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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Apr. 19, 201804:58 PM EST

Soldier, firefighter — and now Realtor

Russell Russ picked a new career in real estate “because he wanted to try something civilized.”

By Maggie FitzRoy

Contributing writer

Russell Russ traveled around the world for four years while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps.

For the past 17 years, he has faced life-and-death situations as a firefighter/emergency medical technician with Naval Air Station Jax Fire Department.

In February, the 40-year-old Russ launched a new career as a Realtor. After earning his license, he joined Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Florida Network Realty. 

The Westside Jacksonville native is based in the company’s Avondale/Ortega office — and is ready for the challenge.

“I really wanted to try something civilized,” Russ said. “The Marine Corps and firefighting are not civilized. There is nothing normal about running into a burning building, or running into battle and risking your life on a daily basis.”

By contrast, real estate is a positive, “fun” career, he said.

As a firefighter and emergency medical technician, “When someone calls me into their home, it is usually the worst day of their life. Something terrible has happened.

“As a Realtor I can be there for one of the best days of their life — the day they buy their first home. The day they buy their dream home.”

Russ knows real estate is a competitive business, that he has much to learn, and that it will take time to build his new career in order to achieve success. But because he still works as a firefighter he said he feels fortunate that he can take his time, and do it right. 

“I got the impression real estate is competitive from the get-go,” he said. “This is not for someone counting on a paycheck the first week. You might not earn a dime for six months, and then the second six months you might make a $100,000.”

His schedule as a firefighter requires him to be on duty for 48 hours, then off for 72 hours.

 Between calls while on duty he can take phone calls and do computer work related to real estate. 

He knows of only one other firefighter who works in real estate, but when the word gets out, he said he expects there will be more.

Russ said the time is right to begin his transition into the real estate business.

It remains a sellers’ market, but “not out of control like before the recession.” 

He decided to become a Realtor after a chance encounter with a middle-school classmate last fall.

They caught up on each other’s lives, and she told him she was a Realtor with Berkshire Hathaway.

Russ had not considered a career real estate, but the conversation planted the idea. A week later, he saw a friend who also was a Realtor who had just made his first sale.

“The timing was perfect,” Russ said. He called his former classmate for advice and, although she didn’t try to sell him on Berkshire Hathaway, “I could tell she had done her research,” he said. “I trusted her research, I trusted her word, and she is helping me out a lot.”

Because he grew up on Jacksonville’s Westside, Russ is specializing in that area.

Now living in his “dream home” in Macclenny, he has been married to his high school sweetheart, Valerie, for 19 years, and they have four children, ages 16, 14, 13 and 11.

Between his family, volunteering as his children’s soccer coach in Baker County, working as a firefighter and now also as a Realtor, he admits he is busy, but is looking forward to the challenge.

Josh Cohen, managing broker of the Berkshire Hathaway Avondale/Ortega and San Marco/San Jose offices, said Russ has the potential to do well in real estate because of “the relationships he has cultivated over time. It’s a relationship business.”

He said agents come from a wide range of professions and backgrounds, including public sector and military, as well as banking, teaching, financial consulting, the restaurant industry and more. 

Russ said he has enjoyed and appreciated the in-depth training he received from Berkshire Hathaway, giving him the opportunity to meet brokers from around the region. He also learned by accompanying Realtors on listing appointments. 

“It’s very interesting,” he said. “You are like an investigator, trying to get the scoop on what people want, and then finding a way to make that happen.”

Even though he’s working on his home turf, Russ said he is working continually on becoming a marketwide expert. 

“It takes time, and there is still a lot to learn, but I am in no hurry,” Russ said. “I’m not going to risk my integrity to do anything short of the best.” 

Plus, “It’s fun,” he added. “Real estate is fun.”  

Firefighter Russell Russ and family.


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