Real Estate agents across the country received nearly $4 billion in taxpayer-financed Covid relief — some to help pay for as little as one employee — even as real estate sales and commissions boomed during the pandemic.
NBC News is reporting the agents did nothing wrong when applying for — and receiving — the $3.9 billion doled out by the government’s Paycheck Protection Program designed to help pay employees and other eligible expenses, and the vast majority of the loans have already been forgiven because agents played by the rules.
All told, the Feds approved 300,000 loans to real estate companies claiming just one employee, which adds up to $3.9 billion in the loans backed by the Small Business Administration, according to data from the government’s Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC), which is overseeing pandemic relief spending.
The report states that 146 companies received more than $90,000 each, but the average given to a real estate business was $13,000.
And those working in booming markets didn’t shy away from the handout: $3.6 million in loans went to Beverly Hills agents; $4.3 million landed in El Paso, Texas; and $14.9 million touched down in Charlotte, North Carolina.
So far $3.1 billion of these real estate loans have been forgiven. Requests for forgiveness for the remaining $800 million in loans have either not been sought, been denied, or are yet to be granted by the SBA.
The SBA says it is demanding about 12,200 loans be paid back, while 4,200 borrowers have appealed denials by the agency. Another 215,000 loans have been pulled aside by the SBA for manual review, an SBA official told NBC.
At the beginning of the pandemic, realtors did face uncertainty as sellers nervous about the virus canceled open houses. But by early May 2020, it was clear from nationwide open house data that people were looking at houses again.
Housing sales subsequently jumped 53 percent from April 2020 to January 1, 2021, and housing prices are now 40 percent higher than they were in January 2020, according to the report.
[NBC News] — Vince DiMiceli