Challenging times for California realtors

SAN JOSE, Calif.

Between them, Jeffrey Wright, Sue Walsh and Chuck Edell have 96 years of Bay Area real estate experience. They are survivors in one of the most challenging housing markets anyone has ever seen.

"You have to be adaptable, you have to get in these niche markets, you have to be professional and you have to be a hard worker," said Wright who's with the West Contra Costa Association of Realtors.

You will find a lot of that at the annual California Realtor Expo being held in San Jose. More than 6,000 attendees are networking and learning. One of the presentations focuses on the use of social media; success today requires experience with a new infusion of blogs and Facebook.

"People are very cautious, people want good service, people want good knowledge and if we're not on top of how to communicate that, then I think we are missing what is important," said Walsh.

At the height of the California housing boom there was one real estate agent for every 50 adults, but in the past five years that number has plummeted nearly 30 percent.

The so-called Google factor means there are still high commissions to be had in luxury real estate, but far more common, agents must know the ins and outs of foreclosures, short sales and dealing with the banks.

"The market right now -- the interest rate is the lowest it's ever been," said Edell. "But try to get a loan -- it's really difficult. You almost have to be perfect, perfect."

The California Association of Realtors' chief economist, Leslie Appleton-Young, predicts a 1 percent increase in home sales next year, which she says is job security for those who do their jobs well.

"Today we see that the realtor is absolutely critical for this market because it is the local information that really makes transactions go," said Appleton-Young.

Even realtors honing their skills say the challenge is what they can't control -- consumer confidence and economic uncertainty.

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