Realtors looking for federal cures for their depression-ridden industry got only one new prescription from the Reagan administration at their annual conventionhere; heal thyself

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Samuel Pierce offered the group--depleted in number by this year's deep housing slump--a simple plan for improving record-low home-sales figures without the help of costly federal programs.

Realtors, Pierce told them, should start buying the homes themselves.

Vice President George Bush was the keynote speaker at the convention, but he talked mainly about Nicaragua, a fact that bewildered virtually all Realtors interviewed.

In line with the administration's free-market, private-sector emphasis, Pierce outlined a number of ways the federal government plans to diminish its role in the housing market. He told members of the National Association of Realtors that this is a great time for them to "reach out for new horizons" and start investing in housing.

"I am suggesting that those Realtors that have been hit hard by diminishing commission income should think about the opportunity and incentive to become the providers of private-sector housing," he told the audience of 1,000 Realtors. "Certainly there are risks, and interest rates are still high," but these are starting to decline, he said.

Some delegates reacted with bitterness to the suggestion that barely surviving businesses can get into the buyers' market in a big way.

"With what?" retorted one broker from Colorado Springs, Colo. "Nobody has any money to do it. It takes everything we've got just to maintain our offices."

J. D. Sawyer of Naples, Fla., said Pierce had an interesting idea but, when asked if anyone in his area is doing more investing, he shook his head. "Nobody has the money," Sawyer said, adding: "Everyone is scared" of buying now.

There are those, including some in the Washington area, however, that say they are starting to buy properties at bargain-basement prices, counting on tapping future appreciation when interest rates drop and people start buying again.

Jack Shafran of Better Homes Realty in Northern Virginia, for example, reported that his firm is buying now for investment, and Mike Brenneman of Brenneman Associates said he is starting a syndication to pool investors' funds to take advantage of depressed prices in the Washington area.

The convention drew far fewer Realtors than in past years, a reflection of the current housing slump. Since 1978, as the housing market has worsened, the numbers attending have dropped, from about 27,000 in Honolulu four years ago to about 11,000 here this year. In addition, membership in the organization--which says it is the country's largest trade association--has dropped over the past year from 740,000 to 691,000.

The convention programs were a sign of the times. Seminars on creative financing techniques were well attended, as were talks on the use of computers and office management.

Other lectures were pep talks, such as one on "How to Overcome the Psychology of Recession"--a combination of Vince Lombardi and Norman Vincent Peale.

For those already overcome by the reality of recession there were talks on how to successfully reduce the size of one's company, auctioning off properties for quick cash, and how to assess the worth of one's real estate office, presumably of the most interest to those wanting to sell.

And, perhaps for those looking for semi-divine inspiration, there was Tim Foley, retired strong safety for the Miami Dolphins, who was booked to talk about "Celestial Meditations of a Fully Depreciated Athlete."

For many, the approximately 140 educational seminars being offered at the convention were far more important than the speeches and policy pronouncement by federal officials, delegates said. Veterans of previous conventions reported that this was generally a more serious crowd than in the past, intent on learning new ways to improve business or in some cases just to stay alive professionally.

In addition, the members who attended the convention were likely to be successful in their businesses, some said, because they were the only ones who could afford to go.

Some exhibitors said they had displays this year, not so much in hope of building business, but so competitors wouldn't spread the word that they were doing badly. In addition, the usual bragging about sales figures was totally absent this year, others noted.

"People are groping" for better business methods, said Bette June Ingham of Washington's Ingham & Associates.

"It's a hard-working group. They want to learn," added Kenneth J. Luchs of Shannon & Luchs.

Not all the news from the convention was bad. The meeting came at a time when interest rates have started to fall, and forecasts are for an upturn in the market.

"I do think we have hit bottom," said NAR Chief Economist Jack Carlson, with sales of existing homes running at an annual rate of about 2 million. Sales will start to pick up slowly this winter and then increase at a faster pace starting in the spring, Carlson predicted.

The new NAR forecasts put sales at 2.75 million in mid-1982 and at 3.5 million by mid-1983. "The worst times are behind us. Improvement is coming," Carlson said.

He said he expects to see conventional mortgage interest rates fall to 14 or 15 percent by spring from the current 17 to 18 percent.

The group also released a survey showing that true interest rates being paid by most buyers are 12 to 14 percent now, because of creative financing techniques. About 60 percent of all existing home sales involve creative financing, the survey showed, the most common being assumptions of old low-interest mortgages and seller financing.

While the convention was in progress, the government also announced it is reducing interest rates on FHA- and VA-insured mortgages by one percentage point for most types of loans. For single-family home mortgages, the rate was reduced from 16 1/2 to 15 1/2 percent.

Despite the favorable signs, the White House received a dose of criticism from the predominently Republican group. At the start of the convention, Carlson launched a wide-ranging attack on the administration, deploring what he called its "antihousing policy." He cited large tax cuts that he said gave a bigger boost to investments other than housing, deregulation plans for savings and loans that would allow them to commit fewer funds to home mortgages, and talk among "key people" of limiting mortgage interest deductability.

NAR President John R. Wood later tried to dispel the impression that the traditionally conservative organization is opposing the administration generally, but he ended up criticizing the White House for having no housing policy at all.

"It's more a lack of a housing policy" than antihousing actions that members are concerned about, Wood told reporters. "There used to be a housing policy in this country, and we see that fading."

The Realtors--about 90 percent of whom voted for Ronald Reagan for president, according to NAR figures--got little by way of reassurances of actions geared specifically to stimulating housing from the administration or other federal officials.

HUD Secretary Pierce emphasized that the administration is counting on its overall economic policy to reduce inflation and interest rates and therefore ultimately help housing.

To the disappointment of many members, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Paul A. Volcker remained steadfast in his refusal to allow money growth to increase faster, despite the Realtors' call for loosening restraints slightly in the hope of bringing interest rates down faster.

The convention delegates clearly put a balanced budget at the top of their list of federal policies they are pushing, clapping longest and loudest any time that elusive goal was mentioned.

Pierce, asked about Carlson's charge of an anti-housing policy, mentioned budget considerations, as well.

"I believe the Realtors know we don't have an antihousing policy. . . . We've tried to get interest rates down," he said. "There can't be any new building programs. It's just not in the cards, because it costs too much." generally a more serious crowd than in the past, intent on learning new ways to improve business or in some cases just to stay alive professionally.

In addition, the members who attended the convention were likely to be successful in their businesses, some said, because they were the only ones who could afford to go.

Some exhibitors said they had displays this year, not so much in hope of building business, but so competitors wouldn't spread the word that they were doing badly. In addition, the usual bragging about sales figures was totally absent this year, others noted.

"People are groping" for better business methods, said Bette June Ingham of Washington's Ingham & Associates.

"It's a hard-working group. They want to learn," added Kenneth J. Luchs of Shannon & Luchs.

Not all the news from the convention was bad. The meeting came at a time when interest rates have started to fall, and forecasts are for an upturn in the market.

"I do think we have hit bottom," said NAR Chief Economist Jack Carlson, with sales of existing homes running at an annual rate of about 2 million. Sales will start to pick up slowly this winter and then increase at a faster pace starting in the spring, Carlson predicted.

The new NAR forecasts put sales at 2.75 million in mid-1982 and at 3.5 million by mid-1983. "The worst times are behind us. Improvement is coming," Carlson said.

He said he expects to see conventional mortgage interest rates fall to 14 or 15 percent by spring from the current 17 to 18 percent.

The group also released a survey showing that true interest rates being paid by most buyers are 12 to 14 percent now, because of creative financing techniques. About 60 percent of all existing home sales involve creative financing, the survey showed, the most common being assumptions of old low-interest mortgages and seller financing.

While the convention was in progress, the government also announced it is reducing interest rates on FHA- and VA-insured mortgages by one percentage point for most types of loans. For single-family home mortgages, the rate was reduced from 16 1/2 to 15 1/2 percent.

Despite the favorable signs, the White House received a dose of criticism from the predominently Republican group. At the start of the convention, Carlson launched a wide-ranging attack on the administration, deploring what he called its "antihousing policy." He cited large tax cuts that he said gave a bigger boost to investments other than housing, deregulation plans for savings and loans that would allow them to commit fewer funds to home mortgages, and talk among "key people" of limiting mortgage interest deductability.

NAR President John R. Wood later tried to dispel the impression that the traditionally conservative organization is opposing the administration generally, but he ended up criticizing the White House for having no housing policy at all.

"It's more a lack of a housing policy" than antihousing actions that members are concerned about, Wood told reporters. "There used to be a housing policy in this country, and we see that fading."

The Realtors--about 90 percent of whom voted for Ronald Reagan for president, according to NAR figures--got little by way of reassurances of actions geared specifically to stimulating housing from the administration or other federal officials.

HUD Secretary Pierce emphasized that the administration is counting on its overall economic policy to reduce inflation and interest rates and therefore ultimately help housing.

To the disappointment of many members, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Paul A. Volcker remained steadfast in his refusal to allow money growth to increase faster, despite the Realtors' call for loosening restraints slightly in the hope of bringing interest rates down faster.

The convention delegates clearly put a balanced budget at the top of their list of federal policies they are pushing, clapping longest and loudest any time that elusive goal was mentioned.

Pierce, asked about Carlson's charge of an anti-housing policy, mentioned budget considerations, as well.

"I believe the Realtors know we don't have an antihousing policy. . . . We've tried to get interest rates down," he said. "There can't be any new building programs. It's just not in the cards, because it costs too much."