One aspect of the current recession that is having a great impact on the real estate profession is the weeding out of many of the marginal, part-time agents. Unfortunately this same process has caught up many full-time agents, too; as more and more people in real estate find that they can no longer make a living in the current real estate environment. We've lost a few full-timers at our office. As a result of this process, the real estate "profession" is probably more heavily made up of part-timers than ever - mostly people seeking extra income who are not dependent upon real estate for their livelihood.
It's not so much that nothing is selling. It's just that so much of what is selling is so cheap and takes so much time and effort to get to a closing, that it is just no longer worth it to many. The average sale in my market area used to be about $200,000, which isn't much when compared to California or Florida or some of the other more expensive markets; but it was still enough to make a living, if you sold enough sides at that average. Now the average is approaching $100,000, with many deals on foreclosed or short-sale houses in the $20,000 - $50,000 range.
The real rub is that it takes as long, or longer, and as much, if not more, effort to sell one of those low cost houses as it did for the $200-300,000 homes that we were selling. It has ended up being much like the shift from high paying union jobs at $28-40/hour in the auto industry to the new second-tier jobs at $14-16/hour. It's tough to get by when your pay is cut in half or more. That's why a number of Realtors have abandoned the trade and why a number of them are also in the foreclosure ranks with their own homes.
There is one point of view on this whole matter that says, "That's a good thing. It gets rid of the people who shouldn't have been in real estate in the first place." There's something to that argument. There are very low barriers to entry into the real estate sales field; so, lots of people who got into it for the wrong reasons - thinking it is an easy way to pick up some extra money on the side - are now just as quickly exiting the field. That probably is a good thing. I'm not sure what the turnover rate for new agents is locally, but it's got to be high right now.
However, there are also good, full-time Realtors, who perhaps didn't jump on the foreclosure and short-sale bandwagons fast enough or who otherwise haven't adjusted as well to the new market that we face to maintain their needed income stream. We are losing them, too. Some older Realtors got disgusted with the market dynamics and retired, some shifted into other fields that are related to real estate and many just left for other jobs where they could make a living. That's a shame, but a natural part of any profession, I guess. Change happens and there are always some who just can make the necessary adjustments to accommodate that change.
I found myself with this same dilemma. I missed the foreclosure bandwagon and was loathe for too long to deal with short-sales; so, I got left behind. I decided to seek something else to do and went dual career - selling office copiers/printers, as well as real estate. The dual career path is not an easy row to hoe either, since you have two completely different sales environments vying for your time and attention. At first I had to devote most of my time to learning new products and a new company and getting started in the new venture. That took at least 3-4 months of hard work, during which my real estate business languished. Now I've been able to achieve a better balance between the two and had some recent success in rebuilding my real estate business with new listings - ironically all short-sales.
So, the great weeding out will continue. The strongest and most adaptable agents will thrive, even in the current market and many others will survive and hope that things get better soon. The thrashing and turnover will continue at a high level at most agencies and many of them will not survive either. The key to making it in real estate these days may well be the ability to let go of any dreams about things getting "back to normal" and dreams of "the good ole days" and figuring out how to deal with the "new normal" of the current market. I don't have an answer yet, but I'm working on it. In the mean time...anybody need a copier/printer?