This Bellwether broker has built a thriving business around continuing education, a great corporate culture, and a commitment to always going the extra mile for every client.
Few high schoolers know what they really want to be when they grow up, and even fewer have the impetus to shepherd those early career aspirations through to reality.
Diskin Young is one of those few. This managing broker and co-founder of Bellwether Real Estate in Bellingham says he recognized early just how fulfilling a career in real estate could be. In fact, he got a taste of that right under his own family’s roof.
“My dad’s been in real estate for nearly 30 years, so I grew up watching him and seeing how he was able to provide a nice lifestyle for all of us,” says Young, a member of REALTOR® Magazine’s 2019 class of 30 Under 30. It is no wonder that he earned that distinction, with an interest in a real estate career starting at the early age of 14.
“I remember saying to myself at that point, ‘One day I want to be able to do what my dad does, and provide for my own family in that way,’” Young recalls. At 16, real estate’s siren call grew even louder for this enterprising young man, who started reading a lot of books on the subject. For his senior project, he flipped a house—an experience that exposed Young to the value of real estate investing.
“By the time I turned 18, I knew that I wanted to be a real estate investor,” Young explains. “The logical step was to get my real estate license.”
A Learning Spree
Licensed since 2010, Young was just 19 when he started transacting real estate, but actually looked much younger—maybe 13 or 14—a reality that would make his first few years in the business particularly challenging. Young was also attending Western Washington University (WWU) with the intent of “learning everything I possibly could about real estate while also earning my bachelor’s degree in economics,” he says.
Young’s thirst for knowledge and studious approach helped him overcome the perception that he might be “too young” to effectively manage what for many is the biggest financial transaction of their lives. “That’s basically how I combatted looking so young, and really being young by industry standards,” says Young.
“I learned every little nugget of information about real estate and real estate investing,” says Young, “thinking that when I showed up and knew my stuff, that would help me out and give me confidence.”
The approach obviously worked. Now 28, Young manages a 60-broker team whose sales volume increases every year, most recently growing about 22 percent from 2017 to 2018, when it posted sales volume of $214.4 million on 561 closed transaction sides.
Creating a Collaborative Culture
Open since 2015, Bellwether Real Estate started out with about 10 brokers and has grown organically over the last four years. Today, its 60-person team operates from its office and remotely from their own homes and workspaces. When the latter need to get work done in a physical location, they utilize a “mobile brokers center” that’s situated in the middle of the office.
“We took what was previously a storage area and transformed it into a mobile center where brokers can come to work, use the conference room, use the printer, or even just collaborate with one another,” says Young. “That’s how we work, and we’ve found that it’s a great way to accommodate more brokers without having to add more physical space.”
Having initially worked for a brokerage where most brokers were tight-lipped and didn’t share their strategies with one another, Young says his early vision for Bellwether Real Estate included a highly collaborative, friendly culture that energizes brokers and makes them want to get up and work every morning.
Young says some of that cultural foundation can be traced back to his interactions with friends who were launching their own startups in Seattle and talking to him about the importance of having a synergistic culture in place. “We’re much more collaborative than most brokerages are,” says Young. “We’re not afraid to share deals, share stories, or talk about clients. Walk through our halls and you’ll see that most of our brokers have their client lists up on their boards with no fear that they’re going to get stolen.”
Going the Extra Mile
Pondering his most interesting deals, Young says the one that involved his sixth-grade teacher stands out in his mind. That teacher called him out of the blue one day, asking Young to list his home for sale. A small home situated on a large piece of land, the property lacked universal appeal, but it would be the perfect place for the right buyers. “This was also before the housing boom,” he says, “so the market was in a slight slump.”
That didn’t stop Young from marketing and selling the home, but the challenges with this particular listing didn’t end there. With the closing date approaching, he learned that his former teacher needed some help clearing out the property of some old stuff. “I took my truck and trailer over there and did dump runs in the rain all day,” says Young, who often reflects on his father’s advice about “always going the extra mile” when working with clients.
“He told me that it always comes back to you, and in this case it certainly did,” says Young, who received referrals from three other teachers in the years that followed, for a total of about nine different deals over time. “They all came out of that one small deal.” Using that experience to set an example for brokers in his office, Young talks to them about the value of going that extra mile on all deals—not just the big ones.
Say Yes to More Things
If Young could rewind the clock back to when he first got licensed and was getting his feet wet in real estate, he says he would have said “yes” to more opportunities. Whether that was an opportunity to learn more, shadow another broker, or invest in a good real estate opportunity, he feels that fear of failure held him back from doing even more than he’s already successfully accomplished in less than 10 years.
“At the time, I was afraid of looking like I didn’t know what I was doing,” says Young. “That held me back for sure in the beginning, and it was rooted in the fear of jumping over that hurdle of ‘I don’t know everything.’” To other young brokers who may be in the same boat right now, Young says, “get in there and do it. You’re going to make mistakes, but that’s okay.”
Early in his career, Young says he got around these barricades by taking the time to truly master his craft. “For most U.S. households, a home purchase or sale is going to be the biggest financial transaction they ever have to handle, so you really have to know what you’re doing,” says Young. “As real estate professionals, we have to put a lot of time into researching, reading, and studying everything that goes into that transaction.”
Fast-forward to 2019, and Young says some of the emphasis on early career education, continuing education, and even basic real estate knowledge has been overshadowed by the real estate market boom. “With this ‘fast’ market that we’re all operating in, some of it gets lost in the shuffle,” says Young, “when in fact, taking the time to do that as a professional is more critical than ever.”
Keeping Up with Important Trends
Staying on top of trends and decisions that impact the real estate profession is equally as important, says Young, who right now is keeping a close eye on a new development at his local MLS. The first in the country to begin publishing selling commission rates for transactions on platforms like Zillow, Northwest Multiple Listing Service (NWMLS) enacted the changes, which basically mean agencies will now be able to publish the amount of commission on their websites.
NWMLS, which serves more than 30,000 real estate brokers, announced that it would allow its agent and broker subscribers to publish the commission the seller is offering to pay a buyer’s broker on the firm’s public website. NWMLS’ move veers from most MLS policies and goes into effect October 1; most MLSs nationwide do not allow the public display of commissions.
“That’s going to be a really interesting change in our market; we’ve been talking about it a lot with our brokers,” says Young.
“Basically, every website that buyers use to research homes will now include the selling broker’s commission.” All for full transparency in the real estate transaction, Young says the unique rule will make it more difficult for brokers to negotiate their commission rates.
“We’re trying to prepare them for this shift and showing them how to deal with a buyer who gets tough with them,” says Young. “That includes showing brokers how to describe their worth, highlighting their market expertise, and describing what they bring to the table on every transaction.”
Looking at the real estate market as a whole, Young expects Bellwether’s thriving market to continue down its growth path for the foreseeable future. Ideally, he’d like his brokerage to become a dominant force in the community. Individually, he wants to build out a larger real estate portfolio of his own, knowing that this is one of the best ways to create wealth in the U.S.
“Too many brokers that get into the business don’t ever invest in real estate. Then they look back and wish they had,” says Young, who wants to change that by spreading the word about real estate investing to as many people as he can (he has a YouTube channel that features a number of different investment videos). “I consider myself to be someone who is on the forefront of this in our community,” says Young, “and I’d like to continue being the ‘go-to’ person on all things related to real estate investing.”
If it sounds like Young matured a bit faster than your average teenager, you’re right. Real estate aside, this young broker experienced a personal health issue that would force him to grow up a little faster than even he intended. Diagnosed with skin cancer at 16, he soon learned that the stage 3 melanoma would require surgery, two rounds of chemotherapy, and a year of interferon injections. Injected into his stomach daily, the interferon created flu-like symptoms in Young, who, despite that, didn’t miss a day of high school.
In fact, he didn’t even tell his friends about the cancer and instead chose to battle it on a very individual level. “Only about six people at school knew about it because I really didn’t tell anyone,” says Young, who wore long-sleeved shirts to school to cover up the chemotherapy device that was adhered to his arm. “I was quiet about it on purpose.”
Young has since become more vocal about the experience, but usually doesn’t bring it up unless the other person does first. “If my talking about it helps others, then by all means, I’ll talk about it,” says Young, who knows that while having cancer doesn’t define him, it has definitely shaped his life in unexpected ways.
“I had to grow up quickly, and it’s definitely something that pushed me to be where I’m at right now,” he continues. “Life is short, so go after what you want full force, knowing that not everyone has as long as they might think to accomplish their goals.”
Photography by Amore Studios
Find more of Diskin Young online: www.youtube.com/user/timdisk15