Diversity and Inclusion in Real Estate: What Experts Have to Say

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While the real estate industry has been making strides in the right direction, for a long time it has been dominated by males, especially key management positions having very few women heading real estate organizations. This gap is seen in almost all industries and unfortunately spans many minority groups as well. 

Many individuals are still not treated fairly and equally, especially Latinos, Asians, Blacks, LBGTQ, and women.

At Agent Advice, we want to raise awareness and highlight the importance of inclusion. To understand what others are doing to bridge the gap, we got in touch with some industry experts.

Most experts agree that efforts have been made to create a friendly and inclusive environment, but there’s still a wide gap that requires filling. Fortunately, the situation is gaining visibility. 

The panel consisted of some very well-known and experienced names like Laura Moreno of Homeflow; Paul Dillon, Visiting Professor of the Practice, Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University running his consultancy, Dillon Consulting Services LLC; Josh Stech, CEO of Sundae; and Justin Syens, Homelife Benchmark Realty Corp.

They shared the problems the industry has to face and what’s being done to solve diversification-related issues.

Make Both Buyers and Employees Feel Comfortable

In real estate, advocating for diversity goes beyond employees. The buyers and sellers need to be taken into consideration as well. Some buyers and sellers find it difficult to search for the right home due to a lack of agents who understand their needs, culture, or requirements.

Real estate companies understand this and are working to make everyone feel welcomed. 

“At HomeFlow we are starting to create content in Spanish for our podcast by interviewing Spanish speaking real estate professionals (agents, lenders, inspectors, etc). We are doing this because this minority tends to suffer the most when buying a home because of the lack of information in Spanish on how to buy a home in the US,” said Laura Moreno.

In addition to how HomeFlow is trying a new approach to accommodate all buyers and sellers, other companies are also finding new ways to focus on being more inclusive all around.  Some companies have started offering diversity and unconscious bias awareness training courses for their employees, others are encouraging agents to get certified to best represent specific groups, or are trying to change the overall culture and focusing on helping real estate agents have the right tools to be the best advocates for all buyers and sellers. The road is difficult but it’s one that can be crossed.

Hiring and Using Veterans

Companies need to attract and retain veterans that can help improve employee innovation. This is easier said than done given the stiff competition in the industry.  

“Companies need to find a way to advertise or broadcast their desire to hire veterans if they want to succeed,” suggests Paul Dillon. 

The best way to recruit veterans is to advertise meaningful jobs that suit them. Paul Dillon emphasizes that veterans don’t want “make work” jobs and do not want you to request their resume unless you have the ability to hire and retain them.

“Don’t recruit veterans because it’s a good PR move, and makes your company look good. Veterans can sense a company that does that a mile away. Hire veterans because of the valuable skills that they can bring to your company, hopefully resulting in increased profitability,” warns Dillon.

Companies also have the option to reach out to Veteran Service Organizations and military non-profit groups. They can assist your company with your veteran hiring program. 

pexels-craig-adderley-1582492“It’s important to build military cultural competency into your company so that you understand the basics of the military and how military skills can add value to your products or services,” he suggests.

There are a number of consulting firms and online training programs like The PsyhArmor Institute to assist your company with an understanding of military culture and customs. 

“In addition to this make certain that your Employee Assistance Program, if your company has one, includes any assistance that veterans might need,” encourages Dillon. 

He also talked about the importance of utilizing available talent to ensure everyone benefits from the presence of veterans. He suggests companies to “create veteran affinity groups at your company, comprised not only of veterans, but also of any of your employees who are currently military reservists, spouses of veterans, and other employees who are simply interested in veteran issues.”

Dillon highlights the importance of these groups:

“These affinity groups can serve as a valuable community for veterans, and those interested in them, to exchange views on what works, or doesn’t work, regarding veterans employed at your company.”

He further highlights the importance of providing support and mentorship:

“Mentor newly hired veterans to ensure their success at your company. Make the connections for the newly hired vet that are necessary to succeed in any corporate environment. Veterans at the company also can educate non-veterans (coworkers) on the valuable organization and leadership skills that veterans bring to the workplace,” says Dillon.

According to Dillon, skills learned during military training can be very helpful in a business environment. 

“Veterans already employed at a company can use the organizational skills that they learned in the military to build professional networks that include veterans, active duty service members, and reservists, and civilians to help bridge the military-civilian cultural divide that is so prevalent in our society today, and which would reflect great credit on the companies that employ them,” he explained.

Dillon also highlights how veterans can help the community as a whole. He believes they can “use their exceptional skills and leadership talents—and, sense of mission and purpose — to contribute to non-profit organizations in the community, most of which are in dire need of the exceptional qualities that veterans can bring to any organization.”

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Encourage Agents to Work in Teams

This old strategy is still very effective according to Justin Syens.

He talked about Homelife Benchmark Realty Corp., the brokerage he works with, and how it encourages employees to work in teams. 

“New agents are invited to join established teams at the beginning of their careers,” he explains.

This strategy makes new agents feel comfortable and allows them to slip into the new culture effortlessly. Moreover, the inclusion of new team members is beneficial for older players as well. It provides new insights and allows people to see things from new perspectives.

“A lot of POC joining our brokerage can be at a disadvantage with tangible experience (like any other new agent) but can be a great asset to teams. These newbies offer access to a new social network, understanding complex languages, and vast cultural insight.” Explained Syens.

This trick is used in other businesses as well. Companies have understood the need to welcome new cultures and understand how they work.

Syens explains the importance of culture and how dynamics greatly differ.

“Having a member of a specific culture on your team is a critical factor in putting together successful transactions. Working in a brokerage that focuses on team format rather than individual agents creates a space for new POC to find an immediate place and value,” he emphasizes.

Josh Stech believes that more leadership roles need to go to POC. In his words:

“It’s no secret that real estate has a long way to go in diversifying, with a long history of being a privately-held and male-dominated industry, but things are slowly heading in the right direction.”

He wants people to be careful when selecting a company:

“We need to encourage diversity and appreciate it in all forms. After all, real estate is a business that affects everyone, so it’s critical to work with a firm that accurately and proportionally reflects the American public.” 

Stech’s firm, Sundae, is working hard to build a company representative of the widest possible range of customer perspectives. “Our efforts thus far have resulted in a leadership team that is primarily female, with more than a third of the team being something other than white,” Stech says.  

His firm was able to achieve this by relying heavily on sample assignments over resume credentials to emphasize performance over pedigree during the hiring process.

The company also expanded its geographical focus when searching for new candidates to widen the pool as much as possible for every role. It welcomes skilled employees from all around the world. 

Finally, Sundae proactively works with a number of organizations that help it extend its reach into communities that receive less attention from traditional hiring processes.

Other companies can also follow these steps to achieve the right balance of diversity and inclusion.

Conclusion

Things are slowly going in the right direction in the real estate industry, but there are still strides that need to be made in order to truly make the industry a diverse and inclusive one. This requires everyone to do more to promote inclusion and get rid of bias among industry professionals, as well as among buyers and sellers.