Young leaders are no stranger to volatility or change. Morgan Hoffman, now 38, saw first-hand the aftermath of the 2008 housing crash. She’d obtained her real estate license in 2003 at the age of 18, and the company she worked for specialized only in foreclosed properties.
Six years ago, she and a business partner opened up JPAR Live Local in Boise, Idaho; after a couple of “normal” years, she found herself guiding her brokerage through a pandemic. During one stretch, she remembers, she worked 54 days in a row, unable to take time off in an intense market of bidding wars and clients who felt desperate to find homes.
“I have empathy for my agents. I have been there, and I guide them to what is coming next,” she says.
Millennial and Generation Z leaders are making their mark in top roles in the real estate profession. Hoffman is just one example of an influx of young leaders using their perspectives and experience to breathe fresh ideas into the space. One such area, research shows, is that of work-life balance, which members of younger generations say is central to their lives. A 2023 Deloitte Global Gen-Z and Millennial survey found that these two generations say their careers are central to their identity, but that well-being and mental health are just as important.
Empathy Leads the Way
Hoffman has seen all sides of the business. Along with a stint in the marketing world, she’s worked as an assistant, an agent, and now as a broker. She’s faced the market when it was up and when it was down. She says her superpower is using her experience to guide her agents through they myriad issues they might face as they grow their businesses.
“I’m able to help develop a road map. Ultimately, that’s my job as a leader,” she says. “I give them the resources to guide them on the questions they have but give them a buffer zone on things they don’t know about.”
Hoffman says that when she started out, she learned the skills she needed on her own. She didn’t necessarily have a guide in the business. She does not want her agents to have to go through that, so she offers weekly classes to her team members so they can learn the skills they need to succeed. Her classes cover building client relationships, confidence and communication.
Hoffman says she’s aware that much of the time, millennials get a bad rap. On the whole, the generation is seen as whiny, too soft, or unwilling to work hard. She believes otherwise, which is exemplified by her own grit and determination. She also thinks that empathy is one of a millennial’s greatest assets. It’s her belief that the generation cares about people, desires a more balanced and meaningful life outside of work and isn’t afraid to go for it.
“With my parents’ generation, you climb the corporate ladder. But are you happy? Are you fulfilled? There was no focus on that,” she says.
So, she works hard to build a brokerage where her agents and her clients can find that sense of balance and fulfillment. She does this by fostering trust and leading with empathy.
Make Space for Young People
When Alec Roth worked at a hometown grocery store during high school, he quickly moved up the ranks to the role of office manager. That opportunity provided him experience that transferred well to his real estate career.
“I was in charge of people two or three times my age. But I feel in real estate, that isn’t so different,” says Roth, who is a team lead partner at Arthur & Roth Real Estate with Edina Realty in Edina, Minn. “There’s a lot of different age groups and generations in this industry. Some are working their first job, and some have been there a long time.”
While in college in Minnesota, he worked as an assistant for a real estate company, and then he moved into a transaction coordinator position. He reviewed files for around 1,000 transactions per year, giving him invaluable insight into the industry. When he decided to obtain his real estate license, he felt like he was positioned to succeed.
“I really knew exactly what I was doing when I got into the business,” Roth, now 25, says. At age 20, his first sale was a small townhouse. Those clients have since completed five more transactions with him.
Roth says that his move from Chicago to Minnesota for college helped stretch his skills. Without a sphere or network, he had to build his confidence and his business with intent.
“I did deals that other agents didn’t want to do. I travel a wider circle of miles,” he says.
This experience shaped Roth as a leader. He believes in investing much of his time helping his four agents develop their business. He also believes in making intentional space for younger real estate professionals.
Edina Realty, a non-franchised brokerage, has about 2,400 agents; about 450 of them are 35 years or younger. Roth and a fellow agent approached the brokerage president last year to propose a new organization called New Voices. The organization within the brokerage gives younger and new-to-the-business agents a dedicated space to foster connection.
“We need to show newer and younger agents that they can be here for the long run. We do events monthly or every two months, including volunteer events and games,” he says. “We bring this group together just to show them there are others their age in this industry.”
Recognized for his leadership, Roth has also been invited by the brokerage’s president to meet with a few other professionals for lunch and an open conversation about the future of the company and how to improve.
Honesty and Determination Make the Difference
Kadee French, a salesperson with Keller Williams Central in Edmond, Okla., and vice chair of the National Association of REALTORS®’ Young Professionals Network Advisory Board, says real estate professionals need three qualities to be successful: an open mind, the ability to adapt to change, and a willingness to explain things to people in a direct, honest and kind way.
As a leader in many areas of the real estate world, French, 29, looks at the big picture and does all she can to avoid letting negativity get in her way. “I don’t want to be set in my ways. I want to listen to other people’s opinions but also listen to my own ethics and morals.”
She says her age doesn’t get in the way of her gaining clients and she knows her guiding principles of honesty and adaptability make a difference. “Some hire me because I’m younger and go straight to the point,” she says.
French recently acquired a listing that had expired with another agent. French was hosting an open house in the same neighborhood, and the new client invited her to come take a look at his property. After viewing the space, she was very straightforward with him, encouraging him to be flexible on pricing and suggesting some improvements before relisting it.
“We are painting the entire house,” she told him. “And we’re going to bring it down another $40,000. That’s where I think we need to be.”
He was relieved by her honesty and her willingness to be forthright in what she thought was required to sell in the current market. In the end, after it was relisted, the home garnered multiple offers.
When French started her real estate career at the age of 22, she did so with leadership in mind. In a short time, she’s accomplished quite a bit, and it started with active involvement in her local, state and national associations. Two years ago, she was included among REALTOR® Magazine’s 30 Under 30. She served as the 2023 President of the Edmond Board of REALTORS® and was recognized as that organization’s 2023 REALTOR® of the Year.
In addition to her vice chair position at the national YPN level, she is current chair of Edmond’s YPN and Oklahoma’s YPN Advisory Board.
Many of the boards she has been a part of have included older people from different generations, she says.
“The good thing is that they came to me with open arms. They wanted a younger opinion,” she says. “I’ve been busting my butt, and I’m actually good at what I do. They can respect me even though I’m young.”