SARASOTA, Fla. (June 30, 2016) Wagner Realty owner David Eckel has long supported USF Sarasota-Manatee. Now he’s unveiling a program where two USFSM graduates are earning scholarship funds while they learn about real estate.
Eckel, whose company employs more than 200 agents in Sarasota and Manatee counties, said he’s hoping to bring more young people into the real estate industry and capitalize on millennials’ social media expertise to reach younger buyers.
“Millennials know how to relate to other millennials,” said Eckel, adding that he thinks his scholarship program might be the first of its kind, at least for this area.
Before they’re able to notch their first sales, many new agents need a number of months to train, earn their licenses and build a portfolio of clients. That dry period where commissions are scarce can dissuade some from joining or sticking with the sales-driven business.
Eckel’s scholarship program seeks to carry those new agents through the lean times. The longtime businessman and philanthropist says he doesn’t want to reveal too much about the scholarship except to say it runs for a year, doesn’t have to be paid back and can be used for anything from training costs to living expenses.
“Normally it takes up to a year to earn an income where you feel comfortable, and for a lot of young graduates this can be discouraging. They don’t have the staying power with having to pay student loans, rent and other expenses,” he said. “What we’ve done is develop a plan to address those entry obstacles.”
Because of his ties to USF Sarasota-Manatee – Eckel advises the College of Business and serves on the campus’ board and Community Leadership Council – he decided to select two USFSM spring graduates, Coy Carter and Hannah Veitkus, for the program’s rollout.
The alums and former USFSM Ambassadors started working at Wagner right after graduation on May 9. They’ve undergone weeks of training and are scheduled to sit for their state licensing exams on Saturday, July 2.
Carter, 21, said that for now he’s helping to manage resort properties on Longboat Key by reserving rooms and making them presentable for arriving guests. At the same time, he’s learning how to create a real estate-centric website, develop a portfolio of clients and organize marketing campaigns for available properties. His decision to join Wagner wasn’t based solely on the scholarship, but it helps, he said.
“It definitely helps while you’re learning about the business and trying to build up your client list,” Carter said.
Veitkus was appreciative as well. The 21-year-old psychology grad is delving into the intricacies of residential property sales. She may want to return to school eventually to pursue a master’s degree, but she wants to enter the job market first. Wagner seemed like the right fit while the scholarship program sealed the deal.
“It definitely takes the edge off during that learning period,” she said. “In real estate you don’t make money unless you’re selling and helping people buy homes. Being very fresh in the business, I don’t have a lot of leads, so this helps a lot.”
Eckel, who has also brought on USFSM accounting student Roger Walser as an intern, said the scholarship is part of a larger effort that includes in-house training, job shadowing and mentoring to prepare new agents for when they finally venture out on their own.
“I’ve found that many graduates never fully understand that real estate is a highly skilled business with a high earning potential,” he said. “Most graduates when they get out of college try to find a job at a major company and they don’t realize they can have a future in real estate. This is a highly skilled business.”
Jay Riley, program director of student alumni engagement, thanked Eckel for “going above and beyond” in his support for USFSM alums Carter and Veitkus.
“Anytime a local business leader steps up to help our students and alumni we are very appreciative, but in David’s case he has really gone the extra mile,” Riley said. “David’s efforts to give back have been exceptional and his support for our students and alumni has been outstanding. He is truly helping to change lives.”