It has been a tough few years for real estate agents but according to information released by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) that appears to be turning around.  NAR's 2014 Member Profile indicates that income and sales volume among NAR's near million members has "jumped" for the third year in a row, a reflection in part of the 11.5 percent rise in home prices over the last year.

The median income of a Realtor (a member of NAR), increased to $47,700 in 2013 from $43,500 in 2012, a 9.6 percent increase.  The median in 2011 was $34,900.  The median number of transactions completed by agents (there are two sides to each transaction - listing and selling) remained unchanged from 2013 at 12, both years were substantial improvements over the median of seven transactions in both 2008 and 2009.

Income increased with experience and those NAR members who had been in the business for more than 16 years earned $70,200 from 15 transactions while those with three to five years' experience had a median income of $30,100 from 10 transactions.  Brokers earned $66,300 while those holding the more common sales agent licensed earned $35,000.

NAR's Chief Economists Lawrence Yun said several factors limited the completion of sales transactions.  "The survey indicates that inventory shortages, overly restrictive mortgage lending standards and the rise in home prices and interest rates last year had an impact on Realtors ability to help their client find the right property."

NAR's Member Profile is based on a survey of 95,340 members, which generated 6,462 usable responses, representing an adjusted response rate of 6.8 percent.  Responses were weighted to be representative of state-level NAR membership.  In addition to financial information, the Member Profile presents demographic information on Realtors and details some of their business practices. 

Fifty-seven percent of NAR members are women and they account for 53 percent of brokers and 62 percent of sales agents.  Half of the association's member hold a bachelor's degree or higher, 86 percent own a home and 39 percent own at least one residential investment property.  Only 6 percent began their career in real estate, with the majority having previous full-time careers in management, business or financial (19 percent) or sales and retail (15 percent). Forty-one percent of those fluent in other languages speak Spanish and 96 percent are registered to vote.

The typical NAR member works 40 hours per week and more than three-quarters cite real estate as their only occupation.  Eight-two percent are certain they will remain in the business for at least two more years, a 2 percentage point increase from last year's survey.

NAR had an influx of new members and younger ones in 2013.  Years of experience in real estate decreased to 12 years from 13 years in 2012; the typical tenure at a firm decreased to six years from seven years; and the age of members decreased to 56 years from 57 years. Three percent of all Realtors are under 30 years of age, 16 percent are between ages 30 and 44, and 24 percent are 65 and older.

Similar to 2012, eight out of 10 NAR members focus on residential sales and 73 percent have secondary real estate real estate specialties.  Those secondary specialties include residential brokerage (35 percent), property management (17 percent), relocation (17 percent) and commercial brokerage (16 percent.)  

Sixty-eight percent of respondents receive compensation through a split commission arrangement; 17 percent receive all of the commission and 4 percent get a commission and a share of profits.  The vast majority receive no fringe benefits and 82 percent are classified as independent contractors.  Only 5 percent receive health insurance through their firm. 

Regarding business practices of Realtors responding to the survey:

  • More than two-thirds have a personal website which has been operational for eight years and 12 percent have a blog.
  • Ninety-one percent report their firm has an on-line presence.
  • Sixty-one percent of respondents use social or professional networking sites, up from 56 percent
  • Nearly all respondents (94 percent) use email to communicate with customers, following by telephone (90 percent) and text messaging (80 percent.)
  • Repeat business accounted for 21 percent of business activity but for those in the business for more than 16 years 42 percent. Referrals accounted for 21 percent.

Respondents worked for a firm typically with one office and had been with that firm for six years. Fifty-seven percent of members are affiliated with an independent firm, and 38 percent are with a franchised company; 5 percent are other. Nine percent said their firm was bought by or merged with another firm during the past two years, down for the second consecutive year and from 11 percent in the 2012 study.