Financial resources in a time of economic crisis

It’s been about two years since the National Association of Realtors launched its financial planning and assistance wing, the Center for Realtor Financial Wellness, and just in time to find its footing for the coming global recession.

The center offers Realtors financial help in a variety of ways, such as assistance with taxes, strategies for investing, tools for budgeting, and more, and has amassed a collection of webinars in just a few years and made them available to view on demand.

Laying the groundwork over the last few years has positioned the program to adjust quickly to the pandemic with COVID-19-specific programming and virtual seminars to take the place of live events originally planned for later this year.

NAR Director of Member Development Kasey Stewart said the center grew out of an idea that originally aimed to help provide education and support for Realtors investing in real estate.
A survey of membership at the time, however, revealed that half of Realtors were not saving for and were not prepared for retirement, Stewart said. She emphasized that, because real estate brokers and agents usually work as independent contractors and often are not provided the same financial help and resources as other kinds of employees, the center’s work is vital to many members’ long-term monetary security.

“We try to cover the full spectrum of financial issues that independent contractors face,” Stewart said.

Brittany Schanck, financial wellness manager with NAR, said the center doesn’t take a cookie-cutter approach but rather tailors its assistance to the needs of each individual member seeking help. Brokers help their clients make what is often the most important financial decision of their lives, but who helps them in their financial journey, she asked.

The center was beginning to increase its notoriety earlier this year, holding its first live event on March 4 with the Bay East Association of Realtors in California, where the center offered sessions on good financial habits, investment strategies and retirement planning. But the first in-person event would be the center’s last for the foreseeable future due to the coronavirus pandemic. Like everyone else facing this new reality, the center had to pivot and focus on providing information about coronavirus-related issues and holding virtual events.

Programming quickly focused on helping members understand various aspects of the federal stimulus package such as the Payment Protection Program, Stewart said. She advised members who are new to the program to visit the center’s web portal at and complete a 10-question assessment to determine where they are in their careers and overall financial security. They then can begin to set financial goals and find a clear path toward achieving those goals.

One of the best parts, Stewart said, is there’s no cost. “We fund it through member dues,” she said. “We just want to help them. It’s truly a benefit.”

Additional financial resources are available on NAR’s website, and from AgentEDU’s free business plan template.

Realtors are ahead of the curve on tech

The National Association of Realtors has released its annual member profile, and while the data was gathered prior to the coronavirus outbreak, it shows that Realtors had already begun increasing their use of new technology prior to stay-at-home orders.

More than 90% reported using smart phones and computers and nearly all used email. Ninety-four percent of members said they preferred texting with clients, making it the most popular method of communication, followed by email at 91% and telephone at 89%.

“As members have become more reliant on their smartphones and the internet to stay in touch with their clients, they’ve also found that some of these social media sites are another avenue to reach potential homebuyers and sellers,” Jessica Lautz, NAR’s vice president of demographics and behavioral insights, said in a press release.

Nearly three-quarters (70%) said they have their own website for their real estate business, and they reported being most active on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

Highlights of the report also noted the following in 2019:

  • 37% were paid a fixed commission split.
  • Median gross income was $49,700, up from $41,800 in the previous year.
  • Realtors who have worked 16 years or more earned a median gross income of $86,500.
  • Median business expenses were $6,290, up from $4,600 in 2018.

Realtors said inventory shortages have hurt the industry and that “difficulty in finding the right property” is the No. 1 reason for not completing a transaction.

“Low inventory continues to be a problem,” Lautz said. “Pre-pandemic, housing supply was the number one hurdle holding back potential buyers, but we continue to be faced with a great deal of pent-up demand but not enough homes.”

Repeat customers made up 15% of Realtors’ business — that figure was much higher (39%) for those who have spent 16 or more years in the industry. Twenty percent of business came from referrals, members reported

Nearly two-thirds of Realtors (64%) were women; the typical member was a 55-year-old white woman.

Race demographics showed that 80% of members were white, 10% Hispanic or Latino, 6% Black and 5% Asian/Pacific Islander.