With the housing market on the rebound, real estate agents are back at it
Luke Jorwic worried that the housing bubble had burst his career plans.
“I actually wanted to study real estate in college,” Jorwic says. “But that was in 2009, and it didn’t seem like a good idea with the housing market then. I didn’t think I would be able to make a living in real estate.”
He risked it, got his real estate license and landed a job as a broker at Koenig & Strey during his senior year at Loyola University.
Turns out Jorwic was right on time.
For the first time in recent years, the number of real estate agents is on the rise.
“The number of agents at our firm has been flat for the past four years, but in the past six months we have seen a significant increase in our agent numbers,” says Stephen Baird, president and CEO of Baird & Warner. His workforce is up 9 percent this year.
The Chicago Association of Realtors gained 600 members this spring, the group’s first growth in membership in the past five years, when its numbers dropped nearly 40 percent, from 17,500 to 10,700 members.
“We’ve recently been adding between 75 and 100 new members to the association each month,” says President Zeke Morris. “Part of this is certainly because the housing market has improved.”
The Realtors association reports home sales in Chicago were up 31.5 percent in May from a year ago, the most recent figures available. The median home price also increased, by 17.5 percent, from May 2012.
Job opportunities in real estate were once so robust, there was room for part-timers and career-changers. But the housing crash in 2007 took with it the need for real estate agents, as homeowners with underwater mortgages weren’t looking to buy and the market was flooded with low-commission foreclosures and short sales.
“Transactions were still happening, but at a much lower level than anyone was comfortable with,” Baird says. “In January 2012, something happened in the market and it’s been improving rapidly ever since. All of a sudden, buyers were ready to buy.”
Does that mean it’s safe to jump into the real estate talent pool?
Linda Hays dove in. She got her real estate license in 2010 and is now a broker with Century 21 Affiliated Pro-Team in Palos Park.
“Even though the housing market was at a difficult stage, I felt like it was a good time to come in and start learning the real estate business,” says Hays, who was rejoining the workforce after raising her children.
She admits it was rough at first, starting out in a market with lots of homes for sale and few takers, but business has picked up.
“The market is much better than when I first started,” Hays says. “Now there’s actually a lack of inventory, with a shortage of sellers and homes on the market.”
Jorwic, too, is seeing properties move fast.
“People didn’t buy for years because they were told the market was going down. Now there are qualified buyers, people with savings, just waiting for the right place,” he says. “Especially in hot neighborhoods, something good will sell in days.”
Jorwic graduated in May and is working as an agent full time. So far he’s glad he took the gamble.
“Working in real estate can be a little scary because you don’t have a salary and it’s all commission-based, but it’s working for me for now.”
ABOVE: Luke Jorwic photo by Heath Sharp