If the glummest face at your New Year's Eve party of two weeks ago belonged to a property professional, here's a likely explanation.
According to a recent survey by international property recruitment consultancy Macdonald & Company, done in August and September 2011, the average base salary for real estate professionals has decreased by 6 per cent from 2010 levels. The survey involved about 1,300 respondents from the property development and consultancy sectors across the Asia Pacific.
The average base salary for property professionals in the region is currently about US$89,850 (HK$700,830) a year.
According to the report, this slide could be partly attributed to a drop in the number of survey respondents holding senior positions. Nevertheless, it's a sizeable decrease - at a time when inflation is eating into Asian purchasing power.
Those working in Singapore's property sector are the highest paid in the region, with an average annual salary of US$123,800 - up from US$103,100 in 2010. Those working in Hong Kong enjoyed an average annual salary of US$117,969 - up from US$103,100 in 2010.
However, those working in China have seen a significant decrease in their annual base salary - currently US$68,300 from US$97,300 in 2010. This represents a decrease of 29.8 per cent for the period.
Once again, the annual survey underscored the strong earning power of those who have a Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) qualification. These professionals earn 42 per cent more than those without the qualification.
"Professional qualifications are increasingly a feature of the mainland real estate professional and their remuneration is accelerating as a result," says William Glover, Macdonald & Company international director.
On average, those working in Singapore with a RICS qualification earn the most (US$172,300), followed by those working in Hong Kong (US$104,600).
Morale also appears to be high in the industry. The majority of survey participants (82 per cent - up 5 per cent from last year) are "fairly" or "very satisfied" with their current employment. Only 17 per cent say that they are not satisfied, down 5 per cent from last year.
This confidence is going to be in demand, as only 35 per cent of respondents believe that the property market will improve over the next 12 months - down from 56 per cent last year. Meanwhile, 48 per cent believe it will remain unchanged.
In general, though, property professionals can be sanguine about their career prospects. The industry is in good shape, especially compared with other sectors.
Moreover, this line of work is also fairly fluid. While only 5 per cent of respondents have been made redundant in the past 12 months, 70 per cent of those who lost their jobs have already found new employment.
And given the multitude of property-sector employers in Asia, being downsized is not the catastrophe it might be elsewhere in the economy.