In September, approximately 2,200 agents licensed in the Florida beachside community of 70,000 were vying for just 674 listings. Is this the fate in store for the rest of the country?

Agents outnumber active real estate listings by more than 3-to-1 in Daytona Beach, Florida, a widening gap that reflects a national trend that began accelerating at the start of the pandemic and shows no sign of letting up.

In September, approximately 2,200 agents licensed in the beachside community of 70,000 were vying for just 674 active listings, according to data from the Daytona Beach Area Association of Realtors.

While the chasm appears to be about twice as large there as in the nation at large, industry professionals in Daytona Beach and beyond told Inman that the competition for listings is often feverish, with listings disappearing sometimes within minutes of going online.

Stacey Mathews-Johnson

Stacey Mathews-Johnson

“The ones that are chasing it and doing the things that you need to do — checking [the MLS] all day, every day — they’re making the money,” Daytona Beach agent Stacey Mathews-Johnson told Inman. “And the ones that are sitting back waiting for it to fall in their lap, they’re obviously not.”

Mathews-Johnson has had an eventful first year in the business, to say the least. She was part of a wave of new agents that joined the Daytona Beach market over the last year even as active inventory levels began to plummet.

And while the seller’s market has deepened throughout the country, it’s particularly fierce in areas like this Florida metro. It’s not uncommon for Mathews-Johnson’s Daytona Beach buyers to make sight-unseen offers before they’ve even had a chance to visit the property, she said.

In one case, a client was under contract to sell their home when their purchase contract fell through. Mathews-Johnson needed to find them another home, and fast.

She found a listing late one evening, sent it to her buyers, and they submitted an offer on the house 30 minutes later. That offer was accepted the next morning, she said.

“That’s what this market has taught me, is how to be very communicative and aggressive, because that’s what you need to win in this market,” she said.

Nationwide, the ranks of real estate agents have surged by 150,000, to approximately 1.55 million Realtors, since February 2020, according to the National Association of Realtors. That’s a nearly 11 percent increase since the coronavirus pandemic began that has effectively widened the gap to around 1.4 Realtors per active listing.

These numbers lay out a clear and persistent picture of the inflow of new agents who, like Mathews-Johnson, entered the market during the pandemic, often from other professions.

Even in her early time in the business, the Daytona Beach agent says she has seen a number of agents struggle and give up due to the fast-paced nature of the market.

What I usually see is in the first three months, the willingness to charge on goes down immensely,” she said. You start seeing [new agents] trickling in, and then they come in less and less. I think people get discouraged because it doesn’t fall in their lap.

For buyer’s agents, a large share of the inventory is going under contract within a day or two of listing. This is frustrating for many agents Mathews-Johnson knows, and creates pressure to be active at all hours of the day. But for agents willing to work around the clock and place offers quickly, there’s still a lot of business out there, even in inventory-strained Daytona Beach, she said.

Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, said business revenue remains strong throughout the country, despite the low inventory numbers. The growing ranks of real-estate agents, however, does ratchet up the competition faced even by experienced agents.

“The rise in membership also shows the fiercely competitive nature of the business, especially in regard to getting the next listing,” Yun wrote in an email. “Those who have provided superior services for their clients in the past are in a better position to obtain the repeat business and referral business.”

This wave of new agents has placed strain on experienced ones as the race for the next listing has reached a fever pitch. But it might be preferable to some previous markets, where agents suffered from a lack of business.

In 2010, in the aftermath of the housing crash, the dynamic seen today was reversed. For every four homes listed on the market, there was only one Realtor, Yun told Inman — because homes simply weren’t selling as quickly.

Alisa Rogers of Lifestyle Realty Group

Alisa Rogers

Alisa Rogers of Lifestyle Realty Group remembers that period well. That was around the time when the president of the Daytona Beach Area Association of Realtors started her own career in real estate. Back then, plenty of homes may have been listed on the market, but there were not enough transactions — or commissions — to go around.

“There wasn’t anything then,” Rogers said. “Everything stopped when I entered into real estate.”

Navigating a tight market

There’s more to the story in Daytona Beach than the numbers show, agents told Inman.

With more than 30 homes going pending per day in Daytona Beach — and another 30-plus coming online at the same time — there’s still a flurry of transactions in Daytona Beach that are not captured by the active inventory numbers, Rogers told Inman.

On a monthly basis, this means the the number of transactions typically outnumber the amount of active inventory at any given time.

“That’s giving a steady market flow, so agents are selling,” Rogers. “But it’s slim pickings out there.”

Experienced agents can rely on their database of former clients to get listings, Rogers said. It’s tougher for new agents to make up that gap with listings. 

But there are still opportunities for agents to find commissions on the buyer and seller sides, Rogers said. And building those relationships with buyers now can pay long-term dividends for an agent’s business.

“Working with buyers is a benefit to a new agent, because the average person, family, lives in a home maybe 8 to 10 years,” Rogers said. “As long as they stay within their database, they get in touch [and] they’re going to get that buyer as their seller in the future.”

In this market, new agents are finding what they do well, getting more creative to market themselves, and forming teams to build off each other’s strengths.

“They’re diversifying, which an agent should do,” Rogers said.

In markets where listings are harder to come by, it places additional pressure on agents, especially new ones, Rogers said. 

“They’re getting more creative,” Rogers said. “They have to figure out what makes them stand out.”

The place Daytona Beach agents find themselves may be particularly competitive, but agents across the country are experiencing the same trend.

Even as fewer homes sit on the market at any given time, business revenue has boomed for agents nationwide, Yun told Inman. 

“Realtor business revenue has grown and grown because homes [have not] been sitting on the market for long periods,” Yun wrote in an email. “Home sales and home prices are much higher now compared to before the pandemic.”

Email Daniel Houston

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