Real estate licensing exam still attracts agent hopefuls

With property values tanking and the number of real estate agents on the decline as it becomes a tough place to earn a living, this seems like a strange time to be entering the real estate industry.

Yet that's exactly what a lot of people are doing. The New York Timesreports that New York administered 700 licensing exams in the last few weeks of 2008. That's drop of about 25% over last year but still enough to make a lot of people wonder: Who would be dumb enough to go into real estate now?

The reasons so many are still choosing to pursue real estate are the same reasons it's always been a popular move for mid-life career changers with dim job prospects: The barriers to entry are low -- a quick, inexpensive class followed by a multiple choice test -- and because earnings are derived exclusively from commissions, you'll always be able to get a job with a brokerage. Whether you'll make any money is a different story. For recently laid-off workers entering a tough job market, it's an alluring option.