Majority of Realtors Say Problem-Solving Skills Are Most Important Traits to Achieve Success

Majority of Realtors Say Problem-Solving Skills Are Most Important Traits to Achieve Success

WASHINGTON—Three in five residential (62%) and commercial (59%) Realtors selected a real estate career path on their own and a majority of them say self-motivation and good people and problem-solving skills are the most important traits for success, according to a new survey from the National Association of Realtors released on March 30.

“NAR’s Career Choices in Real Estate: Through the Lens of Gender, Race and Sexual Orientation” report examined why members entered real estate, the skills most important for success, the typical number of transactions, sales volume and income. The report analyzed differences by gender, race, sexual orientation and real estate specialty—residential, commercial or both.

“Realtors from all walks of life share the common purpose of making a positive difference in communities across the country and delivering excellent service to their clients,” said NAR President Charlie Oppler, a Realtor from Franklin Lakes, NJ, and the CEO of Prominent Properties Sotheby’s International Realty. “As trusted advocates for consumers, our members bring valuable insight and expertise to all aspects of residential and commercial real estate transactions.”

Interest in Real Estate

Members working exclusively in commercial real estate are more likely (26%) than residential members (16%) to have had a professional connection that helped them enter the industry. Residential members (26%), however, were twice as likely as commercial members (13%) to have been referred by a friend. Commercial members are more attracted to real estate because it’s an entrepreneurial field when compared to residential members (52% vs. 47%). Three in four (76%) residential members are attracted by the flexible work hours and three in five (59%) are attracted by working with people.


Among members working exclusively in residential real estate, the median gross personal income was $35,700 for men and $33,500 for women. By race and ethnic group, White/Caucasian members had the highest median gross personal income of $49,400, followed by Asian/Pacific Islander ($27,400), Hispanic/Latino ($26,600) and Black/African-American members ($16,700).

White/Caucasian members were both the most likely (76%) to say that real estate is their only career and the least likely to say that they have another source of income (24%). Conversely, Black/African-American members made up the largest share of Realtors who had another job outside of real estate (50%) and the smallest share of Realtors who listed real estate as their only source of income (51%).

“Understanding income and transaction differences among races, genders, and sexual orientation is step one, but the next step is learning why there are differences,” said Jessica Lautz, NAR vice president of demographics and behavioral insights. “For some, income may be lower as the typical home price in a neighborhood is lower, for others they may work only part-time and others may be new to the profession and have no ownership in the firm.”

Commercial specialists had a median gross personal income from real estate of $150,300, compared to $34,100 for residential specialists and $73,000 for dual specialists. The median income, however, does not capture the income distribution. As a testament to the highly entrepreneurial and competitive nature of the business, 66% of commercial Realtors and 21% of residential Realtors earned more than $100,000 in gross personal income in 2020.

Race and Ethnicity

At 10 years, the median tenure in residential real estate for White/Caucasian members was at least twice that of Asian/Pacific Islander (five years), Black/African-American (four years) and Hispanic/Latino members (four years).

The median number of residential transactions in 2020 for White/Caucasian members was seven, more than double the median number of residential transactions for Hispanic/Latino (three), Black/African-American (two) and Asian/Pacific Islander (two) members.

White/Caucasian members reported the highest median residential sales volume in 2020 at $1,998,000, followed by Asian/Pacific Islander ($1,017,000), Hispanic/Latino ($766,500) and Black/African-American members ($474,500).

Hispanic/Latino and White/Caucasian members—56% and 55%, respectively—are more likely to work in the suburbs. The largest shares of members who work in small towns (18%) and rural areas (8%) are Asian/Pacific Islander. Black/African-American members—37%—are the most likely to work in urban areas or cities.

Regarding difficulties in the first year of a residential real estate career, Black/African-American members were the most likely—41%—to report having to work another job as a challenge. Asian/Pacific Islander members were the most likely to cite finding clients (77%) and getting the proper training and education (27%) as obstacles within their first year.

Nearly a quarter of Hispanic/Latino members (24%) and one in five Asian/Pacific Islander members (20%) started their careers in real estate. Black/African-American members were the most likely to report real estate as a second career path (54%).

Sexual Orientation

LGBTQ+ members were more likely to work in an urban area or city (42%) compared to straight/heterosexual members (27%), but less likely to work in the suburbs (39% vs. 50%) and small towns (9% vs. 14%). LGBTQ+ members were also more likely to be attracted to real estate because of interest in the field (69% vs. 63%) and the love of homes and homeownership (59% vs. 52%). Larger shares of LGBTQ+ members than straight/heterosexual members said that problem-solving skills (81% vs. 75%), superior communication capabilities (76% vs. 66%), and sales and marketing acumen (54% vs. 47%) are needed to succeed in residential real estate.

The median number of residential transactions and sales volumes in 2020 was five and $1,622,200, respectively, for LGBTQ+ members and four and $1,303,300 for straight/heterosexual members.

Among members working exclusively in residential real estate, the median gross personal income was $38,800 for LGBTQ+ members and $34,100 for straight/heterosexual members.

In February 2021, NAR sent a survey to 208,000 members. A sample of 18,209 members responded to the survey. 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. The confidence interval at a 95% level of confidence is +/-0.72% based on a population of 1.4 million members.

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