Real estate agents landed $3.9B in PPP loans: report

More than 300K loans forgiven, fulfilling program’s goals despite housing upturn

(iStock/Illustration by The Real Deal)
(iStock/Illustration by The Real Deal)

Real estate agents reeled in $3.9 billion in loans from pandemic relief loans, a boost made sweeter by the housing market’s recent hot streak.

Industry entities landed more than 300,000 loans in all from the Paycheck Protection Program, NBC News reported. The outlet compiled the figures by looking at real estate entities employing only one person through data from the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, which publicly oversees relief spending.

Those real estate businesses received an average of $13,000 in relief loans. Hundreds, however, received more than $90,000 each.

In terms of forgiveness, real estate agents fared similarly to other US industries. About $3.1 billion in funds have been forgiven, 83 percent of the loans and 84 percent of the total dollar amount. For the entire $789 billion program, 80 percent of loans and 84 percent of the total dollar amount have been forgiven.

While industries like hospitality and retail buckled under pandemic pressure, residential real estate quickly boomed. After an uncertain first few weeks full of canceled showings and contracts, prices — and therefore, commissions — soared.

Sales rose 53 percent from April 2020 to the end of the year and are up 40 percent from the beginning of 2020, NBC News reported. Nationwide total commissions were $76.2 billion in 2019, $85.9 billion in 2020 and $98.8 billion in 2021.

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The PPP intended for loans to be forgiven if certain rules were met, such as spending 60 percent of the loans on payroll or spending a certain amount on eligible expenses. In this way, it functioned more as a grant program and even if real estate agents ultimately didn’t need the help, they were entitled to it.

Erin Stackley, a senior policy representative with NAR, defended the PPP loans and forgiveness for agents, telling NBC News it “is what the SBA and Congress intended to happen.”

Some agents, however, seemed at odds with the optics of being forgiven on these loans and pulling in commissions. Many declined to comment at length about their loans to NBC News. One agent who did comment she was paying off her loan.

“It ended up being a crazy year because I’m in Austin and I didn’t feel right asking for it to be forgiven,” Phyllis Patek told NBC News.

[NBC News] — Holden Walter-Warner