A Richer, Leaner, More Professional Real Estate Agent

In the early 1980’s you couldn’t give a Chrysler vehicle away. If you’re old enough to remember this period of gas lines, the hostages held by the Ayatola Khomeni, and the recession, automakers back then were in a serious problem. Auto dealerships were laying off half or more of their salespeople. In California Chrysler closed scores of dealerships, and most had three employees in the sales office- the sales manager, a secretary, and the most senior salesperson. Then something happened.

Lee Iacocca took the reins of Chrysler about the same time as Reagan took them for our country, and in what seemed like no time, the hostages were released, the recession was stemmed, and Americans started buying again. We bought BETA formatted videotape recorders. We bought board games like Uno and Yahtzee. And we bought…Chryslers!

By 1985, one of the most enviable jobs in terms of earning potential was, you guessed it, being a Chrysler salesperson! My father in law made huge money that year selling cars. Why? Not only because Chrysler introduced some new cool models, a mini-van, and convertibles, but because if you entered the car industry at that time, you were one of very few salespersons dividing up the pie. There were so few experienced salespeople left after the crisis, when demand returned, you were swamped with customers, and swamped with sales!

When I wrote “Licensed to Soar” during the boom, or the bubble, or whatever you want to call the real estate feeding frenzy of a few years back, I made the following statement:

Today, agents are ubiquitous. Everyone has someone in their family who has obtained their real estate license.” Licensed to Soar, Appallaso Press, 2005

I based my thesis on research from groups like REEA, the Real Estate Educators Association, which tracks how many people apply to take the real estate licensing exam in their state. Based on state populations at the time, I did not exaggerate too much.

In 2006 for example, the Missouri Real Estate Commission reported over 50,000 licensed real estate professionals registered in this Midwestern state. It also showed a record number of new people entering the field, with over 12,000 scheduling their licensing exam in 2006 alone! The population of Missouri at the time was around 5 million men, women and children. That works out to one licensed real estate agent for every 100 folks in Missouri. What do you think, a few too many agents or what? Remember, they were all carving the same pie.

As you may recall, what drove all of our neighbors, friends, roommates, and long-lost relatives to decide to go into real estate between 2003-2006 was basically, the lure of quick money. Some would call it greed, but I won’t go that far. Suffice to say that many weren’t entering the business with a long-term career in mind, and only wanted to “not miss out” on the “easy commissions” that “everyone” seems to be earning.

Of course, that supposition was fiction, the bubble burst, and most of those quick money real estate agents have now left our industry, probably looking for the next new green pasture. But that is great news for us!

Whenever an industry shrinks, there is a reduction in the workforce. That is exactly what has transpired in our business. Part-time agents, half-interested agents, and just plain bad real estate agents have all left the business and the marketplace by now, leaving our ranks thinner, but stronger. Leaving our offices with more space, but more efficient. In short, giving us the marvelous gift of a marketplace that is ripe for a very soon harvest – as long as we are in the field when the season arrives.

Barbara Klare, an agent with Gulf Coast Realty in Florida recalled the difference between then and now:

“It’s not a bad thing, really. There were so many [agents] who didn’t really know what they were doing. I’d just be tripping over them. “I’ve never really had to use my head and my skills as a Realtor as I do now.”

Suzanne Sherer, in an article for the News Press put it this way:

“Those people were order takers only” Sherer said, referring to the practice of some agents to simply sit by the phone and wait for customers to call. “They were forced to drop out. But now, the quality of people who are coming out now to get into the industry is good. They’re very levelheaded.”

As I’ve written about here and elsewhere, things are turning around in real estate. The signs and signals are starting to become louder. Noah built the ark before the flood. The time to enter the game is now, when the market is about to explode, and the pie is divided among far fewer of us.

For those of us who have always known that work means toil, but if you work it, you will reap a harvest, there has been no better time than now to be a real estate professional.

Besides, as we’ve always said, the commission on a home is much better than the commission on a car. Even if it is a Chrysler.

Geoffrey Thompson

Want to find out if you have what it takes to be a Real Estate Agent or Broker?

About The Author: Geoff Thompson is an owner and founding partner of Express Schools, LLC. Since 1996 the companies under this banner have offered online real estate licensing and insurance licensing courses as well as online real estate exam prep and insurance exam prep.

Comments / Questions

  1. Kathy Simon says:

    I like your comparison of today with the 1980’s. Nothing ever stays the same. It always changes and so does the economy. Whether it’s the stock market or the housing market, we need to be ready when it turns around. Nobody sends out a signal that today is the day.

    1. admin says:

      You make an excellent point Kathy. I particularly like your statement, “Nobody sends out a signal that today is the day“. There are those who will look back on these times with 20/20 hindsight and wish they had prepared themselves. And there are those, like you, who are preparing themselves now.
      Jeff Reynolds

  2. I love this article. I was actively involved in selling new homes in the late 70’s when interest rates went up to 18 to 20 %. Builders quickly came up with a solution to the problem using “Buydowns” to lower the interest rates to interested buyers who were interested in buying a new house. Remember though, there is no free lunch. The builders raised the prices of the houses and then paid the buyers money up front to the lender to lower the interest rate for the first year or two. If I could sell new homes in this kind of a market you can do it now in todays market. Below are some suggestions:
    The real estate licensee who wants to survive in the current market has to:
    1. Get out of the office and look for people willing to buy or sell.
    2. Leave your card with everyone you come in contact with including the waiter or waitress when you leave a tip.
    3. Talk to everyone about what a great time it is to buy. Prices are great for a motivated buyer who is really interested in moving.
    4. Make sure you only work with buyers who are willing to go to a lender and get pre-approved for a loan.
    5. Where the law allows work with buyers with a written Buyer Agency agreement.

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