Downturn forces many away from the real estate business

FRESNO, California

Some well-established realtors have been able to deal with the tough times and stay in the industry. But others are barely keeping their foot in the door.

"Little bit hot, should be okay huh."

Chris Thai knows what it's like to navigate difficult waters. Thai helped open Bebe Nail Salon in Northeast Fresno five years ago because work as a realtor started to tail off. Chris got his real estate license in 2003.

"Very busy time. I made a lot of money that year," said Thai. "A lot of people moving from out of town."

Just a few years later the housing market crashed. Thai turned to doing nails pretty much full-time. "This is toes, this is nails."

But Thai says more people are getting their nails done these days. He hopes it's an indicator the real estate market is starting to pick up.

"Now summertime a little bit busy with real estate's busy," said Thai. "School's off. People are moving a lot now."

At California Funding and Investments in Northeast Fresno loan officer Paul Salazar says many people he used to work with, such as realtors and escrow officers, made a clean break from real estate.

"Some of the people took different jobs totally out of the industry," said Salazar. "A lot of people went into education."

Salazar says one former colleague fashioned a side job into a new career. "That person right now is doing a business where it's weights and measures in the trucking business. Totally it's the other side of lending."

But Salazar says many of his former colleagues who got out of real estate say they are glad they did.

Chris Thai works seven days a week - following up potential real estate leads in addition to working at the nail salon.

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