NAR President Gary Thomas said the real estate business is cyclical.  “Realtors have some way to go to surpass the peak income recorded back in 2002.  Interestingly, the peak wasn’t during the bubble years because there were way too many people in the business,” he said.  “To help smooth out the peaks and valleys associated with residential sales, many Realtors are diversified into related services.  As a result, changes in Realtor income don’t exactly parallel changes in home sales and prices.”

NAR recently surveyed 58,000 of its members about personal and business matters.  The survey generated an 8.4 percent response rate which was weighted to be representative of state-level NAR members.   Realtors account for about one-half of the active real estate licenses in the U.S but probably a much larger share of working agents; many firms make membership a condition of affiliation with the office.

The median gross income of NAR members increased with experience and hours worked and brokers earned more than those licensed as sales agents by a large factor, $54,900 to $34,000.  Those who were in the business for more than 16 years had a median gross of $57,300 and those who worked 60 hours per week or more had a median of $85,700.  Twenty-one percent of NAR members earned a six-figure income in 2012 and the median number of sales transactions (buyer or seller side) was 12, up from 10 in 2011.

Few Realtors – only about 6 percent – started out in that field.  Nineteen percent had a previous career in management, business, or financial fields and 15 percent in sales or retail.  The “typical” NAR member has been in real estate for 13 years, works 40 hours a week and ninety-four percent say they will remain in the field for at least two more years.

Eight out of 10 NAR members focus on residential sales and 73 percent have secondary real estate specialties with 18 percent offering, in addition, commercial property management, 17 percent relocation services, and 15 percent commercial brokerage. For Realtors who have other primary specialties, 37 percent listed residential brokerage as a secondary business.

Most NAR members – 56 percent – are licensed as sales agents; 27 percent are brokers, 18 percent broker associates and 4 percent appraisers (some hold more than one license).  Thirty-nine percent of Realtors hold at least one out of six NAR certifications in specialized training and 36 percent have obtained at least one professional designation, most commonly the GRI (Graduate Realtor Institute).  Twenty-two percent of Realtors® belong to one or more of NAR’s affiliated institutes, societies or councils; the most common is CRS (Council of Residential Specialists), identified by 12 percent.

Sixty-four percent of NAR members have a website as do 94 percent of their firms.  Fifty-six percent use social or professional network sites, and 12 percent have a blog.  Email is a more popular method of keeping in touch with customers (94 percent) than the phone (90 percent) with text messaging (74 percent) a distant third.

Respondents worked for a firm with a median of 23 brokers and agents, typically with one office, and had been with that firm for seven years.  Fifty-six percent of members are affiliated with an independent firm, and 40 percent are with a franchised company.

Almost 90 percent of Realtors are homeowners, 36 percent own at least one residential investment property and 10 percent own at least one commercial property and 3 percent own at least one vacation home.  About half have collect degrees, 15 percent are fluent in a second language, and they vote – about 94 percent of respondents participated in the last national election.

Realtors said several factors limit potential clients in completing transactions.  Members said the biggest impediment was difficulty in obtaining a mortgage, cited by 29 percent of respondents, followed by difficulty in finding the right property, 25 percent.