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’90s Radio Host Tops the Charts in Second Act as a Realtor

Jimmy Baron took a chance and found a new passion in luxury real estate

Jimmy Baron realtor

Andrew Hetherington

Jimmy Baron, 58

At school, I was always the class clown. I love to talk and am a very inquisitive person. It turns out there's a job for that: morning radio. I rose quickly at a time when radio was huge. At 99X in Atlanta, we were among a handful of stations pioneering alternative rock bands like Nirvana, R.E.M. and Pearl Jam. I got to meet everybody from Elton John to the Dalai Lama. It was a golden moment. But flavors change, and the ratings faltered, and the powers that be eventually decided to go a younger route. They wanted us to play Britney Spears! I had no interest in playing Britney Spears. When my contract was up, I left the station and tried different things for a few years. I started a little video business. A friend and I developed a game show for TV. Nothing really got off the ground.

Older photo of Jimmy Baron and Elton John

Jimmy Barron

The Fall: After rocking the airwaves in the 1990s as one of Atlanta's top morning DJs, Baron's career veered the way of the compact disc. He was unemployed by age 50.

The Comeback: Switching tracks into real estate, Baron now earns what he did as a radio host —and the hours are way better.

I went back on the air, but it was different. The business was changing. It wasn't much fun anymore. In the ‘90s you could say whatever you wanted. Now a program manager would sit there with a stopwatch, and if I talked longer than 90 seconds, he'd call my hotline. People started listening to music on the internet. Radio was dying. And then two days before my 50th birthday, I got fired. You know, “We've decided to go in a different direction.”

It was a punch in the stomach. After 21 years on the radio, I was unemployed, divorced and didn't have a clue about what I would do next. My mom said, “Why don't you get your real estate license?” I said, “Mom, don't ever say that to me again. Seriously. That's a terrible idea.” I didn't want a real job, and I certainly didn't want to sell anything. But then a friend told me about an online real estate course, and I thought, OK, I'll take it just to get my mom off my case.

Guess what? I thought the class was kind of interesting, and guess what else? A Realtor doesn't need to wake up at 4 a.m., like I did when I worked on the radio. A Realtor doesn't need to watch the Tony Awards and talk about it the next morning. I also started hearing about the money you could make. I thought, I'll probably hate it, but at least I'll be able to hate it and still go to my son's baseball games and take a nice vacation.

I didn't hate it. I actually thought it was cool. Real estate is about solving problems for people. It's helping people improve their lives. Say you just had a kid and you need a bigger house. Or the nest is emptying and you need to downsize in style. I can help. There are very few times when people are unhappy at the closing table.

We have around 550 people in our real estate office, and I was the number 1 individual agent last year. I've never been happier than I am now. For sure, being on radio was the most fun I ever had. But I wouldn't want to be doing that in my late 50s. I'm in a wonderful relationship. I get to do amazing things with my son and go to all his hockey games. My ex-wife and I get along great. I still get to be the class clown and talk and be inquisitive. And one other thing I know more than ever—when your mom gives you advice, you should listen up.

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