The Real Deal Miami

Florida faces decline in real estate agents

By Jovana Rizzo | May 30, 2008 12:22PM

It’s no secret that the Florida housing market is in trouble. Home prices and sales in the Sunshine State are falling faster than most states in the rest of the country. Several years after its peak, the market is still spiraling downwards, and it’s taking the number of brokers in the state down with it.

Year-over-year, membership in the Florida Association of Realtors has shrunk 12 percent, from 145,781 members in April 2007 to 129,691 in April 2008.

That decline is glaring but the trend isn’t new. Indeed, since 2005, there has been a decline in real estate licenses issued in Florida, according to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. Between 2006 and 2007, the number of licenses issued almost halved, falling from 34,746 to 17,768.

“Many little [companies] are closing. Brokerages that have four or five agents are losing them or letting them go, and they’re joining bigger agencies,” said Brian Carter, managing broker of Douglas Elliman in Miami Beach.

Despite the thinning of the ranks of real estate agents, Carter says the serious brokers are staying in the game, and the broker roster at Douglas Elliman has actually grown.

“I think other agencies have brought on agents who are not qualified to maintain their business during a down market,” Carter said.

William Carson, president of Carson Realty Group in Miami, says the decline in new real estate agents is a welcome change for established brokers.

“Four or five years ago, everyone knew someone who wanted to buy real estate, so everyone was getting their license to cash in on the South Florida buyers,” Carson said. “Now they actually have to work for the money, and no one wants to put in the time and energy to do it. It’s great for everyone who takes it seriously.”

Early indications suggest that 2008 won’t be the year the market turns up. The number of people taking the exams to become appraisers, real estate associates and brokers has been down every month compared to last year. This April, there were 2,546 real estate license candidates taking the exam, down from 5,226 in April 2007.

“It’s going to be a couple years before things pull up again and people think of this as a good career,” Carson said.