Ok, I took a side trip with a few discussions on lead generation, independent contractors and property management in the industry, but here’s more of my response to Rob Hahn‘s vision of NAR and its future.
I think that Rob’s idea of a smaller organization would not in any manner benefit the industry or the political efforts of the organization, because, as I have pointed out in the past, the larger the group, the more attention it gets from politicians, and that attention is important to the lobbying efforts of organization.I appreciate Rob’s analysis of response to calls to action and the number of major RPAC donors, but in addition to those efforts, politicians respond to the threat of concerted action by voter blocs, which, due to the tradition of closed ballots, cannot be measured, but like Damocles sword, hangs over anyone who needs to be elected to their job. Rob has engaged in some intricate and articulate rhetoric in his conversation but rhetoric can’t trump that logic, and for that reason, it’s just not an argument to have. However, in that conversation Rob asked what I would like to see as a future for NAR, so here goes –
I believe that the primary problem face by NAR and the State and Local associations is not the size of the organization, but the lack of education and involvement on the part of the members. More engagement between the associations and their members would be of immense benefit for a number of reasons, not the least of which would be the creation of new evangelists for the industry. Because this is a “bottom up” solution, I have struggled with how to accomplish it – What can we do to provide incentives to increase member involvement? One solution – don’t decrease membership, increase dues – substantially,but then credit the involved member back an amount equal to the increase based upon ;
- Attendance at Association events (educational, social or political)
- Donations to RPAC and participation in political events
- Memberships in committees and the local, state or national, levels
- Their participation in Association sponsored community events
By doing this, members would increase their professional growth, learn what the association does, gain new and better relationships with volunteer leadership, association staff, and their colleagues. Experience has shown me that people who get involved in association committees regularly, and over a period of years, become association advocates, and when they believe the association needs new directions, become the catalysts for change. The benefit of a plan like this is that the people that don’t serve or attend, will pay a financial penalty for their failure to make the industry a better place, instead of being carried on the backs of others. Frankly, though, I would hope that the financial encouragement would just increase the knowledge and involvement of the average member,who would donate a little time to work on the industry as well as working on their business. In any case, the infusion of new members with new ideas, should provide additional ability for associations to grow and change through introduction of new ideas and points of view.
Most typically complaints about associations are made by disaffected members are a result of their lack of understanding of the nature of the REALTOR associations (local, state, and national). If members were not as under-informed and uninformed as they typically are, I believe they would better understand the challenges faced by their industry and their trade association. Participation in local, state and national events would provide them with a larger group of professional contacts, better information about the functions of all three organizations, and a better understanding of the real estate world that exists outside the walls of their office.
In my company, when you complain about something, we allow you to help us make it better by volunteering to create solution. It would be great if we could do this in the association world as well. I would like to see members who complain about specific issues or functions of the association participate in resolving those by offering suggestions for correction and then working on the issue at the local level , and then the state level. This would allow for the creation of a knowledgable group of members to be involved in volunteer leadership. Though we couldn’t make anyone work on a committee or workgroup, think of the potential for change if every complaint was recognized and reviewed – as long as the complainant had some positive suggestions for overcoming the problem – at the very least a dialogue could be started to overcome the problem or demonstrate the necessity for the offending process.
For my second future vision? I want a future in which the organized real estate industry reclaims their position as the primary source of information about real property. Though we talk about the benefit of syndication and national real estate sites,no one has made clear what business purpose this provides for us. We are a business whose practitioners are not licensed nationally and are restricted by licensure to operate only within state lines – where is the business benefit to the national website? I know that there is no business benefit to the intermediation of a third-party company between the REALTOR and the consumer – or at least not one that anyone can articulate to me clearly.
If MLSs were to provide public facing websites, consumers could have available to them all of the listed property in every market area. Organizations like the Houston Association of REALTORS and the Long Island MLS have already created such sites, and their members seem to perceive them as very beneficial. Such sites could become substantial competition with the third-party sites that currently dominate the real estate space, and if they were to be executed in a proficient manner, could become terrific, cost-effective resources for members. An amalgamation of all of that data into a single well executed real estate site would benefit the consumer and the industry by removing a layer of cost from the rea estate transaction. With the redundant listings already provided by IDX feeds from our MLSs, combined with this national portal, consumers would be contacting real estate professionals directly, saving time and money, as the costs for competing advertising portals that currently receive millions of dollars in advertising dollars from real estate professionals.
Though I am not the defender of the status quo Rob makes me out to be, I know from my personal involvement that NAR works diligently to change and adapt, constantly reviewing the strategic plan, working on obtaining member feedback, and trying to be as responsive as possible. It is, once again, the uninformed and underinformed who think of NAR a monolithic organization operated by some faceless entities disconnected from the membership – and that’s just not true. So to close the loop, let’s revisit Rob’s paraphrase of John Kennedy’s charge to the American people – but this time in its entirety “And so, my fellow REALTORS: ask not what your NAR can do for you — ask what you can do for your NAR.”
We’ll all be glad you did