experts: real estate column Thursday, April 20, 2006

The greying Realtor population

There is a labour crisis in the real estate industry we are just beginning to acknowledge.

By Marty Douglas

As published in REM - independent news and opinion for Canada's real estate industry.

In the last quarter of 2005, in British Columbia, the number of real estate licensees restricted to real estate sales (not licensed for property management) surpassed the number of unrestricted licensees.

Wow.

How desperate am I for a column topic? So what? Well, I'll tell you what.

It's the marking of an era, a transition, a passage and a harbinger of a labour crisis in the real estate industry we are just beginning to acknowledge despite demographers who have been telling us for a decade.

We're getting older.

We are going to retire.

In B.C., the licensing authority began restricting licenses in August 1994. The common wisdom – some of it mine, I had just finished six years on the Real Estate Council – was the public would be better served by licensees who were fully trained in property management, rather than by part-time practitioners who did property management only when a client wanted them to find a tenant for the house just purchased. In 2005, B.C. followed up by requiring licensees wishing to manage strata properties to qualify in a new category of license.

Since 1994, the old farts have been in decline and the newbies have been ascending. As we slipped into 2006, there were approximately 6,300 holders of each type of license. As you read this column, there are closer to 7,000 of the new license and 6,000 of the old.

However, because positive market activity results in more folks getting their real estate license and because since 1994 the population of Realtors had been in general free fall awaiting the market correction, no one noticed that as new kids came onto the block, veterans were beginning their retreat.

We brokers were so happy to get a new sponge to drink from our dusty training manuals, we didn't notice that Marj and Tom from the class of 1970 were collecting CPP and thinking more about winters in the three P's -- Puerto Vallarta, Palm Springs or Phoenix -- than the four D's of agency.

I'm not sounding any alarms on the Realtor population issue. In fact, for those new to real estate there will be an abundance of clients, new and used, who will need service. And for the retirees, if your portfolio has more depth than George Bush's intellect, you might be able to sell it on a residual basis without joining Exit Realty.

This retirement bulge has been growing and will reach increasing proportion every year. Rural areas may be impacted more severely because they can't keep kids on the farm. Retirement communities – Vancouver Island, the interior of B.C. – may find an abundance of grey-haired summer session Realtors working as assistants.

There may be escalations in the shrinkage, as we experiment with a sort of euthanasia for the ripened Realtor, the looming deadlines for mandatory education. The education expulsion factor has yet to be proven in B.C., as the first cycle of renewal education won't slap the hammock recumbent licensee for another three years.

Faced with 18 clock hours of riveting classroom repartee combined with increasing costs of license renewal, I believe many of our senior statesmen will chose a graceful exit. And while we may regret their passage, a new age of accountability and consumer protection is upon us, demanding a new standard of our licensees. To quote Jim Rohn, “Some things you have to do every day. Eating seven apples on Saturday night instead of one a day just isn't going to get the job done.”

Marty Douglas is the sales manager for Coast Realty Group (Comox Valley) Ltd., one of nine Coast Realty Group offices on Vancouver Island. He is a past chair of the Real Estate Errors and Omissions Corporation of B.C., the Real Estate Council of B.C., the B.C. Real Estate Association and the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board. 1 800 715 3999; fax 250 897 3933. Email mdouglas@island.net.




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