There are two types of people who work in real estate — the broker and the sales agent.
"The difference between a sales person and a broker is the broker gets the responsibility of the salesperson," said Lopez.
"It doesn't necessarily mean that the broker has more knowledge."
Both brokers and sales agents are required to be licensed.
A prospective agent must be a high school graduate, at least 18 years old and pass a written test, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's occupational outlook handbook.
"The examination — more comprehensive for brokers than for agents — includes questions on basic real estate transactions and laws affecting the sale of property. Most states require candidates for the general sales license to complete between 30 and 90 hours of classroom instruction," according to the handbook.
"Those seeking a broker's license need between 60 and 90 hours of formal training and a specific amount of experience selling real estate, usually one to three years. Some states waive the experience requirements for the broker's license for applicants who have a bachelor's degree in real estate."
Lopez worked briefly in El Centro at C.A. Irving Realtors before opening her own business in Calexico. Because she is not a licensed broker, she must have a broker who oversees her work. That is why her office is recorded as doing business as, or DBA, C.A. Irving.
Lopez said she plans to eventually get her broker's license.
"It's just something that I'd like to do," she said.
While she plans on obtaining independent status, she said she would like to continue her partnership with C.A. Irving.
She said she is comfortable with Robert Irving, son of the late Chester Irving, because of the way he has continued his father's tradition.
Working in real estate is more than helping someone buy or sell a home.
For instance if someone wants to "list" a home with Lopez, she will get the address and then look at a map to assess the worth of the home based on such factors as age and selling prices of other homes in the area.
"I will not take a listing from you if I feel that you're way out of range on the price, because you're going to be disappointed with me," she said.
She said homeowners are making plans when they sell their homes and need to know realistic figures of what will be left over for the future.
She said the price issue is the same for clients who are looking to buy a home.
"Sometimes you got a Martha Stewart's taste and you don't have her budget," she said, adding, "But you want to make people realize, without making them feel bad, that this is not the first and last house they're going to buy."
Lopez also works in property management, including several apartment buildings in Calexico and El Centro, which requires collecting rents, interviewing prospective renters, taking care of repairs and keeping the property well-maintained.
Another division of Casa Blanca is working with commercial business, including some buildings in downtown Calexico.
Having a business in Calexico doesn't limit a real estate agent in the Valley to business here.
Lopez said she works with people from Mexico who want property in San Diego and clients may be from Los Angeles looking for property in Mexico. She may even work selling a house as far as Cuernavaca, Mexico, because of a word-of-mouth referral.
She said her job requires her to be out of the office to meet people about listings, showing houses or making inspections and going to functions. She said she tries to stay involved in the community going to meetings about the city, as a board member of the Calexico Chamber of Commerce and now as campaign manager for Henry Legaspi's race for Calexico City Council.
The U.S. Department of Labor does not predict a boom in the need for workers in real estate.
"Employment of real estate brokers and sales agents is expected to grow more slowly than average for all occupations through the year 2010," according to the occupational outlook handbook. "However, a large number of job openings will arise each year from the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations or leave the labor force."
Lopez said there is room for people who want to get into the business in the Valley.
"If they like it, it doesn't matter how many people are selling real estate because they can still make their own business," she said.
"It might take a little time for people to find out who you are and how you do your work, but with a little attention you can be better than anyone else who would just come in for the money."
Lopez advises anyone interested in pursuing a career in real estate to not just study for the exam but to work for an escrow company, an insurance company and/or a mortgage company. All those are companies with which a real estate agent or broker must work in a successful career. Such work can help the realtor understand all aspects of the business.
>> For more information on the real estate broker and sales agent profession visit the occupational outlook handbook online at www.bls.gov/oco/ocos120.htm