It seems that some consumers believe Realtors created the current housing mess by selling too many homes.
It isn’t quite that simple, but they state that we sold too many homes for too high a price and now the buyers are stuck with homes that they can’t pay for and that are declining in value.
True, I have sold some homes and I even go out of my way to meet people who want to buy homes. I look for people who want to sell them, too. It is very rare to meet a seller who wants to list a home for less than the price I recommend, but it has happened.
It never occurred to me that I could be doing something wrong or, worse yet, something that might hurt someone else. I did help people purchase homes that later declined in value. I also helped people buy homes that they could not afford. Someone helped me buy a home in 1989 that is worth less today than it was in 2005. I wish I could remember her name. Did she sell it to me?
What consumers are not seeing and I am not reading about are the Realtors who are going through personal foreclosures. I know a few agents who cannot stay current on their mortgage payments and some that are in foreclosure. Others want to sell but they can’t because they owe more on the home that they could sell it for. Doesn’t that sound familiar?
Realtors are faced with a kind of triple whammy on this. They bought homes during the peak when they were making enough money to afford them. That is why it was a peak: because many people bought homes at the same time, including Realtors. Then home sales went down, followed by a decline in home prices.
Let me show the math for a Realtor who bought a home during the peak:
Home value minus "X" percent plus sales volume down by "X" percent (less income due to fewer sales) plus average commissions down by "X" percent (less income due to lower home prices) equals "Ouch!"
So maybe my math doesn’t make sense, but I am trying to make a point here. Realtors are not immune from the ups and downs of the housing market, and they buy houses, too, and usually represent themselves.
There aren’t any numbers on how many Realtors are facing foreclosure. If I were to guess — which would be just wrong, but I’ll guess anyway — I would say that it is likely that as a group Realtors have at least the same loan default rate as the rest of the population.
As long as I am guessing, I’ll suggest that it could be higher than that of the general population because it used to be so dang easy for us to buy homes and we had so many opportunities to do so. Most of us like real estate.
Most Realtors are not going to mention that they paid too much for a house and that they were tricked into buying it by the listing agents’ marketing materials and the National Association of Realtors’ proclamations that it is always a good time to buy real estate. Who would want to work with an agent like that?
Besides, they didn’t pay too much in 2005 — they owe too much on them in 2008. There is a difference. Why did so many people, including Realtors, buy homes in 2005? Who sold all of those Realtors those homes that they paid too much for?
Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.
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