Economists' Outlook

Housing stats and analysis from NAR's research experts.

Real Estate: The New Face for Women’s Economic Empowerment

The typical REALTOR is a 57 year old female who is educated and a homeowner, survey says

Move over Sheryl Sandberg, the Lean In circles may be great for corporate America but female entrepreneurs are making their own way. While women’s advancement in the workforce is important, empowered women beat to their own drum in the real estate industry where they are the breadwinners. It’s the American Dream.

The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) surveys its one million members annually to uncover a wide range of demographic information. That data reveals several interesting facts. According to the 2015 Member Profile, the typical REALTOR is a 57 year old female that is educated and a homeowner.

When the survey came out this summer, I was excited about the results. But I wanted to know more about NAR’s female membership. Our team further analyzed the data by segmenting male and female responses to the questions regarding income, family structure, marital status, and homeownership. What we discovered was the following:

  • 43 percent of all women (married or single) said real estate is their primary source of income
  • 33 percent of female REALTORS® are single, widowed, or divorced
  • Of the women that are single, 47 percent of female respondents said they support two to five people within their homes

By looking at the responses from women, we see a new picture of the female real estate agent: four in 10 female REALTORS® are the breadwinners in their homes. A half of all female REALTORS® that are single, work to support a large family.

The inherent nature of the real estate industry makes this possible. REALTORS® are their own bosses, set their own schedules and have flexibility during the day to tend to families members, and can make more sales when they put in extra hours. The real estate industry is thus one that enables a single mom to provide for her family.

Next, we wanted to see how women fared against men. We compared both gender segments of the data and found that 67 percent of female REALTORS® are married and of those homes that only have two people, 33 percent of women say real estate is their primary source of income.

According to a 2013 report released by the Pew Research Center, four in 10 moms are the primary breadwinners for their homes. The Pew Center defines breadwinner moms as “made up of two very different groups: 5.1 million (37%) are married mothers who have a higher income than their husbands, and 8.6 million (63%) are single mothers.” Fortune article cites that in 2014 that number jumped to one in two U.S. mothers. It was not surprising that female REALTORS® that support their families are on the rise.

Last, we looked at the data by age group and marketing techniques. If the typical female REALTOR® is 57, we found that 24 percent of female REALTORS® have been in the industry for less than five years. We can speculate that women are entering the industry as a second profession to likely help pay for retirement. Seventy percent of female REALTORS® use social media to market their business, 12 percent more than men in fact. More women than men also reported utilizing their website for their business. Eighty percent of female real estate agents also reported having a home office, six percent higher than men. The flexibility of the industry nonetheless affords women unique economic opportunities.

NAR’s 2015 Commercial Profile reports demographic data for commercial REALTORS®. Eighty percent of NAR members are residential brokers. However, the commercial real estate industry is a small but lucrative subset. The median income for a commercial real estate agent is $126,900 compared to all real estate agents at $45,800. According to the report, 75 percent of commercial real estate professionals are men. Nonetheless, 51 percent of new entrants into the industry (those with less than two years’ experience) were female in 2014.

Finally, we compared income for men and women in real estate. Under $35,000, women are making slightly more than men. From $35,000 to $74,999, men and women are making roughly the same amount. Over $75,000, men take the lead but only by a few percentage points in each category. While women have not surpassed men overall in terms of real income, suffice it to say that where women are the breadwinners in their families, they are doing so with less.

net income

It will be interesting to glance at the industry’s demographic makeup after another decade. Will we expect to see women leading the industry? Will women seek higher paying positions in commercial real estate? Will we see more married women earning more than their husbands?


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