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No drastic downturns seen on horizon for Realtor employment here

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Are doom and gloom in the cards for local real estate professionals?

Not in San Diego County, where people continue to sell, continue to buy, and continue to need professional representation, according to staffs at several local Realtor associations, where membership is increasing.

Membership has doubled on a monthly basis this year compared to last year at the San Diego Association of Realtors (SDAR), according to Lorrie Mowat, communications director. All Realtor memberships are annual, so member retention numbers won't be available until the first quarter of 2005.

The historic trend has been for membership in Realtor associations to lag at least a year behind the market, she said. "We anticipate that the meteoric growth we've experienced in the last two years -- about 100 members per month in 2003 and 200 in 2004 -- will slow down," Mowat said. "We're predicting membership counts declining slightly a bit in the first quarter, just through natural attrition of people discovering that the business is really a tough one in which to succeed."

Today, 8,372 brokers and Realtors are SDAR members; there are 380 corporate and affiliate members.

Similar membership growth is seen at the North San Diego County Association of Realtors (NSDCAR). As of the end of September, there were 6,200 active members, not counting affiliates, according to Dianne McMillan, CEO.

This year on average, more than 130 real estate professionals are joining the association monthly, she said.

"Some are people who had licenses in the past," she said. "They're seeing a strong market. Many are brand new agents. It's a very attractive market out there for someone who's interested in real estate."

At a seminar last week, the California Association of Realtors predicted that 2005 will be the second best year for the industry statewide, McMillan said.

"At any rate, it does not appear there is a bubble about to burst, if there is a bubble at all," she said. "Things are still very strong in the market."

Sandicor, which administers the multiple listings services for the five major Realtor associations in the county, has 18,000 subscriptions, according to John Holley, president and CEO. When he started in 1999, there were 9,000 members.

"People are still selling real estate," he said. "It's still not a bad gig."

Membership is increasing at CAR, as well. In June, the association had 393,750 members, up from 389,409 the prior month. In June 2003, there were 355,912 members.

Consensus is that interest rates impact the real estate market, according to Russ Valone, president and CEO of MarketPointe Realty Advisors. But even if interest rates climb above 7 percent or even 7.5 percent, buyers won't necessarily be driven from the market. The mortgage business has become creative, he said. Loans can be fixed five years and be amortized over 30 years. Some borrowers are opting for adjustable rates.

Not everybody plans to live in their home for the rest of their lives, Valone said. "It's a stepping stone -- gain some equity and move up in value."

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