The real estate market is highly intermediated, with 90 percent of buyers and sellers hiring an agent to help them transact a house. However, low barriers to entry and fixed commission rates result in a market where inexperienced intermediaries have a large market share, especially following house price booms. Using rich micro-level data on 10.4 million listings, we first show that houses listed for sale by inexperienced real estate agents have a lower probability of selling, and this effect is strongest during the housing bust. We then study the aggregate implications of the distribution of agents’ experience on housing market liquidity by building a dynamic entry and exit model of real estate agents with aggregate shocks. Several policies that raise the barriers to entry for agents are considered: 1) lower commission rates, 2) increased entry costs, and 3) more informed clients. Relative to the baseline, all three policies lead to an increase in average liquidity, with the largest effect during the bust.
First version, October 30, 2019
R21: Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics: Housing Demand
D40: Market Structure and Pricing: General
R32: Other Production and Pricing Analysis