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You Don’t Have Enough Experience or the Right Connections to Be in Real Estate: Overcoming the Obstacles of Being a Young Realtor®

I entered the wonderful world of real estate when I was 26 years old (and Derek was 28) – almost half the age of the average real estate agent in the U.S., which is 51 years old now – and closer to 54 years old at that time.

Let me tell you… That is quite a hurdle to overcome! Not only did many “seasoned” agents feel the need to take on a condescending tone when they talked to us about … anything, but even potential clients did not know what to think when they met us for the first time. (And looking young for my age helped nada.)

How the heck could someone as young as I was actually help people buy and sell houses?
Mind boggling. Truly mind boggling.

(Is this where I bring up the fact that many doctors graduate and start practicing medicine around this age? Or should I save that concept for later?)

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I have often brought up the “perception of real estate agents” in reference to how people distrust, dislike and flat-out “dis” them. Although similar, what I am talking about here is a wholly different facet of that perception.

The perception of real estate agents was/is one of an older, “Good ol’ Boys Club” persona … a persona of which I did not/do not even remotely resemble … in more ways than one.

I am now 33 and I am STILL overcoming this hurdle. And although I am still very young in the eyes of real estate, I am not alone and nor am I the youngest whatsoever. There are more and more people – people like me – (to include both younger, and young-minded older) – that are faced with an “industry perception” that can be difficult to overcome.

An interesting manifestation of how my age plays out in my career is figuring out how to overcome the perception that it takes decades of “experience” and “having the right connections” to sell a home.

Okayfine. Define “experience” and “connections” …

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If by “experience” you mean: I have written a billion contracts and sold a billion homes and have a billion alphabet soup letters trailing after my name, then no – I do not have THAT kind of experience.

I have the experience that has taught me that no two clients and no two contracts and no two closings are EVER alike and that I need to approach each new situation with a WIDE OPEN mind and a desire and willingness to think “outside the box” to accommodate my clients’ needs in the best possible way. I have the experience that has taught me to surround myself with brilliant people who can walk with me into any situation and make it good.

If by “connections” you mean: I can pull some strings at the Title Company to get a closing date and time that you want, or I go golfing with the president of the country club, then no – I do not care about those type of connections.

I have the type of connections that actually bring home buyers and home sellers together. I have the type of connections that give my Buyer clients access to every home that is for sale that could meet their needs. I have the type of connections that places my Sellers’ homes in front of the maximum amount of potential buyers. I like to call it my “internet connections“.

I understand that the perception of real estate agents is misguided in more ways than one. Our industry HAS had our share of bad apples. Our industry HAS been dominated by the Good ol’ Boys Club for a looooong time. Our industry HAS been stuck in an Old School ways of thinking for longer than other service-related industries.

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But, times are changing. Our industry is facing a paradigm shift.

If you are reading this, then you are already embracing this shift. But look around you… How many people in your office are still building their “Value Propositions” on things that are Ego-Friendly but not Client-Centric?

Until this shift reaches the tipping point, and more people understand the NEW face of real estate, I (along with my peers) will still have to overcome the hurdles of being young in real estate.

It is not an easy task, as it takes a type of dedication that goes beyond complete and total comprehension of contract law and local real estate market conditions. It goes beyond total fiduciary responsibility to each of my clients. And it most certainly goes way beyond the commission check.

I still have to, not convince, but educate each potential client as to what it really takes to be a competent real estate agent… TODAY. I have to educate my clients that it is not necessarily the designations that create a good agent (if the client even knows what they even mean …). I have to educate my clients that it is more important to advertise and market their home than to advertise and market myself. I have to educate my clients that because I am NOT a part of the Good ol’ Boys Club, I am forced to be innovative and always be looking for bigger and better ways to help my clients accomplish their goals. I have to educate my clients that being a part of the Good ol’ Boys Club just creates a false sense of security anyway, and it lets it’s “members” become lazy and justify their non-forward-thinking-behavior with pats on the back and another round of golf.

Fellow Genius, Matthew Rathbun, recently tackled the agent-to-agent side of this paradigm shift in his recent post “If you say that… it will ruin your career!” and also brings up an excellent point, in reference to the agent-to-client side:

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Unfortunately there are far too many people who are trying to meet the consumer where they were 10 years ago.  I am leaving room for the fact that they maybe right and the talents of open houses and playing solitaire during floor duty maybe back in vogue… but I think it’s unlikely and only time will tell.”

After explaining the “new face of real estate” I am often “rewarded” with clients commenting, “Wow. You are really different (better) than I expected. Thank you.”

However, if after all the education they STILL choose to go with Hairsprayetta Lookatme Lookatmenow ABC., RBIT., LOL., then I say “go” …

And in my heart, I know that my business card (that they casually tossed in their desk drawer) will eventually resurface … when jaded by their initial decision, they realize that MY experience and MY connections may actually be just what they need to accomplish their home buying and selling goals.

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Written By

Mariana is a real estate agent and co-owner of the Wagner iTeam with her husband, Derek. She maintains the Colorado Springs Real Estate Connection Blog and is also a real estate technology trainer and coach. Mariana really enjoys helping real estate agents boost their businesses and increase their productivity through effective use of technology. Outside of real estate, blogging and training, she loves spending time with her husband and 2 sons, reading, re-watching Sci-Fi movies and ... long walks on the beach?

33 Comments

33 Comments

  1. Hi Mariana!

    We are the shift that is happening in our industry. I brought up if “experience” matters the other day on our Trulia blog and have received some great feedback. Your point about educating your buyers and sellers about what it takes to be a competent agent is where I think we as an industry have a lot of work to do. We are changing with the times on a daily basis yet buyers and sellers are in the real estate loop only every so often. Keeping them abreast of the recent changes and trends that have occurred that better the real estate buying and selling experience and HOW you utilize them for their benefit is what can be communicated better . I have seen too many agents fail to do this properly and lose potential lifelong clients in the process.

    After meeting you and Derek last year, I understand why your clients appreciate you 🙂

    – Rudy

    “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” – William Arthur Ward

  2. Matthew Rathbun

    March 15, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    Man, I love reading your writing! This is a great post and I’ll be referencing it in my trainings in the future! The experience of the newer group of Realtors may not be in real estate, but they can supplement that lack, by studying and using experiences they have from their own purchases. I think this is why we’ve seen an increase in the number of Realtors taking more classes in the past few years.

    Did I say GREAT ARTICLE?!?!?

  3. monika

    March 15, 2008 at 12:21 pm

    Excellent post Mariana! I’m writing something very similar. A paradigm shift …is exactly what it is!

  4. Mariana Wagner

    March 15, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    Matthew (RE trainer) – Thank you! I admire your approach to everything that you do and am glad that I can help you in your training.

    Monika (RE trainer) – Hi there! Thank you, and I look forward to reading what you write!

    You are both trainers for/of RE agents and it is awesome to see that the “future” is in hands like yours. Thank you.

  5. Russell Shaw

    March 15, 2008 at 1:00 pm

    Excellent article. There have always been new agents entering the business. Some new and young. There have always been agents who have been in the business a while who are doing quite well. Those things are not going to change anytime soon (say the next 500 – 1,000 years).

    As home buyers (unlike home sellers) are seldom actually looking for an agent but only really looking for a house a new agent is just as desirable as a veteran agent to most of them. The newer agent’s challenge isn’t being “new”, it is being able to make contact with the potential home buyer in the first place.

    The attribute that the buyer is most interested in is never going to be, “is the agent certified” (GRI, CRS, ABR, E- Pro – or any of the constantly growing list of initials that even industry members have NO idea of the meaning) – but is the person honest. Can I be sure they won’t try and trick me? Can they be fully trusted? Get a “yes” on that one, have a lockbox key and access to MLS and you’re in. There is no other “requirement”. Even though they have to initial various clauses and every page of the contract, unless the buyer is a lawyer or a commercial broker, etc., in most cases, they have NO idea what any of it means. Most agents do not know the meaning of the word, “escrow”. But if the buyer has already decided that they are talking to an honest person they will sign the papers where told to and move along the process to “open escrow”.

  6. BawldGuy Talking

    March 15, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    Mariana — As an agent who, as you did, started quite young (18 + 60 days) I feel your pain. What you’ve done to combat it is what your readers should really pull from this post: You produced for your clients — and that’s all you needed to do.

    Because you not only produce results but have obviously gone a near vertical learning curve, your 7-8 years of experience has proven far more valuable than most who’ve had the cliché ‘one year’s experience 13 times’. 🙂

    Don’t discount your exuberant behavior as a significant and taste enhancing spice, enhancing the flavor of the heaping plates of results you serve up.

    The other agents? Most of them are so worthless their actually props on your daily ‘set’ — put there to make you look good. 🙂

  7. BawldGuy Talking

    March 15, 2008 at 1:10 pm

    Ignore the poor syntax and incorrect words, as I made the mistake of commenting before finishing my first cup of coffee after staying up past 2. 🙂

  8. Benjamin Bach

    March 15, 2008 at 1:49 pm

    I received my licence when I was 22, and I’m a few months shy of my 25th birthday now

    The issue of my age was in my head, but that made it very real.

    Now that I perceive myself as a business owner, a professional and a valued consultant, I am.

    The largest property I ever sold was bought by someone one month older than me. He isn’t 25 yet either. The seller’s didn’t care 🙂

    BenjaminBach.com

  9. Annie Maloney | Sevierville Real Estate

    March 15, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    AWESOME Articel!! It was as if I was the one writing it, or you were writing about me. I have, and continue to deal with, the same things. Now 33, I became an agent when I was 29. Being a youngster in a market that was comprised of older Good Ol’ boys, it was hard to get motivated in the beginning. Now I love it. I love being part of Generation X as it allows me to be unique in my market and advertise/market properties in ways that are not traditional , so to speak. Whats that you say, You have been doing real estate for 30 years and you know what works and what doesn’t. Individual Porperty what? Search Eng..huh? OK, Mr. Being Phased Out. You go right ahead and take that ad out in the paper for your new listing. I love it! In May I will become Managing Broker of my office and I suspect that I will continue to have to deal with these issues at an all new level. Oh well. I love it when other agents ask me how my listings and sites always come up high in the SERPs. With exposure like that and attitude that is young, fresh and confident there aren’t too many listings that I don’t get. It has also allowed me to pick and choose the ones that I really want. Great Article and Good Luck.

  10. Mike Farmer

    March 15, 2008 at 5:02 pm

    Age definitely doesn’t matter, except in real cases where clients have a perception of age mattering, but online efforts help to overcome that for the most part, because you can show what you know and who you are. I do think this “I have the experience that has taught me to surround myself with brilliant people who can walk with me into any situation and make it good” is the most critical part for new, young (or old) agents to realize — when dealing with skepical clients it pays to help them understand that you may not “know” everything, but you “know” that, and you “know” who to consult that does “know”.

    From my experience, many buyers, who sense a young, inxperienced agent has something on the ball and is intelligent enough to make things happen and not make stupid mistakes, want to give the agent a break and help them along in their careers. It all boils down to the individual — it’s difficult to make blanket statements about “experienced” or “inexperienced”, and you don’t have to frame the experienced as “good ol’ boys” although I understand that system and its weaknesses — you just need to be you, the rest will follow.

  11. Angela Clark Graviss

    March 15, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    Mariana, I became licensed at 23 years old in 1997, and have had many simliar experiences: I may have felt discouraged, but I have never given up! Age does not magically give expertise, or knowledge, or the ability to market to today’s changing markets. Today, 11 years later, I’m a little older, a little wiser, but I still have that energy that helped me in the beginning. Just FIDO it: Forget It and Drive On to the NEXT client who needs you now!

  12. Mariana Wagner

    March 15, 2008 at 6:18 pm

    Rudy – You are right … We are each swimming in the pool of the real estate on daily/hourly basis, and because our clients are NOT, we MUST be able to educate our clients to the most up-to-the-minute accurate information as possible. It was great to meet you last Summer!

    Russell – Thank you. Home Buyers are less inquisitive than home Sellers, and are more likely to choose someone on gut-feeling than Sellers are. And with good reason. Hopefully this market will separate the wheat from the chaff and create more agents (than not) that really DO understand the industry.

    Jeff – I love that: “one year’s experience 13 times” Sometimes that is how I feel people define “experience” … And I can’t help but laugh at your “there to make you look good” comment, but those are the same agents that are out there helping buy and sell real estate… scary.

    Benjamin – Age really doesn’t matter, but there are those who choose to make it matter. Ultimately, it is an obstacle that we ALL have to oversome at some point in our lives. Confidence, though, can make all the difference.

    Mike – Thank you. My intent was not to lump all “experienced” agents into the Good ol’ Boys Club … just a large handful of them who refuse to embrace a much needed change in the industry, and look down on those of us who do. And you are right. It DOES boil down to the individual. 100%.

  13. Mariana Wagner

    March 15, 2008 at 9:30 pm

    Annie – Thank you for your comment and good luck to you, too!

    Angela – FIDO … Great!

  14. Blue Ridge Mountains Cabins For Sale

    March 16, 2008 at 8:13 am

    Doogie Houser sold me a house. Why should it matter if at any point they were not sure they could decline service. I find young people motivated and creative and I much prefer them to a seasoned person who does all there work from the office and thinks the internet is a nusiance.

    As with any job a skill can be learned by all and experience comes with time. It doesn’t make you better just known in the community to have experience.

  15. Daniel Rothamel, The Real Estate Zebra

    March 16, 2008 at 9:03 am

    This is one that rings true with me. Kari and I started at 24 and 23, respectively. Other agents looked at us like we had three eyes when we first started. As we progressed in our careers, we learned that one of the reasons for this is that many of the other agents felt threatened by our mere presence. Overcoming hurdles with clients is much easier, since you get to meet them one-on-one, and we have always been forthright and honest, which goes a long way to establishing credibility.

    In the end, we just keep doing what we do, and stay committed to our clients. We are just trying to carve a career out for ourselves, just like most other agents.

  16. Mariana Wagner

    March 16, 2008 at 12:09 pm

    Daniel – You are right. Overcoming hurdles with clients IS easier than with other agents, and eventually it will all even itself out.

  17. Benjamin Bach

    March 16, 2008 at 1:03 pm

    Let me float this out there . . .

    Who cares what other real estate salepeople think? Spend time with your clients, not in the office 🙂

  18. Mariana Wagner

    March 16, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    Benjamin – I am more concerned about my clients – yes. However, the agent across the “deal” from me is the other facet of my obstacle.

  19. Ines

    March 16, 2008 at 9:10 pm

    One frustration I still have that goes beyond age and 30 years experience in the business is for clients to fall for the “image” and what monika calls “glitz and glitter” – the fact that they know you will get the job done, you will go above and beyond, but they fall for the trap of the other agent talking down about their competitors.

    I like the shift, now the consumer needs to open their eyes.

  20. Ines

    March 16, 2008 at 9:14 pm

    Oh – I forgot, and the yound thing happens with any profession. I remember opening my own architectur firm at 25 and having to overdress to meet clients – the suit (in 90 degree weather), heels, make-up and they woud still say, “you are so young!” – My expertise was easy to prove as an architect, not so easy as a Realtor.

  21. Cat

    March 16, 2008 at 9:40 pm

    “However, if after all the education they STILL choose to go with Hairsprayetta Lookatme Lookatmenow ABC., RBIT., LOL., then I say “go” …”

    AMEN to that! I totally relate to this. 🙂

  22. Mariana Wagner

    March 17, 2008 at 11:28 am

    Ines – I will NEVER talk down about my competitors – even the ones that have done me and my clients horribly wrong. I may re-state pertinent facts, but I keep that to a minimum. I cannot stand that political **** that some agents feel that they need to participate in.

    Also, it DOES take a bit longer to prove expertise as an agent, as opposed to other areas. I agree.

    Cat – Thanks! Me too…

  23. Mariana Wagner

    March 17, 2008 at 11:34 am

    Blue Ridge – Experience is very important, but not the be-all-end-all, in my opinion. And it definitely depends on what kind of experience you are talking about.

  24. Jeremy Hart

    March 17, 2008 at 2:45 pm

    Mariana, SUCH a good post – of course, you didn’t need me to tell you that, everyone else has thought so as well. I started my career in real estate when I was 26 … my first clients? First-time buyers, and about my age. I was terrified to tell them it was my first deal, and so I didn’t tell them. Why would anyone want to entrust their first home purchase to little ‘ole ME? The closing attorney, however, thought he’d have some fun at my expense, and told them at the table. I couldn’t believe that they thought it was awesome – I was floored. Still am, in some ways. But you – and the commentors – are right, it’s all in our head. We are all at the leading edge of the shift, simply by the fact that we’re trying to find new ways of doing business. Someone here said – I think it might have been Benjamin – that we are the professional we think we are, or something like that, and I truly believe that. This is a very timely post, thank you for sharing it.

  25. San Diego real estate lawyers

    March 17, 2008 at 3:28 pm

    Mark my words, either Obama or Clinton will win – and the legal changes they bring will force a more equitable distribution of wealth AND risk. First, rebuild the social safety net, shredded by decades of rightwing mismanagement. Second, better govt regulation will bring more centralized control back over the markets. As time goes on, the federal govt will reassert its rightful authority over more sectors of the economy, and we will march together into a brighter future for our children! I read an interesting article called “The number one question in San Diego real estate.” you can check it out at: http://www.brokerforyou.com/brokerforyou

  26. Mariana Wagner

    March 17, 2008 at 3:33 pm

    Jeremy – Thank you. It IS all in our heads, but it still is also in the heads of those who choose to be judgemental.

  27. Mark Hendriks

    March 19, 2008 at 12:53 am

    I too started at the age of 23, I had a hard fight, it took me a full year before I signed my first listing, It was such a harrowing experience, but I felt like I was doing something that I could be happy doing for the rest of my life.
    At 30 yrs of age I still get the curious remark from potential clients about my inexperience and now that I am in a new market, it is as if I have turned back the clock to 23 again, But I have the fundamentals and stay abreast of technology, so I will soon traverse these growing pains. The Ol’ boy network is bound fall, I think we can see that already from the exodus of ads from the newspapers to the web.
    My hope is that, as the ol boys network falls, I hope in turn the ol boy clients will go away with them. I am tired of clients asking If I will put their listing in the paper.

  28. Sue

    April 12, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    Great post. I don’t think age matters, knowledge and keeping an open mind for new and better more effective ways to do things is important…progression. The harder part will be educating clients on the value that this brings..

  29. Jennifer in Louisville

    July 1, 2008 at 5:08 am

    I started in real estate at the ripe old age of 20 (well, ok, I was 1 month away from being 21). It was extremely difficult getting started. I had recently moved from my home in Indianapolis to Louisville Kentucky, and didn’t know anyone beyond my husband’s family. I was young, & inexperienced so I had to work doubly hard to prove that I was good. I’m now selling homes to the children of my earlier clients.

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