OpinionMarketing

Is age the new job-determining factor?

With clients hiring and firing based on age, it's hard not to wonder

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It’s not unusual for a middle-aged, midlevel manager to be eased out of their position when it comes time for corporations to have cutbacks. We hear stories of struggle when this vulnerable cohort tries to obtain other employment.

In many cases, they are overqualified for the position they are applying for, or they are completely qualified but the employer is not willing to pay the salary they demand. But why won’t companies pay for someone who is so well-qualified?

The answer is a matter of keeping an eye on the bottom line. They can hire someone younger for less money. Although they might not have the qualifications and experience, the price is right. Many mature people don’t merely view this treatment as “watching the bottom line,” but one of age discrimination.

Real estate agents have been immune to such discrimination because we are independent contractors and can decide with which consumers to work. Conversely, consumers also can choose their real estate agents. However, it now appears that a trend might be developing where sellers are practicing a bit of age discrimination of their own.

When at a listing appointment recently, a seller confided in me that he was interviewing several agents, and he had already eliminated one agent because he thought she was “too old” to list his contemporary home.

After probing a little more, the seller said that the agent was well-qualified, had lots of experience and had a great marketing plan. For him, the disconnect was how she represented herself. Apparently the agent’s website looked a little too dated, and her personal style was professional but too conservative.

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This judgment came as a surprise because one would think that if you have an impressive plan as to how you are going to sell their house, the seller would be ecstatic. But this was not the case. What was even more interesting is that the seller was 65 years old, which was older than the agent he decided not to hire. But it was only because he had an ultramodern house that he felt the need to hire a younger agent. It sounds like age discrimination to me.

I have to believe that the younger agent who eventually got the listing is an excellent agent — in addition to being young. But does this now mean that more sellers will be judging real estate agents on not only their experience and knowledge, but if they accurately reflect the style of the house? Should younger agents be the only ones to list contemporary condos in the city while older agents get the traditional houses in the suburbs? We know that the next largest group to be purchasing real estate are millennials. Are those buyers going to lead with knowledge and experience or with age?

We know that millennials want to work with an agent who can work the way they want to work — via technology. That’s fine because technology is a learned skill, so you can compete on that level. We can have a slick website, social media presence and text instead of call. However, if age becomes a factor, there is nothing you can do about it.

In addition to having awesome negotiating skills, knowledge of the market, great presentations and an outstanding marketing plan, we now have to be concerned with being young enough to list a contemporary property and work with younger clients.

According to the National Association of Realtors 2014 Member Profile study, the average Realtor is 56 years old. That’s a far cry from “young.” If age discrimination becomes more prevalent in real estate sales, where does that leave the thousands of real estate agents over the age of 40? It doesn’t sound fair, but then again, age discrimination has never been fair.

Candy Miles-Crocker is the founder of Real Life Real Estate Training.

Email Candy Miles-Crocker.