Monday, November 25, 2013

A Generational Shift is Coming

We've long known that the real estate industry is aging, with the average salesperson now in his or her late 50s.  What we also know now is that the recent, long-lasting recession caused an entire cohort of people either to leave the business, or not get into it in the first place.  That leaves us, like architecture and other fields with cyclical demand and incomes, without the next generation ready to step up and lead, or, in this case, even to sell.

That's important to some extent simply because we currently have experienced real estate agents having to adjust to new technology, new laws, new ways of selling, and buyers who are often the age of their children.  While many are up to the task, or even more than up to it, there is a void left for buyers who wish to work with agents who look like themselves.  For instance, there is a shortage of supply among agents who have school-age children.  Also, our industry is less diverse--sometimes much less diverse---than the population we serve.  That is, in part, because the world is becoming more diverse as younger people intermarry, while older groups are often less likely to have done so.  Even our social customs have evolved, with younger groups less inclined to plan ahead, making it more challenging to plan showings and appointments.

What will the future bring?  What we are starting to see now is a much younger demographic entering the sales force, for several reasons.  First of all, there are very few barriers to entry.  You need a license, and some training, and you're good to go.  For kids having trouble cracking an anemic job market, real estate is an increasingly popular choice.  Secondly, it takes some time and some money to get going, since you live from commission to commission, and they don't happen right away.  So many boomers are now supporting their 20-something children, for recessional reasons and others, that they may as well support them to enter real estate, as pay their rent so that they can be an underpaid intern somewhere.  And, unlike that intern, they may be able to become self-supporting without changing jobs, as their skills and contacts increase.  As a parent, you can directly influence your child's income, by sending your friends and coworkers to him or her as clients!  Thirdly, real estate is a low-risk way to be in your own business.  It doesn't take much capital, unless you are the broker, but you are running your own small firm.  That appeals to millennials, especially since it doesn't require being at a desk at all, certainly not on specific days and at specific hours. It uses skills that are second nature to digital natives.  Even going to a party counts as networking, so there are opportunities to sell everywhere and at any time.  Finally, the real estate industry is ripe for change, for growth, and for the advent of a new generation.  In the midst of an entrepreneurial boom, real estate is front and center--everybody lives somewhere!