Real estate agents cashed in on 2021’s record market

They did more deals and made more money in 2021, says the NAR's yearly survey

The average real estate agent is a 56-year-old white female who made $34,800 last year after taxes.

That’s according to the National Association of Realtors member survey, publicized by NAR Monday. The study is not the last word on the American real estate agent. Just 9,220 responses to the 97-question survey were returned to an organization that counts 1.56 million members (the study was mailed out to 176,494 agents).

But it provides a sense of the demographics behind one of the country’s most popular and growing professions.

One takeaway is that the historically strong residential real estate market of 2021 trickled down to agents. Agents completed an average of 12 deals last year compared to 10 a year earlier. And the median agent income before taxes was $54,300, a significant climb from $43,300 in 2020.

The sharp difference between before and an after-tax income may be due to agent’s independent contractor status. Nearly 90% of agents surveyed said that they were worked as independent contractors.

And despite the hot housing market last year and cultural ubiquity of rainmaker agents, in just 47% of households was the agent’s salary the primary source of income. The gross household income in a home with a real estate agent was $125,000.

The relatively modest incomes drawn by agents does not seem like it can be pinned on the fact that some agents work part-time. The average agent surveyed said that they worked 35 hours a week. And 75% stated that real estate is their only occupation.

Some other facts to emerge from the survey results:

*“Diversity” was probably the most-used word at the NAR legislative conference earlier this May. And NAR acknowledged that one way to measure progress in diversity is the number of non-white agents. By that measurement, NAR has improved on diversity though still has a way to go. Eleven percent of real estate agents identified as Hispanic; 8% of respondents as Black; and 5% as Asian.

That compares to 10% of those surveyed identifying as Hispanic one year ago, 6% as Black, and 5% as Asian.

The survey allows respondents to identify with more than one race. The U.S. population is 13% Black, 18% Hispanic, and 6% Asian, according to the Census Bureau.

Regarding gender, residential real estate remains a female-lead profession, with 66% of respondents stating they are women, inching up from 65% in 2020.

*Asked about obstacles on the job, 57% cited the lack of housing inventory as the most important factor limiting potential clients from making a purpose. The second biggest obstacle noted was housing affordability at 16%.

*Arguably, though, agents are contributing to the lack of inventory – or at least the rise of home investors. In addition to 84% of all agents owning a primary residence, 37% surveyed said that they had a secondary home.