A convention of real estate industry survivors met here on the Pacific shore this week, hopeful that a long-awaited housing recovery is on the horizon and coming to the rescue.

Those still in the business today have gone through four years of the longest, deepest housing slump since the Depression -- and it is not over yet. Their numbers have dwindled, as many of their colleagues have gone out of business or quit.

But while the housing industry has been among the hardest hit in the recession, the National Association of Realtors is not blaming President Reagan. The association members -- which in 1980 voted overwhelmingly for Reagan and has supported his economic policies ever since -- reaffirmed their loyalty to Reaganomics again this week, emphasizing budget cuts and rejecting any special programs to boost the industry unless they pay for themselves.

The depression in housing "has been a bitter pill to swallow, but now that we have done it, we want to continue on the same course," said Julio Laguarta, outgoing NAR president. The NAR's primary goal will continue to be reducing the budget deficit in hopes that this will bring interest rates down permanently, he said.

At the same time, Laguarta argued that more "midcourse corrections" will be necessary in the economy and called on the president to compromise on his plan to increase defense spending, something Reagan has indicated he will not do.

Laguarta and incoming president Harley W. Snyder both said the Realtors group could support a road-building program along the lines of one the administration is considering, to be funded with a 5-cent increase in the federal gasoline tax. Both the administration and Congress are looking at rebuilding the nation's highways and bridges as one way to get people back to work.

"There is no way that unemployed people are going to buy a home," Laguarta pointed out.

They also left the door open to support a Democratic roadbuilding/jobs plan being developed on Capitol Hill, though they would not commit to it until they saw the details. "As long as it's self-supporting, we could go for it," Snyder said.

Make it better.

Make the world a better place.

We're building on the future today. Sung to the tune of "Let the Sun Shine In," from the musical "Hair."

The official mood at the NAR convention this year was "cautiously upbeat," as described by Laguarta.

One attempt at rousing spirits was made between the political speeches on Sunday, as a series of rewritten songs of various decades extolled the virtues of home ownership, real estate selling and the association itself.

Following a warning by former president Ford that the budget deficit needs to be cut, for example, a gang of singers dressed in leather jackets and dark glasses leaped onto the stage.

"We're going to work for the rights of private property," they sang, to the tune of Rock Around the Clock. Then congressional Democrats got their chance to contend the election was a mandate for policy changes.

The musical group, dressed as hippies, next came roaring back to tell the conservative Realtors group to "make the world a better place," to a tune from Hair, the anti-war rock musical of the 1960s. This set the stage for Sen. Paul Laxalt (R-Nev.), who said the election was a mandate for Reagan to "stay the course."

On the floor of the exhibition hall next to where the speechifying occurred, the mood in fact did seem better than a year ago when the devastated and demoralized association members met in Miami Beach. But it was also subdued.

"Maybe all of us are looking over our shoulders a little bit," explained Snyder when asked to assess the tone of the meeting. "Maybe we've all been bitten more than we liked. We may be a touch gun-shy."

The depression in housing "has been a bitter pill to swallow, but now that we have done it, we want to continue on the same course," said Julio Laguarta, outgoing NAR president. The NAR's primary goal will continue to be reducing the budget deficit in hopes that this will bring interest rates down permanently, he said.

The NAR's forecast itself predicts only a long, slow recovery process, and outgoing president Laguarta warned association members against expecting too much too soon.

"Our people shouldn't be lulled into some sense of false security," Laguarta said at a press conference. "It's not going to be a speedy, gangbusters boom."

The association does not predict that interest rates will drop much lower, in fact it sees an increase in rates of between one-half and three-quarters of a percentage point in the first quarter of next year before starting to decline again. The group foresees a small decline through the end of this year to a rate of around 13 1/2 percent for conventional fixed-rate mortgages.

But the Realtors have had some recent good news, and the number of members attending this convention was up. Last year, the official number of attendees was given as 11,000, but now the NAR admits it was really closer to 8,000. This year's attendence was given as 12,000, still less than half the peak figure of 27,000 that went to Hawaii five years ago.

NAR membership, in the meantime, has dropped by 150,000 in the last three years to somewhat more than 600,000, and Laguarta pointed out that the association planned its budget on the assumption that they would see another 90,000 decline in membership over the next year. Incoming president Snyder said later, however, that because of recent improvements in the housing market, NAR membership probably will not fall below 575,000.

NAR officials said they finally have hit the bottom of the housing depression -- but, then again, they said that last year, and the situation merely got worse.

This year, however, they met at a time when housing figures have started to improve. The FHA/VA mortgage interest rate, for example, was at 15 1/2 during last year's convention and was still there, after rising to 16 1/2 percent for awhile, in August this year. But since then the rate has been dropped in five stages to 12 percent.

As a result of rate drops, sales and home starts have increased significantly in recent weeks. Housing and Urban Development Undersecretary Donald I. Hovde said applications for FHA loans are now averaging 19,000 a week, for a 500 percent increase over the annual rate in August.

Sales of existing single-family homes in September were at an annual rate of about

The NAR's forecast itself predicts only a long, slow recovery process, and outgoing president Laguarta warned association members against expecting too much too soon.

"Our people shouldn't be lulled into some sense of false security," Laguarta said at a press conference. "It's not going to be a speedy, gangbusters boom." 2 million units for the first time in a year. Chief economist Jack Carlson predicted an increase next year to 2.5 million units, still well below both the 1978 peak of 4 million units and the 3.5 million figure he was predicting for 1983 a year ago.

But other signs are good. A broker from Lubbock, Tex., likes visiting San Francisco and feels she can learn from the educational seminars at the convention, but she sighs longingly that she had to leave for this meeting just as sales were really starting to pick up.

George Shafron, president of the Homes for Living network, reports there is five times the interest this year than last in joining the group that he and his wife, Angela, head. Last year he was telling stories of members dropping out because the market was so bad, such as the one that wrote to say he was turning his real estate office into a flower shop.

At the same time, the Shafrons are teaching ways to diversify into other real-estate related fields, such as insurance and property management and appraisals, to prepare for the down times of the future.

The Realtors have stuck by Reagan throughout this down time, and Reagan says he appreciates it.

"Even though this is the worse period for housing since the 1930s, you have not asked for subsidy, but rather for sound economic and fiscal policy," Reagan said in a filmed address to the convention. "I wish all industries were that foresighted."

The film was enthusiastically received. But perhaps the most telling measure of this beleaguered organization's view of things came later when the president's good friend, Sen. Laxalt, spoke.

He told the group that the housing industry had taken more of a "beating" than any other from the Reagan policies -- and, speaking for the president, he added that the election was a mandate for Ronald Reagan to stay the course.

The real estate brokers burst into prolonged applause.