Opinion

What agents coming into real estate today can tell us about where the industry is headed

Insights on recruiting from REDcareers CEO Casey Wright

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If recent reports are any indication, there are unsustainable trends — from rising age to low tech savvy — that have been defining the real estate agent base over the past several years.

As the market has picked up, the industry has seen a renewed interest from college graduates as well as those transitioning from other careers. In fact, in the last six months alone, Keller Williams market centers have experienced an average increase of candidate leads by 68 percent per market center.

Collecting lead data for more than 370 Keller Williams market centers throughout the U.S. gives us an intriguing perspective of what the agent of tomorrow looks like. Of the 111,075 leads we have collected so far in 2013, 93 percent are new agents entering the business for the first time.

Here’s how we predict the real estate agent picture will begin to look starting next year.

Younger

Much has been made of the aging base of Realtors currently working in the industry. Today’s average Realtor age is 57 — a number that has been steadily increasing for nearly a decade. This can be attributed to a few key factors, most notably a once-in-a-generation recession that left only enough transactions for the best (most experienced) agents.

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With a rebounding housing market, this equation has shifted, and younger agents are re-entering the industry in massive numbers. Some 68 percent of our leads are 35 or younger, with 32 percent of them under the age of 25. Only 4 percent are 56 or older.

Sixty-nine percent of agents expect to use their familiarity with technology as an immediate competitive advantage over more experienced agents.

Tech savvy

This point is obvious — younger, newer agents are more likely to use technologies, such as social networks, blogs, podcasts and smartphones in their daily lives. What is not so obvious is the way this motivates younger agents to consider a career in real estate — 69 percent of the agent leads we have collected in 2013 reported an expectation that they could use their familiarity with technology as an immediate competitive advantage over more experienced agents in their real estate careers.

Among the agents surveyed, only 9 percent listed keeping up with technology as their primary concern, while 15 percent listed competing against experienced Realtors. So, what keeps new agents up at night? Sixty percent reported market fluctuations as their primary concern.

Sales backgrounds

According the most recent National Association of Realtors Member Profile, 15 percent of current agents have a background in sales or retail prior to starting a career in real estate. According to our lead data, 46 percent of the new agents entering the business have a background in sales or retail — the vast majority of those (76 percent) report a focus in sales specifically. Bottom line: The new agents entering the business are three times more likely than their predecessors to come equipped with the most crucial skill set needed to succeed in the residential real estate industry.

Coastal

Up until 2012, we had a hard time generating leads in areas like Florida and California. A substantial portion of our top-performing market centers were in Texas and the Midwest — the areas least impacted by the housing collapse.

Now, the exact opposite is true. While we still generate a high volume of leads in the heartland, the coastal areas of the U.S. contain the majority of our highest-performing market centers. In fact, more than 25 percent of our total leads are generated in these two states — states that account for approximately 18 percent of the total U.S. population. The areas most likely to see huge demographic shifts in their agent populations are the areas that were hardest hit during the recession, and most rapidly rebounding in the recovery. Based on current market trends, we expect Arizona and Nevada to follow suit soon.

Our industry is looking for disruption. So where will the next real estate innovation come from? My bet is on a Realtor not yet working in our industry today. While there is substantive experience and pedigree in our ranks already, the real estate talent that is going to propel the category forward has perhaps yet to enter the space. And it’s the brokerages who take the time now to reassess their lead generation to attract a recruiting class of Realtors with these qualities that rise to the top.

Casey Wright is co-founder and CEO of REDcareers, a leading real estate marketing technology company working exclusively with Keller Williams market center nationally since 2009 to identify quality Realtor leads. Casey is also a guest professor at Point Loma Nazarene University Graduate School and a prominent speaker, having previously presented at TEDx.