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Average US Realtor is 56; Manhattan attracts younger crowd

By Holly Dutton

It’s official. American Realtors are getting younger.

According to a new survey from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the average age of a Realtor is 56, marking the first drop since 2007, according to NAR’s 2014 Member Profile. Ten years ago, that average was 52.
But in the fast-paced market of Manhattan real estate, the business is attracting a much younger crowd, according to most executives.

“There are so many young kids in the business in New York these days, but I am glad to know that the average age in the US is 56. It makes me feel better,ˮ said the luxury agent, who requested anonymity.

While a proponent of “you’re as old as you feel,ˮ the veteran Manhattan broker said she believes the Manhattan real estate biz attracts starry-eyed young people who believe its an easy way to make fast money.

David Schlamm
David Schlamm

However, she cautioned, “It’s a difficult business but many of the young people today think it is easy, then they find out it’s not.

“But when someone doesn’t know what they are doing, it’s frustrating regardless of their age.ˮ

In its survey, the results of which were released in June, NAR attributes the increase in age to the notion that agents don’t retire, citing the saying “Realtors don’t retire, they just become listless.”

It also reported that 40 percent of NAR’s members are 60 years of age or older.

According to the national survey, three percent of Realtors (members of NAR) are under 30 years old, 16 percent are between ages 30 and 44, and 24 percent are 65 and older.

Though NAR doesn’t have localized statistics on the average age of agents in New York City, real estate insiders like David Schlamm, president of residential brokerage firm City Connections, have seen first-hand that agents here tend to be younger.

“Real estate is very flashy right now,” said Schlamm. “You’ve got silly reality shows, it looks exciting and hip and stylish.”

Reality shows like Million Dollar Listing NY with its polished, TV-ready 20-something stars Frederik Eklund and Ryan Serhant can give the impression that agents can be young and wildly successful — which isn’t always the case, said Schlamm.

“If you’re good and work hard, you can make six figures,” said Schlamm. “But most people do so-so in Manhattan. We read about all the successful brokers, but the average agent, whether in rental or sales, at a big-name firm or not, the average person is not killing it, especially in this type of market.”

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said the median gross income of a Realtor increased to $47,700 in 2013 from $43,500 in 2012, marking at 9.6 percent rise and sharp gain from $34,900 in 2011.

“Although the median number of transactions or commercial deals remained unchanged from last year at 12, this marked a continued return to pre-recession levels after bottoming out at seven transactions in 2008 and 2009,” said Yun.

As with any profession, those with more experience earned significantly more in 2013. NAR members in business for more than 16 years earned an average of $70,200 while those with three-to-five years of experience earned $30,100, less than half the amount of more seasoned members.

In a city where $30,000 won’t get you a share, young agents are pouring into the real estate business in their droves.
Of the approximately 100 employees in his company, Schlamm — who coincidentally celebrated his 57th birthday last week — estimates that there are less than 10 agents who are 57 or older.

“Back in the day, many years ago, the industry was dominated by middle-aged men and women and it was all about social contact,” he said. “Who you knew was most important.”

The state of the economy is another reason Schlamm believes people have come to residential real estate from other careers.

“In the New York area it’s still hard,” said Schlamm. “Jobs aren’t what they used to be in the 80’s and 90’s and with unemployment and job unavailability, some people still can’t find a decent job without a good four-year degree.”

Though it’s very common for residential brokers in New York to have come from other careers, outside of Manhattan, Schlamm believes another reason the average age is higher is that many chose real estate as a second career after the first career had ended — like a school teacher or someone who has retired.

Citi Habitats president Gary Malin sees the allure of the big city as one of the catalysts that spurs younger people to go into residential real estate.

“Given the density of an urban environment that Manhattan is and the type of dollars that can be made, it attracts a significant amount of people,” said Malin.

“That doesn’t have allure in other markets, especially rental markets like Manhattan; it allows you to get in and get working and making money instantaneously — in suburban markets it takes a lot longer to get moving and get money made.”

“Even if people are leaving different careers, there’s easier transition here,” said Malin. “If you look at other businesses – Long Island for example – the market is much slower there when buying and selling.”

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