The Optimists' Club

Michael Grynbaum:

AS apartment prices plunge and sales hit a standstill, real estate agents may be giving bankers a run for their money as the city's most maligned profession.

THE SUNNY SIDE "I'm coming into this thing like nothing's going to stop me," says Kendra Elise Tomas, a newly licensed real estate agent. She is also a fashion designer.
Yet despite the worst residential market downturn in a generation, hundreds of New Yorkers still want a piece of the action -- or whatever's left of it.

In the waning weeks of 2008, the state administered more than 700 licensing exams to aspirants looking to join the ranks of agents.

"We've been much busier than we thought we'd be," said Stephanie Barron, a manager at the New York Real Estate Institute, which offers licensing courses for brokers and agents.

The rookies range from laid-off bankers to fresh-faced college students, from restless empty nesters to service workers looking for a change of career. Many are sidling away from other industries caught in the downturn; some just need part-time work to make ends meet.

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