As coronavirus slows real estate market, agents seek support from Congress

Leaders of the real estate industry are asking the federal government to help them weather the market slowdown caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic. On March 18, Compass founder and CEO Robert Reffkin sent a letter to Congressional leadership asking for specific consideration for real estate agents and other independent contractors in any coronavirus relief package. Reffkin, head of the Softbank-backed real estate firm, wrote that the roughly 2 million real estate agents in the United States, according to National Association of Realtors figures, make a gross median income of approximately $41,800 a year before taxes, and have seen business severely contract amid shelter-in-place policies and social distancing. “When they can’t show a property, they can’t earn a living,” he says. The letter claims that this industry is uniquely damaged by the economic fallout from this pandemic, and highlights how both the pandemic itself and a general slowdown in activity will likely impact homesellers and homebuyers for the foreseeable future. The industry is older, with 63 percent of agents over 50 years of age. The incentive structure of real estate sales also presents a challenge; agents will only earn commission after a sale. That means that even after the economy begins to resume normal operations once social distancing measures are deemed no longer necessary, agents will have to wait to make a sale before earning anything, extending their period of operating without an income. Click to read more at