Indications are that even experienced estate agents are now leaving the industry as a result of tougher trading conditions and tightening legislation.
And if this trend gathers momentum it will have far-reaching implications for the industry and consumer, says RealNet property group CEO Tjaart van der Walt.
"Sales are harder to come by in the current climate as we all know, and agent attrition is expected. But it would seem that experienced agents are now also leaving the industry, having taken the view that the 'game is no longer worth the candle'.
"The immediate impact is likely to be one of a scramble for good people and fortunately RealNet is in a position where it has a very stable agent base. However In this climate, I would expect to see a growing number of smaller agencies and individuals being absorbed into larger groups."
He says it's interesting to note that, contrary to perceptions, there are currently more estate agents working in smaller agencies than in the larger franchised groups, but that this may change considerably in the next few years.
"Statutes governing the industry are becoming more demanding. These include the third generation of Sectional Title laws, the Community Schemes Ombud Act that opens the way to greater consumer activism and the Prevention of Illegal Evictions Act.
"There is also more broad-based legislation affecting the trading climate for estate agents, including the Gauteng Spatial Development Perspective which could affect development patterns and values, the Housing Consumers' Protection Measures Amendment Bill and other statutes, all of which could arguably cause the property industry to become over-regulated."
The upside of all this, says Van der Walt, is a drive for greater professionalism in the real estate industry, in keeping with a global trend which was the focus of a report by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) in the US recently.
"In a climate like this it's time for consumers to seek out professional agencies to which the dedicated agents will undoubtedly gravitate, while agents prepared to take on the new challenges will be rewarded in that their services will become increasingly sought after."