Yesterday was not a good day for the Crossland Team. In our office Sylvia and I have a whiteboard mounted on the wall where we write our listings and our pending closings. After yesterday’s closing, we have no more pending sales written on our board.
We have listings, but the showings are slow and we have no offers in the works and nobody threatening to write an offer on any of our listings.
We were discussing this morning when the last time might have been that we didn’t have at least one closing on the board, and we just don’t remember. But it must have been 2005 when we returned to the business after selling our former real estate company and then taking a hiatus/sabbatical. Since we’ve averaged 3 to 5 closings a month, there is always something up there on the board waiting to close. But not since yesterday – our “black Friday”.
What does this mean?
Well, we are certainly not in a panic. We expect the first part of 2009 to be very slow but we are optimistic that a lot of the negative economic news, though it will likely get worse before better, is nevertheless nearing a bottoming out point and things will pick up again by mid 2009 or at least between the mid to end of 2009. Luckily, unlike many Realtors, we are in a position to survive even a prolonged downdown. We did nevertheless set our productivity goals higher for 2009 than we did for 2008 and we expect to reach them. We set 2008 goals higher than 2007 and accomplished that against all odds, so we always push ourselves higher. This just isn’t the good start we wanted.
This issue did offer a stark reminder to me of how tough it is for those Realtors who live from closing to closing. We know many who have left the business completely, or who are now working part time in other fields because they simply have no buyers or sellers to work with.
As I read of more layoffs in Austin yesterday from AMD, I thought to myself “when does a Realtor get laid off and how is it announced?”
We don’t get “laid off” in the traditional since. There is no bright line, or sudden event that says “later dude (or dudette), you’re out of here”. The closest thing to a pink slip we get is an empty white board combined with a feeling of utter defeat and surrender. That’s when a Realtor quits. Many Realtors around the country and now in Austin are about there now, and have no idea from where the next closing commission will come.
What other occupation other than commissioned sales is like this? If the corporate world worked like this, instead of getting laid off, you’d still come to work each day at AMD, and work even harder than before and longer hours, but there would be no payday. Your paychecks would just stop, but you’d keep working. You’d also be free to leave anytime you want, but you really don’t want to leave, so you linger and just work even harder, and you hope something will happen each day.
I also wonder what happened to all the negative media attention that the Realtor commission structure receives during seller’s markets when home sales are up and values are increasing. During those times, the Realtor is made out in the media to be a greedy, overpaid, useless turd. Not worth a fraction of earnings he receives. And so each few months brings a story of the newest media “Discount Realtor” darling, such as Redfin, that will once and for all rid the world of the hapless Realtor.
But where is the media now, in places like Nevada, California, Florida, Arizona, running news features on the “silent suffering” and the “invisible layoffs” being experienced by the real estate industry and its agents. When Realtors evaporate and go away, the lost jobs are not counted in “job loss” reports you see on the news. And Realtors don’t collect unemployment or receive benefits. Realtors don’t get bailout money.
Realtors simply melt away and vanish, leaving the survivors behind to ride out the market. In Dec 2007, there were 1,338,001 NAR members. In December 2008 there were 1,197,529. That’s a loss of 140,472 “jobs” nationwide, or the equivilent of an industry laying off 10% of its workforce. We won’t see any headlines about that though. Perhaps it might be reported in a manner similar to reporting the weather, but certainly not viewed as a trajedy.
Personally, I think our ranks need to be thinned out substantially more. But it’s an easy-in, easy-out profession, so the dip in NAR membership will last only until the real estate market nationwide starts looking rosey again.
Real Estate sales is perhaps one of the riskiest and least stable occupations one could enter into. Even agents like me and Sylvia who have a steady business experience spurts and stops. We’ve had 3 closings in one day on numerous occassions, and we’ve had 5 or 6 week gaps between closings, but we always have at least one pending closing, until now.
But Sylvia has been in Austin real estate since 1988, and me since 1990. We’re not going anywhere. But it still pains me to see the top of our whiteboard absent a pending sale.I better get back to work right NOW!