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Without enough houses to sell, real estate brokers see fewer transactions

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A house's "For Sale" sign is seen in front of a home in Arlington, Virginia, November 19, 2020.

Because of the way realtors traditionally get paid, it’s tough for everyone, especially those new to the business, said Jessica Lautz of the National Association of Realtors. Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

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With home prices so high and lots of people out of work, there has been a boom in the number of folks getting their real estate licenses. But if there aren’t any homes out there to sell, what’s a new real estate agent to do for money?

The National Association of Realtors says its membership count actually exceeds the number of homes for sale at the moment. Jessica Lautz, vice president of research, said that because of the way realtors traditionally get paid, it’s tough for everyone, especially those new to the business.

“The majority of members do work on a commission structure,” Lautz said. “So having that inventory is really key. And that is lacking in this environment right now.”

There currently just aren’t enough homes to meet demand — a little more than a million units across the country. Lautz said that’s down 30% from last year, so there are fewer transaction opportunities for agents on the buyer’s and seller’s sides.

But Danielle Hale, chief economist at, said that when people scoop up a limited number of homes immediately, it’s actually better than the alternative.

“If you have a lot of inventory that’s just sitting there, and buyers aren’t interested in buying it, that would not actually be a good thing for real estate agents,” Hale said.

She said when that happens, there are plenty of homes available, just limited demand, so real estate agents are left with a lot of inventory they can’t sell.

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