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For Armeca Washington, the best thing about being a real estate broker is helping clients find a new home.

"I love putting people in their homes," she said recently as she prepared to show a client a home for sale in Crown Point. 

Washington is managing broker of her own firm, Perfect Key Realty of Merrillville. She's in her second stint as a broker — she worked in the business for several years a decade ago, then returned to it a couple years ago at the urging of former clients.

Most of Washington's business comes from referrals by former clients. "That's the greatest compliment to me," she said.

The biggest challenge can be keeping clients, whether buyers or sellers, focused on their goals.

She recalled a seller who got cold feet just at the point of closing the sale. It took two hours of discussion to get back to the starting point — that selling was the right thing to do.

And in the current climate, when "we have way more buyers this year than we have people trying to sell," it's important to get those buyers to make the commitment as soon as possible.

"If you love it, buy it, because in this market, it'll be gone tomorrow," she said.

Finding that "love" can take time. Washington leads buyers through tours, inspections, title work and financing. "I have to walk them through that process," she said.

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To become a real estate broker, Washington had to take education beyond the level required for a sales agent and had to pass a broker's license exam. Brokers can work alone or they can hire agents to work for them.

A broker needs to be be energetic, enjoy serving others, and be a "people person" in general. And, a broker must have "mega-patience," she said, because "the rug can get pulled out" from under any potential deal at any time.

For now, "houses are flying off the market," Washington said. She recorded her largest deal last year, a $1.5 million sale in Munster.

Prior to her career in real estate sales, Washington spent 10 years as "the only female crane operator in the slab yard at U.S. Steel."

"I'm on call all the time" as a real estate broker, she said, but she's happy to have left shift-work behind.

"This is the best job for me so I can get some sleep at night," she said.

How she got the job: Washington attended the McColly School of Real Estate while working at U.S. Steel. After completing the program, she began work at McColly Real Estate, which continued to provide training and support as she began her career. She has also worked for Re/Max. Perfect Key Realty is Washington's own firm, and she is currently the only broker.

What the job pays: Members of the National Association of Realtors earned a mean salary of $47,700 in 2013. Median pay for brokers was $66,300; for sales agents, $35,000.

Job growth: The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an 11 percent annual growth rate for home sale agents through 2022.

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Assistant Deputy Editor

Andrew covers transportation, real estate, casinos and other topics for The Times business section. A Crown Point native, he joined The Times in 2014, and has more than 15 years experience as a reporter and editor at Region newspapers.