New Recruits Represent Quiet Revolution

March 1, 1997

You look different. What have you changed about yourself? You--today's salespeople--are becoming more independent-minded entrepreneurs. Top producers, for instance, are starting to take on some of the responsibilities--like advertising and marketing--they were once content to leave up to their brokers. In the long run, such a revolution could mean they're getting ready to jump ship and set up and staff their own shops.

New recruits aren't what you'd call a passive bunch, either. Downsizing in corporate America is bringing a new breed of business-savvy recruits to the industry. And immigrants touching U.S. soil for the first time are anxious to grab a piece of the American dream--often by tapping into an ever growing pool of fellow immigrants eager to own property.

In 1985, after his company in Florida closed, chemical engineer Jorge Cantero had to decide whether he should pack up his life and find another job in his field in New Jersey. He decided to stay in Florida and make a major career change--to real estate. He's now broker-owner of Miami-based Apollo Group Realty.

He says that what he sees happening today with an influx of new salespeople from other fields isn't all that different from what happened to him. ''With the acceleration of downsizings and consolidations, we're finding a large number of new salespeople coming into the business from corporate and management positions,'' comments Cantero.

Sherry Matina, executive vice president of Wm. Rigg Inc., Fort Worth, Texas, has observed the same trend. ''I'm seeing a lot of people who've become frustrated with the lack of creativity in corporate America and view real estate as an avenue to explore some new ways of creating a business and income.'' Cantero's and Matina's observations are reflected in the findings of a 1996 National Association of REALTORS® study--An Executive's Guide to REALTORS®: NAR Membership Profile. It indicates that nearly one out of five REALTORS® was in a management position before joining the real estate industry.

Hungry for Success

The new recruits are a savvy, business-minded bunch eager to do all that's necessary to succeed as entrepreneurs. ''They're willing to invest the money immediately that's going to enhance their professional development,'' says Cantero. ''They'll buy a computer and hire someone to assist them in managing their business from the beginning.''

That's a dramatic change from Cantero's earlier recruits, who typically started their businesses on a shoestring budget. ''They had to struggle and couldn't participate in professional development education because money was always an issue,'' he says. ''Many of the new breed have no hesitation about spending three or four months going to all the courses they can.''

Terry Penza, chief operating officer of the North Shore Board of REALTORS®, Northbrook, Ill., observes, ''Career changers---especially younger career changers--tend to jump into the business totally. I'm thinking of one person in particular who has taken every real estate course he could find, is a heavy computer user, and has tried all the new real estate software available.''

Shunning Corporate America

But not all the changes in the profession are measurable in hard numbers yet. For instance, the NAR study indicates that the typical salesperson is approximately 48 years old. But Matina, who's been in the real estate business 23 years, has noticed a dramatic rise in the number of young people entering the business directly out of college.

And although they're not experienced in the business world, she believes their decision to choose real estate as a first career is influenced by a distaste for big business. ''I'm seeing a whole generation that thinks they're going to be able to do it better than we did,'' says Matina. ''They see burned-out yuppies sick of keeping up with the Joneses, and they don't want to live life the way we did. They have their own ideas about what makes happiness, and they're going to go about it in a different way.''

What's the attraction to real estate? ''They see it as a good transition field--a way to branch out and do some other things like land development or building--and like the idea that they'll get to learn more about the financial markets,'' Matina says. ''They also like the income potential.''

The New Americans

Although the NAR research shows that the ethnic makeup of salespeople hasn't changed dramatically, others have seen a slow increase in the number of foreign arrivals to the business. Penza notes that more immigrants--particularly Koreans and Russians--are joining her board, and Matina sees an increase in foreign real estate professionals. ''I know that the public we'll be serving is going to be different,'' she says, ''so we really have to look for immigrants and minority people to come into our business.''

Cantero agrees that you can count on seeing more foreign faces in the industry. ''The world is global today, and the new Americans are finding that real estate provides them tremendous opportunities to broaden their horizons.''

Elyse Umlauf-Garneau is a Chicago-based freelance writer and former senior editor with REALTOR® Magazine.

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