Promoting the value of using a REALTOR®, enhancing members’ opportunities to serve professionally and ethically, and advocating for real property rights.
Our history begins as far back as 1890 when a group of real estate men would meet whenever their mutual interest needed representation in some unified way. At that time Birmingham had only 38,000 residents, but there were already a lot of real estate salesmen out there–each going his own way, giving little thought or cooperation to his competitors. “No one dared drive his horse and buggy along 21st Street, then called Real Estate Row, with a prospect, for fear of recognition by a competitor who would most likely seek him out and attempt to sell his own listing. No special training was considered necessary. No capital or experience was required. The public recognized these conditions and looked with disfavor on the real estate profession and those engaged in it.”
In this environment the Birmingham Real Estate Exchange was organized on January 17, 1911, marking the first step toward the proper operation of the (publicly disfavored) real estate industry. R. P. McDavid served as first president until the Exchange was incorporated on October 20, 1914.
The Exchange adopted a new name in 1920: Birmingham Real Estate Board. In 1926, a local member, Robert Jemison, Jr., served as President of the National Association of Real Estate Boards (only one other individual from Alabama has ever served as president of the national organization).
During the Great Depression the Board fell on hard times and membership dwindled to almost nothing, but by 1941 the Board was back as a thriving institution; there were 63 member firms.
The post World War II years introduced the most dramatic change in the real estate profession up to that time — the emergence of women in real estate sales. One of the Board’s most important accomplishments during the 1940’s was assisting in the formation of a Builders Institute, a forerunner of the Greater Birmingham Home Builders Association.
The creation of the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) in 1958 was perhaps the most significant event in the Board’s history in terms of its impact on membership growth. Initially, many firms within the Board were skeptical of the need and refused to participate. The MLS was formed by 16 brokers who invested $100 each to start the program. Firms paid $25 a month for the service; sales associates didn’t have any fees! The early version of the MLS “book” was a 3-ring binder of mimeographed pages. When changes were made, the MLS staff sent them out by mail and members inserted the page changes and threw away the outdated ones.
The administrative offices of the Board were moved from the old Jackson Building (Jefferson Federal Building) to the Comer Building (City Federal Building) in 1962. By the end of the decade the organization had a new name: Birmingham Board of REALTORS®, Inc. In 1973 the Board bought a building of its own on Arlington Avenue. The current location, 3501 Independence Drive, was purchased in 1991, the building renovated, and occupied in 1993.
The 1970’s were the times of greatest membership growth: from 651 licensees in 1961 to an all-time high of 3,300 by 1979. But the economic recession of 1980-82 (prime interest rates climbed to 21 percent, mortgage rates to 18 percent!) caused membership to decline by over 1,100.
The late 1980’s and the 1990’s were times of adaptation and growth. Changes in the industry accelerated beyond most members’ imagination, from fax machines to mobile phones to voice mail, to electronic lock boxes, to laptop computers, to the Internet.
Many new uncharted waters await the Birmingham Association of REALTORS® in this new century. What is its future? By adapting–by embracing new ideas, methods and concepts–the leadership and the dedicated cadre of involved members will see that the Association continues to promote professionalism and ethical conduct and provide an environment that fosters a spirit of cooperation among our members, and assists our members in becoming more knowledgeable, profitable and successful.