The real estate industry is dominated by powerhouse women entrepreneurs. Women are likely to enter real estate not only because of their interest in the field and the flexibility the industry provides, but also because of their strong desire to help families and work with people.
The pandemic has been difficult on women’s careers. In April 2020, the share of women aged 25 – 54 in the labor force who were working dropped to the lowest level seen since March 1984. The strides women made through the women’s movement and Equal Pay Act nearly evaporated overnight. Women returned home to help school-age children through homeschooling, virtual learning or hybrid schedules, and as a result, found working 9-to-5 jobs (cue Dolly Parton) impossible to juggle. Many women lost employment or found their hours reduced to an unsustainable level.
In recent months, the women’s labor force participation rate began to rebound. Pre-pandemic, the rate was 74.5%. It fell to 63.4% in April 2020, but by August 2021, had rebounded nearly to 72%. In comparison, the men’s labor force participation rate fell less than three percentage points, from 89% to 86.4%, and by August, the rate had rebounded nearly to 88.4%.
One refuge women have found: real estate. The flexibility real estate provides, coupled with potential earnings, is a major draw for female entrepreneurs. While women have made strides in the overall workforce, they have continued to break barriers in real estate. In 1978, only 21% of all brokers were women. Today, 61% of all brokers are women. In 1978, 52% of all full-time sales agents were women. Today, that share stands at 65%.
The Impact on the Real Estate Market
Although more women have been home during the pandemic, that factor did nothing to alter the sustained decline in birth rates in the U.S. If anything, the pandemic has accelerated the decline. The birth rate now stands at a 100-year low, the lowest level since data collection began in 1909. It has been suggested that families do not feel the financial stability to have children today, or may feel concerned about added caretaking responsibilities. Birth rates do have implications for the broader economy, and they directly affect home-buying activity and the desires of homebuyers.
An additional implication of the reduced labor force participation rate and reduced income held by women is the potential impact on single-woman homebuyers. Single women have traditionally been second only to married couples among household compositions of homebuyers. Single women’s share in the home-buying market reached 22% in 2006, but the share now stands at 18%. The reduced share is likely a result of reduced housing affordability as well as the inability to compete against dual-income buyers within the current limited housing inventory environment.
The National Association of REALTORS® will explore this in more detail in the upcoming 2021 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers.
Jessica Lautz is vice president of Demographics and Behavioral Insights, National Association of REALTORS®.