A Woman's Place Is in the Real Estate Business

Around 30 percent of the 6,630 licensed real estate agents in Israel are women and their numbers continue to rise.

Recently a couple looking to rent an apartment in Gan Yavne went to a local realtor. The female agent taking care of the couple told them about various properties and when they expressed interested in one, she quoted a price that she said was final. The couple deliberated and eventually decided not to go for this option. After they left the agency, the manager asked the agent why she quoted such an exaggerated price for the property and she answered that the couple just didn't seem right for the place. "They whispered to each other a lot and asked irrelevant questions," she said. "I didn't want them to rent the apartment, because the owner of the property might have been affected."

Dalia Baruch, the training manager at ARE Real Estate, says that many agents follow the same logic. "Women establish a better sense of trust with the client. They create a more personal atmosphere and make the situation seem less like a commercial deal. Men look for the quickest way to get a commission and that occasionally affects the success of the deal. Women understand much better what a client is looking for, because in most cases of couples looking for an apartment, the woman is the one who decides," she says.

Recent years have seen an increase in the number of women working in real estate. Around 30 percent of the 6,630 licensed real estate agents in Israel are women and their numbers continue to rise: national real estate chains report an increase in the number of women attending training courses they run. ARE and Mati Netanya, two large real estate agencies, recently decided to open a real estate marketing course for women only.

Many women who go into real estate do so in when they are in their 40s and 50s as a second career. Many choose this line of work because it offers flexible hours and freedom of activity. Baruch adds that many of the women entering this field are former teachers: "They take early retirement at age 50. They have highly developed verbal skills, an ability to communicate with people, are conscious of the need to meet deadlines and have self-discipline - and therefore it suits them."

It's not an easy field

One woman who decided to change career tracks and go from teaching to a real estate agency is Gilat Sarig, who works in the Anglo-Saxon real estate office in Even Yehuda. Sarig, 41, used to be a music teacher, and went into real estate around a year and a half ago.

"Because I worked for all those years with children, I decided to make a change and move in the direction of adults," she says. "I knew I had the skills to communicate with people and build up trust. I came to this profession thanks to my father, who has been working in it for over 15 years.

"Incidentally, it was his second profession also. When asked for his advice, he initially recommended that I not go into this field because it's tough, but afterward he thought it might worthwhile for me try it. I did the exam, got my realtor's license and when I heard they were looking for an agent in the Anglo-Saxon office, I went for an interview."

Sarig says the work is very independent in nature. "As a teacher, I was independent and controlled my time, and when I decided to leave, it was very important to me to continue that way." Her new job, she says, led to worse conditions for her children: "Once I was a mother who was always waiting for them with lunch prepared, but now I often go out to meetings in the afternoons and evenings."

Real estate is not an easy business to go into, she notes. "You need a lot of patience and there's no instant gratification. There's a lot of frustration, mainly at the beginning, but when there's success, it gives you a good feeling."

Ella Saider, 44, a construction engineer by training, decided to go into real estate about a year and a half ago. She also says it is not an easy profession. "I worked in architecture for five years, but after my husband opened a real estate agency, I decided to try it out. It's not an easy field; there are many ups and downs and many disappointments. In my opinion, if a woman is in real estate, her husband has to have a steady and stable work. Nevertheless, it's a convenient job because the hours let you set your own schedule."

Saider says that in the Jezreel Valley area, where she works, there are many women real estate agents. "Perhaps it's also because there's not a huge supply of apartments, as in the central region, and people who come to the area know the price ranges," she says.

Saider says the different approaches she and her husband have are unrelated to gender differences. "Because I come from the field of architecture, my perspective differs from his," she says. "When I look at a house, I check the details, planning and design. My husband, on the other hand, did a marketing course, so he has other tools."

However, most of those interviewed for this article said that the gender gap did actually have an effect on working methods. Dovrat Fulman, 33, has been in real estate for over three years, after previously working in public relations at the Herzliya Pituah branch of Anglo-Saxon realty.

"Men show clients everything there is," she says. "The women are more attentive to the clients' needs and don't rush to show them every property. Women have qualities and insight that men don't have. They can understand the client better, be more empathetic, work with feelings and get close to a client. In addition, the woman is dominant in deciding on purchasing a place and therefore as women our understanding is better."

An all-woman office

Two people who have taken the gender issue a step further are Anat Moyal, 45, and Tali Sheetrit, 47, who two years ago opened a real estate agency that employs only women. There are now five agents working there. "Women simply do this much better than men do," says Moyal. "They are professionals, can understand what the client wants, and usually, the woman is the one who decides and it's easier for her to connect to a woman realtor."

Before the two met, Sheetrit worked for 15 years as an agent at Remax in the United States and Moyal worked for six years as a real estate agent in Israel. They met while working at a Remax office in Israel and decided to open their own business. Sheetrit and Moyal's office is located in Herzliya and mainly handles properties in New Herzliya, Tzamarot and Neveh Amirim.

Sheetrit has five children and Moyal has four. Motherhood gives them an edge over competitors, they say. "Because we have nine kids between the two of us, we know half the neighborhood - from the kindergartens and the schools," says Sheetrit.

Bernard Raskin, the chairman of Remax agencies, agrees with the women about their competitive edge, noting that the firm has an office in Kfar Sava that has been operating for many years "without even one man working there."

Women are more attentive than men to a client's needs, he says. The number of women going into real estate has not increased, but there has been a rise in the education levels and quality of women who do decide to go into the business, Raskin contends.

"Although there is greater equality among men and women, there is still a large gap in the opportunities available. Fewer women work in jobs in the field and there are some preconceived notions about what a woman can do and what a man can do.

"A 40-year-old woman who wants to enter the job market after spending many years at home with her children does not have many opportunities. Real estate offers the option of working in one of several areas - financing, negotiations and marketing - and that attracts women to start a second or third career," Raskin says.