As if the housing market, unemployment rate and the economy in general are not scary enough — there are people in our industry who are scaring Realtors instead of helping them.

Last summer at the National Association of Realtors headquarters a group of us were told that the average Realtor is 52 and female — the average age had dropped from 54 in a previous report.

NAR has created the Young Professionals Network as a resource for younger real estate professionals, and chapters of this group have sprung up across the country.

I think it is a good idea to get younger members involved and I applaud the way NAR is cultivating them and listening to them. We need younger members — they are the future of NAR.

At the same time, our industry seems to have a strange set of beliefs about people who are over 40.

We are being told that young people have skills that older people do not have, and we call them technical skills. We hear that younger people use text messages but the rest of us don’t; younger people use technology and they use it differently.

Seriously, text-messaging isn’t new and it isn’t hard to use, and I think the first time I used it was before my 20-something children had cell phones. I couldn’t help but notice that my 80-something parents have the capability on their Jitterbug (it’s a cell phone designed for seniors).

Often the phrase "technical skills" scares people away. Technical skills are not needed to use most of the online tools — that is why they have become so popular.

Anyone can use them … unless they are told that they require "technical skills." Those words make it all seem so complicated and scary. The skills that are needed are social skills and communication skills, which I suspect are prerequisites for most successful businesspeople over 50.

No one needs to know how to program a computer, or build a network, database or Web site from scratch. Those are technical skills. Signing up for Twitter and using it to send messages is not a technical skill. …CONTINUED

Learning how to use it effectively is a skill, but isn’t hard to learn. Writing a blog post doesn’t require any technical skills, and neither does uploading a photo to Flickr.

The idea that people over 30 don’t get this is frightening, especially when I consider how many people on the planet are over 30 and how many of us will be around for several more decades and probably working full time, too.

Not only will we still be working, but people way over 30 are and will be in positions of power. We will buy houses, too. There is a lot of wealth in the generations that are over 30.

Some are in leadership positions and will continue to be in leadership positions in the real estate industry, and some will be training younger agents.

The idea that technical skills are needed to be a Realtor is not going to die. The people who spread the message are the same people who struggle to send an e-mail with an attachment and who stumble through simple everyday tasks on the computer. To them this is all very technical and they use it as an excuse and a barrier to learning.

I know people — young and old — who don’t like or get social media. I am sure they buy houses, too — they all seem to live in them.

It is a bit soon to put the average Realtor out to pasture. He or she will likely be in the business for a long time. And some of the younger agents will be working with them and learning some very important skills from them … like how to sell a house.

We can encourage younger people to become Realtors without alienating the existing membership or verbally putting them out to pasture decades early and telling them they need technical skills.

I think we all have something to learn and probably something to teach, no matter how young or old we are.

Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.


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