Fewer Realtors leaving local market

The exodus of real estate agents from the Wichita market slowed slightly in 2009, according to preliminary figures from the Wichita Area Association of Realtors.

WAAR officials expect membership totals to stabilize at about 1,775 members from 1,731 this week, president Lonn McCurdy said.

That's down 215 paying members, less than the approximately 250 who dropped out at the end of 2008 when the housing downturn was gathering steam in Wichita.

WAAR measures members who have paid their dues and licensing fees, almost $500. Final numbers won't be available until after the first of the year, but it appears membership will drop between 11 and 12 percent, McCurdy said.

"That's a lot better," he said. "It's a lot better than many areas of the country that are down 20 to 30 percent. We're not suffering the economic ills that some parts of the country are suffering."

Nationally, membership is dropping at an 8.1 percent pace, National Association of Realtors spokesman Walter Molony said this week.

That's down from 10.5 percent in 2008, he said.

"Sales have been better and people within the industry have learned to diversify during the tougher times," Molony said.

"They've gotten into commercial real estate, property management, appraisals, and some have even gotten into insurance."

The downturn, which began last fall, was the first in many real estate careers, said Roger Weast, president of J.P. Weigand & Sons, the city's biggest broker.

It produced a year of reorganization in the Wichita residential sector, with several agents switching brokers.

Weigand increased its agent population by 50 percent to 330 in the reshuffling that followed the June failure of Coldwell Banker Stucky & Associates.

"Fortunately, we haven't had a great deal of people filter out," Weast said. "The tax credits will help hold a lot of people in the business, I think. They're a powerful incentive to get off the fence."

There's no set demographic for agents leaving the Wichita market, Weast said.

"It can be some of the older people who just decide this is a good enough time to hang it up," he said. "Also, there are the younger people who don't have a business really built up yet."