I am, for whatever it’s worth, a “female real estate agent”.
It’s not a concrete category, and it doesn’t come with specific attributes, promises, or guarantees. I wouldn’t say that female real estate agents are more competent than our male counterparts. I am just an agent who happens to be female.
But gender does impact some things. And the gender dynamics of the real estate are no different.
What Does Gender Have To Do With Anything?
Like I said, this topic can get sticky, but I’m going to address it as deftly as possible.
Joan Acker proposed the theory of gendered organizations, which outlines how gender is reinforced and structured in companies, workplaces, and industries.
Different components of gender in culture reinforce what we think about men and women, which in turn impacts how we treat men and women in the workforce. From how organizations are structured, to cultural symbols, to how we reward people for presenting in particular ways, gender dynamics impact the people who work in any industry, including real estate.
How Does Gender Impact Real Estate?
In 2012, the Ontario Real Estate Association released an infographic that showed that there are more men than women practicing real estate in Ontario.
The U.S. averages, though, show about 65% women and 35% men in professional real estate positions.
What’s the difference?
It turns out it’s not the countries that are different, but the sample. The Ontario study included both commercial and residential Realtors, but the U.S. study only used residential statistics.
Commercial vs. Residential
The United State’s Commercial Real Estate Women Network estimates that women make up only 35% of the commercial real estate industry.
And according to a benchmark study by the CREW network, the median annual compensation for women in commercial $115,000 a year, while the number was $150,000 for men. That’s a 23% income gap.
There’s a simple reason that might explain some of this difference. Humans prefer people that are similar to themselves, and this impacts their hiring decisions. In residential real estate transactions, I often find women in the position of primary decision-maker or primary influencer. They’re the ones researching and putting in the legwork. So these women are more likely to search for, and hire, a woman as their real estate agent.
On the other hand, men are more likely to be at the helm of a business, and they’re more likely to hire a male realtor for commercial transactions.
Residential real estate also requires a more flexible schedule than commercial.
Businesses usually operate in the standard 9 am to 5 pm time slot, and so commercial transactions usually operate inside of this window too.
Residential transactions, on the other hand, operate outside of the 9-5 workday, requiring a more flexible schedule. Women are more likely to work flexible hours, and those who are juggling other obligations might be more drawn to residential real estate for this reason.
How Does This Impact Your Hiring Decision?
We take “mental shortcuts” when making decisions. We’re not always conscious why we choose to hire one agent over another, but our brain takes the easiest path to make complicated decisions easier.
We unconsciously prefer people who are similar to ourselves. That means that we probably hire people that look and seem similar to us, in real estate and beyond.
Stereotypes impact our decisions, too. We attribute better math skills to men, and we think of women as more naturally nurturing than their female counterpart. If you’re looking for one of these traits over another, consider how gender stereotypes may be muddling that decision.
“Confirmation bias” is a mental shortcut we take in filtering information. We remember and believe information that backs up a claim we already believe, but discount evidence that may disprove our beliefs.
If I see a real estate agent’s website and it’s absolutely horrible, I might assume that the person is a bad real estate agent. And then when they show up to a meeting 5 minutes late, it may implicitly confirm that suspicion, even if it’s not true.
Finally, “attribute substitution” means we default to easy-to-understand information when making complex decisions. We might choose a Realtor who is dressed more formally over one wearing sweatpants, assuming that formalwear indicates competency.
So Should I Hire a Female Real Estate Agent?
I think it’s important to understand why we actively hire women – and what happens when we choose not to hire them. But I can’t say whether actively searching for one gender over the other is the right thing to do.
If you’re looking for a real estate agent to help you through the psychological process of moving, I don’t recommend searching for one gender specifically.
Instead, look for an agent who specializes in first-time buyers, or divorce-related transactions. These agents would have extensive experience in the therapy side of real estate, and they’d have the results – and stories – to prove it.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for a commercial agent, I’d recommend interviewing an equal number of men and women and trying to fairly assess them on their past results. It may take a little extra searching to find an equal split, but in this case it seems more fair to actively search to interview more women.
My Final Piece of Advice?
Don’t just hire agent that you like the most.
Instead, try to come up with fair hiring metrics in your interviews, which is what companies are doing to help address the wage gap.
Check to see if your potential agent is:
- Experienced in your niche (home type, neighbourhood, price range)
- Good at marketing themselves as well as their clients
- Available to pick up the phone when you call
These simple questions might help you find the best agent for you, rather than the one that you instinctively like.
Have any other questions about cognitive biases, hiring the right real estate agent, or searching for a home? I’d love to chat! We can get a coffee and talk shop.