Inventory recently hit its lowest level since 1999, which is impacting real estate professionals’ ability to serve clients, NAR’s 2023 Member Profile finds.

Nearly a third of the nation’s more than 1.5 million REALTORS® say the lack of housing inventory is preventing them from finding appropriate listings for their clients, according to the National Association of REALTORS®’ newly released 2023 Member Profile report. The challenge comes at a time when housing supply dropped in 2022 to its lowest level since 1999, the report notes.

Homes on the market are selling at a brisk pace—in May, 74% sold in less than a month, NAR data shows—making it even more difficult for real estate pros to find the right options for their clients. Properties listed in May typically spent only 18 days on the market and received an average of 3.3 offers each, according to NAR’s most recent existing-home sales data.

‘Game of Chicken’

Many would-be sellers may be feeling stuck in place, hesitant to trade in the ultra-low mortgage rate they secured in recent years, and that’s further limiting housing options for buyers. Potential sellers also would face higher home prices if they entered the market as a buyer today, though prices have been moderating lately.

“Until we see inventory go up and rates go down, I believe we’ll continue to see buyers and sellers playing this game of chicken,” says Glenn Brunker, president of mortgage lender Ally Home. “Timing the market isn’t the solution. I recommend buyers assess if they can comfortably afford monthly payments at today’s rates, knowing adjustment options are available down the road—not if but when inflation starts to budge.”

But as homeowners wait to list, the housing shortfall continues to grow. Middle-income buyers are suffering the most, as the shortage is most acute in the price points they can afford, according to a recent study conducted jointly by NAR and®. The market is short about 320,000 listings in price points up to $256,000, according to the study.

Still Staying Busy

With fewer homes to sell, real estate professionals are facing growing competition for listings. Even as housing inventory declined, NAR’s membership grew to 1.58 million at the end of 2022, up from 1.56 million a year prior, according to the 2023 Member Profile. But there’s still business to be had. The typical member had 12 transactions in 2022 and a sales volume of $3.4 million, up from $2.6 million in 2021, the report shows.

Member income continues to grow, too. The median gross income for REALTORS® rose to $56,400 in 2022, up from $54,300 in 2021, NAR data shows. Real estate pros with 16 years or more of experience tended to earn more, with a median income of $80,700. However, inflation put a dent in their wallets: Pros incurred average business expenses of up to $8,210 in 2022 compared to $6,250 in 2021, NAR notes.

Repeat business continues to be a major lifeline for many real estate pros. The typical practitioner earned about a quarter of their business from previous clients and referrals; pros with 16 or more years of experience saw repeat business reach a level of 43% of their activity.