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What Age Problem? The ‘Aging Realtor’ May Not Be a Big Issue

by Peter Thomas Ricci

realtor-median-age-57-housing-market

There are roughly 1.118 million members of the National Association of Realtors, and they strike an impressive profile: Realtors’ median experience level is 12 years; their gross income is $45,800; 58 percent are female; and 42 percent have at least a bachelor’s degree, far higher than the national average of 28.8 percent.

However, Realtors are also older than most professional groups. At 57 years, according to NAR’s latest Member Profile, the median Realtor age has ticked up recently, and numerous media outlets have sounded off on what that trend means for the real estate industry. As one headline phrased it, “Realtors are Just Too Damn Old.”

But are today’s Realtors really that old, by historical standards? To find out, we took a closer look at some additional numbers from NAR on Realtors’ age and career ambitions.

Realtors – Always Old?

Below is a chart from NAR on the median Realtor age from 1999 to the present day:

realtor-age

Two things about this chart immediately leap out. First, although the median age of Realtors is now 57, that is an increase of only one year from 2011, and is only five years older than 1999’s median age. According to Adam DeSanctis, the economic issues media manager for NAR, the median age of Realtors has been around 50 since at least 1989.

Second, the various age groups within the Realtor population have trended in opposite directions. The share of Realtors aged 54 and younger has fallen in the last 16 years, but the share of Realtors aged 55 and older has grown, especially the 65-plus crowd, which jumped from 13 percent of Realtors to 25 percent. DeSanctis has a logical explanation for that trend – Baby Boomer agents.

Baby Boomers were, until the recent ascent of Millennials, the largest generation America had ever produced, and they comprise a significant share of Realtors. The group’s relative size and longer time spent in the workforce than past generations has caused median age to creep up in tandem with the Boomers; according to Census Bureau statistics, the youngest Boomers turned 50 in 2014.

Realtors – Second and Foremost

In addition to the demographic trends, real estate has historically been a career path for older, more established professionals. According to NAR’s 2015 Member Profile, only 5 percent of Realtors reported real estate as their first career, with 35 percent entering the field from careers in business or sales:

realtor-age1

This trend, of Realtors beginning their careers in real estate after working in another field, has “changed little” over the last few decades, DeSanctis explained, though it may be shifting. In the 2015 profile, 17 percent of Realtors reported they had been in the business for two years or less, an increase from 13 percent in 2013. Although that increase was not met with an accompanying decline in the Realtor median age, it may very well signal a future influx of fresh faces to the real estate fray.

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