New program puts Black real estate agents at forefront

The National Association of Real Estate Brokers and HomeLight has announced the creation of its “Black Real Estate Agent” program to provide financial, educational, and career support for aspiring Black real estate agents.

HomeLight is partnering with NAREB in this venture with the goal of ultimately improving the rate of homeownership for Black Americans across the country, according to Antoine Thompson, NAREB national executive director.

Black Americans represent less than 6% of all real estate professionals in the U.S., according to the Census Bureau.

“This initiative works to close the income and racial wealth gap in the industry,” Thompson said. “Together we’re holding open the door that would otherwise remain closed to Black professionals and consumers.”

Homeownership rates for Black Americans dipped to 44.1% in the fourth quarter of 2020. That’s despite an overall rise of 0.7% in homeownership in the fourth quarter of 2020.

As part of the Black Real Estate Agent program, HomeLight and NAREB will help cover up to $5,000 of the onboarding costs for new agents, including pre-licensing classes, agent exams and select marketing and technology needs. Each program participant will be paired with an experienced NAREB real estate counselor who will serve as a mentor and advisor.

The NAREB is seeking applicants in the United States who are between the ages of 18 and 35, are interested in a career in real estate but not currently established as an agent, willing to work with a NAREB broker during at least their first year in real estate, and committed to spending five to 10 hours per week working with mentors or on continuing education.

NAREB President Lydia Pope said “democracy in housing” cannot be reached without an increase of Black real estate professionals.

“Agents are the frontline and introduce homeownership to prospective clients,” Pope said. “We are confident that this new program will not only equip Black American program participants with the knowledge and practical experience to become top producers in their communities, but also significantly expand Black homeownership in their communities.” 

Black homeownership rate was the only demographic to decline year-over-year, according to the Census Bureau. White Americans increased homeownership in the fourth quarter to 74.5% – a nine-year high. Hispanic-American homeownership rose to its highest rate in three years, at 49.1% last quarter. Asian, Native, Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander homeownership was reported at 59.5% – up from the rate of 57.6% in the fourth quarter of 2019.

A report by Morgan Stanley showed that equalizing Black-White homeownership rates over the next 10 years would create more than 5 million more homeowners of color, generate nearly 800,000 new long-term jobs, and raise up to $400 million in additional tax revenues relative to current trends.

“Our goal is to drive sustainable, structural change by increasing access to job opportunities as well as education around how systematic racism has impacted the real estate industry,” said Sumant Sridharan, HomeLight COO. “We’re excited to partner with NAREB to offer this program to aspiring Black real estate professionals. Together, we believe we can fundamentally shift diversity and equality in our industry by increasing access to training, education, and support for Black real estate agents.”


Five of Jacksonville’s Best at Selling Single-Family Homes

Last month we took a look at top Memphis real estate agents through the data-driven lens of HomeLight, the leading referral company powered by proptech. Today, we look at Jacksonville, Fla. through the same lens in order to create a lineup of trusted and effective agents for buying a home there. For this list, I applied with HomeLight to see the best agents for single-family homes, within a certain price range, and for a permanent residence. Here’s the list in order of ranking. 

Jacksonville skyline
The Jacksonville skyline via Pixabay

Sarah Rocco of the Rocco Group and Keeler Williams has only been in the business a few years, but she’s already closed over 422 deals in the Jacksonville area. Sarah attributes her success to her vast marketing experience and advertising strategies, along with her extensive contact list. Sarah ranks in the top 5% of agents on HomeLight in several categories, and 

Rocco Group also maintains a well-situated Facebook profile with 2,416 followers. She’s also an Elite Agent on HomeLight, which means she is in the top 1% of all agents. 

CC Underwood is an agent with Keller Williams Jacksonville Realty who sells houses like cotton candy at the county fair. According to her HomeLight profile, she has 665 single-family home transactions in her 13 years as an agent. The average price point of her transactions is also high at $241k, and her team maintains a killer Facebook profile (7,000 plus fans), even though I could not find the button on their website. It’s also rumored that she can dance, and there’s evidence of this on the Facebook pages. 

Shawn O’Neil ranks 3rd in HomeLight’s list of top Jacksonville agents. He has sold over 100 homes in the area, but his forte seems to be advising. Shawn is something of a TV celebrity, on top of being an author. He’s also a certified expert with the National Association of Expert Advisors. Strangely, his 15 years of experience have not helped Shawn to build a credible online presence. He’s associated with any number of the worst real estate websites I’ve seen in years. As for Facebook and other social media, I found it a bit tough to even connect Shawn with a profile (which is a real no-no for me). I am assuming the one by @ExpertHomeAdvisors is his, or that he is affiliated with the owners. 

Fourth on the list is Tobin Bossola of Coldwell Banker Vanguard Realty. He has 168 transactions in Jacksonville in his 14 years in the business, and the average price of his sales is $173k. Tobin maintains a very nice Facebook profile, but unfortunately, hardly anybody subscribes to his cool shares. He seems to favor LinkedIn as a social-business platform. Tobin has also been featured on Home & Garden TV.

Christopher Ray, who is an agent for eXp Realty, has 264 single-family home transactions in his 8 years in real estate. The average price of Christopher’s transactions is $201k, and he sells 99% of his listings according to HomeLight. Like Shawn O’Neil above, his web presence is not exactly stunning. eXp’s website has some security or load issues, and this Florida Coastal Team one (top of Google SERPs) is just blurry and ugly. Apparently, people looking for houses in Jacksonville do not use the internet, let alone Facebook. Sorry, it had to be said. 

Today’s Takeaway

I just want to share something with the Jacksonville agents who I am sure could sell a lot more by using the internet and social media properly. This blog post by Brent Barnhart for sproutsocial has some good insights for beginners. And for those who do not know anything at all about social tools, this Forbes post might also be of help. Look, digital marketing costs resources, but here’s the thing. It’s all about ROI. Take the case of the five agents listed above. Which ones do you think have the best chance of selling me a house in Jacksonville? Now, how many people are there like me, people who use the internet and social hours each day?

I hope I helped somebody. To be continued….