May 25, 2009

Slump, Internet put pressure on Realtors

Real estate agents are changing professions due to the housing slump and Internet-based services that save home buyers money, industry analysts say.

With the profession already weakened by the mortgage crisis, the explosion of for-sale listings and information about purchase prices now available online is cutting into the need for traditional real estate agents who once had a monopoly over such information, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday.

The real estate brokerage industry is not going away, but the combination of efficiency gains via the Internet and the cyclical downturn will both be significant forces to their rapidly shrinking ranks, Stuart Gabriel, director of UCLA's Ziman Center for Real Estate, told the newspaper.

Some Internet-based real estate agencies reportedly don't even have commissioned agents, but salaried employees who rebate up to half of the usual 3 percent commission fee from home transactions to buyers.

The National Association of Realtors says there has been a 13 percent drop in membership since 2006, while in California, just 2,030 people took broker and agent license examinations in March, far fewer than the 18,000 who took the tests in March 2005, the Times said.