Real estate agent numbers fall 20%

The number of real estate agents in the South has plummeted by 20% in the past two years as the property market tightened and potential commissions disappeared.

Figures from the Real Estate Agents' Licensing Board show numbers are slowly increasing again in most areas alongside an improving market.

Agents wanting to continue in the industry must notify the Real Estate Agents' Licensing Board by the end of March each year.

The number of licensed agents in Otago, Central Otago and Southland reached a record high of 1145 in March, 2007, records show.

There were 671 licensed agents in Otago and 474 in Southland at that time.

The figures included Central Otago, which did not get its own separate statistics until the following year.

By April this year the total across the three areas had dropped to 916 - 379 in Otago, 269 in Central Otago and 268 in Southland - a decline of 229 people, or 20%, in two years.

Numbers remained relatively steady in Central Otago over that period, with almost all the agents leaving coming from Otago and Southland.

By August this year, Otago's total had climbed to 391 and Southland's to 280.

The number of agents in Central Otago increased by 35 and was just below the March figure.

The exodus of agents in the South mirrors national statistics.

The peak year for agents nationally was March last year when 21,734 were licensed.

The tally dropped to 15,213 in April this year - a decline of 24.8% - and had inched up to 16,297 by August.

Auckland, which has by far the country's largest property market, had 9542 agents in March last year; 13 months later there were 6442, a slide of 32.4%.

Mark Stevens, managing partner of Dunedin's Metro Realty, the company with the lion's share of residential sales in the city, said he was not surprised by the number of agents who left the industry as the property market tightened.

The number of houses on the market in Dunedin dropped by almost half over 11 months last year, with similar declines recorded elsewhere in the region.

That was enough to weed out agents who had previously worked part-time who were were not totally committed, Mr Stevens said.

"Agents are mostly on commission only, so with fewer houses selling, their income potential dropped. That was enough for some people to look around for other work."

Only two agents had left his company, he said.

One got married and moved to Australia and the other returned to the building industry.

The downturn also saw some company closures and reshuffling.

Among those companies to exit the Dunedin scene last year were The Professionals, The Jones and Harveys.

Two companies set up to help vendors sell their homes privately - The No Commission Shop and Green Door - also closed their Dunedin offices.

This year, some smaller companies have closed offices, or combined forces and renamed themselves.

Mr Stevens said "good agents and good companies" had survived the downturn.

"When times are tough to sell houses, vendors choose the best possible agent and company to get them a result. People are choosier now. They definitely shop around and compare how much companies are charging and the marketing strategies."


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