NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun warned of “further declines in membership over the next 24 months” after NAR posted a 2.1 percent annual membership decline last month.
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Membership to the National Association of Realtors suffered a 2.1 percent annual decline in January as the powerful trade organization’s chief economist on Monday signaled further losses through 2025, according to new data from NAR.
“Further membership decline should be anticipated, given the reduction in business opportunities over the past two years,” wrote NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun in his monthly update on Monday, which showed membership fell for the third-consecutive month in January.
NAR membership was 2.1 percent lower in January than a year earlier, dropping to 1,515,837. That’s down 5.3 percent from October 2022, when NAR hit a membership peak of 1.6 million, and it’s the lowest level since May 2021. NAR reported a net loss in members last year for the first time since 2012.
Yun said the membership totals were holding “much better than expected,” given the rapid drop in home sales since 2021. But he cautioned that there’s a lag time of about 18-24 months for Realtors giving up their membership in the face of market headwinds like high interest rates, low inventory and high home prices.
“Most state and local associations should anticipate further declines in membership over the next 24 months based on the lag effects of past housing cycles,” Yun said.
NAR membership is a key metric to watch amid ongoing existential crises facing the industry and the nation’s largest trade organization.
Multiple reports have suggested there are many more real estate agents than there are homes to sell and support a real estate business full-time. Last month, the Consumer Federation of America issued a report showing that 49 percent of agents either sold one or zero homes in 2023.
Members have expressed fatigue with the repeated snafus and leadership turmoil at the top of the organization over the past year. The group installed its third president in less than a year after its previous two presidents resigned.
During Inman Connect New York last month, The Agency CEO Mauricio Umansky announced he had formed a new trade organization with Compass agent Jason Haber to compete with NAR.
“Right now I don’t feel like anybody is caring; we’re in a lot of trouble,” Umansky said. “We need better advocacy, we need better lobbying, we need to make sure we’re taken care of.”
RE/MAX, Anywhere and Keller Williams have also recently settled lawsuits filed against the industry related to commissions. Part of those settlement agreements has included giving brokers and agents the ability to give up their NAR membership if they choose.
Sources had been watching for January’s figure from NAR because the deadline for paying dues is Jan. 1.
Still, Yun indicated the current membership loss — there are 85,049 fewer members in January 2024 than October 2022 — was less dramatic than when 400,000 agents left the industry between 2008-2012.
Just four states saw membership grow from December 2023 to January 2024. Those states were Nebraska, Rhode Island, Utah and Mississippi. There was no net change in Puerto Rico during that time, and all other states lost members.
NAR said the organization typically goes through a seasonal pattern where it sheds members in the fall through winter.
Membership rose in January compared to the year before in Florida, Ohio, Tennessee, Missouri, South Carolina, Indiana, Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Montana, Maine, West Virginia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
“To date, the membership figures are holding on much better than the market dynamics suggest,” Yun wrote. “Existing-home sales fell to the lowest since 1995, nearly 30 years. Inventory of listings is at historic lows.”
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