The results of the latest National Association of Realtors membership profile survey are out: Realtors are getting older, with a median age of 56.
Only 12 percent of NAR members are under 40 and a staggering 38 percent of members are over 60.
A couple of years ago NAR began to recognize the need for younger members and created the Young Professionals Network (YPN) as a way to support and encourage people under 40 to join — yet the median age has gone up, not down.
The typical Realtor is a white female, 56, who attended college and is a homeowner. I never would have guessed this by looking at my Realtor magazine or by looking at advertising aimed at recruiting Realtors.
In the pictures we are always young, well-dressed men and women. The advertising that the large brokerages create to recruit favors pictures of people that look to be about half the age of the average Realtor.
Many, if not most, of the popular motivational speakers in the real estate industry are men. I don’t have any data to back this up, but it seems like some of the industry experts and thought leaders are also men, and often under 40.
After looking at the earnings statistics for Realtors, I think being a motivational speaker may have been a better career choice.
I wonder if my buyers and sellers are disappointed when they meet me in person. I don’t look like any of the advertisements. I don’t spend much time in offices, and because of the climate in Minnesota I don’t wear a lot of short skirts when I work.
When buyers and sellers interview me, the only thing they seem to be interested in is how much experience I have and if I can help them.
According to the survey findings, the median gross income for Realtors who work as sales agents is $24,900. People tend to think that Realtors make a lot of money, but the numbers tell a different story. Some Realtors do make a lot of money, but most do not.
In most parts of the country, $24,900 does not go very far. California has more agents than in any other state, and it is also a state where the cost of living and housing are high.
The poverty level for a family of four is only a few thousand dollars a year less, but according to the survey only 43 percent of Realtor households have real estate income as their primary source of income. In other words, it looks like most Realtors are in households with other sources of income, which is a good thing considering the low level of their median income.
For years, NAR has been tracking how many members use text messaging — perhaps because text messaging is sometimes associated with a younger demographic and it may be one gauge of our ability to work effectively with younger buyers.
The reality is that even though some young buyers use text messaging to communicate with their friends and family, it is rarely their preferred form of communication with their Realtor, and even if it is they will happily work with any agent who can find them the home they are looking for.
Text messaging with homebuyers is just another one of those urban myths, but after being told for years how important text messaging is, I wish just once a potential buyer or seller would contact me that way so that I would have a chance to prove how cutting edge I am.
The advertisements for Realtors on TV and on billboards often feature agents who look to be college-age. I wonder if it catches average buyers or sellers off guard when they discover that most agents are much older.
I would say that we need more truth in advertising, and I personally would like to see more advertisements featuring agents who are over 60. Maybe the pictures in the ads are supposed to represent the ideal agent, which is really a kind of fantasy.
Maybe for agent recruiting the pervasive Realtor stereotypes in advertising are good things — if people understood that many Realtors don’t make much money, are over 55, and aren’t "text savvy," would anyone want to join NAR?
Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.
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