Unexpectedly Intriguing!
May 11, 2007

Courtesy of the National Association of Realtors blog (aka the NARblog), we've learned that the major factor that led to the expansion in the number of Realtors in 1975 was the creation of a new class of membership in the organization, the REALTOR-Associate®, as opposed to what had been our working theory that the computerization of the MLS was the driving factor:

Technological improvements have made it easier for more people to become real estate agents and brokers, according to PoliticalCalculations, and those same innovations may work in reverse to reduce the numbers of real estate professionals as consumers gain greater access to property information.

The theory certainly has merit, although technology is only part of the story behind the growth of real estate as a career. Lower interest rates and the general demand for housing are also significant factors, among others. And it's worth noting that 1975, the year noted by PoliticalCalculations for both the launch of computerized multiple listing systems and massive growth in NAR's membership, was also the year that NAR began offering a REALTOR-Associate® category of membership. NAR had primarily been an organization for brokers before 1974, but the new category opened membership to hundreds of thousands of sales agents. That change was the major force behind NAR's sudden exponential growth in 1975.

This would also explain why changes in the number of Realtors would seem to have suddenly become affected by market conditions after 1975, whereas before, these effects went unseen as the larger number of people engaged as agents in real estate transactions was effectively hidden before the NAR created the new membership classification. Our thanks to NAR's Information Central for filling in this missing piece of information!

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