Trends that will affect real estate education in 2017

5 Big Trends that Will Change Real Estate Education in 2017

By: Dearborn Real Estate Education

“If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.”

– Gen. Eric Shinseki
Former U.S. Army Chief of Staff

As human beings, we are incredibly resistant to change, even though it’s the only thing that ever leads to progress. Real estate education is no different. Heading into 2017, we are collectively at a place where we need to look critically at what we’re teaching, who is teaching it, who we are teaching it to, and how it’s being taught. We recently talked with Theresa Barnabei, from the Tucson-based real estate school Course Creators, and Bruce Moyer, former Director of Education and Licensing  for the North Carolina Real Estate Commission.

Theresa and Bruce are instrumental in the creation of REEA’s Instructor Development Workshops. They provided some valuable insight on the future of real estate education, and what it means for the schools and instructors preparing today’s students to succeed as current and future real estate professionals. We’ve detailed the five areas where Theresa and Bruce expect to see real estate education evolve in 2017 and beyond.

1. The Classroom Experience Will Need to Adapt to Changing Student Demographics

Today’s real estate classrooms, both CE and prelicensing, are filled with multi-generational learners. But the average age of prelicensing students appears to be trending downward. According to Bruce, the average prelicensing student age in the southeastern United States is now 26 years old. Just five years ago, the average student was in their mid-30s. As a result, real estate instructors need to approach their instruction from a much more multi-faceted approach.

According to Bruce, many instructors tend to teach the way they were taught. Most current real estate instructors received their education in a didactic (purely lecture) format. But today’s real estate student is comfortable with a much more interactive classroom experience. So it’s important that instructors adapt and incorporate things like group work, dyad work, and individual (seek and find) activities to better adapt to the evolving learning style of their students.

Another way instructors can facilitate learning in a multi-generational classroom is to encourage student-led learning. Traditionally the instructor has been viewed as the single source of information in the classroom. In the age of “Google it,” instructors need to understand that if a student goes out and finds an answer on their own, that’s not a bad thing. In fact, the student is much more likely to retain the knowledge than if they were simply lectured on it.

Bruce does caution that instructors need to find balance. While student ages are trending younger, there are still older students who may not respond as well to interactive learning as they do to lecture. Bruce suggests incorporating two or three activities per subject to address the needs of all students in a multi-generational classroom.

2. Course Content Will Need to Better Suit the Real Needs of Today’s Real Estate Agents

According to Theresa, there is a very large gap between the education we’re providing to students in the continuing education classroom, and the skills and knowledge they actually need to better serve their clients. Just because a course meets the state guidelines does not mean that it is providing the most value to the students.

Theresa said that as consumers change the way they shop for real estate, it’s important that agents keep pace in the way they serve the consumer. Today, most homebuyers are finding the home they eventually buy online, before they ever speak to an agent. Agents need to better understand how to be a resource for these consumers and provide added value to the experience.

When we talk about how technology is affecting the real estate business, internet via desktop PC is old news. Today’s buyer is engaging with us and our properties almost exclusively on mobile devices. It’s important that agents understand the value of certain digital tools like a mobile-friendly web presence, QR codes on printed materials and for-sale signs, and a social media strategy for generating and nurturing leads. And it’s incumbent on real estate educators to teach it to them.

As an instructor and course developer herself, Theresa said she understands instructors often feel pressure to abide strictly by the state requirements. Of course that’s important, but most of the needs of the student can be positioned to meet a state regulator’s standards. It often requires critical thinking on the course creator’s part, but as Theresa says:

“If we aren’t teaching a theory that can be applied when students leave the classroom, why are we teaching it?”

3. Online Education Will Continue to Grow

Most state real estate commissions in the U.S. now allow at least part of their agents’ CE to be completed online. According to Theresa, online education accounts for roughly 55% of all continuing education coursework consumed today. This poses a few challenges for schools and instructors.  

First of all, instructors need to figure out how to position their live classroom courses against the convenience and affordability of online education. This is another reason it’s so important for instructors to begin developing courses that critically tackle the needs of today’s student. After all, if students can take a generic course on a given topic in their living room on a laptop, or commute across town to your generic live course on the same topic, which one do you think they will choose?

Secondly, it’s time for all real estate educators to begin thinking about how they can have an online presence. Online education isn’t going anywhere. In fact, as regulators continue to loosen their restrictions on online education, and the agent pool gets younger, you can expect online courses to continue to chip away at the live CE market. This might mean partnering with a company to source state-approved courses that you can resell on your own website. It’s also important to consider how you can use technology like online video to create interactive opportunities for live class students to learn outside the classroom.

4. Technology-Based Education Will Be a Paramount Need

Technology has had a remarkable impact on the real estate industry, but as advancements continue to open up opportunities for real estate agents, the black and white lines of legality are becoming increasingly gray.

Real estate agents have always operated from a mobile office. But technology has vastly increased the amount and type of work agents can perform on the go. Agents, especially newly licensed ones, run the risk of harming consumers if they aren’t adhering to strict security standards. In a traditional real estate marketplace, new agents could be supervised more carefully because most of their client interaction and data sharing occurred in the office. Now, that’s not always the case.

Paperless transactions (both of money and information) are on the rise, and Bruce expects an increase in state and federal laws regarding new modes of communication. The law is very clear on what can be communicated and how, via many forms of technology, but still very unclear for text messaging and social media.

Finally, the internet has revolutionized lead generation in the real estate marketplace. But agents, especially newly licensed agents looking to build a base for their business, need to understand what they can and can’t do in the lead generation process to avoid violating the RESPA Act. Buying leads is essentially paying for a referral. In some states, that’s only legal if both parties are licensed. However, many lead brokers do not hold a real estate license and are putting agents at risk. Some states also require that agents disclose their relationship with the lead generation company to sellers, but many agents unknowingly fail to comply with this requirement.  

Technology will continue to influence the way the current and future agents in your classroom do business. It’s going to become increasingly more important that educators stay on top of these changes and help agents protect themselves and their clients.

5. Impending Regulatory Changes will Influence Compliance-Based Education

Bruce also believes the changing political landscape will have a significant effect on the real estate industry, and the education agents need to remain compliant. For instance, while some change is almost certain, it’s currently unclear how the new republican presidential administration, combined with a republican US Congress, will affect things like the future of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under the Dodd-Frank Act.

Bruce also expects an expansion of fair housing protective classes. There’s a growing awareness that the socioeconomic status of a consumer continues to be a legal metric of discrimination through immediate credit score checks upon loan application under current fair housing legislation. Bruce expects legislation proposals that will change that.  


No individual, company, or industry is immune to change. In fact, it’s paramount to survival. While change can sometimes be uncomfortable, we owe it to the industry, the professionals who will shape its future, and the buyers and sellers they will serve, to adapt and ensure that we are preparing agents for the real estate business of tomorrow.

Theresa Barnabei

Theresa Barnabei is a best selling author of Multiply Your Business, 10 New Marketing Realities for the Real Estate Industry.  She has been in real estate for over 30 years, owns her own real estate school sanctioned by the Arizona Department of Real Estate, and has spent the last 8 years as a national speaker and trainer for many brokerages, associations, and state regulators. Theresa believes the only reason she teaches is so that her students “get It, use it, and become more successful because of it!”  That philosophy drives her courses and her willingness to volunteer on the Board of Directors for the national Real Estate Educators Association, where she facilitates on the education committee creating powerful Instructor Development Workshops.

Bruce Moyer

Bruce Moyer most recently served as Director of Education and Licensing with the North Carolina Real Estate Commission for four years. Prior to that, he was an instructor with Superior School of Real Estate in NC, teaching prelicensing, postlicensing, and CE courses for five years. He has owned his own brokerage firm for ten years and currently volunteers on the Board for the national Real Estate Educators Association (REEA).