Can a Young Adult Find Success as a Real Estate Agent?

Young real estate agent @jonathan_francisca via unsplash

Among the many misconceptions about the real estate brokerage field is the belief that anyone who has passion and perseverance can succeed. In fact, of the agents I have met under the age of 30, most seem to wash out in a few months. Not many last more than a year or two. However, I strongly believe this is the case for one major reason; unrealistic expectations.

How Does One Become a Real Estate Agent?

Most states require a real estate salesperson applicant to be at least 18 years old. As you may already know, the path to become a real estate agent is actually pretty straightforward. You simply need to take a class and pass a test, something I was able to do in under a month.

Skipping College to Become a Real Estate Agent

Say you are an 18, 19, 20 or 21-year-old, and you are considering becoming a real estate agent. Or maybe you are a little bit younger and want to get a jump start on your career. In either case, good for you for already thinking ahead of the curve. However, let us think about your professional expectations carefully.

The average salary for a high school graduate in the United States of America is $749 a week, whereas a college graduate’s is $1,281 a week. Essentially, this means that if you want to skip out on the college experience, you are more than likely making a poor financial decision.

The good news is that if you are reading this article, you are probably in better financial shape than many of those who have obtained a high school degree or less. The bad news, as noted above, is that just about every available statistic says that skipping, dropping out or bypassing college in whatever way you can think of, is a bad idea. But, I take it you already knew that, so let’s move on.

If you think you are going to become the next face of real estate, the next wonderkid selling multi-million-dollar estates in Beverly Hills or Miami, it is probably best to keep those thoughts as dreams for now. Residential real estate brokerage is an incredibly competitive field, and various startups and established companies are determined to make it that much harder. You will be competing against fellow agents with decades of experience and established client bases.

Remember, real estate will be there once you graduate. If you dislike college (like I did), consider using creative methods to graduate sooner: A few examples are taking intersession classes or CLEP tests. After my first year of college, on paper I needed four additional years to graduate. After realizing that I had no interest in spending half a decade working on my undergraduate degree, I turned my academics around. I earned my bachelor’s degree in three years, with a 3.9/4 gpa.

I’ll end this section by including a quote from one of my favorite movies, Rudy (1993). Maybe you can apply it to your current career dreams. In the movie, Rudy, an average but determined football player, try’s out as a walk-on for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team. At the first day of tryouts, the assistant coach’s voiceover goes as follows,

“We have 95 players here so accomplished as athletes in high school, we gave them full scholarships to the best football program in the country. NCAA regulations allow us to dress just 60 for home games, which means at least 35 scholarship players are gonna be watching the game from the stands. So if any of you has any fantasies about running out of that stadium tunnel with your gold helmet shining in the sun, you best leave them right here. Of you 15 dreamers out there maybe we’ll keep one or two.”

Becoming the next million-dollar real estate agent is a little bit like making it onto a Division I football team. Competing in real estate as an 18-year-old makes it that much harder, like being 5’5″ tall, 130 pounds and still trying to walk onto the football team. Not impossible, but far from probable.

What Defines Success as a Real Estate Agent?

Let us think about your prospects in real estate with a bit more clarity. After all, if you were trying to become the next TikTok star, Instagram influencer, stock market whiz kid or Division I football player, the odds would always be against you whether you were a bit older and had a college degree, or not.

But what about if you simply wanted to enter the real estate field to make $40k, $60k or $80k a year. These salary expectations are much more reasonable. In fact, I think with a strong work ethic and business plan, they are attainable for the majority of people. After all, the average real estate agent nationwide makes right around $50 thousand a year. Check out my real estate free real estate agent salary calculator to estimate how much you could make.

However, there are two important questions you should consider:

Where You Do Think the Real Estate Industry Will Be in 5, 10 or 20 Years?

If you were the next superstar agent, you would more than likely be financially independent after a few years. But if you are entering the brokerage field as a long-term career, which we have determined will be necessary with a more realistic salary goal, you need to assess where the branch of work will be in the coming decades.

Unfortunately, many established real estate agents have little confidence that their current pay structure will continue. Most people would advise you to create a backup plan for yourself if things do not work out in your career. If you are young and ambitious, you may think that you are invincible. But also consider the fact that the entire industry may change. No matter how much you hustle, you cannot singlehandedly save an entire industry.

Suppose Real Estate Does Not Work Out, What Are Your Alternative Career Prospects?

The fundamental problem with entering the real estate brokerage field at young age is that the vast majority of the experience you gain will be in sales. Having strong sales skills is a great asset to anyone’s resume, but without a college degree and at best only moderate success in the real estate field, it can be very challenging to pivot careers.

My Recommendation – Obtain an Internship With a Successful Agent

When I was in high school, a fellow student obtained an internship with a real estate broker. If I recall correctly, this took place between their junior and senior year of high school. Also, since real estate showings, negotiations, etc. often happen at night or on the weekends, they continued the internship throughout the first half of their senior year. Ultimately, they decided the field was not for them, but they frequently remarked that they liked the experience and it was a great resume booster for college applications.

Here is a little secret: Many real estate agents are more than happy to let someone shadow them. And since so many agents are their own bosses, it is logistically easy for them to take on an intern. You, as an intern, may also be given a lot of control over the day-to-day structure of the program, as most real estate internships are more informal in nature than those with an established company. If you end up liking the internship and want to enter the field, great. If not, you will gain sales experience that you can apply to a future job. A win-win.

Quitting Your Job to Become a Real Estate Agent

Many people in their 20s pivot into the real estate brokerage field from the corporate world. Just like their younger counterparts, not many are successful. Of the successful younger agents, the majority have entered the commercial real estate field (CRE). CRE brokerage is similar to residential, but focuses more so on financials. If you have a more analytical mindset, that may be a better starting place. If you are not sure where to start, find an agent that works in both fields.

The above advice on internships should still ring true. Consider assisting an experienced agent part time. Many agents need help with social media (See Real Estate Agent Social Media Marketing – How to Win), typing up offers and general administrative work. Some are willing to pay a reasonable salary for that help. This is a great place to start. To begin this process, simply call or email a managing broker at a larger firm. The managing broker may be willing to pass on your contact information to their agents.

Since an internship has a set end date, you will want to make sure your part-time job has a clear path forward as you gain more experience. You should aim to get your salespersons license quickly. Once you do so, you will be able to help out with more aspects of the job, like hosting open houses. Over time, you will learn if real estate brokerage is the path forward in your career.

Conclusion – Yes, a Young Adult Can Find Success as a Real Estate Agent, But they Must Maintain Perspective

Fundamentally, a young person who wants to become a real estate agent can find success in the field. That is certain. But success must be relative to the inexperienced position they are in.

Even today, I still find that my young age can be a significant drawback. Many people discount my skills as an agent simply because through their eyes I do not look experienced. Regardless, as I have learned, if you are willing to do the work and soak up all of the information that is thrown your way while maintaining realistic career goals, you can quickly thrive in the real estate brokerage field.

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