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National Association of Realtors membership dips below 1 million

Survival of the fittest

Current real estate professionals will rejoice at the news that Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest has pushed the National Association of Realtors (NAR) membership levels below the one million mark for the first time since March 2004, down from its peak of 1,369,411 members in August of 2007, just prior to the housing crash. The bubble popped in more ways than one.

The one million mark is more of a symbolic milestone than anything, as the membership slide has been gradual in recent years, not experiencing any massive exodus in a single month.

Some will point to natural attrition while others will match declining housing performance with the declining appeal of struggling as a real estate professional. Some will blame the current administration for failing housing policies that have kept the buyer pool restricted, while others will point to a long road toward the crash that is a natural (albeit exaggerated) economic cycle.

Why NAR is just fine

NAR is in a good position, however, in that dues were increased 50 percent to fund the Realtor Party Political Survival Initiative, and while the trade group will still feel the impact of losing nearly half a million members, it has been a slow decline that the group has been bracing for.

NAR spokesperson Walt Molony told AGBeat, “Monthly membership fluctuates because local dues cycles vary, and outside of the boom years there generally has been a seasonal dip from December to January. We focus on year-end numbers.”

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Annual totals for the past decade:

  • 2011 1,009,940
  • 2010 1,066,658
  • 2009 1,112,645
  • 2008 1,197,529
  • 2007 1,338,001
  • 2006 1,357,732
  • 2005 1,264,640
  • 2004 1,102,250
  • 2003 976,960
  • 2002 876,195

Molony added, “Given that most of our members are in it for the long haul, it would be safe to assume that with rising home sales it would be unlikely to see additional decline. Although we don’t publish membership projections, stabilization is much more likely in the current environment. For example, existing-home sales edged up 1.7 percent in 2011 and are projected to rise 4.5 to 5 percent this year.”

Where did everyone go?

Where did 400,000 people go that are no longer NAR members? Many are no longer Realtors but are still involved in real estate in some capacity, while a considerable number have left the industry altogether, becoming photographers, social media gurus, and tech entrepreneurs. NAR implies what many believe to be true – the thousands that flocked to the industry for what appeared to be easy money have left to pursue other means of easy money as real estate in a down cycle is more difficult to practice, particularly with consumers’ high scrutiny levels and apprehension.

For the remaining Realtors, there will be no love lost, as survival of the fittest means less competition for the survivors.

Tara Steele is the News Director at The American Genius, covering entrepreneur, real estate, technology news and everything in between. If you'd like to reach Tara with a question, comment, press release or hot news tip, simply click the link below.



  1. Karen Rice

    February 13, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    I'm wondering how many of these former members were actually competition for the working members anyway…there are many members in my MLS who have only had 1 or 2 transactions in a year's time. They really were not my competition anyway…nor were they really anyone else's who works at real estate full time.

  2. Robert Carleton

    February 13, 2012 at 3:16 pm

    Karen, you've got to be kidding! Are you paying any attention at all to what's happening at NAR? Forced political contributions? Bloated bureaucracy? Being a member of the MLS and doing a few deals a year is not what drives people to drop REALTOR memberships. It's probably disgust with NAR and how very little difference it makes to be a member. You tie the MLS to NAR membership. Are they the same in your market? If they are tied, isn't that odd?

  3. ShortWoman

    February 13, 2012 at 4:04 pm

    I'd love to see further thinning of the herd. I know my local chapter keeps whining about how fewer members means less revenue, but I'd rather have that the least professional among us sent their licenses back to the state!

  4. Kelly

    February 13, 2012 at 10:30 pm

    Good, I was tired of doing 90% of the work for 50% of the commission anyway!!

  5. Karen Rice

    February 14, 2012 at 7:38 am

    No I'm not kidding; relax ok? In my area if you are not a member of NAR you can't be a member of the MLS. Plain and simple. Is it odd? I don't know – I thought it was pretty normal and the MLS systems that don't require NAR membership are the unusual ones. But I haven't studied it all across the country, only know what I know locally. There was some grumbling about the dues but mostly, people are leaving the business altogether cause they can't make enough money at it to support their families..or they want to retire…has very little to do with the annual dues (from my observations locally.)

  6. JimV

    February 28, 2012 at 7:13 pm

    The world will be a better place when the number of used house salespeople (Realtors) drops to zero.

  7. Vance Moruzzi

    March 3, 2012 at 7:52 pm

    The times are changing franchise brokerage closing down there is a new kid on the block full service transaction brokerages in some areas like in GA Realtors are the minority now, The Majority is now at 53% are Non Realtors.

    Board dues are being raised to make up for loss in membership this will only cause more board members to leave even more charging them for dwindling membership……
    Times are changing.

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