White real estate agents earn 3 times more than Black real estate agents

The National Association of Realtors stopped barring Black agents in 1961 but continued to oppose the 1968 Fair Housing Act, which outlawed housing discrimination.

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The National Association of Realtors reports that white real estate brokers make roughly three times as much as their Black counterparts, a discrepancy attributed mainly to discrimination in the market.

Although 14 percent of America’s population is Black, only 6 percent of real estate agents and brokers in the United States are, The New York Times reported.

Racism in the real estate market has kept Black people out and discouraged them from becoming agents. Even after NAR formally stopped barring Black agents from membership and access to its perks in 1961, the organization continued to oppose — and lobby against — the 1968 Fair Housing Act, which outlawed housing discrimination.

The National Association of Realtors reports that white real estate brokers make roughly three times as much as their Black counterparts, a discrepancy attributed mainly to racism in the real estate market. (Photo: AdobeStock)

Since residences owned by Black people are undervalued and priced 23 percent lower than homes owned by whites, discrimination results in a smaller pool of possible clients and fewer commissions on properties at lower price points.

The discrimination Black real estate agents experience may even endanger their lives. For example, when Eric Brown showed his Black male client and his teenage son a home in August 2021 in Wyoming, Michigan, police officers brandished firearms and handcuffed the trio.

Lydia Pope, 53, president of the National Association of Real Estate Brokers, a group established in 1947 for Black brokers and agents turned away by NAR, remembered how in 2017, police surrounded the area at her listing in a Cleveland neighborhood with mostly white residents.

She said when she asked what was going on, the police informed her that they had received a report of a break-in. 

“I showed them the computer, the information on my phone,” Pope recalled, according to The Times. “I showed them the work order that I had. I showed them my business card, my license, everything, and they ran my plate.”

The situation ended amicably, but Pope found it disturbing enough, she said, that she “gave the listing back,” never returning.

For decades, Indianapolis resident Barbara Lowery, 50, had wanted to work in real estate, she said, describing her reluctance in her 20s by saying, “I only knew what I saw.” Given that she pictured real estate brokers as white men in business suits, she questioned whether she would fit in or be accepted.

And in the spring of 2021, someone contacted the police at her first showing.

“I come home, and I vent, and I keep it moving,” said Lowery, The Times reported. “This is my real estate game. And if they don’t like me, if they dismiss me because of me and who I am as this Black woman, shame on you. You’re missing out.”

However, Black real estate agents contended that other factors outside of their background and clientele contribute to the fact that they often make less money than their white counterparts. They believe brokerages are also responsible for the profit discrepancy.

The median price for residential sales by white real estate agents was $356,000, whereas the median price for Black agents was $246,000, according to information from a poll of NAR members, The Times reported. Black real estate agents’ median sales volume was $474,500 compared with white agents’ median sales volume of $1,998,000.

Listing agents who are not Black frequently do not return Black agents’ calls. They also allegedly make their Black clients take extra steps, like providing identification or proof of income, to visit properties.

Darryl Dibbs, 33, a Black real estate agent in Detroit, said many prospective clients grew up in segregated communities during a time when laws prohibiting interracial marriage were in place. 

“So I’m not convinced that this 60-year-old white man completely trusts me with selling his home,” Dibbs noted, according to The Times, “when he lived in a time where I couldn’t even buy one.”

NAR issued an apology in 2020 for its prior support of discriminatory housing policies. It is now putting its ACT Initiative into practice to hold the industry’s bad actors accountable. Many Black agents, however, would like to see more action taken, as the ACT measures can only help so much if anti-Black racism remains a pervasive problem in American society.

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