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My dreams of being a realtor are dashed!

Crap looks like I'll need to keep slaving away at the Spritzler Report. No easy money for this journalist!

As Home Sales Slow, Realtors Go Back to Their Other Jobs

Some agents who pivoted into real estate during the pandemic now struggle to make a living; ‘I need to feed my family’

In the time he spent as a real-estate agent, Dave Parker was unable to close a single deal.

By Anne Marie Chaker and Nicole Friedman, WSJ

Updated Feb. 14, 2023 10:25 am ET

Dave Parker has quit trying to sell houses.

Last spring, the 46-year-old father of three joined a real-estate brokerage in Silver Spring, Md., hoping to make money on the booming housing market. Less than a year later, mortgage rates have climbed and many would-be clients have backed out. Mr. Parker recently took on more hours at a Giant Food supermarket where he already worked part time as a dairy manager.

“At that point, I was like, I need to feed my family,” he said.

Like the housing boom, the boom in people becoming real-estate agents is ending.

The number of Realtors rose alongside home prices in 2020 and 2021. When the Covid-19 pandemic eliminated millions of jobs, especially in service industries, career-switchers piled into the housing industry. By late 2020, the number of Realtors surpassed the number of homes for sale.

But existing-home sales dropped last year to the lowest level since 2014. Data from the National Association of Realtors shows monthly membership peaked in October at more than 1.6 million members before dipping over the past three months, with 1.5 million members in January.

Realtors are now competing for a slice of far fewer transactions. The slowdown is especially challenging for newer agents who don’t have a long list of past clients or local contacts to help them find buyers and sellers. Some say they are going back to other work, expecting to come back to real estate some day when the market recovers. Others are letting their licenses lapse with no plans to ever return.

The typical Realtor in the U.S. has eight years of experience, works 35 hours a week and earned a gross income of $54,300 in 2021, according to a March 2022 survey by NAR. Almost 80% of those surveyed said they were very certain they would stay in the industry in the next two years.

It is early to say whether the dip in the number of Realtors signals an exodus from the field or is just a seasonal slowdown, said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun. He believes a cooling housing market is more likely to be reflected in a declining number of Realtors in a year or two.

He said home buyers and sellers shouldn’t be affected.

“They’ll have plenty of choices” in picking out an agent, he said. But for those considering real estate as a new career, he added, it’s “not an easy profession.”

Most real-estate agents are independent contractors, and many don’t work full time. Some agents are likely to keep their real-estate licenses active, even if they have no clients, in case the market picks up in the next year or so, according to longtime agents.

Renee Cross got her real-estate license last summer, after moving to Great Falls, Mont., to pursue her dream of selling houses. The 19-year-old former bakery manager just closed her first—and so far only—deal earlier this month.

“Honestly it’s been super tough,” she said. “I don’t have a lot of connections. Everybody already knows somebody.”

Redfin Corp., which operates a real-estate brokerage where its agents are employees, laid off hundreds of people last year after hiring hundreds of agents in 2021. Layoffs have also been widespread at mortgage lenders due to reduced demand for home purchases and refinances.

Brokers at Lamacchia Realty, which has almost 500 agents in six states, noticed over the summer that some of its new agents were struggling during the market slowdown, said Chief Operating Officer Jackie Louh.

“A lot of them seemed to think it was going to be quick, easy money,” she said. “This is not an easy market to navigate for even a seasoned agent.”

To ensure Lamacchia’s agents are committed to real estate, the firm rolled out new requirements. Agents must make real estate their main career within six months of joining the company and regularly attend trainings on real-estate fundamentals and sales techniques. Between 30 and 40 agents left the company in response, Ms. Louh said.

Liz Brent, who owns a brokerage in Silver Spring, said that new agents often don’t understand how much time and energy is involved in a single transaction. She limits the number of new agents she agrees to work with. Training people new to real estate is a time-intensive commitment, she said, and unskilled agents can pose ethical and legal liabilities for her practice.

“I have to be extremely selective,” she said.

Jackie Goodhart got her real-estate license in 2020 after being furloughed from her longtime job as a national sales manager for Omni Mount Washington Resort in Bretton Woods, N.H. She says she enjoyed the work but was surprised by the unpredictable hours, especially during the busy market.

“It was very hard to schedule anything,” she said.

Ms. Goodhart closed 15 transactions in about a year and made about half of what she did in hospitality. In mid-2021, she returned to her old job at the resort.

“I was just uncertain, with the level of experience I had in the real-estate industry, if it could sustain me in the long haul, if the market should drop,” she said.

In Oklahoma City, Katie Woodward was drawn to real estate after five years as a special-education teacher. The 37-year old joined a brokerage last summer, but she is still waiting to close her first transaction.

“The autonomy was a big thing to me at the time, to be free to run my own business and not be micromanaged,” she said.

Mrs. Woodward and her husband, Cody Woodward, an HR software supervisor, have agreed to give it until March before thinking about finding other work or taking on a second job.

Write to Anne Marie Chaker at and Nicole Friedman at

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