The jobs of up to 15,000 estate agents are under threat if house sales show no sign of recovering, industry experts fear.

Since the property market peaked in July last year, between 5,000 and 7,000 estate agents have lost their jobs, either through employers' staff cuts or through resignations as employees struggle to live on a basic salary without commissions.

With housing sales down 50%, industry estimates indicate that as many as half the country's 30,000 agents could be looking for work before any sign of an upturn occurs in the housing market.

Chris Wood, president-elect of the NAEA, who owns an estate agency business in Helston, Cornwall, said: 'If you take the worst-case scenario that housing sales have fallen by 50%, then you would expect the industry to lose 50% of its people. It's something of a Darwinian process. Although there are, sadly, some very good firms going to the wall, most of the ones closing are those that came in at the height of the boom that didn't really know their business.'

The Times