Help Wanted: Looking for Generation Y

Millennials will become the nation’s largest living population this year. Appealing to the group requires a new approach. Fear not: Gen Y recruiting tips ahead.

February 20, 2015

Calculating how long it would take to elevate to a six-figure income at his corporate job in 2005, Greg Buchanan came up with an answer: no time soon.

Of course, no practical 28-year-old would have quit a corporate gig and buy a real estate office in 2008, as the global financial crisis was unfolding — right? Buchanan did. And like many success stories born from impassioned starts, things worked out.

Buchanan, now the 34-year-old broker-owner of ERA Select Real Estate in Lexington, Ky., has one office and 20 sales associates, most of whom are 30-something millennials. And more than a few are earning six-figure annual incomes, he notes. The company topped $60 million in gross sales volume in 2014.

Is Buchanan ahead of the curve in hiring millennials? In the real estate world, yes.

The average age of real estate practitioners today is 56, and only 3 percent of REALTORS® are under 30, according to the 2014 National Association of REALTORS® Member Profile.

Millennials, also known as Generation Y, will number more than 75 million in 2015. This group of 18- to 34-year-olds is outsizing Gen X (people ages 35 to 50) and boomers (51 to 69) to become the nation’s largest living population group. Broker-owners and managers will be drawing from this group more and more going forward.

Attracting the next generation of top producers requires a fresh approach, Buchanan says. By embracing technology, mentor programs, multi-level support, and a cooperative culture, brokers will have an advantage in the search for Gen Y agents.

Follow the Money

The pitch is simple: “In no other business can you be in your 30s and only work for a few years and make six figures,” Buchanan says.

Of course, there’s a catch, he adds. Older business models that benefit brokers won’t work with younger agents. The anchor of college debt and the needs of young families discourage many young people from taking professional risks.

Buchanan’s solution: Get them to their first paycheck within the first six to eight weeks.

How do you do that? Take a few risks of your own.

“Whether it is giving them a budget or helping out with other expenses [like association dues and initiation fees], try to be flexible,” Buchanan says.

Provide Support

Buchanan likes to keep it simple. “We train them to get the first contract and help them write it. And we get them out there and working open houses for the first six to eight weeks,” he says.

Moreover, he tells salespeople to take someone to lunch or coffee every day. “They have to announce to the world that they are selling real estate,” he says.

While youth is sometimes seen as a barrier to entry in real estate, Buchanan says his associates are rarely asked how long they’ve been in the field. In fact, a bright-eyed countenance could give them an edge with first-time home buyers, whose average age is 31, NAR reports.

“It can be tough sledding at first,” says Tim Rush, senior vice president of marketing and recruitment for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties in Cerittos. “Most young people have a hard time with the long lead time prior to earning any money.”

To support new recruits, BHHS provides a $1,000 advance on an open sales transaction. If the transaction cancels for any reason, the advance continues until the next transaction. “Most of the transactions will close,” he adds.

Danny Gillin, 25, a recruiter for BHHS, says the incentives helped him hire 50 new associates — not all of them millennials, he notes — in January.

In addition to financial assistance, Gillin says millennials are drawn to training and mentoring systems that will help them maximize business and earnings quickly.

BHHS has several programs, including a free 16-session post-license training program that runs from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

“By teaching them all the fundamentals in the evening, they get a jump start and can practice with some degree of expertise immediately, once they have their license,” Rush notes.

Embrace Technology

Despite misconceptions that technology breaks down the relationship-building process, recruiters say tech-savvy millennials love to communicate. “They connect in a different way, but communication is crucial to their success,” Gillin notes.

Millennials are adaptive and efficient and able to tap broad social networks to promote business, build relationships, and share knowledge within and beyond office walls, Gillin says.

“One of my top agents comments on her sphere every day. She comments on other people’s posts, just interacting, not talking about real estate. And those people click on her links and realize she is a real estate agent,” Buchanan says.

Encourage a Collaborative Culture

Another millennial recruiting bonus? Younger sales professionals have no basis for comparison to “the gravy train years,” Buchanan adds. “They don’t know 2003 and 2004. And I love it.”

They are well-educated, proactive, and driven, and they come to work on time, he says. “I have a 35-year-old agent making $350,000, a 32-year-old making $219,000 … and one newer agent who has gone after and taken down eight FSBO listings since June,” Buchanan says.

Millennials also want to contribute to the world around them, he adds.

“We are a collaborative brand, a collaborative company, and new agents like to be part of that. A plaque on the wall is great. Every agent wants recognition, but younger agents want to be a part of something bigger. And they like to collaborate. So a top agent will sit down with a newer agent and help them in any way they can,” he says.

When recruiting younger agents, Gillin says it’s important to be a little more personal and Internet-friendly. He uses social networking sites such as YouTube, LinkedIn, The Real Estate Social Network, Twitter, and Facebook to recruit.

Don’t shy away from following up with a simple text message or send a blog that lists key factors that make your company stand out, Gillin says.

Not comfortable with social media and online communication? Regularly connect outside of the office. Do this even if you embrace technology. Buchanan meets his associates weekly from April to October at a local event that features live music.

Whether it’s a game night at the office, an outing at a local restaurant, or a company softball team, the options are endless. But the message is clear: Millennials like to feel connected.

No matter what you do, when it comes to hiring millennials, emphasize the benefits, Gillin says.

“Having excellent in-house programs makes it that much easier to recruit great outside agents,” Gillin says. “I have agents calling me and asking about joining the company. So you have to give them a reason to join. Make it appealing to the outside by marketing your brand, but let your brokerage speak for itself.”


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