With Vancouver’s property market smashing records, there could be more than just one bubble forming.

Prices in Metro Vancouver spiked an alarming 20 per cent from a year ago in October, taking the benchmark detached-home cost to about $1.2 million.

But new figures show the number of licensed real-estate professionals in B.C. has also reached all time highs, while enrolment in the province’s major realtor licensing course has rocketed by 34 per cent.

Dave Moore, director of Licensing Education at the Sauder School of Business, says about 2,000 new licensees are expected to launch careers in B.C. this year.

Sauder administers the licensing exam that all realtors in B.C. must pass and also provides the online course taken by the majority of would-be realtors.

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Moore says enrolment was even higher before the global recession in 2008, but the profession is nearing peak attraction again.

The Real Estate Council of B.C. reported a record 22,005 licensees this year. The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver says licensed members are at an all-time high of 12,200 compared with 10,000 in 2010 and 8,000 in 2005.

Dina Pettenon, who got her license one month ago and has already made a sale, says she’s off to a good start, but doesn’t believe the career will be easy. With so many competitors she knows she’ll have to beat other realtors to succeed.

Her professional mentors say the rule of thumb is about 10 per cent of the agents in the industry dominate sales. And with the record level of realtors licensed in B.C., only about a third are practising.

“It is not brain surgery, but it’s not an easy job,” Pettenon said.“…There is a big attrition rate.”

One successful realtor who has witnessed Vancouver’s wild property market since Expo 86 greeted the new figures with a knowing laugh.

“It’s just ridiculous now. Everyone’s a realtor,” he said.

The professional, who asked not to be named because he said he could face backlash, said he sees lots of lawyers, engineers, nurses, teachers, homemakers and former pro athletes moonlighting in the property market.

Full-time realtors treat part-timers with a mixture of humour and scorn. It’s surprising who can sell homes well, though. He says lawyers often flounder while teachers excel: “It’s like cooking with five pots on the stove. You have to go all the time and carve out a niche. You have to sort of bend with the wind. Lawyers tend to be a bit stiff.”

But when sales drop sharply and homes become illiquid — which happened briefly in Vancouver when the U.S. housing market crashed in 2008 — the ranks of part-timers thin: “When we saw the dip in 2008 realtors had nothing to do. We felt bad for one of the guys because we saw him working in Tim Hortons. We used to joke, ‘Don’t drive over the bridge. You’ll see a realtor ready to jump.’ ”

Dina Pettenon is a new realtor in Vancouver. She is one month into the job, joining about 22,000 other licensees, which is an all-time high of professional realtors in a hot market.

The top one per cent of realtors in Vancouver can report sales of well over $1 million a year, the agent said. In his best years he says he was making up to 60 sales — or “ends” as realtors call them. These days, with so much competition, he says he completes about 20 sales a year.

“If I was selling around 50 homes I’m claiming about $400,000 per year; but $200,000 of that goes to the taxman,” he said. “And then everyone is in your pocket for fees, from the boards to the Real Estate Council to the brokerages. People think they’re going to take the exam at UBC and they give you an ATM card. But it costs a lot doing business.”

Most realtors know what other realtors are making, says the realtor. He’s seen top sellers burn through their money before getting hit hard by the CRA. The old pros survive busts with hustle and black humour. Humility is important.

Real estate seems really glamorous, but you’re a glorified waiter,” he said. “You’re doing service for a commission instead of a tip.

 

BY SAM COOPER, THE PROVINCE