Catch Young Lions and Get Them to Join Your Pride

May 1, 2001

Young people attracted to residential real estate today are highly professional and knowledgeable about career options. Some are entering from service fields where they’ve proved themselves; others are straight out of school.

What they’re looking for is a long-term career, as well as financial and professional growth in high-performing companies. That’s what leaders of several real estate companies--including some run by the young lions themselves--are saying about the industry’s "next generation."

"Young top performers view real estate as a career option, not a fallback position because they can’t get a job elsewhere," says Helen Hanna Casey, CRB, president of residential real estate at Howard Hanna Co., Pittsburgh, a company with about 1,200 associates in 60 offices.

"As part of this career path, today’s young stars want company support," says Casey. "They want the ability to grow and the ability to use the skills they develop."

Companies that hire these young performers must be prepared to provide the training, support, technology, and, in some cases, independence that the younger generation wants. Businesses run by real estate veterans or by up-and-coming 20-somethings can be equally successful recruiters.

Clear career objectives

Young sales associates joining Concept 2000 Realty, Raleigh, N.C., are looking for a real estate career, have clear objectives, and are usually right out of school, says owner Sheri Moritz, GRI and, at 27 years old, a young lioness herself.

"When they come in and interview, they have their checklists and ask about compensation, benefits, and business cards," Moritz says. "They’re all very knowledgeable about what they’re going to be offered somewhere else."

They have astonishing expectations and methods for reaching their goals and are willing to put in the effort to achieve them, Moritz says. "A couple of my associates have personal coaches. They all go to a lot of training."

The flexibility and independence offered by Concept 2000 are attractive to younger sales associates, Moritz says. With five desks in the office and 17 sales associates, most associates work from homes that are technologically wired for work. All sales associates in Moritz's company are required to have their own Web site, which is not a difficult requirement for the younger ones, she says.

A weekly staff meeting at the office draws everyone together, Moritz says, and provides the camaraderie that the younger sales associates like.

But mostly, she says, "they prefer to be left alone and then come to you, and you say, 'Oh, great,' pat them on the head, and they move along. They get motivated by that."

Most sales associates at Concept 2000 close an average of two to three deals a month and have flexibility in setting commission terms at closing. "Don’t lose the deal" is Moritz’s motto.

"They're able to make those decisions and be in control. That’s something they absolutely love--not having to come and ask permission," she says. Rather than take a commission reduction entirely from the associate’s portion, Moritz splits it with them.

Safe first steps

At the more traditional Howard Hanna Co., young sales associates can grow within residential sales or move to another company division such as title insurance, mortgage banking, building construction, land development, or auction sales.

Career support at Hanna is enhanced by the company’s 10-year-old income advantage program enabling sales associates to receive monthly paychecks before having to depend on making a commission.

"We’re saying it’s a real business,” Casey says. "You have to manage real lives." The income advantage program gives sales associates "a great sense of security, shows them we have confidence in them, and shows them we have a great responsibility to help them succeed."

Imitating success

Youth inspires youth in the case of Yoel Damas, CEO of Realty Executives Miami International. Young professionals see Damas and want what he has.

"My No. 1 recruiting tool is that I’m young and most of my managers are young," Damas says. "My broker is 28, and I’m 25. My managers are all in their 20s and 30s. When prospective sales associates come in and see that, see the success, and like the cars outside, they get impressed and feel that it could happen to them"

The top producer of Damas' 110 sales associates sold $18 million in real estate last year, he says. Most of his associates are experienced and come from other real estate companies, with about 20 percent coming from other service-oriented fields such as banking and car sales.

"A lot of these people are young, and they’re hungry. Most of them are used to making $10,000-$15,000 a year," he says.

The 100 percent company is very technology oriented, with full Internet access 24 hours a day and T-1 line service. "Everything is catered to young people," he says.

Many Realty Executives sales associates socialize together outside the office, which helps with retention, Damas says. "We hardly have a revolving door. Most of our sales associates come aboard to stay."

Role models

As is true of Damas’ company, sales associates are attracted to Century 21 M&M Associates in Turlock, Calif., by the success they observe in other young professionals. The company is co-owned by 26-year-old Larry A. Matos, broker and senior vice president, who began selling real estate at 18.

"They see how young I am and that I own five companies and that we’ve been able to grow as we have," he says. "It’s a privilege to have the kind of job where you can make in excess of $100,000 without a formal education."

The unlimited possibilities of real estate sales first drew Matos to the field, and he sees that excitement in the younger recruits he hires. Those sales associates are looking for a challenge, independence, and some security, which they can get with a company that can support and train them to succeed, Matos says.

"A lot of our sales associates recruit for the company," he says. "The names of friends they believe would be good salespeople they pass on to me." Matos also attends job fairs and runs newspaper ads in search of new sales associates and is adding about two associates a month to his five-office, 110-salesperson company.

Selective recruiting

A high-performance environment and sophisticated technology at John L. Scott Real Estate, Bellevue, Wash., attract new sales associates, particularly younger ones, says J. Lennox Scott, CRB, president.

Professional development goes hand in hand with high performance, he says. "We look at it as a life plan for a person. It’s not just all about real estate. Their work environment is about hitting their financial goals and building personal confidence and using it in the other areas of their lives."

With prospective sales associates, Scott uses what he calls selective recruiting. "We’re choosing them to join our team just as much as they’re choosing to work for us," he says. "In real estate, the interview is really two-way."

From day one at John L. Scott, sales associates participate in customer relationship management. The company offers business development, marketing support, secretarial support, and cutting-edge technological support. Homes are posted on the Internet with multiple photos from the first listing day. Each house has its own Web address published in the newspaper ad and posted on the sign, Scott says.

All of this appeals to younger sales associates, he says. These people usually come to John L. Scott from other fields, rather than just out of school. Teachers, medical professionals, waiters, and retail workers have phenomenal backgrounds for real estate because they are service oriented and know how to have trusting relationships with customers, Scott notes.

But he doesn’t wait for them to come to him. When Scott, in the course of his everyday activities, meets people who would be good in real estate, he tells them so and asks whether they want to know more. "They always say yes," he says.

Looking for development

Company support and career development are also strong at Keller Williams Realty International in Austin, Texas.

"We see our salespeople as businesspeople building their own business inside our business," says Gary Keller, president and cofounder of the company. Keller was 21 years old when he started in real estate and 29 when he launched his own company, which now has 8,600 salespeople in 164 offices.

"When talking to young lions about coming into the real estate industry, somebody is going to tell them it’s all about selling houses," Keller says. "If that’s all that’s said, the young lions are going to ask, 'Where’s the career? Where’s the growth?'

"They want to be treated as people to be developed. They want to see the company grow through them."

At Keller Williams that growth and development come from extensive training at all levels of the sales associates' careers and from institutional support, including consulting, peer partnerships, and masterminding or networking with others in similar career positions.

Real estate companies run by young professionals may seem to have a slight edge in attracting young people to the business. But any company that understands the basics of business--providing what the customer wants--can succeed in recruiting young lions by providing them with the services and support they want and need.

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