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Sex Sells

Forgive me for being a total femme today, but an actual statistical survey forces the point: What is UP with the real estate business? A new study from the National Association of Realtors has me fuming.

The report starts innocuously enough, stating that the median annual income of NAR members dropped in 2006 from $49,300 to $47,700. Ok, I get that; the market slumped, fewer commissions, and a massive jump in membership since 2004. This is unreal: the number of NAR members jumped 23.2% in the past two years! Boom boom boom. The NAR currently has 1.3 million members, accounting for about half of all real estate licensees in the United States. Ok, fine, fair enough.

Then I read on. “Men earned a median income of $58,600 in 2006, while women earned

Female Realtor works from the driver's seat of a Hummer H2.
AP
Female Realtor works from the driver's seat of a Hummer H2.

$42,000.” Ok, my head starts to spin, but the caveat is that men are more likely to be “brokers” and work full time, while women are more likely to work part time. All right, fair enough. You get what you work for.

And then: Among Realtors working as full-time brokers, men earned a median of $94,000 last year, while women brokers earned $80,000. Same job, same deal, different compensation. Well now, my head is spinning again.

This leads me to all kinds of suppositions: are people more likely to buy a home represented by a man? Do buyers feel more comfortable working with a man? Do sellers feel a man will do a better job marketing their home?? Are men more aggressive in the sale? Are women more willing to split commission?

All of this delves deep into the psyche of the male/female/home relationship. Forgive me for inflicting my own sexist bias, but I find women are generally far more attuned to the layout, décor, workability and sensibilities of a home. Men may get the structural functionality, i.e., the heat, the pipes, the insulation, but overall I do think women are far better positioned to sell and negotiate a home. They simply understand the underlying emotions better, and find me any agent male/female agent who would argue against the premise that a home, overall, is an emotional sale.

I have spent several years now talking to Realtors, male and female. I have bought and sold homes myself and watched dozens and dozens of agents market, dress, and cajole homes into a contract of sale. The majority of Realtors are women, working the weekends, walking the neighborhoods, holding the hands of over-optimistic sellers and self-important buyers. I don’t understand why the statistics show women make less money than men for their services do. I hope it doesn’t have anything to do with how larger real estate agencies divvy up the profits. Of course, that wouldn’t surprise me, given that that’s par for the course in most professions, including my own.

I’d be interested to know what you Realtors out there think, male and female. Send me your comments to realtycheck@cnbc.com, and we’ll post as many as we can.

Questions? Comments? RealtyCheck@cnbc.com

  • Diana Olick serves as CNBC's real estate correspondent as well as the editor of the Realty Check section on CNBC.com.

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