OpinionBrokerage

Why aspiring real estate agents should just skip college

Going straight to the source might be more useful

Skip college. That’s right! If you know someone who is thinking about starting or running a business after college, they should just skip the university and start a real estate career.

This is not advice I would have given 20 years ago. Today, my opinion on this has been influenced by many of the changes and opportunities that have occurred over the last couple of decades. My point of view has also been influenced by Seth Godin’s blog and his posts on college and education. But there are many reasons I would advise against college, and I believe that we, as real estate professionals, have a duty to help them get started in this industry.

Here are four reasons to skip college:

1. Student debt

As real estate professionals, we see every day the effect student debt has on home purchases. Students come out of school with staggering amounts of debt — The Wall Street Journal reports $33,000 on average for graduates in 2014, and the job market doesn’t have the available jobs for the graduating students. Parents are also shouldering student debt by taking on loans for their children.

2. You could graduate only to live in your parents’ basement

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This might be you, the parent reading this. Your graduated son or daughter is living at home after college graduation. There is no stigma to this anymore because there are so many adults that live at home with their parents. But who wants that forever?

3. Cost of education

Higher education costs have skyrocketed. I remember in my first year of college, my tuition was under $1,000 per year. Now at a state university that education will cost $20,000. So a four-year education with room and board, books, lab fees and expenses can be more than six figures. This amount is not a surprise to many of you, especially for those of you who have helped to fund your children’s education.

4. It’s all online — for free

Many of the things you learn in a business school curriculum you can learn by taking online courses for free. Hard to imagine, but check out websites such as Khan Academy. All of the other Gen-Ed (General Education) items can be learned by exploring your interests.

Skip it

Rather than buying into the higher education promise of a career found after graduation, why not just start one now?

And here are five reasons why real estate is the right choice for right now:

1. Real estate is perfect for entrepreneurs

If you want to start a business, real estate is an excellent opportunity. You can start your career after high school by taking a basic class and passing a test. Side note — many of us in real estate think it is too easy to get a real estate license, but that is another story or blogpost. Once you pass the test, you interview brokers and set off on your real estate career.

2. Consider your mentorship as your college expenses

So, here is where you put your money. Use it to live and pay your expenses. Use it to advance your real estate knowledge while you get your business off the ground. The tuition you would have spent is now your start-up capital. I always tell our new recruits that they will be six months from a payday when they start their real estate career.

3. Start real estate early

When you graduate high school, your expenses are low, and you typically have fewer demands on you. You also have a precious resource — time. You can use your available time to learn the ropes at a brokerage who mentors and teaches you, or you can join a real estate team and work and learn at the same time. It also gives students a head start in their careers — they are four years ahead of those who at university.

4. Break out of the job

We encounter lots of people who “always wanted to be an agent,” but something (life) got in the way, and now they are revisiting their dreams. They are challenged by the demands of their current job and of maintaining their current lifestyle. They often don’t have the time to devote to being successful enough to leave their current job or enough money set aside to quit and ramp up their real estate career. Our advice to “break out” is to work their real estate job as if it is their full-time job and dedicating the effort needed to build their business.

5. Our job as brokers and agents

My opinion is that we need to encourage the next generation of agents to join our ranks. We need to train them and mentor them. Enhancing and building our profession is our responsibility. I have personally been visiting high schools and encouraging students to join our ranks.  I have participated in job fairs and mock interviews and have also spoken to audiences in high schools. For those of you who have been reading my posts, you also know I have a real estate school. We teach our new agents for free and once they become licensed we mentor them. Because, after all, they are the future of our industry.

Between all the resources available and the reasons not to go to college, it only makes sense to consider skipping college and going straight into the industry. If you know someone wavering between college or an unsatisfying job and getting started in real estate, these reasons should be enough to tip the scale toward real estate.

Adam Conrad Jr., MBA, is the founder and broker/owner of Perry Wellington Realty, licensed in Pennsylvania, Florida, Maryland and West Virginia.

Email Adam Conrad.