These times have been hard on nearly every real estate business. But different parts of the country report unique challenges and business approaches, as illustrated by Intel’s monthly gauge of industry sentiment.

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Agents across most of the U.S. are meeting some common hurdles: High mortgage rates that suppress new inventory, weak sales and a series of commission rulings and settlements that have flooded the brokerage business with uncertainty.

But in some parts of the country, that inventory squeeze is pressing in particularly hard. And in others, a significant share of clients are already pushing their agents for more answers about how they can manage — or benefit from — upcoming changes to NAR rules.

Intel dove deeper into its flagship real estate sentiment survey for these findings, looking for the key trends and factors driving business in the four main regions of the U.S.: the Northeast, South, West and Midwest.

Here are four of the biggest regional takeaways from the most recent Inman Intel Index, a survey of 708 real estate professionals that ran from June 20-July 3.

1. The inventory shortage is a different beast in the Midwest and Northeast

New listings are hard to come by in most parts of the country, but the decline in inventory has stabilized in most places.

But if you’re an agent in the Midwest or Northeast, your new-listing business is likely to have suffered especially hard over the past year.

  • The share of agents who told Intel in June that their listing client pipelines got “substantially lighter” over the past year is 23 percent in the Midwest and 27 percent in the Northeast.
  • Compare that to 12 percent of agent respondents from the West and 15 percent in the South who said their listing pipelines are substantially down year-over-year.

As a result of this continued winnowing of listing pipelines, agents in the Midwest and Northeast are likelier than agents in other regions to report that lack of inventory remains the greatest threat to their business.

  • 33 percent of agents in the Midwest and 44 percent of agents in the Northeast listed “lack of inventory” as their top business concern.
  • That’s compared to 15 percent of agents in the South and 19 percent in the West who said the same. 

Instead of highlighting the inventory challenge, agents in the South and West were more likely to name mortgage rates as their top concern. They were also more likely to report holding positive outlooks for their buyer and seller pipelines over the next 12 months.

2. Top-level agent splits are fairly prevalent in most corners of the country — save one

Ultra-high agent splits have grown more common in recent years as big brokerage startups offered attractive packages to fuel their rapid growth, and franchises and indies reacted to compete for top talent.

But the latest Inman Intel Index results may also reveal a more layered regional dynamic.

  • Fewer than 5 percent of agent respondents in the Northeast reported having splits of 90/10 or above with their brokerage. 
  • That’s far below the 18 percent of agents in the Midwest, 31 percent in the West and 34 percent in the South who told Intel their splits were as high as 90/10.

This may be partly explained by the population who replied to the poll, but not entirely. 

  • Agents in the Northeast were more likely than agents in other regions to report working with a publicly traded, non-franchising brokerage brand such as eXp, Compass or the Real Brokerage. 
  • At the same time, agents in the Northeast were also more likely than any other group to report having a 70/30 split, despite a smaller share saying their brokerage used a franchise model, which is more prone to adopt splits in this range.

Here’s a table with the full regional breakdown.

3. Sellers in the West may be wising up to the NAR changes

Although many agents have fielded questions from at least a few clients about the commission lawsuits, clients don’t always have a specific tactic in mind.

But throughout the Western U.S. states, more agents are seeing a level of client engagement with the details that other regions haven’t yet reported.

  • 35 percent of agents in the West told Intel that a significant share of their seller clients — at least 1 in 10 of them — have asked whether they’re required to cover the buyer’s commission in recent months.
  • This share exceeds those of other regions: 22 percent of agents in the South, 22 percent in the Northeast and 17 percent in the Midwest said the same.

Perhaps partly for this reason, agents in the West were among the most likely to name commission compression or negotiation as their top business concern.

  • 26 percent of agent respondents in the West said their top concern was commission compression or negotiation, roughly matching the 25 percent who said the same in the South, and exceeding the 22 percent in the Midwest and 20 percent in the Northeast with the same response.

Still, in this generally high-price region of the country, it’s no surprise that the top concern of 34 percent of agents in the West was still mortgage rates, not commission compression.

4. An itch to jump ship vs. the wait-and-see approach

This region-by-region examination of the latest Intel Index results also revealed differing dynamics about recruiting.

  • In the Northeast states, 12 percent of agent respondents said they were nearly certain to switch brokerages sometime in the next 12 months.
  • The share of agents who believe they are sure to move was 10 percent in the South, 9 percent in the West and a mere 3 percent in the Midwest.

But just because so many Midwest agents aren’t yet sold on a move doesn’t mean they are closed off to one. 

  • 18 percent of Midwest agents who responded to the Intel Index in June reported their decision was either 50-50 or leaning slightly toward leaving their current brokerage, compared to the 14 percent of agents in all other regions who said the same.

Methodology notes: This month’s Inman Intel Index survey was conducted June 20-July 3, 2024, and received 708 responses. The entire Inman reader community was invited to participate, and a rotating, randomized selection of community members was prompted to participate by email. Users responded to a series of questions related to their self-identified corner of the real estate industry — including real estate agents, brokerage leaders, lenders and proptech entrepreneurs. Results reflect the opinions of the engaged Inman community, which may not always match those of the broader real estate industry. This survey is conducted monthly.

Email Daniel Houston

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