The issue of diversity within the real estate industry isn't a new one, but this past year’s national reckoning on racial inequity has made many zero in on the issue of diversity, equity and inclusion in real estate.
Brokers and real estate agents all have a major impact on our market makeup — we are the representatives for homeowners, renters, workers, and businesses both within and looking to be within our communities, but we’re also more than that. We’re the first point of access (in a line of many!) for homeownership. And not to mention the industry’s negative history of redlining, discriminatory policies and more, we have a responsibility to uphold regulations and contribute to the diversity problem within real estate.
If you’re like many brokers, you’re aware of this problem, but how do you go about it? How can you contribute to inclusive real estate? Keep reading for a few ways that your brokerage can contribute to change and make a positive impact on your entire community.
Provide educational opportunities for your brokerage team
In a 2017 study on commercial real estate, more than 75% of commercial real estate brokers were white men. The other percentages were of white women at 14.1%, black men accounted for 1.3% and nonwhite women made up less than 1% of that number. In addition to a lack of diversity at the leadership level, Antoine Thompson of the National Association of Real Estate Brokers, states that less than 6% of real estate professionals are black. The underrepresentation of black real estate agents and brokers also trickles down into homeownership. The black homeownership rate in the U.S. is 44% compared to 74% of white Americans. And on top of that, black homebuyers are denied mortgage loans at twice the rate as white homebuyers. Essentially, real estate is failing at its inclusiveness within any level of the industry.
You may have found yourself unaware of several of these statistics, and it’s likely that your team members aren’t educated on them either. Everything begins with education, especially as many professionals still aren’t aware of both ongoing issues and the long lasting impact of past discriminatory practices. The National Association of Realtors has what they call an Actionable Roadmap for Local Association Diversity and Inclusion, which sets a great foundation for your brokerage to follow when improving diversity initiatives. Listed below are a few educational opportunities that the roadmap advises you to offer.
- Hold an implicit bias workshop for your team members
- Seek out relationships with underrepresented real estate professionals in the market
- Provide trainings that better suit your team to serve underrepresented groups in the market area
- Educate your team on disparities within federal policies
- Learn more about and encourage your team to attend local multicultural organizations and boards
Recognize there is diversity in your area even if you don’t see it
There are currently strong efforts in place by organizations to bring greater diversity into housing and real estate in general. And even if you don’t immediately think your market area could benefit from these initiatives, there is diversity in your community that needs fair representation in the housing market.
Start by researching the demographic makeup of your market area. What is it? Does your brokerage have the materials as well as leadership and agent demographics to fairly represent this makeup? Quickly address any of your brokerage’s areas that are at odds with the demographic makeup of your market area. For example, if we’re talking about fair access to housing for all, language is a significant barrier. Consider what translated materials you have for consumers or what translation services you could make available for those whose first language is not English. In addition, bilingual team members are a huge benefit to your brokerage who open up your office to more demographics. Just consider how overwhelming the sheer number of documents in the home-buying process can be — those translation services add a layer of accessibility particularly in the documentation undertaking. By making home ownership more accessible, your business is contributing to a more inclusive real estate and mortgage landscape.
Have policies that protect your consumer
Your leadership should absolutely be involved in advocating for policies at all levels to promote diversity, equity and inclusion in real estate. And although associations currently regulate equal access to housing, there are historical and ongoing impacts of discrimination that happened for a very long time. And this goes back to step 1 — educating your brokerage on the issue of diversity in real estate. By providing educational opportunities and participating in diversity initiatives and discussions, you’re able to send a team out there that‘s truly trained to protect your consumer. Not only will they be able to easily sniff out and identify discriminatory practices, but the entire team should be well-versed on what to do next in order to safeguard the consumer.
Have a deep commitment to improving the diversity issue in real estate
In order to contribute to diversity, equity and inclusion in real estate, organizations need to display a deep commitment. It’s more than releasing a public statement about your commitment to the problem — are you actually practicing what you preach within your own brokerage? Is your leadership, senior staff and team diverse and representative of your community? You should be encouraging minority team members to seek more senior roles, networking with underrepresented real estate professionals and more. If you notice there isn’t a great deal of diversity at the leadership level of your organization, it may be time to revisit your business’s hiring process altogether. What you want is for anyone to be able to Google your brokerage, look at leadership positions or the board, and recognize that you are truly committed to contributing to change.
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