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Real estate agents dwindling in ranks

TEXT OF STORY

Steve Chiotakis: Today we're set to hear about real estate numbers. The Case-Schiller housing price index will be released this morning. You don't need reminding that across the country, prices have tanked. And that's had a big effect on those who sell houses for a living. The National Association of Realtors reports a 13 percent drop in membership since 2006. Think that'll go away as houses start selling again? Marketplace's Dan Grech says -- not so fast.


Dan Grech: Real-estate agents once had exclusive access to the list of properties for sale. Now that information is available online for free. Does that mean realtors are going the way of the travel agent?

Ron Shuffield of EWM Realtors says no. His 700 agents can talk not just about price, but about how a property was constructed or the circumstances of its sale.

Peter Zalewski: For our agents who work in these markets day in and day out, I mean they just accumulate a lot of knowledge in their heads that you can't really find anywhere.

Peter Zalewski runs Condo Vultures, a real-estate consultancy that specializes in distressed properties.
He says realtors are like spam filters.

Zalewski: The Internet provides you the crude oil, but it doesn't necessarily refine it so you can make it gasoline and put it in your car. And that's ultimately the institutional knowledge that I think individual realtors can provide.

During the boom, the number of realtors swelled by 50 percent, to 2 million. Experts say those ranks will thin.
Not because of sites such as forsalebyowner.com, but because there aren't enough homes out there to sell.

I'm Dan Grech for Marketplace.

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