Women in Commercial Real Estate
Not long ago, some of the major real estate brokerages in Canada would not hire women, except in clerical positions. Now, women constitute about half of agents with the percentage growing.
Almost all are in residential sales, which is far easier to break into than commercial real estate. But times are changing. Women are a growing presence on the commercial side. They are now accepted in corporate boardrooms, where some hold highly placed executive positions. Doors that were slammed shut only 10 years ago are now opening.
All evidence indicates that a greater number of women are entering the commercial field but they earn less than men and still have a long way to go before achieving parity. Go on the web. See how many female commercial real estate practitioners there are. You will find very few, but the gap is narrowing.
So why are there not more female commercial real estate agents?
It takes considerably more education, on-the-job training and persistence to be successful. You don’t see the “green horns” testing the commercial sales field to see if they can make it. It cannot be a part-time occupation. Although the deals are larger and the commissions greater, they are far fewer. It may take a year or more to put together the sale of an office building or a shopping centre with no guarantee of completion along the way.
Residential agents are not expected to have a college degree; with commercials, it is almost mandatory. A clear understanding of business principals is required. People identify with owning a home, but not everyone wants to own a $2 million industrial warehouse.
In many larger markets, commercial real estate is still a “good old boys” network where overt sexism applies. Laura Heffner of Re/Max of Lloydminster in Lloydminster, Alta., a successful broker with considerable commercial experience, says that in the smaller centres this seldom occurs.
The professional commercial real estate brokerages have far more stringent hiring practices than do their residential counterparts. They will only hire a person who they feel has a high probability of success, one who can survive and continue if having to go without any income for several months. They look for a person who understands or is willing to learn about capitalization rates, returns on investment, returns on equity, amortization, financing, points and discounts, the effect of taxation, real estate legalese and all that goes with the selling, buying, ownership and leasing of investment properties. This is education not easily come by. Learning requires dedication and persistence. Taking the courses offered by the Appraisal Institute of Canada would prove to be beneficial. Be it success or failure; women must create their own destiny.
Women may also have a harder time balancing family and home life with career success. Although laptop computers that are perpetually at one’s side have narrowed the concerns, with many women it is still family first, career second. To argue the merits of this stance is beyond the purpose of this article but any woman considering commercial real estate brokerage must determine where her priorities lie and act accordingly. Heffner says it is absolutely necessary that you have a clear-cut understanding and acceptance of the home life constraints from your spouse. You will not always be there to change diapers or make supper when required.
The bottom line is that in the larger markets you must decide if you want to sell residential or commercial. It is usually difficult to mix them. In the smaller market communities it is necessary to sell residential and perhaps farmlands along with the commercial.
Selling and leasing commercial properties requires a different mindset than does residential. It takes more time, more patience, know-how and greater adaptability. The procedures are different and one’s patience is more frequently tested. There is more to learn. An attributes check-up is required. Analytical talent is often more important than persuasive.
If you feel up to it and are willing to spend the time to learn and overcome the starting aggravation, by all means give it a go. Commercial real estate is a tough business and full of conflict, where aggressiveness, self confidence and persistence are basic requirements. Women are well-equipped – maybe better equipped than most men – to handle conflicting and multi-task situations. They’ve been handling men for years, usually quite skilfully. However, there are no handouts. Women who want to get into commercial real estate must develop a clear image of themselves and their attributes to not just keep up but set the pace in this male-dominated field.
Lloyd Manning, AACI, FRI, CCRA,
Century21 Percy Fulton Ltd.