One thing about bubbles - they do tend to draw less qualified people into the trendy "bubble" profession or "second career". How many of you know someone that had never bought or sold a single stock / equity - that is until the days of the online brokerages and the internet boom in the late 90's. Suddenly everyone was a day-trader. The market only went up, right? Well, there are still many folks that actively trade, but generally with quite a lot more caution and less frequency. For the most part, the "rookies" moved on and left the equity markets to those with a little more experience and savvy.
In hindsight - there is no denying where the new bubble money flowed following the dot com bust - residential real estate. With cheap money and lax underwriting standards for retail and commercial mortgages, suddenly everyone was either an investor, an agent, or a contractor. The same mentality that fed the internet bubble persisted in real estate (values only go up!) - except this time most of the money fueling the bubble was borrowed, which makes the clean up that much more messy.
The good news from all of this for those who are true professionals in the industry - once again, the rookies are gone. The contractors, custom builders, and agents that "stay in the game" and see to the other side of the current downturn are those that represent the top of the profession.
This is good news for the consumer, as those who transact in residential real estate over the next several years will likely see a whole different standard in quality of service. The deterioration in quality of service the past few years was a byproduct of the "rookies" who were in the game for a "quick buck" and not to develop a lasting brand and reputation.