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At the start of each year, we conduct an industry-wide survey on year-over-year recruitment, hiring and retention changes and trends. Employers, including executives, HR professionals and top-line managers, from across the commercial real estate industry share their company experience and perspectives on the previous year and on the year to come. We then compile the responses to provide a comprehensive report along with insights on the real estate job market as a resource to you and your business.

2021 SelectLeaders Network Hiring Trends Survey Results

Cautious Optimism: Real Estate’s Hiring Trends For The Year Ahead

2020 was a challenging year for virtually all industries, but for real estate, it was a particularly bumpy road. Offices were left vacant, retail shops shuttered, hotels and restaurants faced unprecedented hardships, and 2020 left many real estate professionals working from home, scheduling virtual tours and pivoting their business models the best they could to face the road ahead. But now, it’s a new year. 

As we enter 2021, real estate professionals are cautiously optimistic about their roles and hiring across the industry as a whole. While many are excited about the prospect of a pandemic-ending vaccine and a return to normalcy, most recognize the road to recovery will be long and filled with hurdles, especially for the hardest-hit asset classes like retail and hospitality. Despite that, 45.8% of respondents said their compensation actually increased in 2020, and  59% believe their compensation will increase in 2021. 

The pandemic was not the only major event of 2020. Protests across the country sparked discussions about race, and while some in the industry believe these rallies will have little impact on the way the real estate world approaches hiring, others think that they could be a major turning point that will cause the industry to re-examine some of its hiring practices and place a greater emphasis on hiring diverse talent. 

And while many things changed, some remained the same. The vast majority of survey respondents said they are still employed at the same job they had prior to the pandemic and a majority also said they would consider relocating or making a career move — just as the bulk of respondents replied in 2019.  

So what are the major challenges the real estate industry is facing in 2021? Where do industry professionals see the year heading? Read on to discover what the respondents think in their own words: 


What are your insights on the year ahead?:


“We have to learn how to adapt in this new environment. We will continue to see adjustments to how we interact with others moving forward. Everyone needs to do their part to make the change so we can all help each other be successful.” 

“If the federal government is willing to commit the capital, I believe by the end of 2021 the economy may be able to return to 2019 levels on a national basis with certain harder hit cities like New York experiencing a slower recovery.”

“CRE is going to be hit hard. Office space is going to see a long slow decline in demand. Long term leases will cushion the owners but new office demand will be weak. Retail was over stored before COVID. Select retailers will continue to do well but others will never recover. Industrial is the bright spot.” 

“I think most everyone is burned out from 2020, and unfortunately I worry the real estate industry is going to slow down a lot more before it gets better. Anything could happen in 2021.” 

In our 2019 survey, 58% of respondents reported that their compensation increased. Unsurprisingly, that number shrank to 45.8% in 2020. While the number of respondents who reported getting a bonus also decreased in 2020 compared to 2019, the difference was less significant: 61.9% compared to 65%. 

People remain optimistic about where their compensation will head in the new year. 59% of 2020 survey respondents believe their compensation will increase in 2021. While this is less than the 70% of respondents who said the same in 2019, it’s still a sign that people are looking ahead with a positive attitude. 

“With covid vaccine around the corner, we expect 2021 to increase volume at least 10%.” 

“I’m more hopeful now than I have been in months” 

A majority of respondents, 50.8%, reported their company’s revenue changed marginally or dramatically in 2020, while 25.7% said they saw marginal or dramatic increases in company revenue during the year. 

As for vacations, 35.9% of survey respondents said they took less than two weeks off during 2020, while nearly 15% percent said they took no time at all. This could be due to the fact that the pandemic has greatly limited people’s ability to travel. 

One particularly positive statistic showed more than 80% of respondents stated COVID-19 did not impact their employment status in 2020, but that doesn’t mean people are not considering making a change on their own. 

While many may have assumed the pandemic would have people concerned about making a major move, or maybe even increase the number of individuals who want to find a new job or home, it seems to have made little impact.  

A wide majority of 77% of respondents said that they would consider a career move in 2021, a figure that is very close to the 79% of respondents who said the same in 2019. Additionally, 51.7% of respondents said they would consider relocating for a job in 2021, a near-identical figure to the 51% of respondents who said they would consider relocating for a new position in 2020. 

The motivation behind these relocations vary, but the majority of survey-takers said they would most likely move for growth opportunities or higher compensation. 


How do you feel about remote work? 


When it comes to remote work, there was a clear consensus among respondents: it has its benefits, but there needs to be a return to some type of balance between working from home and going into the office. 

“I have quickly adapted and while I don’t find it preferable over being in the office, I think some compromise between remote work and in-office would be best moving forward.” 

“I have really enjoyed working from home. I can be very productive and work longer hours. However, you can’t replace face to face collaboration so there still needs to be a balance if remote work continues into the future.” 

“Very convenient for personal life, work life balance. More challenging as a manager to manage remotely.” 

Most respondents believe they are working the same hours, if not more, while working remotely as they did when they were in the office. This may be good news for managers, since  67.7% of respondents reported they believe their company will continue remote work in 2021. 

“I don’t expect to return to mandatory 5 day/week in office, especially in high barrier to entry cities like NY, LA, SF, BOS, etc. A hybrid model will become common.” 

“Work-from-home is fine, but I think the ideal being a hybrid of work-from-home and in-office days.” 

“[Remote work] is enjoyable, but I’d like to go into the office 2-3 days a week to get face time with people. I also feel like I can be more productive at home.” 


Diversity in hiring 


A high percentage of respondents, 40.6%, reported that their companies did not have difficulty finding qualified hires in 2020, but that number is still down nearly 19% from last year. When it comes to diversity in hiring, some respondents said the real estate industry is on the right track and does not need to change, while others are calling on 2021 to be a year of change. 

“We have looked at unexamined bias, started an inclusion group and have vowed to consider candidate pools that are 50% women and minorities in response.”

“Hopefully [there will be] a more genuine effort to increase true diversity and inclusion. Long overdue, but not easy.” 

“We were already 28% minority even in management – but we will stay alert and in the game.” 

“The studies coming out about how a diverse team is more successful speak for themselves, so I think there will be more emphasis on diverse hiring, which is great!” 


Pandemic response


Arguably the most positive statistic, however, is that nearly 80% of survey respondents believe their companies did a successful job of handling the impact of COVID-19. This confidence in management may be driving the optimistic views about what the rest of the year will bring. 

“There are lots of opportunities for those who are willing to be flexible and available. 2021 will be a good time to seek out growth opportunities” 

As always the SelectLeaders Job Network is here for all your industry hiring and professional development needs.

Written by, Julia Troy


About the SelectLeaders Job Barometer

The SelectLeaders Job Barometer, published since 2006, is the foremost survey of employment opportunities, trends, and hiring practices in the commercial real estate industry.

About the SelectLeaders Real Estate Job Network

SelectLeaders powers the Career Centers for 9 premier real estate industry Associations (whose members control or direct 90% of commercial real estate). Jobs are from all sectors and all levels with 29% paying over $100,000. SelectLeaders Job Network offers unequalled access to the Real Estate community. To learn more visit selectleaders.com or visit our Job Network Career Centers: BOMA, CCIM, CREFC, GlobeST.com, NAIOP, NAREIM, NAREIT, NMHC, PREA, Project REAP, ULI, NRHC

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