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The State of Real Estate 

Women in real estate may have achieved parity with men, but it's not an easy market for anyone toda

When potential clients call Mat Berenson, she says they often sound surprised to hear a woman's voice on the line. But aside from some confusion about her typically male name, this real estate agent from Latter & Blum says that gender does not really play a factor in the business of buying and selling houses. Many other female agents agree. Although some will say that women bring different qualities to the business and that women buyers are often looking for different things in future homes, "different" does not always mean "better." These women say being a good real estate agent means working well with clients, being professional and knowledgeable, being highly in tune with customers' needs, and being able to adapt to a new, digitalized business where, due to the Internet, buyers are often one step ahead of their agents.

Women tend to dominate the real estate world, though more men have crept into the market in recent years. Erin Stopak works with an all-male staff at Talbot Realty Group but says that gender rarely comes into play in business.

'[The men] don't really treat me that way. I don't feel like a minority," she says. "I feel like I'm on an even level with my peers — men or women."

Other agents tend to agree, saying that being successful in the business has to do with qualities that are not gender specific.

'It has to do with professionalism, knowledge and problem-solving," says Samara Poché of French Quarter Realty. "I don't think there's specifically a gender preference."

Berenson echoes that sentiment, saying, "A good Realtor is a good Realtor. I don't know if male or female makes a difference."

Although many women agree that gender should not be cause for discrimination or preference — and that talent transcends gender lines — they also say that women can bring qualities to the real estate business that help them uniquely address the needs of their buyers. Women can be more in tune with the emotions that many buyers experience in selling a house or purchasing a new one.

'Buying and selling a house can be kind of emotional. A house is more than just a place — some have family there, have lost family there and have gotten new family there," says Shannon Sharpe Briand of RE/MAX New Orleans Properties. "A lot of times it's a delicate situation, and sometimes women can be more considerate of those situations."

Berenson agrees that women can appeal to the emotional side of real estate.

'Buying a house is an emotional decision, whether it's your first time or your 40th time," she says. "It costs a bit of money and it requires an awful lot of patience.

Patti Faulder of Keller Williams Realty also agrees that women bring certain qualities to the table.

'Women bring knowledge of the way a home is supposed to feel," Faulder, who mostly deals with properties in the Garden District, French Quarter, Warehouse District and English Turn. "Women have an intuitive nature a lot of men don't have. Some guys have it, but women tend to have more of it."

Berenson sums up her view simply: "Women are great Realtors. Period."

Just as women bring specific qualities to the real estate business, Realtors also say that women buyers look for certain things when it comes to buying houses. These range from wanting big closets to needing to feel safe in a new neighborhood.

'I definitely think women are more into aesthetics," Poché says. "Single women, like married women, are looking for a home in a safe neighborhood that is aesthetically pleasing and convenient to their workplace."

Safety seems to be a big factor among women looking for homes. Stopak, who deals mostly with buying and selling condos in the Warehouse District, has seen this trend with her female buyers.

'Single women are less likely to buy first-floor condos, generally speaking, for security reasons, and like to live around lots of people," Stopak says.

Once again, emotion plays a big role for women buying houses.

'Women want it to strike an emotion for them. Men have a specific "crunch list' and the home doesn't have to strike any feeling for them," Poché says. "Women also have a crunch list, but they also expect to feel excited."

Faulder says that for women, this crunch list often includes having great bathrooms and kitchens, plus spacious closets. Many agents agree that most women, especially single women, simply find comfort in having their own homes.

'Women want something they can live in and take care of," Berenson says.

Real estate agents — both women and men — find themselves working harder these days. Since the Internet has become a handy tool for people to buy or sell homes, agents must anticipate that clients have already done some research.

'Agents need to be just as well-informed as the buyer," Berenson says. "Realtors need to be where buyers are looking on the Internet, and talking to them through email."

Faulder says that the Internet plays a big role in shaping her daily schedule. "I'm always on the computer," she says. "In the morning, I get on the computer, look at what people are looking for, go look at houses, and get online again at night."

Although it requires that agents be more knowledgeable and able to answer questions, the Internet functions as an always-on resource that can make real estate transactions simpler on both ends. Faulder adds that besides enabling her to keep in touch with clients, the Internet often makes her job a lot easier.

'I'm happy buyers have done (online research). It's a wonderful thing. If they have background, if they've been looking, they're much more shrewd buyers," she says. "It's a great thing to work with people who do that."

In general, what buyers want seems simple: "Everyone is looking for a well-priced house in good condition," Berenson says. That is harder to come by than one might think, but buyers remain picky.

'It's tough out there right now. Everyone wants a deal, and that's very difficult to find at this moment," Faulder says. "People are particular about what they want — it's always about the location, which demands a higher price. Buyers are frustrated, because good houses don't stay on the market for days."

Berenson agrees that buyers today have much higher standards: "People are being very particular about what they buy. They want a lot of home inspections."

'Nothing has been easy in the market recently," Faulder says. "To be able to have clients that keep coming back over and over, you have to give good, solid advice on long-term investments."

With this constantly evolving market, what real estate agents say is important is providing good, knowledge-backed service to buyers. As someone who has worked in both medical sales and computer sales, Faulder says she knows from experience that real estate, for both women and men, is tougher than it seems.

'Real estate isn't easy," she says. "Sometimes selling IBM computer solutions was a lot easier than closing a real estate deal."

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