When I was a senior at Bucknell University in 1978, my mother pleaded with me to attend a career fair. Concerned I’d graduate from college and begin working full time at the Berg Agency, the real estate company where my father was a regional manager and my uncle was president, my mother advised, “Tommy, you don’t want to end up like your father working crazy real estate hours all your life.” Nine out of 10 times I followed my mother’s advice. After all, moms know best, especially Italian moms. This may be the only instance where ignoring my mother’s pleas proved to be the right call.
My decision to enter real estate full time came down to numbers. I had been offered a steady nine-to-five job with a starting salary of $18,000, a solid wage in 1978. But I knew that the top agent at the Berg Agency had made $78,000 the previous year, and he was only a few years older than I was. Young, confident, and perhaps mildly naïve, I was certain I could top the company ranks in no time.
Money may have been the motivator back then, but it’s our profession’s full package that I appreciate most now. Yes, working evenings and weekends can be grueling, but technology allows us to work smarter, and having a schedule we control is priceless. When my sons were growing up, I could take them to school most days, coach their teams, and chaperone field trips. No sum of money beats being an involved parent.
Recently, there’s been a lot of talk about millennials and their impact on our business. However, most of the conversation has been consumer-focused. Buyers are getting younger. Meanwhile, the median age of REALTORS® is 53. Yes, that’s down from 57, the age reported by NAR last year, but it’s still 11 years older than the median age of U.S. workers. Historically, real estate has attracted career changers or retirees from other fields. Coupled with the reality that people are living and working longer, it makes sense that our demographic is older. However, the potential for those who enter real estate as their first career is great. Get to know the 2016 class of 30 Under 30. These industrious, young REALTORS® are carving a profitable future—as I did at their age—and helping to shape the industry for all practitioners.
Recruiting younger agents should be a priority for brokers, franchises, and associations. Seasoned practitioners who mentor younger agents know that building these relationships can be mutually beneficial. I always enjoy speaking to the association’s Young Professionals Network groups, not only because I have 40-plus years of industry highs and lows to share but also because I learn something new at every YPN event I attend. Young agents provide fresh ideas and perspectives. In a rapidly changing industry, that’s what keeps our businesses relevant.