The rise was concentrated in Manhattan and Brooklyn. In Manhattan, headlines about mega-luxury apartments and reality shows about high-flying brokers who sling them prompted many to get into the business, while in Kings County the continuing tide of gentrification (and its attendant rising rents) may have brought on the nearly 10 percent increase in licensed agents.
The number of licensed real estate salespeople in New York City grew by 7.2 percent, to 29,503 from 27,530 since last year at this time, data from the New York State Department of State provided to The Real Deal show.
In Manhattan alone, the number was 15,798, up 7.4 percent from 14,708 last December. In Brooklyn, the ranks of salespeople burgeoned 9.2 percent, to 5,210 from 4,772, the data show.
In the Bronx, there were 54 new agents licensed with the state this year, bringing the total in the borough to 1200; in Queens the ranks of salespeople swelled 6.3 percent – to 5,887 from 5,538. Meanwhile, on Staten Island, the 1366 agents added less than 50 new licensees to their ranks, to reach a total of 1408 salespeople in Richmond County.
The volume of licensed brokers citywide ticked up slightly as well, to 23,690 from 23,134 last year –an increase of 2.4 percent. (Agents are typically greener salespeople, while licensed brokers must have at least two years of industry experience and pass a licensing test to earn the designation.)
While the DOS figures do not distinguish residential from commercial brokers, anecdotal evidence suggests that the bulk of agents are in the residential sector. And while commercial leasing had an up and down year and may have even shed brokers, the commercial sales industry thrived, said David Behin, head of investment sales at commercial and residential brokerage MNS.
MNS’s commercial team is “actually going to be growing significantly,” by 15 brokers next year, up to about 25, Behin said. In the two years since MNS launched its investment sales division in 2011, his firm has grown from Behin himself to nine brokers.
The uptick in commercial brokers was driven at least partly by the bevy of overseas investors looking to park cash in New York City real estate, he said.
“People need some place to invest their money. New York City real estate has proven to be a great place for that,” he said, adding that in the next year he will be ramping up his Queens presence, with his investment sales team increasingly pushing into the Astoria and Long Island City neighborhoods.
But the majority of the growth in real estate pros was almost certainly on the residential side, experts said.
“Clearly when times are tight in the regular job market more people gravitate towards the real estate profession,” said Gary Malin, president of Citi Habitats, Manhattan’s fourth-largest brokerage by agents. “We had a very robust hiring year.”
But Malin underscored that there are high rates of attrition in residential real estate. “A lot of people come into this industry for all the wrong reasons,” he said. When people are not prepared, with resources like a healthy Rolodex, they will often find the business more difficult than expected, he said.
“They don’t necessarily comprehend how difficult being a real estate professional is,” Malin said. “There’s a learning curve.”
Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the number of brokers MNS plans to add.