During the housing crisis, being a real estate agent was about as easy as being a swim instructor in the desert.
That is why so many agents left the business. In fact, membership in the National Association of Realtors went from 1.3 million during the boom years to slightly under 1 million in 2012. Now it is back to just more than 1.2 million, and many of the new members are millennials.
"The median age of Realtors is younger than in the past because more (young) people entered the real estate profession this year than in past years, with 20 percent of members reporting one year or less of experience," said NAR President Tom Salomone, broker-owner of Real Estate II Inc. in Coral Springs, Florida.
In the latest annual survey by NAR, a typical member reported a median of 10 years of experience in real estate, down from 12 years in last year's report. The median age also decreased from 57 in 2014 to 53 in 2015, the lowest it has been since 2008 when the median age was 52.
Dan Galloway, 24, decided to become an agent in the Washington, D.C., area after he graduated from college. He and his partner bought a home in 2014, using an agent from Redfin, and the process made him decide to get into the business. He took a course with Redfin, which helped him learn the craft. He said the recent, epic housing crash didn't deter him.
"It's something that I had been considering for a long time. I like the entrepreneurial aspect of it. That's something I think my generation has, a very entrepreneurial spirit. With the new way the economy works, you really have to go out and make your own way," said Galloway.
Last year, 41 percent of NAR members were over 60 years old, while only 2 percent were under 30. This year, the over 60 group dropped to 30 percent, and the number of those younger than 30 years rose to 5 percent.
While the market for agents is getting more competitive, and new online business models are making it harder for agents pounding the neighborhood pavement to get big commissions, there is still plenty of money to be made. This is especially true as home prices rise.
As with most professions, the more experience you have, the more money you make. The median gross income of Realtors fell last year, from $45,800 in 2014 to $39,200 in 2015; this is likely due to the age and experience shift. Real estate agents with 16 years or more of experience reported a median gross income of $73,400, up from $68,800 in 2014, while members with two years or less of experience had a median gross income of $8,500, a decrease from $9,100 last year.
"I'm not in it solely for the money. It's something that I enjoy doing. I enjoy helping people make these financial decisions. If you're willing to work hard and hone your craft you can make a substantial income doing this," said Galloway.
He says he has sold 58 homes so far.