Brief Post: Why Young People Don’t Become Real Estate Agents

Over on Facebook, my friend Nick Solis is on a roll about the aging REALTOR population.

[fb_embed_post href=”” width=”550″/]

There are some good points being made over there mostly from younger REALTOR types. But I don’t think the issue is all that complicated. So before I go board this plane, I thought I’d jot a few thoughts down on why young people don’t become real estate agents.

Stereotypes of Young People

We can go on and on about how the Millennials are this weird, unique, special generation of people who are all kinds of different from previous generations, etc. etc. I don’t know if I buy any of that.

For example, we have two stereotypes at work in the thread above. First, we have one younger REALTOR who says:

I think there are many reasons why a lot of young people don’t stick to real estate. Lack of leadership skills or business skills, lack of good work ethic, the desire for a quick or instant gratification, the inability to stay focused on the big picture, and the wrong impression that being a “Realtor” is a sales job! A lot of Young people are lacking creativity, passion, the drive and the commitment. Everyone wants money, but isn’t willing to put in the hard work to get it. I think young agents, get lost, overwhelmed and give up too quick.

Then we have Nick himself saying:

But I disagree about the traits of young people. I see them as highly creative, and willing to work hard. The next generation wants a great job but as importantly they want to enjoy what they do (not slaves to their job) and are doing something that makes a difference. In fact that goes to the center of my argument our industry and workplaces don’t provide that for for the large part.

I think both stereotypes kinda miss the big picture issue going on, because it’s entirely possible that both stereotypes are based on real truth.

The Elites vs. Non-Elites

Recently, Brad Inman of Inman News posted a link to an article on Mashable about “Yuccies”, or Young Urban Creatives.

The hipster is dead, and you might not like who comes next

It’s a cool story, and provides insight into the young urban “creative” mindset. Thing is, the author himself is self-aware about what allows him to be a Yuccie:

Let’s use me as an example again. Almost by definition, yuccies possess enormous privilege. My professional drift towards a creative field (writing) is an implicit statement of privilege. Being a yuccie is synonymous with the sort of self-centered cynicism that can only exist in the absence of hardship.

Thing is, not all young twentysomethings have grown up with enormous privilege. Not every young person lives with “the absence of hardship”. Quite a few young people I’ve met here in Houston, for example, are living a lifestyle defined by hardship, and still struggling and striving to make it. The 24-year old waitress trying to raise a young son as a single mom (because she didn’t grow up in the kind of yuppie family where such a thing was unthinkable) and struggling to find time to attend classes at the local community college and do homework — she’s not a Yuccie.

In fact, she’s not even in our mental picture of what a Millennial is. Our mental picture of a Millennial is a hip young twentysomething with the latest iPhone, Apple Watch, sipping a decaf caramel macchiato from Starbucks, wearing the latest in cool retro throwback clothes, with all kinds of tech-savvy dripping off of her. She doesn’t own a car, because she Ubers everywhere or uses the car-sharing app when she needs one. She’s more comfortable with texting than with phone calls, and multi-tasks like no Boomer can, and so on and so forth. Of course she has a college degree, and is smarter than the average REALTOR (or so we think), and she’d rather work for an eco-designer using sustainably harvested bamboo to make truck mats than for a real estate brokerage filled with old people. Or so we think.

What Millennials Are Told To Do

Thing is, Millennials include the millions and millions of young people who are not college grads. They didn’t grow up in the suburbs with loving parents who made sure Johnny got a participation trophy from Little League. Many of them are who the privileged Yuccies might call the “underclass” and look down on, and try their damnedest to avoid the neighborhoods where those Millennials live.

Frankly, I’m not sure that any employer — including a real estate broker — would want some of those Millennials. Work ethic is a major problem for them. Sense of entitlement is a major problem. In fact, drug use is a major problem for these non-college-educated elite Yuccie types.

So we’re left with the educated, motivated, hard-working Millennials as the possible source for future real estate agents. Well, what have we as parents, as guidance counselors, as a society been telling these Millennials since they were babies?

You must go to college. A college degree is your ticket to success. Without a college education, you’re worthless.

That’s what we’ve been impressing on them from the time they were in kindergarten. Think about all of the emphasis across the political spectrum about government funding for college education. Even the disputes between the Left and the Right are about how to fund whom, not about the value of a college education itself.

Okay, so they go to college. And incur tens of thousands of dollars in student debt so they can get their college degrees, which they’ve been told, is the ticket to success.

You want those people, who as a generation are carrying the largest student debt load in American history, to come work as real estate agents making zero dollars with no benefits? You simply cannot take a job that does not pay a regular steady income if you have student loans. Period, end of story. I know. I have quite a student debt load myself.

The lucky few who have little or no student loans probably have families and parents with money. Those lucky few turn into Yuccies, and then Nick Solis’s points about the real estate industry being real short on “social change” opportunities and lacking the excitement of working at a nonprofit NGO that brings water to African villages provides. I mean, hell, if you can afford to work for next to nothing because Daddy paid for college, why work at a real estate brokerage? Go help the less fortunate and be creative and all that jazz.

I really think the reason why so many women enter the real estate industry is partly because of the flexibility for stay-at-home moms. I know the “real professionals” hate these “part timers” but some of the most professional agents, with extraordinary backgrounds, started out that way. Thing is… when they started… they had a spouse who was holding down a “real job” that provided stable incomes and benefits. That’s why they were stay at home moms to begin with; otherwise, they would have been working moms who couldn’t afford to take an all-commission job.

Want to Attract Young Talent? Try Paying Them

So in my mind, it’s really not that complicated. If you, as a real estate broker, want to attract more young talent, try paying them. You can make it a draw against future commissions, but provide a steady paycheck that lets these college-educated, debt-carrying young people who are motivated and well-educated — but not quite as elite as the Yuccies who can afford to slum it out in Brooklyn while pursuing a career as a writer — try a career in real estate.

And don’t just provide some minimum wage paycheck and expect to get smart young people who are driven to succeed. They have student loans to pay off among their other bills. If a young personable marketing major can make $50K a year at some PR agency, their draw-against-commission has to be at least close to that, with the opportunity to make ten, twenty times that amount through hard work, for her to consider a career in real estate, doesn’t it?

In the alternative… just wait for some of these young elite Millennials to start becoming stay at home moms themselves.

Gotta run to the airport. Tell me if I’m missing something important here.


Share & Print

Rob Hahn

Rob Hahn

Managing Partner of 7DS Associates, and the grand poobah of this here blog. Once called "a revolutionary in a really nice suit", people often wonder what I do for a living because I have the temerity to not talk about my clients and my work for clients. Suffice to say that I do strategy work for some of the largest organizations and companies in real estate, as well as some of the smallest startups and agent teams, but usually only on projects that interest me with big implications for reforming this wonderful, crazy, lovable yet frustrating real estate industry of ours.

Get NotoriousROB in your Inbox

1 thought on “Brief Post: Why Young People Don’t Become Real Estate Agents”

  1. I agree with your pay them philosophy as every young or older employee wants to show something for our efforts. Real estate can be an exciting field. It certainly would be tough with no revenue to cover expenses.

Comments are closed.

The Future of Brokerage Paper

Fill out the form below to download the document