Realtors® are a big part of small business community 

Michelle Davis - 2024 NETAR President

May is the only time the most important piece of the local and U.S. and economies is formally recognized. Small Business Month’s goal is to honor the entrepreneurs who bring current ideas to the life and growth of our economy, and to sustain it. That has special significance for Realtors® because they’re a big part of the small business community. 

NETAR President

Real estate firms are an integral part of the fabric of the local small business community. The most current Census count lists 401 real estate, rental, and leasing firms in the NE TN – SW VA region monitored by The Northeast Tennessee Association of Realtors®.  

Most local real estate firms have fewer than five employees. Many – if not most – Realtors® are not employees of the firms where they hand their license. They’re entrepreneurs and nonemployer businesses.  

The IRS describes nonemployee businesses as “small firms – like real estate agents and independent contractors.” They account for almost three-quarters of all businesses and contribute about 4% of the economy’s overall sales and receipts data. There are 3,154 of them in the Tri-Cities Combined Statistical Area (CSA). They range from medical and technical positions to house-cleaning or small lawn services.  Nonemployer businesses are not included in the counts of businesses from the Economic Census or County Business Patterns.  

Locally, real estate professionals account for a little more than 10% of the region’s nonemployer businesses. But that doesn’t include real-time conditions. The Census reports lag by a year to a year-and-a-half. Typically, the number of Realtors® declines when the market softens. But so far that hasn’t happened. The total keeps increasing. Some of them are full-time Realtors® whose sole role is real estate. Others are the new breed and their role as a Realtor® is one of several of the individual’s revenue sources.  

Area real estate firms with employees had an annual payroll of about $70 million in the current Census count. Last year, the revenue attached to the region’s nonemployer Realtors® was $238 million. But there’s a lot more to the economic impact Realtors® provide.  

Residential sales alone had a volume of almost $2 billion last year. Sweep in the economic multipliers identified by the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) economic researchers and the total balloons by another $1 billion. And that doesn’t include vacant land sales, and commercial real estate transactions or deals that were not listed on the local Multiple Listing Service (MLS).  

Overall, real estate accounts for about 16% of the state and local economy, and almost all the heavy lifting is done by firms with fewer than five employees and the nonemployer businesses.  

According to the Business Journal’s Book of Lists, the region’s three biggest employers (Food City, Ballad, and Eastman) have about 37,500 workers. The two-year-old count of nonemployer businesses is almost 35,000. 

The region’s economy is seeing some impressive economic gains. Small businesses and real estate are a big part of those gains. NETAR was the first local organization of its kind that recognized, embraced, and employed the economic benefits and efficiencies of regionalism to market real estate and represent its members. 

May is a fitting observance because small businesses are important. They provide opportunities for entrepreneurs and create meaningful jobs with greater job satisfaction than positions with larger, traditional companies. They foster local economies, keeping money close to home and supporting neighborhoods and communities. NETAR and its members are proud to be part of that dynamic. 

NETAR is the voice for real estate in Northeast Tennessee. It is the largest trade association in the Northeast Tennessee, Southwest Virginia region, representing over 1,800+ members and 100+ business partners involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries. Weekly market reports and information for both consumers and members are available on the NETAR website at