According to a Census data analysis conducted by the Huffington Post, 84 percent of “real estate brokers and sales agents” are homeowners.
Some might assume that real estate agents tend to be older and therefore more likely to own their homes. Homeownership rates are also higher for real estate agents compared to other professionals in the same age group.
For example, only 42.9 percent of all individuals under the age of 35 are homeowners, whereas 61.8 percent of real estate agents under 35 own their homes.
The expected homeownership rate for real estate agents, based on the average demographic, however, is 80.4 percent. This is 4.5 percent less than the actual homeownership rate in the real estate industry.
Does having insider knowledge of the renting and owning sway real estate agents one way or another? Here are two possible reasons why agents own instead of rent:
1. Renting is more expensive than ever.
If you’ve rented in the past few years, you’ve probably experienced annual rent increases, even without switching apartments or changing your terms. Leasing an apartment or single-family home, especially near a major metro, is sometimes more expensive than the monthly costs of a 30-year mortgage. Therefore, agents who understand this price difference might choose to own to decrease their monthly dues.
Many large cities in the U.S. have high demand and low inventory, leading to historically high rental prices. A Mad Valorem report from June showed that in some markets, the proportion of rent to income exceeds 40 percent.
Owning, on the other hand, costs borrowers only 15 percent of their income toward monthly mortgage payments. (This does not include the upfront costs of homeownership, such as down payments and closing costs, which often act as deterring factor for renters who want to buy.)
Although leasing provides greater flexibility, especially for those who move often or change jobs frequently, most agents see the lack of a long-term investment in renting. Considering currently low mortgage rates, saving for a down payment is worth the hassle.
Some of the aforementioned points can be classified as “insider knowledge,” but current rates and trends are regularly reported on large media outlets. So why do so many people who aren’t in the real estate industry continue to rent, even if they could afford a down payment?
The 2008 housing crisis left everyone feeling a bit uneasy about the housing market, and some figure it’s safer to lease than to risk going underwater.
2. Owning is a rite of passage — and a learning experience.
Most financially minded people aspire to own real estate one day. Purchasing property marks stability and success. Therefore, some agents assume that achieving homeownership, especially at an early age, helps impress potential clients. At the very least, buyers might be more trusting toward agents who’ve been in their shoes.
Aside from building a reputation as a successful agent, buying real estate allows agents to experience the purchasing process from a client’s prospective.
As the agent, you might not always be empathetic toward buyer sentiment. Being on the other side of the table gives you insight that you wouldn’t otherwise receive. Insider knowledge can’t be learned — only experienced.
Plus, real estate agents (at least those who do their homework) naturally have a better grasp on the local market, trends and demand — it’s part of the job. Access to up-to-date housing information lets real estate professionals make wise decisions as buyers and investors.
Another great benefit of being an agent and a buyer? Agents who represent themselves during the buying process often keep the commission and apply it directly toward a down payment, closing costs, upgrades or the mortgage.
Even so, many agents still continue to rent. Finances aside, housing choices relate to personal preferences. Owning property comes with more responsibility, and some people — even real estate agents — don’t want to waste time on landscaping or worrying about homeowners association (HOA) fees.
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