National Association of Realtors’ membership edged ever closer to 1.6 million in 2022, but the real estate trade group expects a drop this year, according to data provided to Inman.

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Despite a decelerating housing market, the National Association of Realtors hit its highest membership count ever in 2022, edging ever closer to 1.6 million and surpassing its previous record in 2021.

NAR often describes itself as the largest trade association in the country and touts its size when flexing its political power and lobbying members of Congress.

As of December 31, 2022, NAR had 1,580,971 members, up 1.37 percent from the same date a year ago when the trade group had a record 1,559,537 members, according to NAR’s monthly membership report. While a record 100,876 new members joined the Realtor ranks in one year in 2021, the association only added 21,434 new members in 2022.

Lawrence Yun

“The market was rising in 2020 and 2021,” NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun told Inman via email. “Once new entrants start to invest their time in studying to get their license and establishing a mindset on business, they do not immediately drop out from the first signs of a market downturn.”

NAR’s Finance Committee, which comes up with the trade group’s budget, anticipated Realtor membership would come in quite a bit lower in 2022, at 1.43 million. Yun once again pointed to the “hot” housing market in 2020 and 2021 for why that prediction undershot the eventual membership count last year.

“Americans who lost jobs or dropped out of the labor force due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including those who retired early, sought out alternative professions that offer safer business,” he said.

For 2023, the committee said in May that it expects NAR membership to come in at 1.47 million, which would be an about 7 percent decrease from 2022.

“The market was down in 2022, and we expect no meaningful gains in 2023,” Yun said Thursday.

“Real estate sales and brokerage is a fiercely competitive business. Some real estate professionals do well even in down markets, while others struggle even in hot markets. Overall, though, reduced sales — like what occurred in 2022 and are forecasted in 2023 — can lead to more shakeouts,” he added.

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, 2021, and now 2022.

Among the 50 U.S. states and Washington D.C., West Virginia saw the biggest percentage increase in Realtors in 2022, rising 5.32 percent to 3,309. As in 2021, Realtor membership is highest in Florida, where the number of Realtors rose 4.26 percent last year, to 223,084.

California has the second-high number of Realtors (213,938, up 1.05 percent), followed by Texas (149,785, up 1.94 percent), New York (63,283, up 0.07 percent), and New Jersey (62,126, up 1.42 percent). Sixty percent of Realtors — 959,290 — live in 10 states.

Nevada saw the biggest percentage decline in Realtors in 2022, falling 2.57 percent to 20,157.

Email Andrea V. Brambila.

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NAR | realtors
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