Local realtors compete for a very small pie


It was almost laughable when the number of homes listed in Malibu dropped below the number of local agents working to sell them. In February 2002, the sum of homes for sale in the 90265 area dropped below 200 to 185, roughly the number or Malibu-based Realtors.

Those were the good ol’ days. The trends have continued since, as more agents enter the business during a strong market, competing for yet fewer houses to sell.

As the year began, a little more than 200 agents actively worked in Malibu real estate, based with a Malibu company and kept a desk here. Yet only 134 single-family homes were listed as being available for sale in Malibu/90265. If the situation was laughable before, these times are rolling in the aisles.

Compounding the dynamics is the ever-present involvement of outside-area agents. Of the 134 homes, 24 were listed exclusively with out-of-area agents. A very small pie is thus even smaller for your local agent. Ever get the feeling the dozen Malibu Realtors you know are all very anxious for your business?

Many homes are listed with a local agent who shares with a Beverly Hills or other outside-area agent. In fact, another seven such listings means that only about 103 homes in Malibu are listed exclusively with Malibu agents. Not many for a community of about 4,000 houses.

There is certainly a wide range of benefits to being a local Realtor. The hours are very flexible and you are essentially your own boss. Perhaps best of all, the core task, showing customers houses, is not just pleasant, it is fun. What better setting to have to work?

With the huge increases in home values, the commission checks can be large. There are just a lot fewer of them per agent than may be assumed. Approximately 300 homes sold last year, but with nearly 20 percent of the business going to outside agents, the average was barely one home sale per Malibu agent.

The key to most Realtors’ business, however, is listings. Even though 103 homes are listed exclusively with Malibu agents, the top-20 agents have about half of those. Only 63 agents have any involvement in any home listing at all. Remarkably, about 140 agents are working regularly in Malibu without a current home listing. Like most professions, this one is becoming more specialized and more competitive.

There are, of course, plenty of other modes of income. One can have listings in condos, mobile homes and land. Also, the leasing business provides a supplement to the core activity of home sales. Virtually every agent in town makes it a point to participate in those sources also. And almost every deal has two sides, with a buyer and a seller both represented.

Furthermore, while the inventory is extremely thin, part of the reason is that many homes are in escrow. It is not just the 134 homes listed that have the agents’ attention. There are about 55 homes with sales pending. That is an amazing statistic, with 30 percent of listed homes having buyers under contract. Still, the number of combined homes available and in escrow is less than the number of agents.

Shared listings, expectedly in a very tight competitive atmosphere, are prevalent. As of Jan. 1, when the 134 homes were identified, 51 were listings that had at least two agents. Many of those listed with one agent were actually part of a family team. Excluding the many family partnerships, particularly involving husbands and wives, the number of listings with one Malibu agent only amounted to 36. That’s right, less than one home out of 100 in Malibu is currently listed with a single Malibu agent. Times have changed. Partnerships and team arrangements are in vogue.

The total volume of sales last year was possibly the highest ever. The local industry is thriving. But that doesn’t mean every agent is getting rich, not in a town with roughly 200 agents splitting up 110 available listings.

Rick Wallace of the Coldwell Banker Company has been a Realtor in Malibu for 16 years. He can be reached at his website, www.RICKMALIBUrealestate.com