RealTrends recently sat down with Fee Gentry, a member of eXp World Holdings’ board of directors, to discuss the current state of diversity within both the real estate industry and housing market.
RT: How diverse is the real estate industry?
A new report from the National Association of Realtors states that the industry is 24% diverse. If you compare that with the greater U.S., there’s definitely a lot of opportunities.
RT: Is it changing?
The short answer is yes, it is changing, but not at the rate that it could if it had some focused energy behind it as we have seen in other industries. As I look at other businesses and trades, I see an investment in diversity and maybe that is because each company is taking it upon themselves to enhance their diversity. We as an aggregate of agents, across brokerages, must look at diversity for the good of our industry and for our overall society.
RT: What steps can be taken to increase diversity within the industry?
Diversity and inclusion starts with each of us — no matter our level or role. Whether that is being open to different experiences and ideas; accepting of human experiences and needs; or joining a community activity and becoming an ally. There are several steps that can be taken to increase diversity within the industry.
First, It starts with a commitment from every level of leadership across our industry to make diversity a priority and not just a box to check. Then, there must be a specific plan of action of how we will get there, who is going to be accountable, and what are the important milestones of our collective diversity initiative.
Next, comes the actual implementation and action steps, which consists of going to where the target audience exists. Much of it can be done through social media and partnering with high schools, HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities), and out of the box alliances with groups such as the military, public workforce programs, non-profits, or any places to get in front of a diverse audience.
Finally, invest in diversity programs. Here at eXp Realty, we are committed to building the most diverse and inclusive real estate brokerage in the world, where all views are respected and encouraged. The company offers its ONE eXp initiative to support career development, promote fair housing principles and provide networking opportunities that encourage business growth.
RT: We’ve historically seen a homeownership gap within communities of color. How can housing professionals help close that gap?
The No. 1 thing for professionals to do is to get themselves educated so that they will be fully equipped to then educate consumers on the economic, social, and cultural advantages of homeownership. The second opportunity is to partner with organizations in and out of the industry to allocate resources into those communities in the form of homebuyer grants.
RT: What trends are you seeing in today’s housing market as it pertains to diverse homeownership?
The trends that I’m seeing today pertaining to diverse homeownership are that of concerns over affordability and overpaying. I also have seen Asians, women, Latinx and senior populations trending up in ownership and investing. But, due to the impact of the pandemic, it is noteworthy to see diverse communities being forced to stay in their existing homes while their counterparts have the option of more choice and to leave.