Falling Hard and Fast
PressDemocrat: "The housing industry, which propelled Sonoma County out of recession three years ago, is now shedding jobs as builders, mortgage brokers and real estate companies feel the impact of the slowdown."
"After an eight-year run capped by unprecedented sales and price increases, Sonoma County home sales have fallen hard and fast. Sales have dropped for 11 consecutive months, when compared to levels from a year earlier."
"The sector, which employs one in six workers in Sonoma County, lost 1,300 jobs in the three-month period ending June 30, according to a new study. It could lose 2,000 more jobs before the shakeout is expected to end next year, reducing employment to 28,700, the study forecasted."
"Job losses on that scale would be comparable to the previous housing downturn, when the county lost 3,800 housing-related jobs from 1990 to 1992, according to Moody's Economy.com."I remember those 2½ years like they were yesterday," Blankenbaker said."
"It marks an abrupt turnaround for the housing sector, which almost single-handedly pulled Sonoma County out of recession in 2003. Over the past five years, the housing industry added 2,900 jobs in Sonoma County while the rest of the region's economy lost 7,400 jobs."
"For many of the newcomers, this is the first housing downturn they have experienced."For five years it was a bull market in this business. All they saw was their incomes go up and the loans flowing. You never saw the other side of it," Blankenbaker said."
"New real estate agents and loan officers flocked to the industry, attracted by the opportunity to make good money from the boom in home sales and mortgage lending. What agents, lenders and builders see now is the toughest real estate market in a decade."
"The job losses - the largest since the housing market was in retreat in early 1990s - have been deeper than anticipated, even in an industry accustomed to employment swings as housing cycles run hot and cold."
"Mortgage companies and real estate sales companies have been hit hardest, Cochrane said. Many had expanded over the past five years, employing a new crop of agents and loan officers who were drawn to the booming market as home sales - and commissions - soared."
"The effect on the economy will be magnified because many of these workers earned $60,000 to $70,000 or more a year during the housing boom, far more than the typical worker in the county."It's going to be painful," said Steve Cochrane, an analyst with Moody's Economy.com, which prepared the study on employment in the county's housing sector."
'"They were coming into the industry in droves. There's definitely going to be a purge in the real estate industry," said Rick Laws, Santa Rosa manager for Coldwell Banker, which dropped 20 agents two months ago. "I'm sure there will be more to come."'
"Real estate agents and loan officers who logged long, often hectic days to serve customers during the real estate frenzy now are scrambling to drum up business. Those who can't generate enough deals to keep commissions coming in could leave the field."
"During California's eight-year housing boom, the number of licensed agents and brokers jumped 70 percent. Sonoma County had 6,195 in September - 1 for every 55 adults, according to the state Department of Real Estate.But now, the winnowing of the real estate field is under way."
'"We downsized when it was obvious the business was going away. It's kind of a weeding-out process," said Randy Blankenbaker, regional manager for Chase Home Mortgage, who lost five loan officers in Santa Rosa earlier this year because of a lack of business."