Giving new agents proper attention should be a top priority for brokers, says NAR President John Smaby. Here’s why mentoring is key.
NAR president John Smaby, left, with 2019 AE Institute Chair Ryan Conrad

© National Association of REALTORS®

Smart Jam: NAR President John Smaby, left, with 2019 AE Institute Chair Ryan Conrad, “tunes in” to your needs at a professional development confab in Austin, Texas, in late March.

This issue highlights dynamic real estate professionals under the age of 30. Young pros represent the future of this industry, of course, but for many the absence of a steady paycheck and student debt and can make it tough to sustain a real estate career.  What do you wish you knew when you started out in the business 40 years ago?

Successful real estate agents are also successful business executives. Early in my career, I wish I’d known that as an agent, essentially, I was the CEO of my own corporation. Effective CEOs surround themselves with people they want to work with—those who can thrive within a company’s distinct culture or brand. Just as a broker interviews new agents, agents absolutely need to interview companies. Meet with the office manager; connect with other agents; inquire about training, technology, and mentoring opportunities. Be sure to have a good sense of the office dynamics before you commit.

How else can brokers encourage collegiality?

In my office, every new agent works with a mentor—it’s part of our culture. I am so proud of seeing many agents I’ve mentored grow and excel. One agent in particular comes to mind—Judd. When he started, I suggested we meet first thing in the morning for five minutes, every day, Monday through Friday, when we’d review his plan for the day. Judd and I developed a 60-day training plan, and in less than a year, he went from being the guy who asked all the questions to the guy everyone came to with questions. He’s now one of the most revered people in the office. I encourage brokers to make mentoring part of their team’s standard operations. Brokers can inspire agent collaboration through social activities, training events, and volunteer opportunities.

Young people may also be interested in a Fannie Mae program that offers debt consolidation and refinancing options to help buyers and owners burdened by student loans. How is NAR working to address the student debt issue?

In 2017, NAR and the nonprofit American Student Assistance conducted a study on millennial student loan debt. We found this debt was holding back millennials from financial decisions. It’s alarming. Despite being in the prime homebuying years, most of those with student debt currently don’t own a home and cite the debt for their delay in buying. NAR has been working with industry partners, including Fannie Mae, on this issue for some time. We supports financial education to better position current and future debt holders to make wise choices about their careers and the debt they take on. More recently, we’ve advocated for employers to receive preferential tax treatment when assuming these loan payments for their employees and for those borrowers to receive tax relief on that benefit.