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Realtor ranks expected to shrink this year

And that's a good thing, say some professionals

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This year, membership in the National Association of Realtors is expected to drop after nine consecutive years of growth. And good riddance, say some real estate professionals -- fewer agents may be better for the industry as a whole. The trade group's membership grew 89.6 percent during the latest spurt, from 716,078 members in 1997 to 1.36 million Realtors in 2006. But real estate is a cyclical business, and the housing market is slumping. It has happened before -- Realtor membership, like home sales and prices, tends to ebb and flow with economic cycles but has generally risen over time. NAR projects that membership will drop 4.3 percent this year, to 1.3 million, and fall another 10 percent from that level to 1.17 million in 2008. Membership in the California Association of Realtors -- which has the largest membership for any state Realtor trade group -- soared 118.8 percent since 1997 to 199,778 in 2006 and is projected to drop 7.1 percent this year compared to 2006. David Ch...