Thursday, May 14, 2009

Realtors' median incomes fall by 13% in 2008

The recession has taken a bite out of real estate agents' median incomes, which fell more than 13 percent last year nationwide.

The median number of sales handled by agents also dropped – from four in 2007 to 3.5 transactions a year, the National Association of Realtors said Wednesday, and their median sales volume last year was $1.2 million, down from $1.6 million in 2007.

Data about the slowdown in business was included in a sweeping industry profile the Realtors group just completed.

Paul Bishop, the NAR's managing director of real estate research, said members are diversified in their business activities.

"Most Realtors understand real estate is a cyclical business and are diversified in their income streams," Paul Bishop, who handles research for the Washington, D.C.-based trade group, said in the report. "Almost all of our members have secondary business specialties, and some are involved in related businesses."

Jim Fite, president of Century 21 Judge Fite Co., said Dallas-Fort Worth is experiencing a similar decline in sales per agent but said the North Texas market is stronger than the U.S. market.

"Realty is a local market, and there are still plenty of people buying real estate in the Dallas-Fort Worth area," Fite said.

The Metrotex Association of Realtors, a North Texas trade association, said agents in the D-FW area were leaving the industry last year. According to their data, the number of Realtors was down 5.6 percent year over year in March.

Real estate agents are also unwavering in their optimism – despite the worst housing downturn in generations.

Almost three-fourths of the Realtors surveyed nationwide said they intend to remain in the business during the next two years. Fewer than 10 percent said they were considering other options.

Other factors that stood out in the survey:

• The typical real estate agent is 54 years old and works 40 hours a week. Sixty percent are women.
• Only 4 percent of agents are under 30.
• Eighty-eight percent are white.
• The residential sales industry's median income last year was $36,700. Agents who have been in the business for two years or less earned a median of $8,600.
• The average real estate agent has been in the business for 10 years. But only 6 percent say it's their first profession.

The survey of more than 8,000 U.S. Realtors also highlighted changes in how agents are marketing homes.

More than a third of Realtors say they use social and professional Internet networking sites to find sales leads. And 17 percent regularly use blogs or other Internet tools.

But on average, members say they received only four buyer or seller inquiries over the past year from their personal Internet sites.

Almost 20 percent of real estate agents' business comes from referrals from previous clients.

Lynne Gorman, a team leader at Keller Williams Dallas City Central branch, said both sales and Realtor numbers have increased year over year in her office.

She said her branch experienced a 15 percent jump in Realtors and a 9 percent sales increase in 2008. She attributed the sales increase to leads generated through online tools such as Twitter, Facebook and blogs. Gorman said 88 percent of buyers turn to online resources first.

About 1.2 million active real estate agents are members of the National Association of Realtors. The number of Realtors has declined about 100,000 since 2006.
By STEVE BROWN and JOHN COLEMAN / The Dallas Morning News