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‘So, What Are You Making?’ 700 CRE Professionals Publish Their Salaries (And Ask You To Share, Too)

Don’t worry — it’s anonymous.

Professionals across commercial real estate — about 700 of them so far — are using crowdsourced data from their peers to see how their salaries stack up against the industry average — and to negotiate raises if they should be earning more.

The creators of the database, personalsalary.com, hope to see the number of participants climb. 

“Salaries in this industry are basically a black box,” said the senior vice president and national practice director of executive recruiting firm TBG, Chris Papa, one of the people behind the website.

He has helmed TBG for the past 15 years. Despite having thousands of connections to those hiring and being hired, he still struggles to answer some of the questions he is asked most frequently.

"The question I get the most is 'Am I making enough?' and I really don’t know," he said. "Companies say, 'What should I be paying this person?' Again, I don’t always know. I’m not allowed to ask people what they’re making."

At the same time, he said, pay transparency is more important than ever. As CRE becomes more institutionalized, firms are attracting a higher level of talent "and that talent is looking for more transparency."

The data both gathered anonymously by way of global ID and dispersed for free to respondents at personalsalary.com is intended to help answer those questions, and provide transparency both employers and employees may not have access to elsewhere.

Quinn Texmo, a past chapter president of CREW who works in business development at Turner Construction Co., teaches a women’s seminar on negotiation skills in her spare time.

"One of the big points of my negotiating seminar is: Use data,” she said. “If you have data that says ‘this is what an individual in my position, in my city, with my experience should be paid,’ it’s very difficult to argue against that, either in a new hire situation or when you are asking for a raise.” 

Texmo has directed her seminar students to sites like payscale.com and salary.com, both of which may be able to empower employees with just enough context to negotiate a salary or request a raise.

Neither is specific to CRE, and the data may not be robust across every role in every sector, but it has been a good start.

“I do feel like there’s a negative connotation toward asking for what you deserve,” Texmo said. “And I think that’s terribly unfair and that it holds people back from making what they deserve.”

This process isn't just a benefit to the worker. Companies that embrace salary transparency may see increased loyalty and retention among their staff.

“If you can look a candidate in the eye and say, ‘We have taken active steps to make sure there is no pay disparity across the board,’ that is going to attract younger talent — much more so than putting barriers in place to talking about salary at all,” Texmo said.

Plus, larger companies may pay some $10K to $20K per year for institutional-level industry salary reports, according to Papa. Free reliable data from a platform like personalsalary.com could save them that spend.

"They definitely use this kind of data to make decisions about what to pay new hires, but at the same time, they don’t publish it," he said. "I would love if this were the new go-to."

The data can also offer insights about the industry from a bird's-eye view. One can compare earnings for professionals in acquisitions versus development, size of bonus in Miami versus Chicago, and disparity in pay between men and women.

"Across positions, everyone has this pay gap between men and women," Papa said. "Mostly, that’s driven by the bonus."

Per the data collected by personalsalary.com, where approximately a fifth of the respondents are women, women appear to be earning 15% less than men on average, industry-wide.

The gap in performance compensation is even greater: Women are earning bonuses 21% smaller than those of their male counterparts in the same positions, on average.

By point of comparison, these numbers are just a couple of points lower than the findings of a pay parity benchmark study by CREW in 2015, which revealed an average income gap of 23.3% between men and women.

Could this mean the gender pay gap in CRE is shrinking? There is one way to know, Papa said, and that is to gather more data.

The more respondents, he said, the more insight we will gain.