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NOTEBOOK – ONE GOOD READ: High house prices don’t necessarily mean big paychecks for agents


The skyrocketing sale prices of houses has attracted thousands to the real estate selling profession. From January 2020 to January 2022, the number of real estate agents in the U.S. jumped from 1.38 million to 1.53 million, National Association of Realtors data shows. Today there are more real estate agents in the U.S. than ever before, writes Mark Dent for the Hustle. Many, though, are finding that the “splashy seller’s markets that produce high commission rates don’t lead to greater success for most agents,” Dent writes. Historically, when housing prices have increased so have the number of real estate agents. In many states, it only takes a few hours of coursework and passing an exam to get a real estate license. The allure of higher commissions — agents for sellers and buyers typically split a fee that can range from 5% to 7% of a residence’s sale price — attracts people to the profession during housing booms. “A typical agent would seemingly be poised for success: Sell the same number of homes as an average agent did the previous year, and you’ll make more money,” writes Dent. But that’s not what is happening. While the number of housing units sold and median sales prices have both increased in recent years, the median annual salary for an agent has decreased. In 2000, the median salary for a real estate agent was $47,700, or $79,447, adjusted for inflation, according to the National Association of Realtors. Last year, the median salary was $54,300. “You enter the market because you [believe you] gain more,” Enrico Moretti, an economics professor at University of California, Berkeley, told Dent. “But then the competition increases over time. It’s only after the fact that you can see there’s not extra profit.”

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