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National Association of Realtors membership drops 2.4% in February

NAR membership declines by nearly 24,000 real estate professionals in the month of February, but why? Is this a natural decline or is it fueled by the continually crumbling housing market and shifting housing policies? Some say it’s simply natural attrition, read on to find out more.

Trade group membership levels

In January, the National Association of Realtors’ membership numbers dipped below one million for the first time in roughly 8 years, although the march below one million has been a gradual decline. The month of February ended with 964,886 dues paying members, down 2.4 percent from January, representing a loss of 23,989 Realtors for the month. The nation’s largest trade association relies on membership dues and over the years has done a considerable amount of cost cutting in the form of reducing their print publication, reducing the executive work force, and doubling dues.

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.

An unknown portion of licensees are inactive yet continue to pay dues at NAR in the event that they get a buyer or seller interested, which a portion of membership loss could be this group simply not maintaining dues, yet it is also normal every day Realtors beat down by the economy, particularly agents whose expertise is new home construction or geographic areas that have caught the foreclosure virus. In some of these cases, simply coming up with a few dollars and they’re back in business, but in other cases, some are leaving the business altogether.

In almost all years this decade and in most years past, it is common for membership to dip from December to January and from January to February, typically increasing slightly again in March going forward. 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.”

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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. Randy

    March 2, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    Sometimes I think NAR simply doesn’t get it! Losing agents? ….let’s raise the dues! Fewer transactions and higher cost of doing business, fewer REALTORS. Loss of income…let’s raise the dues some more! I really believe the NAR business model needs revamping.

  2. Lani Rosales

    March 2, 2012 at 1:47 pm

    Randy, as noted above, February is always a month of natural member loss. Do you think it is NAR’s doing, a down economy, or natural attrition?

    • Dorothy

      March 16, 2012 at 7:35 pm

      No its called I can do it myself.

  3. Mike Pennington

    March 2, 2012 at 6:35 pm


    IMO We are in a recovery in regards to housing but even so, there is not enough recovery to keep the number of REALTORS over 1,000,000. I’d like to know peoples thoughts and what the water-mark will be in 2013-2015.

    It would be great to see NAR, State and Locals financially prepare for a membership number closer to 800,000 for the next 3 years. We had a huge influx of REALTORS in the good years that I cannot see remaining in the business.

    • Lani Rosales

      March 2, 2012 at 11:18 pm

      Mike, that’s an interesting question about 2013-2015… it seems that the influx of REALTORS will increase again closer to 2015 as housing improves, but this time not because of the economy, but because the appeal of self employment has increased over the years and has become attainable, and with the visibility of real estate agents online, more could join in as housing recovers. Thoughts?

  4. Teresa Boardman

    March 2, 2012 at 6:46 pm

    Hard to imagine anyone leaving all this. Short sales and foreclosures are so glamorous.

    • Lani Rosales

      March 2, 2012 at 11:20 pm

      Teresa, well when you make it sound all sexy….

  5. Russ Bergeron

    March 2, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    Year end billing. 30 days to pay. Cut off in February.

    Good theory about fewer practitioners.

    1,000,000 Realtors (many more licensees but we’ll work with round numbers), 10,000,000 sides equals 10 sides each.

    100,000 Realtors, 10,000,000 sides equals 100 sides each.

    How many sides would you want to do?

    The flip side is that many times I have heard people say that they would love to have fewer competitors and would be willing to pay more for services. Would love to test that theory. 🙂

    • Lani Rosales

      March 2, 2012 at 11:21 pm

      I think a lot of people have been waiting for a thinning of the herd. I don’t think we’ll hit that iconic 800k mark this year though, do you?

  6. Fred Romano

    March 3, 2012 at 7:56 am

    NAR should focus on making better use of our money. One thing I have been saying for years is that they should stop killing trees with their print magazines and just publish it online. They could cutout all the bull-crap advertising and focus on the content.

    Our local MLS sends us PDF magazines instead of paper. They started that a couple of years ago and it’s saving money and the environment.

  7. Sig Buster

    March 3, 2012 at 8:29 am

    NAR is surely a 24k SpinMeister. Yes, the economy has something to do with attrition but NAR won’t admit that the dues increase had a lot to do with it. It’s not so much the money as the slimy way they went about it. They said they wanted our input but when every pol out there said NO! they voted for the increase anyway. Proving they don’t care what we think. They wanted money to funnel to their friends in Congress for their own profit and aggrandizement.

  8. Richard Eimers

    March 3, 2012 at 8:32 am

    Let’s keep the numbers falling, there are too many part timers waiting for one or two deals a year, they continue to dilute this industry. I have never seen a part timer execute a good transaction. Increase those fees to professional levels and provide REAL BENEFITS from our associations.

  9. Corwyn Melette

    March 4, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    NAR is undergoing changes, just like the rest of us. During a conference I attended last year, the discussion is what will the NAR of the future be. The consensus among the brokers was that they felt that NAR should focus on advocacy for the membership. I am involved with our local and state associations serving on multiple committees. I see where we are effective and that is getting in front of government officials to fight for property rights and against anything that is harmful to free trade. That is where your dues dollars are best served and those involved get it. That along with your Code of Ethics is what sets REALTORS apart. The membership will always change. That is the one thing constant. However, it is up to the membership to set themselves apart from those who are not members and let the public know what is different about them. NAR advertises for it members, but we let others reap the benefits by trying to carry our name when they are not members.

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