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The hot housing market has real estate agents scrambling.

At the same time, they are fretting over the future of their industry.

The current sales boom’s impact on how homes are sold and the dominance of the Internet have created challenges for traditional residential sales agents.

“It’s crazy all over the country,” said Jay Thompson with online real estate marketing firm Zillow Inc. “What I hear consistently is a lack of inventory, homes going under contract in days and multiple offers.

“I don’t know if that that’s a healthy market – it’s brutal.”

Thompson spoke last week to real estate agents in Dallas for the Texas Association of Realtors’ annual conference. He said the current pace of the housing market is a sharp turn from the recent housing crash and recession.

“I don’t think it’s sustainable,” Thompson said. “The market will eventually stabilize.”

Both housing sales and prices are up by double digits in major cities across the country.

The shortage of houses for sale in many areas has created a frenzy among buyers and agents, as it’s become a sellers’ market.

Demand for houses is so strong that some agents are bypassing the traditional multiple listing service to market properties on the side.

“Off-MLS marketing is out of control,” said Jeremy Conway, a Michigan-based real estate sales consultant. “That friendly pocket listing has now become an epidemic.”

Conway said that in some metropolitan areas, more than 30 percent of home listings are being withheld from the MLS with the sellers’ permission.

Agents and sellers use this tactic to more tightly control the marketing of the property and fuel buyer interest.

“Not putting your listing in the MLS is now becoming more common in many places,” Conway said. “It’s going to damage our MLS, it’s going to damage our value proposition, and it’s going to have an effect on the marketplace.”

Conway said that consumers are already shifting their initial home-buying focus from familiar agents to huge Web portals including Zillow, Trulia and RealtyTrac.

“At this point in time, the portals appear to be winning the race for the all-important consumer eyeballs,” he said.

“As we move forward, it’s a part of our reality we need to deal with.”

Real estate agents were originally slow to embrace technology and initially resisted the transfer of housing sales information to public websites.

But that’s now changed.