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There are more Realtors than ever, and few homes to sell

NAR membership rises over 100,000 to nearly 1.6 million

For the third straight year National Association of Realtors (NAR) membership hit a new all-time high in 2021, according to the trade group’s monthly membership report. As of December 31, 2021, NAR had 1,559,537 members, an increase of 100,876 members or 6.92% from a year prior.

In 2020, the number of Realtors grew by roughly 80,000 members and this is the first increase of more than 100,000 members. Georgia saw the biggest percentage increase in membership with an increase of 10.65% in 2021.  

The NAR attributed the 2020 jump in membership to new individuals entering the field due to unemployment and shutdowns in their former industries. However, in 2021, the real estate industry grew more than many seasoned professionals had previously seen, perhaps inspiring even more individuals to try their hand at real estate.

“During the pandemic, a lot of people who had been putting off becoming an agent, for various reasons, found it easier to make time for education courses, especially since they did not have to physically go there,” Suzanne Hollander, a professor of real estate at Florida International University, said. “Then the second thing is with the prices of the market so high, there is this idea that you can be really successful in real estate. It can be really aspirational.”

However, this influx of new agents is not necessarily great news for the industry. According to NAR data, 6.12 million existing homes changed hands in 2021, which translates to an annual rate of 3.92 sales for every Realtor. (It should also be noted that not all real estate agents are Realtors, either.)

Steve Murray, a senior advisor to RealTrends and HW Media, said that this surge in Realtor membership is “warping a lot of business models in many ways.”

He went on to say: “Industry productivity is down on a per-agent basis or rather a per-member basis, and there are all kinds of Realtors out there scrambling for a business pie that has not grown that much. The number of transactions done both existing in new homes has not grown at the same rate that Realtor membership has for the past several years. And we don’t expect it to going forward in the next few years.”

The count of Realtors hit a peak of 1.37 million in October 2006, about 13 months after the early-2000s housing boom peaked. This peak was not surpassed until 2019, when the membership count rose to 1.4 million, before hitting new records in 2020 and 2021.

Across the U.S., Realtor membership is highest in Florida, where the number of Realtors rose 8.82% in 2021, to 213,963. California has the second-high number of Realtors (211,708, up 4.35%), followed by Texas (146,940, up 9.49%), New York (63,236, up 4.1%), and New Jersey (61,257, up 7.59%).