A Response to Bill Brown, 2017 NAR President

Usually, Notorious is what you might call an underground-yet-not-really phenomenon. That is, I know that almost all of the leaders of the industry read it, and I get emails, messages, and phone calls from them from time to time responding to one post or another. Very, very rarely do I get a public response from someone in a position of authority.

Well, in a refreshing change from the atmosphere of omerta that seems to surround organized real estate, 2017 NAR President Bill Brown posted a lengthy comment on my post about Bob Goldberg’s elevation to CEO. He corrects the record, and takes me to task on a couple of items. I thought it worth responding to him here, in a separate post, rather than in the comments section.

Seems to me that this is a rare opportunity for public discourse about an important decision that the organization has taken. I think it’s healthy for people who have the same ultimate goal — to save the Realtor Movement — to discuss things openly.

I’m going to quote parts of Bill’s comments, but I encourage you to read the whole thing. It provides real insight into the thinking of the NAR Leadership of today. This will be written as an open letter to Bill.

Dear President Brown,

First of all, thank you so very much for your comment. It isn’t often that a leader of any association, never mind the National Association of REALTORS, offers public comment and criticism. I appreciate it, as it affords an opportunity for dialogue. And normally, not being a man who stands much on ceremony, I would call you Bill, and be far less formal in a response blog, but you used your official email address (NARPresident@realtors.org), so I must treat this as an official communique from the Office of the President. Accordingly, President Brown, let me reiterate how grateful I am that you are willing to have this conversation in public.

Let me also say that I have the utmost respect for anyone who volunteers so much of their time as to rise in leadership at NAR. I know the work and dedication it takes for someone to become NAR President, and so I’d like to make clear that whatever our disagreements, I have nothing but the highest respect for you personally and for the office you hold.

That said, there are some substantive areas where you and I don’t see eye to eye. That’s obvious. Let me start with the most important.

NAR Needs Saving

Your very first paragraph to me was this:

First, you mention NAR “needs fixing.” In a large organization like ours, there will always be strengths and weaknesses. I submit we have many more of the former. NAR is a member-driven organization. It is not staff-driven. This model allows NAR to tap the minds of practicing Realtors® to create a productive environment for our 1.2 million members.

We differ here on just about every point, President Brown.

You think NAR has 1.2 million members; I do not. I think NAR has 180,000 members based on the national average response rate of 15% to Calls For Action.

Perhaps the difference is that you consider everyone who has paid her dues to be a member, a Realtor in good standing. I do not. I believe that in reality, the vast majority of your so-called members are nothing more than MLS subscribers who are forced to purchase NAR membership in order to get what they really want and need. You don’t have to take my word for it — call and ask any local association CEO, any MLS CEO, any state association CEO. They’ll all tell you the same thing.

The recent Inman Report on the Association concluded that 70% of the respondents joined the REALTOR Association because they felt they had no choice. Those are not members; they’re hostages.

You see, to me, the difference between a member and a customer is that the former actually believes in the ideals, goals, and mission of the organization to which she belongs.

The ideals of NAR are contained in your founding document, the Code of Ethics, which calls upon Realtors to take on “obligations beyond ordinary commerce” and to accept “grave social responsibility and patriotic duty.” Those ideals have not changed over NAR’s hundred-plus years of history and generations of men and women have accepted those responsibilities. Today? A few still do; many don’t even know that the ideals exist.

The Code of Ethics further proclaims:

The term REALTOR® has come to connote competency, fairness, and high integrity resulting from adherence to a lofty ideal of moral conduct in business relations. No inducement of profit and no instruction from clients ever can justify departure from this ideal.

It is probably not news to you, President Brown, that the term REALTOR connoted those things once, but today, it has come to connote nothing of the sort. It is likely not news to you that the majority of your 1.2 million REALTOR members depart daily from ideals of competency, fairness and high integrity — sometimes without even the inducement of profit. Sometimes they depart from those ideals simply because they don’t know any better.

How then are people who do not believe in your ideals, who do not respond to Calls for Action, who do not get involved, who routinely behave incompetently, unfairly, and with no integrity be called a member of an organization founded on public service, political involvement, and highest ideals of professionalism?

You say NAR has many more strengths than weaknesses. What are these strengths? It isn’t the REALTOR brand. It isn’t your advanced technology, because let’s face it, NAR is not now, has never been, and never will be a technology company. It’s not even the 1.2 million member count, since most of them are but MINOS: Members-In-Name-Only.

The only real strength I can honestly list is that NAR remains a major political player in Washington DC as one of the real heavy hitters in lobbying and campaign contributions. That is not a small strength, but what else have you got?

On the other hand, NAR’s weaknesses are numerous and plain to see. Shall I list them for you? Here we go:

  • Poor governance: US Congress is smaller than NAR’s Board of Directors, and the President serves a four year term as the Chief Executive
  • Slow, slooow, slooooooow
  • Involved in too many ancillary businesses (Credit Union? REALTOR University? Lockboxes? Forms? Venture Capital?)
  • Far too reliant on the MLS
  • Far too reliant on brokers mandating REALTOR membership to their agents
  • Poor enforcement of the Code of Ethics
  • Diluted and meaningless REALTOR brand, primarily because everybody has it

I further disagree that NAR is a member-driven organization. It is one only in principle, rather than in reality.

I say this because in my travels, in my work, I have spoken to thousands of REALTOR members — many of them in local, state and national leadership positions — who say things like, “We’d love to do XYZ, but NAR won’t allow it.” I ask them, “What do you mean NAR won’t allow it? Aren’t you NAR?” They all laugh ruefully and shake their heads.

I say this because if NAR truly were member-driven, you would not have authorized $20 million in annual funding for a software program no member has asked for, while Commitment to Excellence goes unfunded. That can’t happen in a member-driven organization whose members have been crying out for years now for something to be done about incompetence and lack of ethics in the REALTOR ranks.

By the way, the incompetence and lack of ethics in the REALTOR ranks? That isn’t my incendiary and uninformed opinion, sir, but the findings of your own DANGER Report.

The Process of Selecting Bob Goldberg

You further take me to task for giving voice to the doubts and questions of many thousands of people outside of your closed boardroom doors about the process through which Bob was chosen as CEO. You write:

Being one of the seven Leadership Team members in the room who heard and reviewed the final CEO applicants, I can assure you that the process was not predetermined. The search was extensive, thorough, and its integrity was protected and managed by one of the leading search firms in the world, Heidrick & Struggles. I can confirm the selection of Bob Goldberg was not preordained.

His 22-year tenure at NAR put him in the best position to help deliver the change that NAR needs to help move us forward as an organization and help move us forward as an industry. Personally, I was blown away at some of the suggestions Bob made during his final presentation. You will be hearing more about his ideas once he becomes CEO.

Thank you for the confirmation. I’ll take your word for it, trusting in you as an honorable man, Mr. President.

But I have a few questions. Now that the process is over, the decision is made, and everyone of good intent is lining up behind the new CEO to support him, I see no reason for deep secrecy.

  1. Since Heidrick & Struggles managed the search, can you confirm that Bob Goldberg was their top recommendation? I can’t imagine that a search firm of their expertise and experience would not offer their opinion on who they thought would be the best CEO.
  2. Same question, but with regards to the Search Committee. Can you confirm that Bob was their top recommendation? In all cases, we assume that Bob was one of the recommended, but was he the top recommendation?
  3. If Bob was not the top recommendation from either Heidrick & Struggles or the Search Committee, but the Leadership chose him over the top recommendation, could you explain why you did so?
  4. It seems that Bob’s 22-year tenure was a dispositive factor in choosing him over other candidates, even one as impressive as Alex Perriello. Given that he was the only possible candidate with that kind of tenure, why did you bother with a search in the first place? Why didn’t you simply name him as Dale’s successor in December of last year, or earlier when you knew Dale would retire? What was the point of the entire search process if tenure at NAR was the dispositive factor in choosing the next CEO?
  5. You say you were blown away by Bob’s ideas and suggestions during his final presentation. Was this the first time you heard these ideas and suggestions from Bob? After all, you must have worked closely with him over the years as you ascended the leadership ranks to President; did none of these ideas get floated over the years?
    • If he did float those ideas over the years, what happened to them? Did Dale quash them? Did you or previous elected Leadership quash them?
    • If Bob did not float those ideas over the years, did you ask him why he didn’t?
  6. Finally, why would it matter in the least bit whether Bob has great ideas or terrible ones if NAR is — as you say — a member-driven organization, rather than a staff-driven organization? His ideas aren’t the ones that matter; the members’ and leaders’ ideas are the ones that matter.

One of the reasons why so many of your members are disaffected is a widespread sentiment that NAR operates without transparency. Decisions get made without explanation by elected leaders or by staff behind closed doors and anyone who asks too many questions gets punished. For example, he might lose Committee assignments, or be blacklisted in other ways, or maybe, he might get called uninformed and told to get his facts straight.

Well, it’s hard to be informed when information is so rarely forthcoming. It’s difficult to get one’s facts straight when facts are hoarded like state secrets.

I assume this state of affairs is unintentional and as distressing to you as it is to your membership. I know you welcome the opportunity to explain your decision-making process to your membership in a more transparent manner.

Well, here is that opportunity, Mr. President.

Change vs. Status Quo

You go on to say:

Second, in terms of my comments in the video when I say Bob “has the ability” to have the vision to innovate. I am distinguishing between Bob and someone else who would support and retain the status quo.

With respect, Mr. President, who is this “someone else” you are referring to?

How, in your opinion, would Alex Perriello have supported and retained the status quo? Did you really feel that Alex lacked the ability to have the vision to innovate?

How would Sherry Chris have supported and retained the status quo? Pam O’Connor?

How would any of the names I have heard widely mentioned have supported and retained the status quo?

In the last 48 hours, I have heard from a number of people both publicly and privately. They have convinced me that Bob Goldberg is a man of character, ability, creativity, intelligence, and integrity. I look forward to getting to know him better, assuming he doesn’t completely blacklist me. But if he is the man they all say he is, he wouldn’t be that petty. So I look forward to assisting him if that is what he wants, criticizing him (out of love) if that’s what he deserves, and praising him when he succeeds.

Yet, until your statement, not one person has suggested that the other candidates were lacking the ability to innovate, lacking vision, lacking the capacity to drive change. I’d appreciate an explanation.

The Track Record

That Bob Goldberg has brought in $225 million in non-dues revenues to NAR is impressive. And I have said as much. That he has been successful in the tasks he was given is not in dispute; I have said as much.

I have already corrected my original post on the “Great Time to Buy or Sell” campaign. Bob had nothing to do with that. He was still a senior executive at NAR when that went down, and one assumes he had some influence, but he wasn’t responsible for that debacle.

I continue to criticize the ads because they are such amazing examples of how badly NAR handled the situation. If NAR is member-driven, then every single person on the Leadership Teams from those years needs to stand up and take responsibility. I have yet to hear a single person admit error and apologize to NAR and its Realtor members for the worst branding campaign in history. If NAR is staff-driven, then every single executive involved with that campaign needs to be held accountable, including Dale Stinton. As yet, I have not heard of anybody being held accountable.

In your response, President Brown, you appear to be defending the ad campaigns of 2006 and 2007. Your argument appears to be that NAR was telling consumers to buy at the top of the Bubble because homes are a long-term asset that would ultimately appreciate and pay off in 30-40 years.

Sir, all I can say is, any consumer who bought a home in 2007 on the recommendation of a Realtor lived through years of financial hell. Many of them went through foreclosure and lost their homes. A few chose to walk away from a totally upside-down mortgage. Far too many of them still haven’t fully recovered from their ordeal. If you believe that campaign strengthened the REALTOR brand in the eyes of the American consumer, because when the few who held on to their houses through the Collapse sell them in 2037, those houses will pay off… well, you and I can agree to disagree.

As for RIN… you write:

Third, regarding Bob’s involvement at Realtors® Information Network, I sense an overlapping theme occurring in your thinking: you do not either know the facts or refuse to acknowledge the reality. At RIN as the CEO, Bob did not unilaterally make policy. He could suggest it, but ultimately a Board of Directors, who are all members, determined the decision-making process.

I probably do not know all the facts, but I always acknowledge the reality, President Brown. What I asked has not yet been answered, but you are in a position to know and to answer. Once I understand the reality, I’d be more than happy to acknowledge it. So here they are, again:

  • Did Bob push to free Realtor.com from its artificial constraints in the years 2008-2010? Did he see in 2008 that without changes to the Operating Agreement, Realtor.com would be a distant third within a few years, and did he express that concern to the RIN Board of Directors and to NAR leadership?
  • If Bob as RIN CEO pushed hard to free Realtor.com, but failed to convince the member-driven RIN Board of Directors… what does that bode for his ability as NAR CEO to convince the member-driven NAR Board of Directors to do the right thing for the future of the organization?
  • Finally, if Bob pushed hard to free Realtor.com, but was overruled by the Board of Directors, who are all members, would you agree that is Exhibit No. 1 in the case against NAR being a member-driven organization?

Please give me the facts, and I’d be happy to acknowledge the reality that those facts reveal.

Personnel Is Policy

I feel that this may be the recommendation that upset you the most, Mr. President. And I believe you misunderstood my point — as have many others, to be fair, as is evident in the comments. So allow me to clarify.

The people you mentioned, like Jerry Giovaniello and Katie Johnson, are extraordinary individuals. Others neither of us mentioned throughout the organization are top notch professionals. I completely agree with you, sir, that the staff at NAR are capable, smart, and dedicated. Many of them are my friends and I have the utmost respect for them as people and as professionals.

But when a new administration comes in, whether in government or in private sector, there is always a turnover of senior staff. This is no reflection on the previous administration’s staff. In fact, those individuals go on to extremely senior and often more lucrative positions elsewhere. Everyone recognizes that those capable people were not fired; they simply rotated out with the old regime. There is no negative connotation to being replaced by a new leader at the start of a new administration. The new CEO might keep some individuals from the previous regime, but more often than not, he brings in his own people.

That is especially true when the mandate for the new CEO is change.

My suggestion is in the context of Leadership’s repeated assertion that Bob Goldberg was chosen because he is truly a change agent with vision and innovative ideas. Well, no executive can drive change throughout an organization without bringing in new people with fresh perspectives. No executive can implement new policy ideas without new personnel, especially if those new policy ideas are ones that the old personnel find unsettling or uncomfortable. That is why people say that personnel is policy.

Your selection of Bob, with his 22 years of tenure at NAR, suggests that you wanted continuity rather than change.

If that isn’t the case, then Bob can prove it by cleaning house and bringing in new people of his own. That isn’t a reflection on the current staff, most of whom will get snapped up the minute they hit the street because they are, as we agree, competent and dedicated.

But if he brings in new people, that will tell us all quite a bit about his intentions as CEO: continuity, or change? And who he brings in will tell us a great deal about him as the CEO and what his priorities are and what his plans for NAR are.

I consider that suggestion for change to be neither uninformed nor incendiary. In fact, it is one of the most standard of corporate strategy suggestions to a new CEO being brought in to drive change and shake things up. I’m sorry you read it as you did.

Concluding: It’s Not About Bob; It’s About You

You close with a powerful call for unity, Mr. President:

Finally, let me emphatically point out that I am concerned about helping are our 1.2 million members who look to NAR for a range of services from advocacy to education. I understand that there will always be those who sit on the sidelines and opine about what should be done. My job as NAR president is to look out for those who are willing to get into the arena and get dirty doing the hard work of making a difference for NAR’s members. Bob Goldberg is in the arena fighting every day.

I can assure you Bob Goldberg will be a change agent once he takes the CEO mantle. What I ask for in return is that you and our members give Bob the same opportunity that the Leadership Team gave him. If you give him a fair shake, I firmly believe you will be as impressed with him as we are.

Apart from the disagreement on 1.2 million members, which I have already detailed above, I agree with you 100 percent.

You do not need to assure me or anybody else that Bob Goldberg will be a change agent. He will prove it one way or the other with his actions, with his policies, with his leadership. If he’s a change agent, he will change things. If he is not, then he won’t. And no amount of words, yours and mine, will make a whit of difference either way.

You do not need to ask me or your Realtor members to give Bob a fair shake. I have already done just that in my original post. I’m not going to pretend, as some are doing, that Bob Goldberg was my first and only choice. He wasn’t. But he is the new CEO. He has my full support because his success is NAR’s success, and I want to see NAR fixed, saved, and set on the right path. The Realtor Movement must be preserved; it is our patriotic duty to do so. I and everyone else of good intentions will give Bob Goldberg his fair shake, and we will root for him to be what he promises to be.

But my post was never about Bob; it was about you, Mr. President, and your fellow leaders on the Leadership Team. Here’s what I wrote:

We can say that the Leadership Team at NAR has some explaining to do about this choice. Not because of Bob, but because what the choice says about their vision of NAR, their perspective on what is going on and what is coming down the road. President Bill Brown needs to do more than just a short video announcing the decision. He and Elizabeth Mendenhall, the 2018 President, and John Smaby, the 2019 President, as well as everybody involved in NAR in a leadership position now need to tell us a lot more about how they view the future of NAR.

Your comment is a fantastic start, Mr. President. But in your castigation of my “uninformed and incendiary comments,” you neglected to tell us what your vision of NAR is. You failed to illuminate your perspective on what is going on and what is coming down the road. The next set of leaders coming up — Elizabeth Mendenhall, John Smaby, and Vince Malta — all need to tell us what their vision is, and what their perspectives are.

This is even more imperative given your words about NAR being a member-driven organization, and given Bob Goldberg’s own words: Fearless leaders embrace fearless ideas. Even if Bob is a fearless leader, if the elected leadership is not equally fearless, I fear nothing much will change. Even if Bob is a visionary, if the elected leadership is not, I envision that nothing much will change.

I happen to believe for a variety of reasons that the next generation of leaders are fearless, are visionary, and are willing to confront reality head-on. But they need to tell us more. You need to tell us more.

You all owe some answers to your 180,000 members, to the 1.02 million MINOs, to the 10 million consumer households who risk their financial future every year, to the American public whom you serve as part of the REALTOR Movement, and perhaps most of all, to Bob Goldberg, whom you have just chosen as the CEO to lead this member-driven organization into a tumultuous and uncertain future.

We want answers.

We can handle the truth.

And we’re waiting.

Thank you for your time, your attention, and your service, President Brown.


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Rob Hahn

Managing Partner of 7DS Associates, and the grand poobah of this here blog. Once called "a revolutionary in a really nice suit", people often wonder what I do for a living because I have the temerity to not talk about my clients and my work for clients. Suffice to say that I do strategy work for some of the largest organizations and companies in real estate, as well as some of the smallest startups and agent teams, but usually only on projects that interest me with big implications for reforming this wonderful, crazy, lovable yet frustrating real estate industry of ours.

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11 thoughts on “A Response to Bill Brown, 2017 NAR President”

  1. Oh Snap! ?

    I had some extra time in my hands lately, and I chose to fill it, by reading your post. I also read the entire comment string and then 5 or 6 Resl Estate Communities on Facebook, where this very subject, was playing out. ( Amongst many others related to the relationship between NAR and it’s (IMHO) 220,000 Members.). This is not the time or place to discuss my feelings on what I read. This is a time to comment on this Blog post and it’s predecessor.

    When I read the comment string, from the original post, and I saw President Brown’s comment … I literally fricken fell of my chair!

    1) WTF was a man in his position doing, not only visiting a Blog like NROB, but commenting!! Are you f’n crazy!?

    2) Why did he feel he had to defend his position/decision?

    3) Why would he engage in “mudslinging”, around who had the facts straight, and who didn’t? Especially when he was not correct!

    4) Did he not know who NROB was? Did he think he was just some, idiot Real Estate Blogger who didn’t know wtf he was talking about? Did he not do some homework first? Ask someone if this was wise? Back away from the Whisky Sour and close the laptop?

    All I could think of was “Oh Shit” Rob is not gonna let this opportunity slip by. Then Rob stated, he felt it was important enough, to respond in a Post not in the String (Code for, “Here’s the wind up, and the pitch …” . I knew then I was gonna be anticipating that Post, like the new season of Big Bang Theory!

    And here it is, a well thought out, and well written …. Dam!

    To be fare, President Brown does make some valid points, but (again) IMHO, Rob is really close to exactly how the majority or Membership and I Gosh Darn Garranty you, the Consumet (Really a fricken important piece) feel about NAR, the word REAL- Tore, and R.com!

    This post MUST serve as the catalyst for REAL DIALOGUE about NAR’s future, and as crazy as it might sound, and invitation to NAR to work together WITH Rob to develop a winning strategy for the future.

    I don’t always, agree, understand, or even like what Rob says and writes, but I can clearly see he cares about the Subject, has great insight into it, and MOST IMPORTANTLY is Spot On!

    OUTSTANDING POST! Now don’t waste this communication. Get together and make the future bright, because if NAR dies not Drastically change it’s vision and focus, it will dry up and blow away!

    Oh Snap!

    (Please excuse spelling errors, I did this on my phone, while it was fresh in my mind.)

  2. The NAR should have dumped the CEO role and simply appointed an Emperor. Why? Because 95% of the NAR messaging is about the dead notion that somehow the Realtor is at the center of the transaction and that the NAR is simply AOK fine and it is doing well. If you think that is even remotely true, you are very, very mistaken. Ask any significant broker or agent that actually does anything in this business. Your value prop NAR to those members is nearly a non-issue. So what, so this. I always remember this fact about business and life in general. “All structures are unstable.” Even the ginormous NAR. And in the specific case of the NAR, anyone appointed as the new Emperor, or even the CEO for that matter, should take note when some few and very brave souls whisper in your ear that “psst, you have no clothes.”

  3. By golly RSH, you are real close to the truth just a little bit of tweaking of your thoughts and you will be there,congrats,I have been beating this drum for years,later.

  4. Bill Brown – Once you are done with Rob’s questions and concerns, can you share your thoughts on these?

    1. The N.A.R. advertises the Code of Ethics as our difference-maker, but it is a complete joke that gets ignored every time an agent has a chance to pad their wallet – and the public knows it. Specifically:
    A. We allow agents to ‘re-fresh’ their listings, where they intentionally deceive the public about how long a property has been on the market by cancelling a listing, and then re-inputting it immediately to re-start the days-on-market count.
    B. We encourage in-house/off-market deals, where the property never gets proper exposure via the MLS. Not only are the sellers robbed of a top-dollar sale, but other agents are also denied the right to earn a commission.
    C. There are no rules or guidance on how to handle multiple offers. As a result, listing agents are left to their own devices, and find it hard to resist tilting the table in their own favor. Example: A $1.2 million property in Carlsbad, CA recently had 17 offers submitted, but it closed for only $2,000 over list? You guessed it, the listing agent represented the buyer too. This happens so often because agents see other agents doing it, and figure it is acceptable – and the public is sick of it. They don’t trust realtors, they hate realtors, and they try to think of any way to avoid realtors as a result of the slimy actions seen daily.

    The answer to solve all of the problems above is to adopt some sort of an auction format, so every buyer has a fair chance to compete. The sellers would be assured of a top-dollar sale, and agents would get the commission they deserve.

    Bill, From what I can tell from your biography, you sell apartment buildings? How in touch are you with the plight of the common realtor on the street who is selling homes? Are you aware of the ethical cesspool in which we have to operate?

    It is why Zillow and other disrupters have a chance to squash the realtor industry as we know it. The current format needs to be squashed! I don’t have any hope that you will build a better website, spend $100 million on advertising (though you should), or quit lobbying. Can you start with insisting that realtors actually be ethical? Not just lip-service – really do something about it!

  5. R.O.B. it sounds like you agree with my comment on yesterday’s post. I’m so glad you expanded the discussion and challenged Mr. Brown. I 100% agree that NAR is not member driven, and I don’t think NAR has a clue what’s important to the members. To repeat, most of us are only members because we have to be. Being a Realtor® is so ubiquitous that the public thinks Realtor® is synonymous with real estate agent. Not one in ten thousand could tell you the difference. That’s a marketing opportunity that Mr. Goldberg hasn’t identified in his 22 years with NAR.

    I don’t vote for politicians based only upon a single issue, and therefore I consider the Realtor® Party to be bad for overall governance. I do not contribute money to single issue projects and I resent it when I get that inevitable phone call from a member of the local board pressing me for a contribution to REPAC, etc.

    I too agree that the fix was in for selecting Mr. Goldberg and Mr. Brown’s protestations have done nothing to elucidate the issue. If NAR had the equivalent of FOIA I’m betting that stonewalling would be the action plan of the day. Mr. Brown’s response to your post today will prove me right or wrong on this account. Let’s watch carefully to see what amazing changes Mr. Goldberg brings to NAR in his first 100 days. If we don’t see new names/faces in leadership, and the axing of programs/implementation of new directions then we’ll know that NAR will continue to move inexorably toward dinosaur status. I think I better copyright Zillowtor® before “someone else” does…

  6. I ran a verbal poll of my own where I asked people in the real estate boards I’m a member of, “Do you know the different between a real estate agent and a Realtor?”

    Most of the people I asked have absolutely no clue what the different between a real estate agent and a Realtor is. Nearly all of them told me they thought it was something they have to join to finishing getting their license and get access to the mls.

    I asked them a second question, “Did you know that if you can cancel your membership at the board and NAR and still practice real estate?” The vast majority of them had no clue this was possible and thought if they left the board they were not allowed to practice real estate.

    So yeah, Rob, what I have to disagree with here is that your number of 70% is very conservative. I venture to say that in reality the number is above 90%.


    Next I want to bring up the Code of Ethics and its relationship to real estate agents. When you write, Rob, it seems as if you pair real estate agents of high ethical standards with the Realtor Code of Ethics. It paints a picture almost as if the agent took time to read the Realtor Code of Ethics and is consciously trying to follow. This is not the case. Most Realtors I know who have high ethical standards that meet or exceed the Realtor Code of Ethics are driven by their own moral compass, and they have never even laid an eye on the Realtor Code of Ethics. They created themselves. They joined NAR to get access to the mls. Then there are others who have studied the Realtor Code of Ethics so well they can nearly recite it from memory, who would take a popsicle from a baby if noone was looking.

    And so I offer the mathematical operand: ◊(GoodEthics ≠ RealtorCodeOfEthics)
    (the presence of good ethics are not necessarily associated with the Realtor Code Of Ethics)

    I know people in the business with great ethics. NAR and Realtor Code of Ethics gets none of the credit. They were that was all along and NAR is just a lucky beneficiary to have them.

  7. I do not get paid to comment here. If I did, and was going to be paid by the word, I would settle in for a long stay and be a very rich man.

    At the end of the day, Rob, you have an opinion and it drives your point of view about NAR and governance. Just to let you know there is at least one person out here (me) who sees 90% of this from a different perspective and could cite anecdotal comments that would contradict all those of of your “disaffected” friends in high and low places in the Realtor world. They do not represent a sea change or speak for anyone beyond a small constituency of members who do not engage at any level of the organization but are always ready with a parlor game story.

    The proof will be how NAR and membership fair in the next few years on all of the fronts you mention.

    My money is on the leadership going forward.

    You are not going to un-ring this bell, nor will anyone remember the comments on the selection process. If history holds true we will all be long gone from the conversation the next time a NAR CEO is chosen.

    For now, I am going to sell a house.

    • Fair enough, Dave. It’d be a boring world if we all agreed on all things all the time. 🙂

      I guess I am curious how you see this, though.

  8. Yo Rob – I can’t tell you how really useful your post is to those of us who KNOW that NAR (and all the state/local boards) are, at best, self-serving as an organization. It is in their best interest to have as many members as possible. They do not get paid extra to actually provide *any* services to its members. Did I read correctly that the President “earns” only $2.6M/year? And that there are more than 35 staff members paid more than $400k/year? Wow.

    You are 100% spot-on when you assert that most of us pay those dues SOLELY because we must. I don’t know of any real estate brokerages in Maryland who will allow non-Realtors to be a member. (Does E&O drive this, or is the requirement simply there to ensure relatively consistent paperwork – all use the MAR/AACAR/State-mandated forms?) Our MLS (Bright) charges an extra $360/year for non-Realtors to access.

    When all said/done, life is easier to just pay the piper and get on with whatever form of real estate sales each agent is pursuing. So they collective charge us whatever they want and we pay. Benefits? I can’t think of a single one except the standardized forms, and an occasional piece of explanatory literature I can share with a buyer or seller. (Probably nothing I couldn’t find online with a little searching.)

    At the end of the day, I’d love to see a 3rd party survey of all Realtors to determine exactly how few think their dues is worth what they pay.

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