Industry Takes Toll on MAAR Membership – Memphis Daily News

Industry Takes Toll on MAAR Membership – Memphis Daily News
2007 & 2008 MAAR Membership Totals Comparison Chart from data provided by the Memphis Area Association of Realtors

ERIC SMITH | The Daily News


The housing slump continued to take a toll on the real estate profession as membership in the Memphis Area Association of Realtors (MAAR) reached a three-and-a-half year low in December with just 4,599 members.


That year-end mark represented a 12 percent decline from the 5,231 members on the roll in December 2007 and is the lowest total since the June 2005 tally of 4,581 members, according to MAAR data.


Also, the average monthly membership in the state’s largest real estate trade association was 4,854 in 2008, down 8 percent from 5,266 in 2007.


Because home sales continued to slide all year, the attrition of members was expected, noted MAAR marketing and communications director Scott Sherrin.


“Given where we are in terms of sales numbers, I don’t think it’s surprising given the environment we’re in,” he said. “We had planned for a dropoff in membership. It’s part of the cyclical nature of this industry, and we’ve seen it before. As things pick up again, we’ll see those numbers start to creep up again.”

Weeding things down


For Realtor numbers to creep back up again, sales might need to make a serious upswing. Shelby County saw just 9,681


non-bank home sales through Nov. 30, a 34.8 percent decline from 14,847 in the same period of 2007 and a 50.9 percent decline from 19,735 in the same period of 2006, according to real estate information company Chandler Reports,


The total sales volume in terms of dollar amount for the year’s first 11 months was $1.68 billion, down significantly from $2.69 billion in 2007 and also from $3.45 billion in 2006, meaning the pie was much smaller for Realtors.


Sue Turner, managing broker of Crye-Leike Realtors Inc.’s Germantown office, said the reduction of Realtors in response to the dwindling sales numbers is a healthy return to normalcy after the torrid sales pace – and swelling of Realtors – that occurred in the mid-2000s.


“This is a good thing for the market because we were having so many people get into this business on a monthly basis who really thought this was just a ?take orders’ type thing like it was for two or three years and that everybody and their brother could buy a house,” she said.


The decline in overall membership is attributed primarily to the departure of Realtor-associates, those who are relatively new to the profession, as opposed to Realtors, who are fully licensed brokers and allowed to manage their own firm.


Sherrin said MAAR typically sees a lion’s share of departures from the business among Realtor-associates because they haven’t yet invested the same commitment of time and resources into their careers as Realtors.


“It goes back to the years of experience, the years in the business,” Sherrin said. “The people who got into it within the last couple of years when the times were good, those are the ones that are usually the first to leave the business when things get particularly difficult.”

Finding a niche


Despite a host of real estate professionals jumping ship in 2008, Tammie Ross saw the chaotic housing market as an ideal time to begin her career as an associate with Turner’s Crye-Leike office.


Ross, who started as an associate four months ago, sees vast investment opportunities in today’s climate. She figures the market is bound to turn around as investors snatch up properties so she is targeting them as a niche market.


“Everything is cyclical, so I know it’s going to turn around,” Ross said. “I’m one who likes to get in when the numbers are down so I can be a part of it when it starts to boom.”


Another reason Ross broke into the business was to learn the ins and outs so she too can become a savvy investor. That’s why she has placed an emphasis on real estate education during these first few months of her career.


“During ’08 I really wanted to educate myself, really learn how to do the business, so that has been my focus,” Ross said. “I’m really pumped up for ’09. I feel as if I’m now armed with the tools needed to be successful in this. I’m really looking forward to the future.”


Her outlook might be the right one to have in an industry whose ranks have been decimated. As most professionals point out, earning designations – such as the ABR (Accredited Buyer Representative) or CRB (Certified Real Estate Brokerage Manager) – can be advantageous when things are slow.


Realtors with no designations have a median income of $33,200 while Realtors with at least one designation have a median income of $67,900, based on 2008 member survey data from the National Association of Realtors.


“It may seem difficult for members out there that are struggling to get business in a down market,” Sherrin said. “It may be hard to see the value of that education, but it really is a perfect time when you’re not as busy with clients and working on transactions to take the time to get those designations or at least take some additional education courses.”


Chandler Reports is a division of The Daily News Publishing Co.