® CEO David McClintock

“I’m 70 and a lot of my peers are still around,” says McClintock, who worked in sales and brokerage management for 33 years before becoming Three Rivers’ CEO 14 years ago. “If you’re a REALTOR® and you’ve been in the business for many years, you may have a lot of customers that you don’t want to walk away from. Others who are business owners may sell their business to get rid of the management responsibility and – if they’re in a franchise – not have to worry about how their success is being measured.”

However, McClintock says he doesn’t know of many REALTORS® who start the profession late in their working lives and continue to thrive in their 70s or beyond.

“Our profession is constantly changing,” says Gormley. “Laws, practices and consumer expectations continually evolve. Keeping up with these changes can provide mental stimulation. And then there’s the camaraderie that many REALTORS® enjoy by being involved in their association. We have an active seniors committee that does a lot of cool things in the community.”

Determining her own destiny

Loretta Alonzo-Deubel, 72, is a broker for Century 21 Affiliated in Westchester

Loretta Alonzo-Deubel, 72, is a broker for Century 21 Affiliated in Westchester

Loretta Alonzo-Deubel, 72, is a broker for Century 21 Affiliated in Westchester but for many years ran her own business.

She was a local REALTOR® association president twice and a local REALTOR® of the Year six different times. In 2006, she received the Illinois REALTORS® Distinguished Service Award. In 2012, she became the Illinois REALTORS® president, and in 2015 she was its REALTOR® of the Year.

“I love what I do,” says Alonzo-Deubel. “I still get satisfaction helping clients find their dream homes or helping sellers go to their next level, whether it be larger homes or downsizing or even going into adult living homes. I’ve been in the real estate business so long that I am used to doing something every day. When I sold my real estate office in 2016, it gave me the opportunity to set my schedule so I can enjoy days off when I want to. I’ve worked since I was 16 and it’s become a habit to stay active.”

Alonzo-Deubel began her real estate career in 1976 when she started a job with an attorney who specialized in real estate closings. By 1983, she opened a Century 21 office with a partner. She was responsible for training and management. In 1996, she opened her own office, CENTURY 21 Alonzo & Associates. It merged with Century 21 Affiliated in December 2014.

Alonzo-Deubel says she would probably retire if she could not keep up with her daily schedule. Even then, she says she would want to volunteer and travel more.

More work to do

Ask REALTORS® working past retirement thresholds why they stay, and you get varied answers.

Frank Williams, 81, who has run F. J. Williams Realty in Evergreen Park for 48 years

Frank Williams, 81, who has run F. J. Williams Realty in Evergreen Park for 48 years

Take Frank Williams, 81, who has run F. J. Williams Realty in Evergreen Park for 48 years. He got into the business with the belief that if others could make a living in real estate, he could, too.

But he also made it a core mission to help minority homeowners gain a piece of the American Dream beginning in a time when they often weren’t welcome in many Chicago neighborhoods. He also encouraged African American REALTORS® to become more involved with local REALTOR® organizations as well as the Dearborn Board of REALTISTS®.

“I kind of see real estate as my ministry,” he says. “I’m not going to retire (soon). There’s too much work to be done.”

Part of the foundation for Epperson’s success as a real estate broker, she says, was the experience she gained as a high school guidance counselor at Macomb High School. Also, she honed key leadership skills through her involvement with the Lamoine Valley Board of REALTORS® which is now part of the Peoria Area Association of REALTORS®. Today she still draws on those experiences as a business owner and community leader.

“I feel I’m able to conduct business much the same way I did when I was younger, but I’ve certainly witnessed huge differences in available technology,” she says. “I still enjoy listing and selling, working with former clients and meeting new people. But I consider myself a service person, not a salesperson.”

Epperson started her second career by working nights and weekends. After 10 years, she retired from education and purchased part of the R.B. Purdum Real Estate Agency. Within months, the managing broker sold Epperson another portion of the agency and she quickly became the new managing broker.

Five years later, Epperson and her husband purchased a CENTURY 21 franchise and changed the name of the business to Century 21 Purdum-Epperson, Inc. The business kept growing, and in 1998, they moved it to a larger building on the Macomb downtown square.

Word of mouth has played an important role in the agency’s success over the last 29 years, she says.

“In a community the size of Macomb, our reputation is huge,” she says. “Honesty and good service are major factors in our production, and referrals from past clients are considerable.”

She continues to contribute to the community through involvement with the Wesley Village Board, the Macomb Area Economic Development Board, the Western Illinois Foundation Board and the local Presbyterian church.

Energized by helping others

After a lengthy career in education, Treat discovered new joy by helping clients through home buying and selling, noting that the process is usually one of the most stressful experiences in their lives. She’s been at it for 24 years.

“Finding ways to assist buyers and sellers is challenging because the situations and the people are unique. But what’s important to me is really being able to help people. It’s not about the money,” she says. “It’s about helping people reach their goals.”

Treat, whose daughter is REALTOR® Association of Southwestern Illinois CEO Deb Frazier, says she is energized by the relationships she builds with her customers. Many of her sales today come from referrals.

Though she says her production is lower than during the peak years of her second career, she has been able to use her income to help people and organizations that needed financial support, including the United Methodist Church and local charities.

“As an older agent, I feel I bring the same enthusiasm and drive for real estate, but it seems to take me more time to complete digital tasks,” she says. “Every agent at every age brings different skills to the marketplace and tries to utilize those skills to their advantage.”

She says some of her customers do not retire to a life of leisure. They work to keep themselves active, too.

“More and more, age is not the primary factor in considering retirement,” says Treat. “Some people golf when they retire. Some people shop. But every person has to make their own decision.”