Baltimore Realtors see rise in members Improving market triggers gains

After a severe membership decline during the recession, the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors is now seeing a "significant" reversal of the trend that the association says is yet another indication of a revival in the region's housing market.

"We're now seeing a reversal of the downward spiral that occurred after 1989, when we dove into the recent recession," Fletcher Hall, the organization's executive vice president, said yesterday.


Given membership trends for the past three months, Mr. Hall is projecting that the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors -- one of the region's largest trade groups -- will attain a membership roster of 4,600 in 1993, up from 4,270 this year.

Still, he doesn't expect a return of the banner year of 1989, when the association reached a record membership of 5,089. That's because the housing market, while better, is not yet back to the boom years of the 1980s, he said.


Maryland law requires anyone selling real estate to have a state license. About 80 percent of those who have state broker or agent licenses in Baltimore and Baltimore County become members of the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors. Increased membership in the organization tends to move in tandem with a revival of the housing market, Mr. Hall said.

"For those interested in real estate as a career, it certainly looks more promising when sales activity is higher and there is little question that interest rates will stay low," he said.

The pick-up in membership at the Greater Baltimore Board is attributable both to new members entering the association and to the fact that some former members, convinced that a revival in the market is at hand, are coming back into the association, local real estate specialists say.

Sales of new and existing homes in the Baltimore area picked up a strong 16 percent in November, signaling what some local realty industry officials said looks like a genuine revival in the local housing market.

"Probably we're seeing a perception both by real estate associates and the general public that there is a renewed opportunity in real estate," says William Flynn, a partner in O'Conor, Piper & Flynn, the region's largest realty chain, which is based in Timonium.

Mr. Flynn speculated that the local realty sales business may be attracting some mid-level managers who lost their jobs in other fields.

"There are new opportunities for high level individuals who are new to the field," he said.

But Arthur Davis, president of Chase Fitzgerald, a Roland Park-based realty agency, said he believes membership gains are coming principally from formerly inactive members who are once again becoming active in the field.


"With so much positive news around, and with interest rates having been low for six months, there are a lot of agents thinking that it's time to get back in the business," said Mr. Davis, president of the Maryland Association of Realtors.

Although it is not necessary to become a member of a Realtors' PTC association to sell real estate in Maryland, virtually any agent who works with a major chain must join the local, state and national Realtors' groups to work under a broker who is a Realtor.

Realtors have access to the computerized Multiple Listing Service (MLS), to an array of educational courses and to other services provided through their associations, Mr. Hall said. In addition, membership requires that Realtors abide by the code of ethics of their voluntary associations, he noted.

Membership in the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors costs $289 for agents and $341 for brokers, Mr. Hall said. In addition, all members of the local board must join the Maryland Association of Realtors, which costs $59 a year, and the National Association of Realtors, which costs $57 a year, he said.

Fifty percent of the members of the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors work for the five largest real estate companies doing business in the Baltimore area, while the other half of the membership roster are sprinkled throughout 280 other companies, Mr. Hall said.

Annual membership statistics have yet to show any rebound in membership for the National Association of Realtors, said spokeswoman Tricia Morris. As of the end of November, she said, the national group had 745,183 members, compared to 763,133 at the same point in 1991. That compared with 822,935 members in 1989.