Amid a white-hot housing market, the National Association of Realtors hit its highest membership count ever last year at nearly 1.6 million, surpassing its previous record in 2020.
As of December 31, 2021, NAR had 1,559,537 members, up 6.92 percent from the same date a year ago when the trade group had a record 1,458,661 members, according to NAR’s monthly membership report. That means a record 100,876 new members joined the Realtor ranks in one year in 2021, up from 2020’s all-time high of 80,000 new members.
NAR confirmed the record-high membership count, but did not respond to Inman’s questions regarding the reasons behind the jump.
Last year, the trade group attributed 2020’s record to a robust housing market and high unemployment pushing professionals to join the real estate industry. While the unemployment rate was lower in 2021, the housing market grew even hotter, breaking records for low days on market, low mortgage rates, high median sales price, and low inventory.
On Thursday, NAR released data showing that a staggering 6.12 million existing homes changed hands in 2021, hitting a stratospheric high not seen since 2006. Existing-home sales soared 8.5 percent from 2020, itself a year that experienced unprecedented demand that few at the time predicted would be repeated.
That translates to an annual rate of 3.92 sales for every Realtor. That’s significantly less than the ratio of 4.63 that applied in October 2006.
NAR membership has tended to be a lagging indicator of the health of the housing market over the years. During the two decades before the housing boom in the early 2000s that led to the Great Recession, NAR membership mostly stayed within a range of 600,000 to 800,000 members, breaking the 1 million mark for the first time in April 2004.
The count hit a peak of 1.37 million in October 2006, coming in at 1.36 million for 2006 overall. The October 2006 record in NAR membership came 13 months after the housing boom peaked at a seasonally adjusted rate of 7.26 million annual sales in September 2005.
The number of Realtors didn’t surpass that 2006 peak until 2019 when the count rose to 1.4 million and then hit new records in 2020 and now 2021.
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Among the 50 U.S. states and Washington D.C., Georgia saw the biggest percentage increase in Realtors in 2021, rising 10.65 percent to 47,068. Realtor membership is highest in Florida, where the number of Realtors rose 8.82 percent last year, to 213,963.
California has the second-high number of Realtors (211,708, up 4.35 percent), followed by Texas (146,940, up 9.49 percent), New York (63,236, up 4.1 percent), and New Jersey (61,257, up 7.59 percent). Sixty percent of Realtors — 942,776 — live in 10 states.