Monday, December 25, 2006

Monitoring The Realtor Bubble

The number of Realtors (pdf) fell .06% during November . This is the first time membership in the National Association of Realtors (NAR) has fallen during the month of November since 1999.

Leading the decline were states like:

State: # Lost % Change
Florida: 839 -.54%
New York: 206 -.32%
Illinois: 478 -.82%
Virginia: 1562 -4.12%
Nevada: 213 -1.04%

The number of Realtors has grown tremendously over the past 5 year. This corresponds precisely with the housing bubble years.

See: Is There a Realtor Bubble? (September 20th, 2006).


  1. hmmm ... even at a "whopping" 4%, the delcining numbers of Relators is really pretty insigninficant. (1) would we expect any different in this down part of the cycle? ... (2) what does this have to do with your still-long-awaited predictions of a bursting bubble and a general economic depression? btw, it's very likely that the number of salespeople at the mall will decrease in the coming month. will that too play into the bursting bubble and the general economic depression? and what if the groundhoung sees his shadow?

  2. Lance,

    I have not called for a "general economic depression."

    If you continue to put words in my mouth I will block you from my blog.

  3. watch the gold rushers go bust

  4. As we continue to watch the housing market fizzle out, more and more realtors will be forced to move on or go hungry. I certainly don't feel a bit sorry for them, there all vultures.

  5. It is worth noting that cancelling one's membership in the NAR is the part of the final break from the industry. The numbers David has posted show Virginia leading the decline. I wonder, how many dues-paying NAR members are currently supplementing their incomes in un-related jobs? Pumping gas, "until things pick up in the spring?"

    The real point here for all of us is that the rise in the number of real estate agents (and the subsequent declines) is indeed typical of financial mania. It is a symptom of the high-grade hysteria, that always marks the end, when otherwise rational people dive in like that. How many times have we read or heard, in the past few years, of people leaving career track jobs to "become real estate investors," or "real estate agents?" A lot, is the answer.

    When you start seeing people drop out of medical school to day trade stocks, become real estate agents or grow tulips, the end is nigh. Grab your wallet and run in the other direction, no mater how many experts proclaim, "it is different this time."

  6. David,
    Ok, after researching thru the archives, I agree, unlike other people believing in a bubble, you have not used the word depression. And I don't think you think the bubble you believe in will cause a depression. For putting words in your mouth, I apologize.

    David, 4/2/2006 said:
    ""No, I am NOT a 'prophet of doom.' Rather, I am truthsayer. I tell the truth as I see it. Some others in the blogosphere are predicting a second great depression. I am predicting a moderate to severe recession, not a depression."

    However, please keep in mind that "A severe or long recession is referred to as an economic depression."

    I'm coming to realize that a lot of the disagreements on this post are caused by a disagreement on the "degree" of something. For example, there was the person a few weeks back who referred to himself as a BH but when he quantified his beliefs easily fell into the HH camp. (eg. he believed prices would fall 10% but thought one should buy irrespective of that.) So, who knows ... perhaps we are all much more in agreement with each other than we think ... except of course for those few out there who really believe we're heading back toward the stoneage and house prices like "it was 1999"!

  7. David,

    Congrats on the mention in the WSJ today. Not exactly the most flattering profile, but the MSM appears to be waking up to reality, but much too late. The WSJ should have picked up on the larger themes at work that have allowed housing to get away from itself, like the undervaluation of risk in financial markets through the securitization and packaging of mortgages. If this things starts unraveling, we may see systemic risk play a role.

    "Interesting" times ahead,


  8. This is just the begining of the mom & pop Realtor's bailing on the market. When the houses stay on the market for months, it cost them more money to sell. Many of the little shops, won't be able to ride out the hard times....or should I say back to normal...

    The big companies will just kick a few non-producers out the door and the homemakers will go back to selling Mary-Kay, Stamping-up, and other assorted pyramid scheme junk.

  9. David - Nice WSJ mention. Keep up the good work on this blog. It takes a lot of time and effort, but the end result is helpful to many, many people.

    How about a post inviting predictions for 2007?

  10. Interesting tidbit David.

    Right now we're spending 0.9% of GNP on realtor commisions (that then get respent on office rent, advertising, etc.. About half goes to Realtors Gross take home.). In recessions that normally drops to 0.3% of GNP (normal boom times Realtor commisions top out at 0.6% of GNP). Thus, any downturn in the number of Realtors (tm) hasn't yet started.

    The reality is that for most people, unless you bought pre-bubble, there is no affordability to upgrading. Too many areas, including DC, have priced themselves out of their niche in the global economy. The discussion at the Christmas party I attended turned towards which companies have commited to relocating their campuses to areas where they can attract employees whom do not yet own. For example, in my industry a kid right out of grad school used to be able to expect to buy a 3bed/2bath as their first housing on a 30 year fixed mortgage. Now? Nyet. We are seeing campus after campus commiting to relocation to regions where that is still possible.

    For the record, I am predicting a recession *not* a depression. This won't end until the speculative real estate is liquidated at whatever price it can be or REOs drop. Since inventory everywhere is high... this hasn't yet begun. I'm excited that my favorite weekend destination has more condos for sale than *ever* before.

    Lance, most of us have been predicting that the downturn doesn't really get going until summer. My prediction is that the economic forces that instigate a downturn do not converge until May. Thus, we won't see the impact until June and it won't get reported until August. Cest la vie. This is going to be a slow train wreck. What is converging in May?:
    1. Housing starts. Six months after housing starts drops so does construction, vendor, and mortgage employment. That would be May.
    2. ARMs resetting. There just aren't enough ARMs resetting to matter until May. ARMs can contribute before then, but will not drive the process until later.
    3. Personal debt. Eventually it has to be payed back and salaries simply are going nowhere. :(
    4. Credit tightening. Its happening, but slowly. By May we'll see enough credit tightening to matter (loss of option ARMs, etc.)

    Merry Christmas to everyone,

  11. those are probably the smart ones getting out early.

  12. The Realtor Bubble is popping. The gold rush is over.



    I used flat fee mls when selling my home.

    Its a great alternative to spending all your money!