Career Choices in Real Estate: Through the Lens of Gender, Race, and Sexual Orientation

Scope of the Report

In 2017, the National Association of REALTORS® took its first look at member business through the lens of gender and race. The report provided insights into differences in why members entered the field, skills important for the field of real estate, areas in which members worked, the typical number of transactions, sales volume, and the income differences.

The 2021 report expands these topics and scope. In addition to examining experiences by race and gender, NAR members were also asked questions regarding their sexual orientation. A new category was added to compare and contrast experiences among members who identify as Straight/Heterosexual and identify as LGBTQ+.

Knowing there are unique experiences that arise in the business, members were asked questions about their first year of practice such as challenges they faced during their first year of business and who they turned to for help. Members were also asked about their local market—the supply of homes available, the number of agents, and if their business operates in a community that is racially and ethnically diverse. Other data points examine where in members career paths they are and what paths they have entered from. Residential specialists were asked additional questions about the potential of entering commercial real estate.

The report is broken into sections which compare all members, members who perform 100% residential real estate, those who spend 100% of their time in commercial real estate, and dual specialists. Data in the residential real estate and dual specialist chapters are analyzed among gender, race, and sexual orientation. There were not enough respondents to examine data at this level among commercial specialists.

It should be noted that to gather the sample of members, oversamples for each area were collected. As such, the overall shares of members are not representative of NAR membership overall. However, the experiences, business practices, and business experience of each individual group is representative of that group. While each individual is different in the real estate industry, works in a unique market, and has a differing set of circumstances which brought them into real estate and drives their personal decisions, there are some broad takeaways found in the report.

Residential, Commercial, and Dual Specialists

Commercial Specialists

REALTORS® are most likely to have chosen their career path on their own. Commercial members are most attracted to real estate by their interest in the industry, and that it’s an entrepreneurial field; residential members and dual specialists are attracted by flexible work hours, the industry, and helping families or working with people. Commercial members are most likely to be in their first career stage, while residential and dual specialist members are more likely to be in their second or later stage.

Fifty percent of commercial members have some ownership interest in their firm, compared to 27% of residential members, and 45% of dual specialists. Commercial specialists had a gross personal income from real estate of $150,300, compared to $34,100 among residential members, and $73,000 among dual specialists.

Residential Specialists

There were a number of factors that attract people to work in residential real estate. For all members, flexible work hours were attractive, but this was cited at a higher rate among women at 78 percent compared to men at 71%. Men were more likely to cite interest in the real estate industry at 65% vs 63%. Women were more likely to report wanting to help families at 63% vs 53%. LGBTQ+ members were more likely to be attracted to real estate because of interest in the field, and a love of homes and homeownership.

When entering real estate the first year, among all members, training and education was cited by nearly a quarter of members as a difficult aspect of residential real estate. For Black/African-American members they were more likely to run into challenges as they were also working another job at 41%, compared to all residential members at 30%. Members turned to a number of sources their first year for help. For more than three-quarters of members their brokerage/office was the top place they consulted.

Length of time in the real estate field differs. The typical length for a residential specialist who is White/Caucasian was 10 years, Asian/Pacific Islander members 5 years, Black/African-American members 4 years, Hispanic/Latino members 4 years. The number of transactions also varies considerably by race. The typical number of transactions for a residential specialist who is White/Caucasian was seven, Asian/Pacific Islander members two, Black/African-American members two, Hispanic/Latino members three. Women and LGBTQ+ members typically had five residential transactions. As members typically work on a commission structure, gross and net incomes are reflective of these overall patterns. However, one other aspect is ownership of the firm. Men, Asian/Pacific Islander members, and Straight/Heterosexual members were most likely to have some ownership interest in their firms. This pattern also holds true among dual specialists.

Dual Specialists

Dual specialists stated that people skills and self-motivation are the most important skills for residential real estate. Females placed more importance on communication capabilities and problem-solving skills compared to males. LGBTQ+ members and Black/African-American members were more likely to cite assertiveness as an important skill for residential real estate. Dual specialists cited finding clients was the most difficult aspect of their first year in residential real estate, followed by understanding every aspect of the transaction. Males and White/Caucasian dual specialists are more likely to work in commercial real estate as a primary specialty.

Dual specialists typically have worked in real estate longer than those in residential real estate. However, White/Caucasian members, males, and Straight/Heterosexual members still have the longest tenure in both residential and commercial real estate among dual specialists. The typical number of residential transactions for a dual specialist who is White/Caucasian was ten, Asian/Pacific Islander members three, Black/African-American members five, and Hispanic/Latino members five. Women and LGBTQ+ members typically had eight residential transactions. Among dual specialists, White/Caucasian members, males, and both Straight/Heterosexual, and LGBTQ+ members had one commercial transaction, while non-White and female members had no commercial transactions in 2020.

Table: Choosing a Career in Real Estate: Commercial, Residential, and Dual Specialists

Neighborhood Differences

Commercial members are more likely to operate in a community that is highly mixed between multiple backgrounds. Residential and dual specialist members are more likely to operate in a community that is somewhat mixed in backgrounds. It is more likely for Black/African-American, Hispanic/Latino, and LGBTQ+ members to work in urban/central cities.

The biggest differences among typical local home prices were seen among race/ethnicity. For residential specialists, the median typical home prices for members was $333,300 among White/Caucasian members, $542,800 among Asian/Pacific Islander members, $282,400 among Black/African-American members, and $330,800
among Hispanic/Latino members. For dual specialists, the median typical home prices for members was $311,800 among White/Caucasian members, $543,900 among Asian/Pacific Islander members, $274,800 among Black/African-American members, and $325,000 among Hispanic/Latino members.

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