We need young blood in the real estate industry

by Alistair Helm

NZ Agents by age.png

A somewhat depressing statistic was shared with me recently - less than 1 in 5 of all real estate agents in New Zealand is under 40, barely 1 in every 20 are under 30 years of age. The reality is that the vast majority are well over 55 with many past what would be considered retirement age. Now I am by no means ageist, but I feel that the imbalance needs to be addressed.

Real estate has for many years been considered a second career, or more appropriately described as the 'last career'.  

I find this fact depressing. In today's world we admire young entrepreneurs who by the age of 30 have built companies generating real value and employing many people, they have struggled against adversity and won through, some may have failed once or twice, only to pick themselves up and learn from their mistakes. However when it comes to real estate and especially New Zealand real estate we find very few young aspirational agents.  

Whilst when it comes to many facts of real estate , it is often commented that NZ is no different to other countries. When it comes to age profile we are different. Take a look at the Australian industry and you will see many more agents under 30. Individuals who see real estate as a career to aspire to. A mindset that we don't seem to see in NZ. We seem to have a view that a career in real estate is something best left until later in life. One clear differentiator in Australia is that agent are effectively paid commission with a base of a minimum wage as a starting structure. In NZ all agents (well almost all) have no income outside the commission, no sales, no earnings. That is partly why we have the age profile we have. It is one thing to look to create a start up company 'boot-strapping' it with the aspiration of creating something of real value, it is a different thing to join 9,500+ others all clambering over each other to secure a listing in a process that makes it hard to differentiate one agent from another. 

With this as a backdrop I was delighted to see the emergence of a new organisation  'Young Professionals in Real Estate' (YPIRE) - originally formed in Australia, a NZ chapter has been established and is generating interest from this sector of the industry.


I was recently invited along to chat to a number of them - all under 30 and all ambitious young people from a number of real estate firms. We chatted about the things people in the industry chat about when having a coffee - nothing new there!  However what I was impressed with was how collaborative these individuals were, too often given the cut-throat nature of the industry, agents rarely aggregate together outside of conferences. One of the principles of YPIRE is collaboration and sharing.

The organisation is squarely focused on events and collaboration. I hope it succeeds as it is a valuable platform to help young people in this industry make contacts and potentially influence change in the industry. That was one of the emerging discussions we had over our coffee meeting. These people naturally get digital, yet they experience at best reticence from managers and at worst rejection of new digital marketing focus!

As an ideal I would love for this industry to aspire to the pinnacle of professional credibility as epitomised in the tweet I saw recently from Redfin in the US. Redfin is a new model of real estate. A high successful technology enabled real estate company that employs agents on a salary and performance incentive based 100% on customer service measures, not on the value of sales they facilitate. These agents collaborate and work in building a true brand experience. They recently took their recruitment platform to Stanford University - that is aspiration. To be recruiting some of the smartest minds in the graduate world to work for a real estate company.