Tough Northern California Housing Market Cuts Number of Real Estate Agents

Sacramento, Calif.—Declining Bay Area home sales—currently at their lowest level in two decades—are reducing the number of local real estate agents, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.The number of licensed California real estate agents has already dropped slightly, according to Tom Pool, a spokesman for the Sacramento, Calif.-based Department of Real Estate. In November, the state had 549,244 agents; by late January, the number had dwindled to 548,879.And more may follow: Because real estate licenses are fairly inexpensive–$120 a year—and last for four years, an agent decline can lag behind a housing market reduction, Pool said.Less people are taking the real estate agent licensing exam; in January, only 1,324 people took the test—a drop from 8,765 a year earlier. Two years ago, 14,397 potential agents took the exam, the Department of Real Estate said.Membership of another trade group, the California Association of Realtors, also fell, dropping 16 percent to 161,600 in February from 192,660 in late 2007.Avram Goldman, chief executive officer of Pacific Union GMAC Real Estate, expects the number of area real estate agents to decline by as much as 30 percent in the next year.”I’ve been through a number of course corrections and you see it each and every time,” Goldman told the Chronicle. “When there’s a lot of food around, you tend to grow. When the food supply dwindles, so does the number of [agents]. We’re seeing it industry-wide right now.”