By DIANE PHILLIPS
FOR years, you could count on two hands the number of big names in real estate in the Bahamas. Chances are, if you followed the industry, you could recite them in alphabetical order.
But this is not your grandmother's real estate sector.
New faces with college degrees in everything from architecture to business are popping up - and shaking up - the staid and steady picture of who's who in real estate. And some of them are racking up successes their predecessors took decades to achieve.
In one 17-person firm, Mario Carey Realty, where the average staff age is under 30, degree-bearing, smartphone-carrying go-getters are achieving sales in the multi-millions, handling the luxury market with the aplomb of the most experienced in the trade.
Now, they're busier than ever. With phones buzzing following the recent announcement of a cap on real property tax and a 2 per cent Stamp Tax reduction on high-end sales, young agents and associates are pulling all out all the stops, taking innovative approaches to client interaction and making extensive use of social media.
It's working. One MCR associate, 33-year-old Antoine Adderley, just made five sales within four weeks of taking the listings. He actually had seven offers for the five properties, almost all of which began online with conversations continuing via e-mail, Skype, texting and phone.
After nearly a century with only a few major changes - advent of the Internet, increasing legal licensing qualifications and introduction of the MLS - the picture of the real estate profession is changing dramatically as the young guns of the industry are taking on the old guard - and succeeding.
"A younger agent's preparedness to consider alternative approaches to business and customers is one of the key reasons they are thriving in this field," said Mario Carey, chief executive of Mario Carey Realty (MCR).
"Their flexibility makes it easier for them to adapt to the market, and their ability to embrace digital media and new ways of reaching potential clients also adds to their success."
Younger professionals are also introducing new ideas. Though not working in the capacity as an agent, German-born 25-year-old Tina Bain, who studied real estate in one of the world's leading real estate colleges and worked in Europe and Atlanta before joining the MCR team, now heads up the newly-created Vacation Rentals division.
Admitting to spending an average of two to three hours per day on e-mail, phone, Facebook and Twitter, Ms Bain says the time is all work-related, and the nature of her latest role requires her to constantly communicate digitally with clients around the globe. Speaking multiple languages also helps, she says.
Ashley Brown, 23, is a fourth generation real estate industry member who is wasting no time following in the footsteps of the three generations of McPhersons and Browns who preceded her.
At 17, Mario Carey's daughter, Abigail, is learning the trade from the inside, working as part of the support and administrative team before heading to college. Additionally, an IT consultant conducting webinars, keeping up with the latest technology and assisting with new website development, is 21.
At 28, MCR marketing executive Terrinique Pennerman is almost the matriarch of the firm. With an MBA in Marketing and Entrepreneurship from Duke University, she is instrumental in coordinating how MCR presents itself to local and international markets.
According to a 2011 member survey by the National Association of REALTORS, eight out of 10 realtors aged 29 or younger actively use social and networking websites. What once took an hour drafting a letter to prospects now takes only seconds to 'tweet'. Each recently equipped with an iPhone 4S, the team at Mario Carey Realty is aiming to transform the industry one tweet at a time.
Founded in 2008 with a staff of three, MCR has emerged as one of the country's busiest and fastest-growing firms with a complement of 17, including support staff and associates, and offices on several islands.