How Brokerages Can Best Leverage NAR
This is the fifth blog post in a series of ten that covers the trends that will shape the residential real estate industry in 2019 and beyond according to the publication, Swanepoel Trends Report 2019. The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this post belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to the author’s employer or the publication cited.
Just a quick caveat before you read this post; I am acting Secretary for the Lancaster County Association of REALTORS and sit on their Board of Directors. So some could take a look at this post and say I’m biased in my point of view. I get it. Having said that, here we go – – –
The National Association of REALTORS (NAR) is over 1.3 million members strong and has been around a long time. Anytime you’re dealing with a body this size, your decisions will second-guessed by a lot of people. Even if it is just 1% of the members that are disgruntled, that tally comes to over 10,000 people. When was the last time one of your decisions was critiqued by that many people?
So what exactly does NAR do?
If you ask ten random REALTORS this question, I guarantee that close to seventy percent will have no idea. That’s a problem and perhaps one that I’ll deal with in another blog post in the future.
Well here’s the short answer; A LOT.
Let’s start with where they bring the most value to the table according to the Swanepoel Trends Report:
Multiple Listing Services (MLS) – This is probably the most recognized benefit that we have because most agents use it all the time. Most MLS’s across the country are owned, or partially owned, by their local association.
Education – NAR provides all kinds of courses that provide REALTORS with a way to become a more valued resource for their clients. From basic courses dealing with professionalism and ethics, to advanced coursed dealing with individual parts of our business (i.e. short sales, working with veterans, etc.), the list of course offerings is long.
Technology – NAR has started to stick its toe in the water of the technology pool in recent years. It has developed some products or invested in companies that provide REALTORS with technology solutions. To be frank, I wonder if this is really something they should be involved with. Smaller brokerages typically like that NAR provides them with some solutions – – large brokerages, not so much.
Research – NAR provides great reports for its members to utilize. These reports are timely and key for many brokerages to assess the state of our industry. Perhaps the most well-known report that they publish, the annual edition of Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, is a staple in my professional library and I reference it all the time (as an added bonus for reading this blog, CLICK THE IMAGE BELOW for a free copy of the 2018 edition).
Legal Guidance – The national, state, and local association of REALTORS provide invaluable legal advice to assist agents and brokerages in conducting business the right way. The Pennsylvania Association of REALTORS’ Legal Hotline has been around for years and continues to provide valuable and timely transactional advice.
Forms – If you’re an agent, have you taken a listing or written a sales contract lately? The forms that you use are provided by State associations with guidance and input from NAR. There are teams of brokers, agents, and attorneys that constantly monitor and revise these valuable documents to keep pace with the constant ebb and flow of our business.
Events to Educate and Build Coalition – NAR meets on a consistent basis with its membership at two large annual conferences per year where agents and brokers can become educated on the leading issues facing the industry today. They also act as a facilitator in bringing together key players in our industry (i.e. MLS, large brokers, etc.) to discuss key trends and challenges in our industry.
Advocacy and Lobbying – NAR continues to increase its efforts in Washington, D.C. to advocate for property rights on behalf of our industry and owners of real estate who don’t have the clout that our national organization brings to the table.
Consumer Advocacy – Here’s one that I don’t get! NAR markets REALTORS in virtually all advertising mediums to help educate the consumer on the advantages of using a REALTOR. In my humble opinion, a consumer doesn’t use the services of a REALTOR because they have an ‘R’ lapel pin affixed to their sport jacket. They use the agent because they trust him or her. Those millions of dollars that NAR annually throws at this advocacy can be better spent on something else. Just sayin’.
Industry Standards for Associations, MLS and IDX policies, and professionalism – NAR continues to help formulate policies that benefit our industry at large. Whether it is developing standards and rules for MLS’s and how REALTORS and brokerages utilize IDX feeds or providing an established procedure whereby consumers and REALTORS can voice concerns over how fellow REALTORS conduct business, this benefit is huge.
Now let’s take a look at the flip side of the coin that causes friction between the National Association of REALTORS and its members.
Spending – NAR has been involved with some head-scratching, spending endeavors over the years which cause its membership to wonder who is steering the ship. Here are some recent missteps:
- REALTORS Property Resource (RPR) – Initially dubbed as a godsend for REALTORS to provide them with valuable market information, the financial windfall from third-party subscribers has yet to take place. Instead, NAR is $180M in the hole with no end in sight. Personally, I like RPR and I think it provides some incredible data, however, it was built by techno geeks and is not very intuitive to use which is why the vast majority of REALTORS don’t use it and a significant portion of the membership have never heard of it.
- NAR’s New Logo – A couple of months ago, NAR spent a quarter million dollars to redesign its existing logo which had been in place forever. While I don’t disagree with the need to update the outdated design, I do seriously question the amount of greenbacks spent on such a project. And after they rolled it out, they abruptly did an about face and decided to moth-ball the design because of membership backlash. You be the judge. Would you have spent $250,000 to go from the logo on the left to the one on the right?
- NAR’s Ongoing Advertising Campaign – I struggle with NAR producing television commercials and print ads where they dump money into promoting the REALTOR brand. Personally, I think this is a colossal waste of time, money, and resources. NAR claims that they are educating consumers of the value of using a REALTOR in a real estate transaction instead of a licensed agent who is not a REALTOR. I got news for you, not only does the public not know the difference, they flat out don’t care. They just want someone that they know and trust to guide them through perhaps the largest financial transaction of their life. If that person is a licensed agent who is not a REALTOR, no amount of NAR’s promotion is going to change their mind.
Technology – Many members continue to question why NAR is involved with technological endeavors. Brokerages and agents continually strive to provide their buyers and sellers with services and products related to a real estate transaction that will enhance the overall experience. Many of NAR’s technological offerings are either sub-par or compete with other market products. So if a broker or agent doesn’t use a NAR program because they feel there is a better mousetrap out there, they are essentially paying for the same product or service twice – once with their dues and once through a subscription fee to a market provider. Doesn’t make a lot of sense.T
So where should NAR focus its efforts?
I think NAR is pulled in too many different directions. Start with this premise; anything that its membership can obtain from a market vendor, bag immediately and focus on those things that that members cannot or will not provide for themselves.
The Swanepoel report makes a couple of great recommendations:
- Negotiate scale-based cost savings with popular products and services that its members use.
- Lobby and advocate for issues important to the real estate industry.
- Facilitate communication between brokerages to help them discuss and strategize how to address industry issues.
- Process and analyze industry data which is not available anywhere else.
- Identify promising innovators that help solve REALTOR issues and invest in them.
- Provide legal guidance and resources from agents and brokerages.
Change NAR’s structure
The new CEO of NAR, Bob Goldberg, has taken steps to streamline communication and operations within the organization which is a step in the right direction; however, everyone is ignoring the white elephant in the room.
NAR’s Board of Directors is comprised of 900 members! Hell, the Congress of the United States has 535 elected members and we all know how that is working out. The mere size of this body prevents change from taking place at the pace that is required in our fast-paced industry. This has to change.
The National Association of REALTORS has been around for over one hundred years and has served its membership well during that period of time. However, our industry has never seen the massive amounts of outside capital being invested into new business models as we have seen over the past three 3-5 years.
NAR can still be an effective and important body that represents REALTORS everywhere, but it needs to be more focused. The suggested priorities in the report are a good starting point.
Change will be hard for NAR but they need to realize that we live in a new age. An age that requires less waste, more focus, and the ability to be nimble. The alternative is an association that is irrelevant and possibly extinct – – and that would not be good for our industry.
Up Next: Trend 05: Real Estate Data Standards; What’s Really Happening with RETS and Web API
SOURCE: DeBord, Sam. “Trend 6: The NAR-Broker Relationship; How Brokerages Can Best Leverage NAR.” Swanepoel Trends Report 2019, edited by Stefan Swanepoel, 14th Annual Edition, RealSure, Inc. and T3 Sixty, LLC, 2019, pp. 82-97.