You are not permitted to download, save or email this image. Visit image gallery to purchase the image.
The number of real estate agents working in Otago and Southland has plunged by almost a third in three years, licensing figures show.
Agents must apply to the Real Estate Agents Authority for relicensing by the end of March each year.
The 2012 relicensing figures released yesterday show there are now 771 active individual agents in the two provinces, 105, or 12%, fewer than this time last year and 344, or 30.8%, fewer than in April 2010.
Individuals can be agents, sales people or branch managers.
A further 211 people suspended their licences this year, indicating they do not intend to work in the industry over the next 12 months.
Real estate company bosses and others spoken to were not surprised at the continued decline, saying the industry was still shaking down because of increased costs and stricter regulations which accompanied the introduction of the Real Estate Agents Act in 2008.
The regulations included more difficult entry tests, compulsory continuing education, annual relicensing fees of $800 and a tougher system for dealing with complaints against agents.
Together, the changes had weeded out uncommitted agents and those not making a good income, they said.
Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (Reinz) southern area spokeswoman and Nidd Realty owner Liz Nidd said relicensing, continuing education and Reinz membership fees were now about $1000 a year.
For some agents, relicensing time was the "tipping point" for deciding whether or not they would stay.
"Quite frankly, if agents think they can't afford $1000 a year, they shouldn't be in the industry."
Most of those who had not relicensed themselves were part-timers, agents' assistants who had previous retained a sales ticket, or agents who had been "half-hearted" about their careers, Mrs Nidd said.
Mark Stevens, managing partner of Metro Realty, said agents who had once been happy to "work for pocket money" were leaving the industry.
"You have to be a lot more committed now, because of extra costs and controls."
He said he was happy about that because committed agents gave better service to vendors and buyers.
Edinburgh Realty general manager Mark Miller agreed, saying it was "absolutely fantastic" real estate was becoming a more professional industry.
"Those who remain, and new people entering the industry, are a much more skilled set of people."
Reinz Queenstown spokesman Kelvin Collins said if the number of agents continued to decline, the provinces could be headed for a shortage.
The number of homes on the market was about one-third below what it was when the market was flourishing in the mid-2000s. If volumes reached that level again, more agents would be needed, he said.
"Volumes will lift again; it is just a matter of when. These things are always cyclic."