From the Press of Atlantic City:
Leigh Ann Austin is putting her real estate career on hold after 30 years in the business.
Austin, of Cape May, has specialized in new Cape May County construction, but she became discouraged with the southern New Jersey market as it steadily lost real estate jobs following the housing-market collapse of 2007.
“I love real estate. I like the one-on-one with people,” the former professional singer and stage actress said. “It’s like getting a standing ovation when someone loves the house I show them and they buy it.”
Austin said she is going on a sabbatical until the market recovers: “It wasn’t that difficult a decision. I was just burnt out,” she said. “I could see the handwriting on the wall: It’s going to be a while before the market recovers. I’ll just wait it out and see what happens.”
Austin is hardly alone in her decision.
Ocean City’s Board of Realtors lost about a third of its members in the past four years. The board, once 800 strong, now has about 535 members, with another 19 out-of-state members.
The lucrative real estate industry that props up much of the Cape May County economy has seen drastic cutbacks.
“We are hearing that all over,” said Diane Wieland, director of tourism in Cape May County. “A lot of Realtors we worked with to get statistics are no longer with their firms. Real estate agents have changed jobs. It’s all part of that tourism picture. The economy really hit that industry hard.”
Membership rolls at the New Jersey Association of Realtors climbed from 47,000 in 2004 to as high as 57,000 at the peak of the real estate boom in 2006 before falling to 46,000 today, its website shows, representing a membership drop of 20 percent.