Real estate professionals are overwhelmingly satisfied with the job their leaders are doing in the face of fierce competition, calls for diversity, and major changes. Yet many denounced flawed hiring decisions and inadequate health care benefits, and called for more efforts to increase cultural diversity.

This is one part of Inman’s five-part Essential Guide for Real Estate Leadership, which we are publishing throughout our first-ever Leadership Week. Read all the parts here. Please send your feedback to leadership@inman.com. If you’re a leader who wants to join us for our exclusive Disconnect in The Desert event on March 26-28, or want to recommend a colleague, send a note to brad@inman.com explaining why.

Real estate professionals are overwhelmingly satisfied with the job their leaders are doing in the face of fierce competition, calls for diversity, and major changes. Yet many denounced flawed hiring decisions and inadequate health care benefits, and called for more efforts to increase cultural diversity, according to Inman’s first-ever Real Estate Leadership Survey.

Rank-and-file are broadly pleased with leadership

Real estate professionals largely gave high marks to their leaders, with 49 percent reporting they are “very happy” with senior executives at their companies, another 35 percent saying they are “somewhat happy” and only about 15 percent saying they are “unhappy.” They believe the most important qualities in a leader are their communication skills (86 percent), integrity (84 percent), willingness to listen (78 percent), and creativity (56 percent). Meanwhile, about 40 percent said their leaders frequently rise to challenges in their businesses “very well.”

“I’m very happy with our broker,” said a Minnesota-based Re/Max agent, one of nearly 800 real estate professionals from brokerages big and small surveyed for the Inman poll. “He is providing us the tools to make our job easier and less time-consuming. He also listens when you talk.”

But among their concerns, many lamented leaders unwilling to adapt to industry changes or new technology — challenges for any executive, to be sure, but perhaps none more so than those in their 50s and 60s, the age group most likely to be in senior positions, according to the survey.

Ageism isn’t as big an issue as other industries

However, most leaders were equally willing to hire younger and older brokers alike, with more than 80 percent of real estate professionals saying their leaders supported all age groups. That’s an excellent finding compared to other industries such as tech, where age discrimination runs rampant.

Leaders were broadly commended for their commitment to diversity in the workplace, with 85 percent of real estate professionals giving senior executives positive grades. 

Specifically, 55.4 percent of respondents reported that leadership at their company was “very committed to diversity,” and another 30.5 percent said it was “somewhat committed to diversity” in the workplace. Only 3.7 percent claimed executives weren’t committed at all.

Yet 40 percent of those polled said that even the most committed leaders could do more in terms of hiring.

Cultural diversity needs work

For Kathy Fowler, a broker associate with Coldwell Banker Select who serves as president of the Oklahoma Association of Realtors and sits on the board of directors for the Oklahoma City Metropolitan Association of Realtors, cultural diversity, while abundant in Oklahoma, is less visible among the upper echelons of the city’s realty associations.

“What I’m not seeing represented in Oklahoma as a whole — or at least not in the association world as far as people serving on committees and in leadership and things like that — is cultural diversity,” Fowler told Inman News. “And Oklahoma has a very rich, diverse culture, and from my own personal experience with sales transactions, I’ve experienced the diversity out there, but I haven’t seen that diversity involved in the association or in leadership, and that’s something I’d like to see us work on, especially on the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act.”

Benefits, pay, and other qualms

Benefits and pay were also criticized by real estate professionals, with 31 percent claiming health care is too expensive and 10 percent admitting they don’t have insurance. With 85 percent of all real estate agents paid through commissions, according to the poll, about 7 percent of the respondents said they wished they were better compensated.

Others complained of poorly conceived recruitment quotas and an uptick in unqualified or unprofessional agents.

“Signing people because they have a pulse to meet signing quotas irrelevant of their qualifications,” griped one Minneapolis Realtor, when asked in the survey how local leaders could improve. “Keeping unprofessional agents on board because they are high producers.”

Recruitment-based brokerage models were cited as particularly problematic by Chip Steinmetz, a Re/Max broker-owner in Virginia, who said companies like Coldwell Banker and Keller Williams that offer agents compensation for recruiting new agents are a disservice to clients.

Seinmetz claims that sales agents may not have their clients’ best interests at heart if their priority is to recruit the buyer’s agent as a new potential colleague.

“Is there a conflict of interest here? Nope,” Steinmetz told Inman News in February. “According to all the laws, all the regulations, the NAR code of ethics, there is no conflict, and there is no disclosure requirement. But if your client, the homeowner, were to find out after the house closes that I went to XYZ Realty and that you just capitulated on $5,000 worth of home inspection issues and didn’t push back, could somebody reasonably assume that the recruiting activity played a part in that decision? I think it’s all in the eyes of the beholder.”

Email Jotham Sederstrom

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