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As the real estate market cools, so does the market for agents

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A For Sale sign near houses in Arlington, Virginia.

Thousands of people became real estate agents during the pandemic, but the cooling housing market is making the field more competitive. Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

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Home sales declined in May for the fourth straight month and were down about 9% year over year, according to data from the National Association of Realtors that dropped Tuesday. 

But there are still plenty of people who’d like to sell you a home. The so-called Great Resignation led lots of resigners to try their hand at real estate. The U.S. had more real estate agents in 2021 than ever before, according to the association. 

But there may be too many. The online home-selling companies Redfin and Compass announced layoffs last week. So how is the very popular pandemic job category faring?

If you’re a homeowner in the Greater Sacramento, California, area who actually answers phone calls from unidentified numbers, you may get a call that sounds like this: “My name is Blythe Romo from Coldwell Banker. I received a notice that you might be interested in finding out the value of your home.”

Romo started as a full-time real estate agent last July. She was surprised to learn that also meant she started as a part-time telemarketer, buying numbers for $35 a pop. 

“Oh my goodness, the first time I did those scripts, I didn’t get any business for the first couple months because I didn’t know what I was talking about,” she said.

But Romo got better. Last year, she sold one house. This year she’s sold seven, including three from those cold calls.

She said she loves being a real estate agent. It just kind of stinks that she’s finding her groove now, when her listings are on the market for weeks instead of days. 

“It’s been a challenge,” she said. “I’m just trying to have faith that I’m still going to be able to generate business next year, it’s just going to look different.”

Romo became a real estate agent so she could be her own boss. So did thousands of others.

Southern California agent Kama Burton has been working in Riverside County for 17 years, and she’s noticed lots of unfamiliar faces on yard signs. 

“They’re pretty fresh, maybe out of high school. I’ve even heard of people coming from the restaurant industry.” 

She said 2021 was pretty competitive, but higher interest rates and a cooling market will make this year extra Darwinian. “I do believe people are going to get weeded out because it’s not as easy as it looks,” she said.  

Burton said that could be an opportunity for more seasoned agents like her to scoop up even more business. 

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