Commercial real estate brokers have been downsizing their costly marketing strategies to cope with lower commissions from sales, according to interviews with commercial and residential real estate agents and brokers.

In Oregon and Washington, Certified Commercial Investment Members have been cutting down the number of their expensive social events like golf tournaments and hotel lunch programs and relying on lower-cost marketing strategies such as online networking, real estate blogging, classified ads listing and meeting people at events organized by other people.

According to Linda McClellan, head of the Clark County Association of Realtors in Washington State, the struggles of the real estate selling industry are shown in the sharp drops in realtor association membership across the country.

Her 88-year-old association, for instance, has already lost 800 members since 2005, when 2,200 real estate professionals were enthusiastically earnings loads of money from selling and buying properties. This year, McClellan expects about 200 more members to cancel their membership.

CCIM, meanwhile, expects its average of 300 members to drop this year due to continued uncertainties in the residential and commercial property subsectors. Association leaders feel that commercial real estate brokers are being swayed by the rising trend of finally retiring from work or retooling for other jobs or businesses.

To cope with declining membership, associations have been eliminating the perks they previously offered to their members. When holding retreats or other big events, they approach companies for sponsorship.

Linda Fisher, president of the Portland chapter of Commercial Real Estate Women, said she has been working harder to solicit sponsorship from companies. During the boom, most companies can easily give $2,000 to be the sole sponsor of an event. These days, Fisher said, the most she can collect from one firm is $500.

According to Anita Rifberg, president of the Southwest Washington-Oregon chapter of CCIM, real estate brokers today need to exert more effort to find networking opportunities in affordable ways. They also need to update themselves continually about changes in the market. Once they fall into complacency, it would be very difficult to get back, reconnect with movers in the business sector and start again.

According to many real estate professionals, it would still benefit commercial real estate brokers to stay as members of professional associations because these groups exercise greater power in business communities, provide networking opportunities, support advantageous legislation and conduct continuing education in the real estate business.

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