From USA Today:
Jack Jentzen never saw it coming. Four years ago, as a real estate agent in Elgin, Ill., he was enjoying the rewards of the most frenzied U.S. housing market in decades, and money poured in.
Now he’s fighting to keep his home.
The real estate slump that hit in 2006 eventually stifled home sales, shrank prices and unleashed a wave of foreclosures. And as it did, the hardest-hit victims included a group of people, such as Jentzen, who never imagined they had anything to fear: real estate agents themselves.
Tens of thousands of Realtors have been forced to quit the industry in the past couple of years. Some are enduring their own agonizing foreclosures. Agents who had staked their fortunes on galloping home sales now struggle to afford health care, utilities and other basics.
Some, like Jentzen, are trying to build new careers. Others are pursuing drastic and aggressive tactics to tough out the housing slump, from embracing new marketing plans to spending thousands to earn advanced designations they hope will help them stand out from the competition. Some say the housing collapse is undermining their professional self-esteem.
“I’m looking at jobs that are way lower than what I was once making,” says Jentzen, 43.
“The realty industry is quickly becoming a shadow of what it was,” says Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Economy.com. “For those who remain employed, their compensation has plunged. Realtors were also among the most aggressive housing investors. Many made the error of working and investing with leverage in the same industry, something financial planners counsel strongly against.”
“Some members are saying there are too many Realtors out there who are bringing additional competition, and a shake-up is expected,” says Lawrence Yun, the NAR’s chief economist. “We do anticipate lower membership going forward since housing recovery is taking longer.”
Robert Millosh, a Realtor for Re/Max in Middlesex County, N.J., says he’ll need to find some other job to stay in the area. He used to earn at least $30,000 annually as a Realtor. Right now, he says, home sales are so dismal that he’s looking at a job change or a move to Florida or Pennsylvania.
“I am almost broke and struggling to get by from day to day,” says Millosh, who is 45 and single. “I’m having an estate sale for most of the furniture I have that I don’t need. My life has been ripped apart.”
Milltown, N.J., is a quaint small town, the kind of place families want to move to. They have an all-American Fourth of July celebration, with a parade, fishing, rodeo, a band in the park and fireworks at night. Millosh says it would be a hard place to abandon, but he might not have a choice.