Too Many Realtors

Peter Coy

Whether the housing market is stabilizing or not, it seems pretty clear that there are still too many people in the U.S. trying to make a living selling houses.

The housing boom sucked in all kinds of people who used to work in other fields. Trouble is, very few have left. National Association of Realtors spokesman Walter Moloney says the NAR's membership is 1.35 million, which he says is at or very close to a record. By comparison, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says there are only 1.06 million people employed in motor vehicle and parts manufacturing. At the Realtors' annual meeting in New Orleans, there were predictions that the number of Realtors might decline about 8% in 2007. That comes to over 10,000 people.

One way to see that there are too many Realtors is to look at the breakdown of pay. While the top quarter or so is making good money, there's a huge army of Realtors at the bottom who would make more money with a full-time job at McDonald's. Nearly a third earned under $25,000 in 2004, according to a National Association of Realtors study. Here's the complete breakdown of the 2004 survey:

Less than $10,000: 18%
$10,000 to $25,000: 13%
$25,000 to $35,000: 9%
$35,000 to $50,000: 11%
$50,000 to $75,000: 13%
$75,000 to $100,000: 10%
$100,000 to $150,000: 12%
$150,000 to $200,000: 6%
$200,000 to $250,000: 3%
$250,000 to $500,000: 4%
$500,000 to $1 million: 1%
Over $1 million

By the way, a lot of the lowest-paid Realtors are the newbies who don't have references and repeat clients. The median income for people who had been in the field for two years or less in 2004 was $13,000.