The National Association of Realtors and a crowd of people walking away
Illustration by Lanette Behiry/Real Estate News; Shutterstock

NAR ends January with 1.515 million members, a loss of 38k 

This marks the third straight month with a drop, but the association’s chief economist said membership is “holding on much better than market dynamics suggest.”

February 5, 2024
3 minutes

Key points:

  • NAR has lost over 62,000 members since October, following seasonal trends with a decline of around 4%.
  • California posted the biggest dip in membership, with a net annual loss of nearly 8,000, while D.C. and Washington State had the largest percentage declines.
  • Compared to previous market downturns, however, membership figures are better than expected, says NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun.

The National Association of Realtors shed more than 38,700 members between December and January. Since October, the association has lost more than 62,000 members — a decline of about 4%.

NAR's latest membership numbers indicate that the organization had 1.515 million members at the end of last month. The January decline marks the third consecutive month of falling membership, and the first time since May 2021 that overall membership fell below 1.52 million. 

According to NAR's historic monthly membership count, the declines follow a seasonal pattern: Membership dips in the fall and winter then picks up again in the spring — a trend noted in the report. 

But those seasonal declines have been larger than usual for the past two years as the housing market has slowed. And in December, NAR posted its first year-over-year decline since 2012. Compared to a year ago, NAR membership is down just over 2%.

Where NAR lost the most members

In terms of member count, California posted the biggest annual decrease, with a net loss of more than 8,000 members in the past year and a monthly decline of 4.75%. 

Eight states reported year-over-year membership declines exceeding 5%: The District of Columbia, Washington, Maryland, Colorado, Massachusetts, Virginia, Oregon and Louisiana.

The percentages were highest in D.C., where membership was down about 17% in the past year, and Washington State, which had a net loss of more than 2,500 agents, representing an 11% drop in NAR membership.

Modest gains in more than a dozen states

Fourteen states and territories tallied a year-over-year increase in membership. Florida, which has just over 220,300 NAR members — more than any other state — reported a net gain of about 1,400 members in the past year, or 0.64%.

Other states to post gains were Ohio, Tennessee, Missouri, South Carolina, Indiana, Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Montana, Maine, West Virginia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

A tough market leads to attrition, but it could be worse 

The latest decline in NAR membership could be attributed to the stubbornly tough real estate market, said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun, who wrote the report.

"In the past housing cycle downturn in 2008-2012, a net 400,000 exited the industry," he wrote. "In the current housing downturn in 2022-2023, where home sales are lower than occurred in the 2008-2012 cycle, yet so far, a net 85,049 members exited from peak in October 2022 to January 2024."

While attrition has registered in recent months, Yun argues that NAR's membership has remained surprisingly resilient. 

"To date, the membership figures are holding on much better than the market dynamics suggest," he said. "Existing home sales fell to the lowest since 1995, nearly 30 years. Inventory of listings is at historic lows."

Still, more attrition is likely, Yun said, particularly as the market remains slow to turn a corner. 

"Further membership decline should be anticipated, given the reduction in business opportunities over the past two years," he explained. "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."

When NAR raised its dues last May, the association said it expected membership to decline by about 15% over the next few years from its peak at the end of 2022.

Get the latest real estate news delivered to your inbox.