The number of real estate agents is outpacing the number of homes for sale, an issue that can exacerbate downturns in the real estate market, according to economists.

Sonia Gilbukh, an assistant professor at the City University of New York, talked about this issue with NPR:

It’s gotten to the point where there are more real estate agents than actual houses for sale in the U.S. At any given day, you’re likely to see about half a million homes for sale. And there are 1.5 million members of the National Association for Realtors – three times as many.

The number of real estate agents has shot up 7% over the last year. And new real estate agents aren’t as good as experienced ones. A new real estate agent was 10 percentage points less likely to sell a house at all than an experienced real estate agent. Many people who weren’t able to sell, as the prices dropped, they found themselves underwater. And if you’re not able to pay your mortgage, and you can’t sell your house, that means that your only option is foreclosure. That creates these sort of snowball effects.

The cycle goes like this. House prices go up, attracting a whole bunch of people who join the industry and become real estate agents. The market then falls for whatever reason. And then you’ve got a bunch of newbies, these people who are unable to sell people’s houses. Those houses go into foreclosure. And it doesn’t even stop there. As there are more foreclosures, the house prices keep dropping even more. So that exacerbates the cycle.