We're about to lose a lot of our colleagues next month. The annual renewal of local association dues is coming up for many agents. Many associations will lose members who can't afford the cost of renewing - typically several hundred dollars in many places (over $700 for my association). The membership includes many so-called "member benefits" including forms, business discounts, and political advocacy. If they stay in business, is it necessary for them to be REALTORS?
In the State of California there are a large number of agents who opt not to be REALTORS. I'll bet there are agents in other states too. They get their brokers license, set up an office, get E&O insurance, and...they do just fine. Their clients like them, they work ethically, and they do a good job of buying and selling homes.
Does that agent really need to be a REALTOR to do a good job? This is just a theoretical question, not a justification for the expenses of organized real estate. The cost of doing business is fairly high across the board. When you consider the cost of being a REALTOR, getting MLS access, paying a desk fee, and then account for commission splits, it's really expensive to be an agent and also a REALTOR. A smart business decision could be to simply not become or stay a REALTOR. So, what's the difference? Many of us talk about what makes being a REALTOR great and some of those aspects include:
ETHICS: Often the defining difference is that a REALTOR would follow the Code of Ethics while a plain agent isn't required to. However, I know of many agents who are REALTORS who violate the COE constantly in the name of doing business. Conversely, I know a few non-REALTORS who are very ethical and follow the COE anyway. Is membership required to be an ethical agent?
LOCAL BOARDS: Our local board has meetings where agents can network and present properties. If they're not REALTORS, they can't have that engagement. Is it necessary? I dont' know.
SOFTWARE: As far as I know, you can't get ZipForms without being a member. In today's world of paperless offices, that's a major difference. Is it important? If you're only doing 1-4 transactions a year, it's cheaper to buy paper forms.
This is a philosophical debate. I'm not, repeat NOT, advocating one way or another. I'm a REALTOR and plan to remain one. I'm just asking people to think about what happens when our colleagues drop off the membership rolls, are they really any different. Can agents do just fine without being members?