HomeLight is partnering with the National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB) to launch the Black Real Estate Agent Program™.
It’s an effort that we believe will change lives and make the real estate industry more inclusive. The goal is to help new black real estate agents get started in the business and give them the training and resources they need for long-term success.
This week on The Walkthrough, two of the program’s architects share why and how the program began, what we hope to accomplish, and how you can help.
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Links and Show Notes
- Black Real Estate Agent Program™ – information and application
- HomeLight’s blog post announcing the Black Real Estate Agent Program™
- National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB) website
- Join our Facebook community for The Walkthrough listeners
- HomeLight’s Agent Resource Center
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(SPEAKER: Matt McGee, Host)
You know that feeling you get when you help someone buy their first home, or maybe not only their first home but, like, any deal where you’re helping a client change their life? Like, you know that you have helped make someone’s life better? I know you’ve had deals like that. It’s the best feeling in the world, right?
HomeLight has joined forces with the National Association of Real Estate Brokers to launch a new program that we believe will change a lot of lives. It’s called the Black Real Estate Agent Program. And the goal is to change people’s lives by helping them get started as a new real estate agent. And not just get started, but to give them the resources that they need to succeed.
Blacks make up about 12% of the U.S. population, but only about 6% of real estate agents are black. Blacks are also underrepresented in the mortgage industry. And there’s a huge gap in homeownership rates between blacks and whites — almost 30% apart in 2020.
Today’s show is different. This show is one that will “stand out from the crowd.” There’s no tips, no takeaways. We’re going to shine a light on the Black Real Estate Agent Program, and ask you to help us as we try to help others. First, a personal story from me coming in just a moment. And then we’ll talk to two of the program’s architects.
This is “The Walkthrough.”
Hi, everybody. I’m Matt McGee, editor of HomeLight’s Agent Resource Center. Welcome to “The Walkthrough.” This is a weekly podcast. We have new episodes that come out every Monday. This is the show where you’ll learn what’s working right now from the best real estate agents and industry experts in the country. At HomeLight, we believe in real estate agents. We’re on a journey to find out how great agents grow their business, stand out from the crowd, and become irreplaceable.
If you want to get involved in the show, there’s a few different ways you can do that. Find me in our Facebook listener community. Just do a search for HomeLight Walkthrough. The group should come right up. You can also leave a voicemail or send a text. The number is 415-322-3328. If you prefer email, the address to use is walkthrough [at] homelight.com.
I want to take you back to June 8th of 2020, about eight months ago. HomeLight had one of our regular all-hands Zoom meetings. It’s something we’ve been doing every couple weeks during the pandemic. But this one was different. It was our first meeting after George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis.
During this all-hands, I sat quietly and listened as many of my co-workers, all people of color, talked about their experiences with racial injustice. Many of those experiences happened while they were trying to buy a house or after they’d moved to a new town or a new neighborhood. The stories — they were awful. It’s the only company meeting we’ve ever had that made me angry and made me emotional.
Now, like most companies, in the days immediately after George Floyd’s death, HomeLight posted statements in support of racial equality on our social media channels. Then over the next several months, our content team, led by the amazing efforts of my co-worker, Amber Taufen, published a series of articles highlighting racial issues in real estate — things like steering, racially restrictive covenants, and more.
Meanwhile, HomeLight also began working with the National Association of Real Estate Brokers, the oldest African-American real estate trade association. NAREB, as we’ll call them, that’s N-A-R-E-B — NAREB was founded in 1947 at the height of Jim Crow laws and racial segregation. Black real estate agents couldn’t join the national association.
When I first heard about this idea that we were working on last year, I loved it. Many years ago, I co-founded a company that offered training to small businesses across the country. We talked to real estate agents, plumbers, insurance agents, you name it. So, to hear that HomeLight was working on a program to identify new black real estate agents and help them get the training and coaching and tools that they would need to succeed, perfect.
We announced the fruits of this partnership last week, the Black Real Estate Agent Program. My guests today are two of the architects. Antoine Thompson is NAREB’s executive director, a role he’s had for six years. He’s also one of you, a former real estate agent who worked for about eight years in the Buffalo, New York area. Also joining me today is Sumant Sridharan, HomeLight’s chief operating officer. It was Sumant who took the lead on this project last year and made the initial connection with Antoine and NAREB.
As I said earlier, this week’s show is a bit different from what you’re used to hearing — no tips, no takeaways. What you will hear is why HomeLight and NAREB are doing this, how the program works, and what we hope to accomplish. We’ll also talk about how you can help us.
First, let’s go back to square one. As the conversation starts, I’ve just asked Sumant, who’s the first voice you’ll hear, and Antoine to talk about how all this began.
Sumant: So, it really started back last year with the death of George Floyd. And I think a lot of companies, including, you know, ourselves, felt a social responsibility to do something about it, to create change that we want to see. So, I reached out to Antoine, we chatted. I was, you know, super impressed just by his passion around this issue of black homeownership in the U.S. And, you know, the second thing, I think, that was really important to us at HomeLight was we thought…you know, normally, the way this sort of thing works is there’s a 24-hour news cycle. Right? So, you know, something bad happens, whether it’s George Floyd or whatnot, companies jump in. They donate money, they post on social media, and then you never hear from them again.
And so, what was important for me was that if we were going to do this and actually address, you know, this systemic issue of racism in real estate, we need to do it in a sustainable, prolonged way. That was really the genesis of kind of our conversations with Antoine, was how do we create a program that not only is good for, you know, 2020 and 2021, but can last for many years to come and create opportunities in the black community for many years to come?
Antoine: Yeah. I was really excited that Sumant reached out, and I was in total agreement that, how do we build something beyond just the moment that’s transformative for the individuals and the communities that NAREB serves? Because he’s right. We did receive a number of donations in response to George Floyd, but what we did try to do was what we’re doing with HomeLight, is to build a partnership that lasts several years. And the association had been trying to put together a black real estate scholarship program for a number of years, a lot of starts and stops. And so, it had been on the drawing board for a number of years, but we never got around to it.
And so, when this opportunity came up with HomeLight, it allowed us to really build something that can last for years. And around the same time that HomeLight reached out to us, other organizations started looking at it. But the thing was, they were not trying to do it as…from, I think, a strategic way that HomeLight was doing. Because NAREB helps people get to the real estate industry every day. Right? But the missing piece was, how do we provide a national platform infrastructure to get people in the industry, but also make sure that they’re very successful in the industry?
Matt: Antoine, let’s talk about some of the numbers. Statistics show that somewhere around, depending upon what you look at, 12% to 13% of the U.S. population is black, but only about 6%…again, depending upon what number you look at, only about 6% of real estate agents are black. Why is that number so low?
Antoine: Well, we have to put it in the context of housing. Housing and education are two of the biggest things that remain very much segregated in the country. And so, one of the last major pieces of legislation that was passed after the assassination — and it was only passed after the assassination of Dr. King — was the Fair Housing Law. The other thing about that is that many of the trade groups, particularly the Realtor group, some of their boards and associations did not desegregate until the ’70s. And then the Fair Housing Law itself did not have any real teeth in it until the 1980s. So, we are still…despite all the historical political accomplishments, the fact of the matter is that mortgage, real estate, and mortgage lending are very much industries that lack diversity.
And so, this program is really important to help people to understand that they can be successful in real estate, expose them to the career, give them the tools so they can be successful. And then also, they will likely go into neighborhoods, not that they’re not going to service everybody, but they’ll be more likely to go into neighborhoods that are underserved. The black neighborhoods are under-banked, meaning they don’t have enough financial institutions located in them. They’re often underserved in terms of people lending to them. And they’re under-resourced in terms of real estate agents that are going to spend the time and move them through the real estate process.
And so, right now, you have over three…according to data from Freddie Mac, which is a federal lending institution that guarantees mortgages for the federal government. And they have data that shows that there are over three million, again, three million African-Americans that are mortgage-ready in the country. And how do we get those folks onto the path of homeownership that are mortgage-ready? Meaning they have low debt-to-income ratios, they are just renting, and many of them make very good salaries. So, how do we get them onto the path of homeownership? Part of that is having a diverse group of qualified, energized, highly-talented real estate professionals that want to earn their business. And that’s one of the benefits of this program, is linking up a new generation of black real estate professionals. This program really targets African-Americans from the age of 18 to 35, and with a mission to help grow the rate of black homeownership. So, that’s part of why this is so important.
Matt: Several key things that I heard there is that, if we can get more black real estate agents, then we can also start to impact the rest of the industry, the mortgage side, and then ultimately, improve the rate of black homeownership. Sumant, you’ve been with HomeLight for, I think, six years now, like, really heavily involved on both the agent and consumer side of real estate. What do you think of when you hear those numbers that Antoine mentioned, you know, the imbalance of black real estate agents, on the mortgage side as well as black homeownership?
Sumant: Very frankly, it’s all true. Right? And it’s a problem. And the problem, Matt, is that, you know, historically, homeownership in the U.S. has been the fundamental way of creating generational wealth. Right? This is how people over, you know…over families and generations of accumulated wealth is by buying real estate, holding it, and seeing, you know, those prices appreciate. And the reality is that, you know, for most of American history, black people have been excluded from participating in this accumulation of wealth, be it through, you know, Jim Crow laws, back centuries ago, to even most recently, policies around redlining, steering, and whatnot. So, it’s not surprising that black ownership levels are not where they should be.
In terms of what we’re trying to do and the way we’ve been thinking about it at HomeLight is, you know, I’d say there’s two primary things. One is education. So, we’ve been, you know…education and awareness. Antoine mentioned those. Right? I think a lot of people just don’t know what the issues are. And so, we feel it’s our responsibility with our real estate agent population, with our consumers to make them aware of what is steering. A lot of agents, you know, may actually do things that border on steering without even realizing they’re doing it. So, we want to create that awareness by education and content. And so, that’s one way we’re addressing it.
The second way is, you know, just by changing from within, from inside-out. And that is by encouraging diversity through this program, through the way we hire, through the way we advertise, and really ensuring that, you know, real estate reflects the demographics of America today.
Matt: Let’s talk about the program itself. So, it’s open to aspiring black real estate professionals that are not currently in the industry. And Antoine, you mentioned a little bit ago, between 18 and 35 years old, applications are open. What are we looking for as we go through these applications?
Antoine: So, first, the person…we’re looking for people that really want to be in the industry, people that understand that the current white homeownership rate according to the U.S. census is 76% compared to 44% by African-Americans. One of the ways we close that gap is through increasing the rate of homeownership. We really want to get young people into the industry. We want to assign them a mentor that’s going to work with them for the year. We want to make sure that they get the professional development trainings, the coaching. And then when they pass their license, that they hit the ground running. And so we want to wrap our arms around them, try to reduce the rate of people dropping out of the industry, try to increase the amount of their annual earnings because part of the challenge is, so many African-American agents are part-time. And whether they’re part-time or full-time, most of the black agents in the industry, according to data from the National Association of Realtors, their earnings are often half of that white agents whether they’re part-time or full-time.
So, having this program where we can help people with developing the skill sets, not just by a license, but really getting them involved with NAREB, getting them at our conferences, having quarterly training with them at the national level, making sure that the broker that’s mentoring them is training them at least once a week, minimum of, you know, a couple times a month. And we think that will really increase their competitiveness.
Matt: Antoine, you mentioned coaching, mentoring, training. Sumant, there’s also support in terms of finances and helping them just get that early footing going in the industry. Do you want to talk about that?
Sumant: Yeah. So, the goal of the program, we want to create hundreds of real estate agents in the black community over the next few years and really change the way, you know, the demographics look as it pertains to real estate agents. As Antoine was saying, what was important to us in terms of designing the offering was that we weren’t just creating new jobs, like new real estate agents, but we were ensuring their long-term success. Matt, as you know, being a real estate, your wife is a real estate agent, it’s not an easy job. Right? It takes scrappiness, hustle, an entrepreneurial spirit, all of those things, to be a successful agent.
So, in designing the program, what we thought a lot about is, how do we set up these folks for success? So, what you get if you get accepted into the program is, we will sponsor you up to $5,000 in services. And those services will typically look like training and education to prepare for your real estate license exam, the actual funds to pay for the exam itself. And then once you’ve passed and you are licensed to be a real estate agent, what are all the things that you need to do to be successful, need to have, right?
So, as Antoine mentioned, of course, there’s all the mentoring and training. There’s also just the materials. Do you have a CRM to use to manage your clients? Do you have business cards and yard signs? What are all the things that you need physically to really present yourself as a top-notch agent? And we want to provide all of those things to the folks that are accepted into the program from our applicant pool.
Matt: Antoine, let me ask you one follow-up question to what Sumant was just talking about a moment ago. You have a background in real estate. You’ve done this, you’ve sold homes and helped people buy homes. Talk about why it’s so important to give new black agents a launch pad like this. The number I’ve seen is something like 87% of agents are out of the business within five years.
Antoine: Yes, that’s very true. And thank you for asking that question. So, when I first got in…I’m from a mid-sized city from Buffalo. I knew a lot of people. But, you know, I was still trying to be in the industry, still looking at other things. And the company actually had a lot of support services, and I was fortunate enough to have a couple of mentors, so to speak. But I can tell you that, going in to the industry, if I would have had a system like this to help me, mentor me, help me with those costs — because those costs can be anywhere from $3,500 or $6,000, depending on what state you’re in — to get into the industry and then really help me making sure as additional level support to put those systems in place to be successful. Because a lot of folks go to mom-and-pop brokers and not all of them are created equal, and not all of them have the systems in place to make sure that the agents are very successful.
And even when they go to big franchises that may have some of those systems, they may have 80 agents in the office. They may have 200 agents or 500 agents in that office. And then people get lost, and they get discouraged. And as you indicated, within five years, they’re out of profession. And if you are a black agent, it could be even very discouraging when, you know, you don’t have all the tools and you don’t have all the coaching and the support that you need to be successful in the industry that is largely absent of people of color and absent of very successful people of color in many markets.
Matt: We have a lot of, you know, established successful real estate agents, you know, folks that have been in the business, 3, 5, 10, 20 years that are listening to the show right now. If they want to be involved in this or if they want to help with this, is there some way they can do it?
Antoine: Yeah. Definitely. Definitely. So, I would say, if they’re not a member of the association, they should. They can go to nareb.com and become a member of the association. They can do that. Once they’re a member, they can try and they get vetted. We can make sure that they get in the pool of trying to be a mentor for a prospective agent. It’s really that simple. Become a member of NAREB, get involved with our local board. And once an applicant comes in and they select you, we will try to pair you up and then we’ll do an interview. We will interview the applicant and we also interview the broker because we…you know, the applicant can say they’re great, they’re great, and we also want to know that the broker has got some skin in the game. Because we’re putting some money out here. And we think this is going to be phenomenal. It’s not just saying, “Here’s a scholarship. Good luck,” like we do when we send them to college. Right? We give them a check and we hope the kid does well in college.
Well, this one, we’re going to…you know, it’s kind of like workforce development. You know, you do some training and then money for training, but then they make sure they follow you through the case management for a year or six months while you’re going through this training program. And they follow up to make sure you got a job. So, we’re going to help them get into real estate, and then we’re going to follow them for a year. And, hopefully, over the next several years, we’ll have a lot of success stories.
Sumant: What Antoine said around agents becoming mentors is absolutely correct. Right? It’s essential that our applicants are paired with the best agents in the business, which is what the HomeLight platform caters to. Because their knowledge is invaluable.
The second thing is, with all agents that are listening, our agents are the best networked people in their community. They know more people than 99% of the folks in their local townships or cities. So, I would ask everyone to, you know, help us promote the program as well. You can go to homelight.com and there’s a link at the bottom for the Black Real Estate Agent Program. You can go to homelight.com/black-agent-program. And then post it on your social media, email it to folks you know that might be interested, and really help us spread awareness as well.
Matt: What’s the dream here? When you look a year or five years into the future, what do you hope has changed?
Sumant: My son, Matt, is in Cub Scouts. I don’t know if you ever did Cub Scouts growing up. But it’s a great organization. And, yeah, they have this saying after every meeting which is, “Many hands make light work.” And it’s their way of getting all the kids to pitch in, you know, when you’re done with weekend of camping so that one person isn’t doing the entire thing. Right? And when I think of what we’re trying to do here, this is hard work that’s going to take years, if not decades, to change behavior that’s been really instilled over centuries.
So, the way I think about our role here as HomeLight is, we want to do our part to make that work a little bit lighter. We want to, hopefully, create dozens and then hundreds and then thousands of jobs for black real estate professionals, ultimately leading to this mission which, you know, I fully believe in which I know is kind of Antoine’s life’s work which is to increase black homeownership in America. So, we’re just so thrilled to be able to partner with Antoine and NAREB on this.
Antoine: First, let me say thank you to Sumant and all of you at HomeLight, Matt. You know, we’re really looking forward to a big dream. A big dream, as Dr. King talked about a lot which doesn’t really get covered. He did talk a lot about neighborhoods and housing. And in fact, whether it was in Chicago or was in Atlanta or Memphis or all different parts of the country, he talked about housing and opportunities, and the fact that we must build legacy wealth. And before he died, he was talking about silver rights. Not just civil rights, but silver rights. And part of this mission for silver rights in the country deals with our ability to make sure that we create an army of very qualified, talented, energetic, mission-oriented black agents that will help close the homeownership gap in the country. It’s not enough just to get people licensed. You got to equip them with the tools and know-how of the support system because we know that Realtors, people that are at our association are a different kind of person in the profession. They get all this training, they got these national relationships. It’s a big network.
And so, hopefully, with all this hard work…you know, Sumant said, it is going to be hard. But there’s nothing that we can’t do. It’s nothing that we can’t overcome. We’ve sent people to the moon, we’re going to have gasless cars soon, we got smartphones, we went from computers this big to computers that big to phones that were rotary dial to now just push a couple buttons. Right? So, we can do what we want if we’re intentional. And so, I just want all the real estate professionals to understand that, to turn this number around, we must be intentional. All of us have had clients that needed a little extra hand-holding that we need to get across the finish line. All of us have said, “Wow. Why doesn’t this happen? Why doesn’t that happen?” Well, this is something that all of us can make happen in the real estate industry.
As I stated earlier, there are three million mortgage-ready African-Americans in the country. We have less than 6% of the industry that is African-American. We can fix those two problems. We can get more people into the industry that are qualified, that are exceptional and that are dynamic. And we can get those three million mortgage-ready people into homes around the country. And this program will be a key part of jumpstarting that movement.
(Speaker: Matt McGee, Host)
Well, I am super proud that we have this partnership with NAREB. If you think it’s cool, too, let me remind you how you can help. If you know someone who might be a candidate for the program, have them visit the application page to get started. It’s homelight.com/black-agent-program and there’s hyphens in between each word. I will link to that from today’s show notes.
If you don’t know any potential candidates, that’s okay. You can still help by spreading the word. Share that URL on your social media channels. It has all the details about the financial support, the business tools, and the coaching that is available. And that’s where interested candidates can start the application process.
All right. If you have any questions or feedback, you can get in touch with me a couple different ways. Leave a voicemail or send a text. The number is 415-322-3328. You can send an email to walkthrough [at] homelight.com or find me in our Facebook listener community. Go to Facebook. Do a search for HomeLight Walkthrough, and the group should come right up.
That’s all for this week. Thanks so much to Antoine and Sumant for joining me. Thank you for listening. If you like what you hear, please rate and review us on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen. That would mean a lot. Also, be sure to hit that Subscribe button so you can get all of our future shows automatically.
My name is Matt McGee. You’ve been listening to “The Walkthrough.” At HomeLight, we believe in real estate agents. We’re on a journey to find out how great agents grow their business, stand out from the crowd, and become irreplaceable.
Go out and safely sell some homes, everyone. I will talk to you again in one week. Bye-bye.
Header Image Source: (Minerva Studio / Shutterstock)