Chart 1: Annual % Change in Number of Agents Employed


Chart 2: Top 10 Brokers in California Detail

Please note that charts track only sales agents employed by brokers. They do not currently include brokers employed by brokers.

This Market Chart is an annual feature, compiled and presented by first tuesday.

Chart 1 contrasts by percentage growth in the number of licensed agents employed by California’s 60 largest brokerages from March 2011 to March 2012. Take a moment to see how these large brokers are faring in this economic recovery. What costs might brokers be cutting or eliminating? Which brokers are taking advantage of this crisis to capture market share? Who among these brokers will go on to continued success?

Most of the state’s major brokers experienced only marginal changes in employment over the past year, although some, like Realty One Group, added significant numbers. Some, like Forward Sunset Inc., are new to this list while others have fallen off. One notable development is that few of these firms now use the word “realtor” in their names, preferring to identify themselves as real estate professionals rather than members of the trade union.

After July of 2008, employment dropped dramatically in almost every business sector in California. Few industries, if any, have suffered as much as those related to real estate, including finance, insurance, construction and transaction providers (a group sometimes referred to as FIRE). Agents and brokers now scramble to succeed in the half-priced turmoil of real estate owned property (REO) inventories, negative equity short sale listings and speculators. Licensees that remain full-time are the ones who have successfully adjusted with a bit of talent, perseverance and luck.

Related articles:

The top 30 brokers in CA by number employed: 2011

The rise and fall of real estate brokers and agents

Newly licensed sales agent and broker population

Chart 2 depicts the very largest of the large: the Top 10 Brokers in 2012 by size. 2011 was a difficult year for these exceptionally large brokers, with the majority diminishing slightly in number of agents employed. Real estate agent licensing, as reported by the California Department of Real Estate (DRE), is down significantly from the boom years preceding 2007, meaning there are now simply fewer agents and brokers to go around.

Brokers who once profited by flooding the market with agents to capture transactions may now be taking advantage of the crisis to streamline their operations, using focused and better qualified agents for more targeted and refined service operations. Nonetheless some of the largest brokers, like CB Richard Ellis, continued to increase their employment.

Who is behind the mask?

Missing a top broker that you think should be recognized? Keep in mind that certain big names such as Century 21 and Prudential, are not operations of a single broker but are real estate franchise arrangements used by several different employing brokers for name recognition. Franchisors contract with numerous individual brokers who operate separately from the franchisor and employ agents (and other brokers).  While the franchise may appear to cover several hundred or thousand agents, no one broker as a franchisee makes the list. Distinguish franchisees from independently branded brokers operating under their corporate name or a “Doing Business As” (DBA), who employ agents under one corporate broker’s license.

Maybe, on the other hand, you are having trouble recognizing some of the names on Chart 1 above. If Pickford Real Estatee is the state’s second largest broker, where are all the Pickford offices and agents? In fact, they may be more familiar than you think, but operating under separate DBAs.

For instance, Pickford uses a diverse set of names, including Fairbanks Ranch Realty, HomeServices of California, Prudential California, Rancho Santa Fe Properties, Short Sales Express Pros, and Smart Sale Solutions. Unlike a franchise, however, each of these names is tied to one broker’s license.

For the operating names of each of these top 60 brokers, see Chart 3 below for all their DBAs.

Chart 3: DBAs

Finally, Chart 4 shows the total number of licensed agents employed by each of the Top 60 brokers, indexed by the difference in the number of agents each employed over the one year period.