Brief Suggestion on “Expanding the American Dream”

It’s Friday afternoon, and my brother is landing in Las Vegas soon, so I’m outta here!

But first, wanted to briefly discuss a new T3 Insight from T3 Sixty: “Expanding the American Dream.” It’s a new monthly article from the good folks over at T3 Sixty and this first one is on a topic on the industry’s mind: race and real estate. Read the whole thing.

From the article:

Most people realize the importance of treating all people equally and increasing diversity not just in the real estate industry but in our neighborhoods and communities. The complexity lies in turning this feeling into meaningful, lasting change.

T3 Sixty dedicated its weekly Fireside Friday conversations in the month of July to diversity by hosting conversations with the leaders from the residential real estate industry’s largest associations focused on race and ethnicity. In successive weeks, Stefan Swanepoel and Jack Miller hosted leaders from the National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB, close to 20,000 members), the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP, over 40,000 members) and the Asian Real Estate Association of America (AREAA, over 17,000 members) to discuss the challenges each community faces, the projects and services they offer, and the future efforts they see as the most fruitful for the industry to pursue.

There are some real eye-opening stats in the article, most of them having to do with trying to help the industry understand the perspectives of Black, Latino, and Asian-American consumers and real estate professionals.

Sadly, the rest of the article offers no concrete suggestions on turning feelings into meaningful, lasting change. Presumably that will be something that Kenya Burrell, a good friend and an all around wonderful human being, who was recently hired as the head of Diversity Solutions division at T3 Sixty will be doing.

But I thought I’d add a quick suggestion to NAR, to MLSs, and to REALTOR Associations that seems like an obvious way to turn feelings into meaningful, lasting change:

Count membership in NAREB, NAHREP and AAREA for MLS membership.

Here’s a chart from the T3 Insight:

And here’s additional insight from T3 Sixty’s interviews with Antoine Thompson and Donnell Williams of NAREB:

Both Williams and Thompson emphasized that discrimination still exists in 2020; they and their members see it every day. For those not in these communities or not witnessing or experiencing discrimination first-hand, recognizing the real, basic problem can be easy to overlook. The News Day’s 2019 “Long Island Divided” series revealed how discrimination does occurs today.

As most real estate agents work on commission, black Americans – because of a relative paucity of generational wealth – frequently cannot sustain the startup costs and months of no income necessary to successfully jumpstart a career as a real estate agent.

Well, an easy way to help address the startup costs and months of no income necessary would be for REALTOR-only MLSs to count their NAREB membership towards satisfying the requirement of REALTOR membership. I mean, we’re talking 5% of NAR members being Black, right?

Plus, I don’t know about Latinos and Asian-Americans, but there are some real reasons why Black real estate professionals might not want to be forking over hundreds of dollars to join NAR. As I noted in my previous post A Brief History Lesson on REALTORS and Race, there were a number of Black real estate professionals who just didn’t want to join NAR for a very good reason:

If you were Fletcher Thompson, who was denied membership for years and years because of the color of your skin, would you want to become a REALTOR? As a brokerage in Atlanta said in a 2017 blogpost:

Additionally, many older NAREB members, at the time, found it particularly offensive to be forced to join and pay an organization that for generations was, by its Constitution, “whites only”. In an absolutely unexplainable course of events, it took 3 years of legal haggling to determine what should have taken 3 seconds.

There are Jewish families I know from my childhood in Long Island who still refuse to buy Mercedes-Benz vehicles, because of its Nazi past. My parents for the longest time wouldn’t buy Hondas or Toyotas, because of the Japanese colonization of Korea. Those events were all before 1945. NAR didn’t allow black people to join until 1961, then discouraged them from joining well into the 1970s, and maybe even later. But the Thompson decision was a “considerable surprise?”

So a simple and relatively easy way for NAR, for REALTOR-only MLSs, and for real estate in general (including brokerages and franchises who often require that their agents be REALTORS) to help is to count membership in NAREB as fulfilling that requirement.

It’s a small thing, perhaps, and maybe it won’t be meaningful, lasting change… but then again, maybe it will. It certainly can’t hurt those young Black and Latino and Asian-American real estate agents who want to get into the industry to save them a few hundred dollars a year having to pay for REALTOR membership and for NAREB/NAHREP/AAREA membership.

This isn’t giving these agents of color some kind of a massive advantage. After all, no white REALTOR is joining the National Association of European Real Estate Professionals and paying those dues on top of their REALTOR dues.

So, there’s the suggestion. It’s a small thing, yes, but you know… it’s doing something concrete. Which beats the hell out of mournfully stroking one’s chin while talking about the need to do something.