Are You Competing for a Real Estate Pie That’s Not Growing?

Unemployment is low and the economy is growing—more than 4 percent in the last quarter—but  home sales are actually going down for many real estate agents. The typical agent in the last year worked on 11 transaction sides, down from 12 sides the previous year.

What’s going on? For starters, the inventory crunch is holding markets back. Particularly in the lower price points, there just aren’t many homes for sale. But there are also more agents, at least among those who are REALTORS®. NAR’s membership grew to 1.3 million last year from 1.22 million the previous year. That means more agents are competing for a pie that’s not growing. About a third of NAR members have two or fewer years of experience.

There are plenty of positives coming out of this. For one, the value of home sales is rising, so with each sale, agents stand to make a bit more. NAR estimates that price appreciation is about 5 percent a year nationally. NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun would like to see prices ease so they’re more in line with wage increases, maybe around 3 percent. But as long as demand exceeds supply, price pressure will be upward.

Another positive is the increase in younger people coming into the profession. Although the median age of real estate professionals is inching up, from 54 to 55 last year, the profession is nevertheless seeing more young people. And that’s good for the future of real estate.

These and other industry trends are looked at in the latest Voice for Real Estate news video from NAR.

The video looks at the opportunity agents and investors have buying small commercial properties in smaller markets across the United States. For years, the focus has been on big properties in big markets like Chicago and New York, but these markets are now seeing investors pulling back. Still untapped is the opportunity in the bulk of the country, says Hugh Kelly, a commercial real estate analyst who also teaches at Fordham University. “You’re not going to find assets worth $1.5 million or $2 million [that you can compete for in Manhattan],” says Kelly. “You’re going to find them in Fresno, Kansas City, and Louisville.”

Kelly gave a talk to NAR researchers last week on what he’s seeing in commercial markets around the country.

The video also looks at why global investors are pulling back on U.S. home purchases. Last year they invested $121 billion in residential markets here. That’s a big number but it’s 20 percent less than what they invested the previous year. Are homes becoming less attractive to them? NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun says there are many factors at play, including a stronger dollar, but it’s also the case that global buyers surged into U.S. residential markets two years ago, and so now were seeing a pullback from that.

Other segments in the video look at the recent extension of federal flood insurance and the upcoming Real Estate Innovation, Opportunity,  and Investment Summit in San Francisco later this month. The flood insurance extension is until the end of November. That gives lawmakers time to see if they can find agreement on much-needed program reforms to make the insurance more financially sound. The iOi summit is NAR’s first formal effort to put tech people and venture capitalists into the same room as real estate executives and brokers so everyone can work together to design products and services and business models that benefit consumers by helping real estate professionals become even more powerful agents on their clients’ behalf.

Access and share the video.






Robert Freedman

Robert Freedman is director of multimedia communications for the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. He can be reached at

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  1. JP

    This is decent news. And I am not saying it is a bad thing to have some younger people interested in the industry-overall it is probably a good thing. The flip side is that the average age of 55, is in part due to the fact that those people of the average age (55) and up, are in this industry because they can not get work in most other fields. Yes, low unemployment rates seems great for the economy, but keep in mind that those unemployment numbers do not account for people who have given up on finding work, and a majority of those are over 50. So while the aging group faces age discrimination in the work place adding that many employers won’t hire a person who doesn’t already have a job: this age group doesn’t need to be “kicked” out of this industry as well.
    Additionally, I know a lot of people in the industry and only a handful that actually sell the average “sides”. Most, are at best, 1/2 that.
    Just my take…

  2. With increasing home values agents are still making decent money, though there is a lot of unsold inventory.

  3. There is a lot of unsold inventory, because sellers don’t want to admit that they are not the ones who set the price. Market is definitely shifted from “sellers” to “buyers”. You can sell almost anything if you are willing to accept fair market price value for your property.