by R. Michael Brown

The COVID pandemic has caused a shakeup in where, and how, many people work. That has helped propel a thriving housing market. The results were a record 1.48 million members, up from 1.4 million in 2019, of the National Association of Realtors (NAR) at the end of 2020 according to the association’s recently released 2021 Member Profile.

Last year had the highest number of homes sold (5.64 million) since 2006. The extra competition from more agents makes the job even more challenging because of the short housing supply. However, according to NAR, agents are hanging in there.

“Economic lockdowns and historically-low inventory coupled with surging home buying demand only showed the resilience of our members and industry,” said Jessica Lautz, NAR vice president of demographics and behavioral insights, in a press release about the Member Profile survey.

Highlights from the 2020 NAR Member Profile

Typical agent Income was lower last year ($43,330 in 2020, down from $49,700 in 2019) because of the impact from COVID on business in general and the lack of housing inventory. That also reflected in the lower sales volume of a typical agent ($2.1 million vs. $2.3 million) and fewer transactions (10 vs. 12) in 2020 compared to 2019. Agents with 16 or more years of experience had a median gross income of $75,000, a decrease from $86,500 in 2019.

Diversity is growing rapidly among agents. Thirty four percent of new NAR members with two years or less experience were minorities.

“Realtors used emerging technologies in 2020 to bridge the gap when pandemic precautions were in place,” Lautz said. “Members have now pivoted and embraced these tools to showcase listings and help buyers strategically find and secure the limited number of properties available.”

Business Traits and Activities of Realtors

  • 68% hold sales agent licenses, up from 65% from last year
  • 20% hold broker licenses and 13% associate licenses
  • 73% specialize in residential
  • Most common secondary specialty are relocation, residential property management and commercial brokerage
  • Typical NAR member has eight years of experience, down from nine in 2019
  • 18% have one year or less experience
  • 15% have more than 25 years of experience, down from 17% in 2019
  • Appraisers, broker-owners and managers had the most experience.
  • 79% will stay in the industry at least two more years.
  • Typical agent had a lower sales volume ($2.1 million vs. $2.3 million) and fewer transactions (10 vs. 12) in 2020 compared to 2019
  • 15% of business came from previous clients.
  • Median 37% of agents with 16 years or more experience reported a greater share of repeat business and median 27% from referrals
  • Agents earned a median of 19% of their business from referrals, a slight drop from 20% in 2019.

Income and Expenses of Realtors

  • Median gross income was $43,330 in 2020, down from $49,700 in 2019.
  • With 16 years or more experience agents had a median gross income of $75,000, a decrease from $86,500 last year.
  • 25% earned $100,000 or more. Total median business expenses for NAR members were $5,330 in 2020, a decline from $6,290 in 2019.
  • Expenses for agents were $5,330 in 2020, a decline from $6,290 in 2019.

Demographics of Realtors

  • 78% of NAR members were white, down from 80% last year.
  • 9% Hispanics/Latino
  • 7% Black/African American
  • 6% Asian/Pacific Islander
  • 34% of new NAR members with two years or less experience were minorities.
  • 65% were women, up from 64% last year
  • Median age was 54, down from 55 last year
  • 33% were over the age of 60, and 5% were age 30 or younger.
  • 93% had some post-secondary education, 33% with bachelor’s degree, and 13% with a graduate degree.
  • 69% of NAR members were married, 15% divorced and 11% were single or never married. The typical member household had two adults and no children.
  • 66% reported volunteering in their community, most common among members aged 40 to 49

Technology and Realtors

  • 96% of NAR member use a smartphone with wireless email and internet capability
    • 95% use smartphone email
    • 93% use text messaging and is the top method for communicating with clients
    • 90% use phone feature with clients
    • 89% use email with clients
    • 57% use social media apps
  • 92% use a laptop or desktop computer
  • 69% of agents have their own website

Office and Firm Affiliations

  • Office and firm affiliation remained stable compared to a year ago.
  • 53% worked with an independent company and 88% were independent contractors. 
  • 42% of NAR members worked at a firm with one office and 26% worked at a firm with 2 to 4 offices.
  • 5 years is the median tenure with current firm, up from a median of 4 years in 2019.
  • 8% of members reported working for a firm that was bought or merged.
  • Errors and omissions insurance is the most common benefit provided by members’ firms.

NAR’s press release provided this about the survey method: In March 2021, NAR emailed a 93-question survey to a random sample of 161,155 members. Using this method, a total of 10,643 responses were received. The survey had an adjusted response rate of 6.6%. The confidence interval at a 95% level of confidence is +/- 0.95% based on a population of 1.4 million members. Survey responses were weighted to be representative of state level NAR membership. Information about compensation, earnings, sales volume and number of transactions are characteristics of calendar year 2020, while all other data are representative of member characteristics in early 2021.

For more information from NAR’s 2021 Member Profile, visit

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