Millennials interested in breaking into commercial real estate will find ample opportunity — and unique challenges.
Research has shown that many young real estate professionals are shying away from careers in commercial real estate (CRE), choosing instead to pursue careers in residential brokerage. While commercial real estate offers a unique set of challenges that residential real estate does not, skilled and creative millennials are especially equipped to overcome them — and the potential rewards for doing so are significant. CRE requires more time investment, training, and fine-tuned knowledge than residential, but the countless opportunities and near-endless potential make the initial learning curve more than worth it in the long run.
Opportunities for Tech-Savvy Brokers
Tech-savvy young people who are interested in pursuing a career at a CRE brokerage, investment, or development firm may find themselves at a competitive advantage in contrast to seasoned industry veterans. For decades, success as a broker depended on the breadth of one’s network. Today, new brokers can leverage digital fluency to ascend the ranks more quickly.
From AI and VR tools to data aggregation platforms, technology has the potential to make investments less risky, growth easier to predict, the appraisal process more straightforward, and the site tour process more streamlined. But in order to realize all of the benefits that CRE tech has to offer, brokers need to take the time to develop the technological expertise necessary to manage and deploy these cutting-edge tools properly. This is where young brokers have a clear advantage.
Evolving Roles for New Kinds of Talent
A changing industry landscape also means there are countless new roles available to those who may be interested in emerging aspects of CRE — specifically, working in CRE tech. In the past five years alone, numerous CRE tech firms have emerged — my own company, Reonomy, among them — placing new demand on engineers, analysts, marketers, salespeople, and others who can quickly evolve their diverse skillsets to meet the unique demands of the CRE space.
While baseline proficiency in your specific discipline is undoubtedly required, excelling in an evolving industry requires bringing creativity, resilience, and energy to whatever you do — whether you’re developing VR capabilities, manipulating massive datasets, or forging partnerships.
The Chance to (Re)Define an Industry
For a $40 trillion industry, real estate has been surprisingly slow to adopt forward-thinking approaches and cutting-edge technologies. This has been especially true on the commercial side of the industry. While the residential sector embraced data-centric platforms like Zillow, Trulia, and RedFin fairly early on, the commercial real estate sector — itself a $15 trillion sub-industry — has struggled to standardize the kinds of data tools that have the potential to redefine how brokers, investors, and owners do business.
Millennials have the skill set to change this. Adaptable, tech-savvy, and data literate young people have an opportunity to transform the way CRE business has traditionally been conducted — whether that means developing an innovative new tech tool or product or bringing colleagues at a slow-to-adapt brokerage up to speed.
I may be biased, there’s never been a better time for young people (or agile innovators of any age) to seize professional opportunities in this evolving, dynamic field.
Richard Sarkis, CEO and co-founder of CRE data engine Reonomy.