Ask What You Can Do For Your NAR

Photo portrait of John F. Kennedy, President o...

Photo portrait of John F. Kennedy, President of the United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a recent post Rob Hahn took a historic quote from President John Kennedy and cut it in half.

His post  “Ask Not What You NAR Can Do For You” , talked about NAR as if it was the entire real estate industry and that’s probably appropriate in one sense, since it is truly the face of organized real estate – but as the face of organized real estate it represents about half of the real estate practitioners in the country – what I believe is the top half of the industry, but half nonetheless, leaving a large group of people outside the conversation. Non-REALTORS contribute nothing to the industry as a group because they do nothing as a group , leaving NAR as the only organized “voice of real estate”.

Rob’s post was about what NAR should do to improve itself and the industry  – based on Rob’s understanding of NAR as a single entity.  However that’s not what NAR is.

NAR is an organization made up of an alliance of 1400 local associations and 54 State Associations. It represents roughly 50% of the real estate professionals in the United States, NAR is the only entity which acts as a political advocate for real estate professionals, and works to provide and safe space for all of us to work in the industry. NAR members created the Code of Ethics (which provided the basis for most state regulations  regarding licensure) , and have for almost 100 years worked diligently to enforce the protections the COE provides for consumers and the benefits of the arbitration the COE provides for members. NAR is the single largest provider of real estate specialty education in the country. and has done more to increase professionalism and raise the bar in the real estate industry than any other organization, public or private. NAR has provided funding and legal support for numerous litigations which could have damaged property rights, or severely curtailed the ability of its members to be profitable in the pursuit of their business. The list of accomplishments by NAR, its states and local associations and its members could go on and on.  And yet, with all of these positives, NAR attracts criticism from people who work in the space NAR and its member associations created and protects.

Rob suggested that I was protecting the status quo because of my response to his post. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I am a proponent of change,  have always embraced change in my daily life and my business, and have worked to bring change to the real estate industry. But change needs to be rooted in reality, and executed in the real world. For any change in the body of real estate professionals, we need to look to the organized real estate industry. So let’s look at that world.

NAR is attacked not because it or its member associations have done anything to damage the industry, but because it is an easy target. What makes it such an easy target?

  1. Because there is no organization dedicated to the improvement of the real estate industry as a whole that is of comparable size or efficiency.
  2.  NAR is a big name, and as such, it is easy to blame it for any problem the speaker perceives is endemic to the industry.
  3. People who attack NAR don’t clearly understand the organization, what it does, or how it is organized.
  4. People involved in such attacks don’t thoroughly understand the professional real estate industry, and often base their attacks on inaccurate or insufficient information

As an example think about these two examples

Some of online rhetoric suggests that the average practitioner is poorly trained because NAR wants a larger membership and has no interest in making its members better. However NAR does not solicit members directly. Members join local associations and , by virtue of a three-way agreement, become members of the appropriate state association and NAR. The responsibility for the practitioner’s education lies with the practitioner and the company or individual they work for – not with NAR, their state association or their local association. Even though they are not responsible for the education of the practitioner member, NAR, the state and local associations provide the largest amount of free educational opportunities for any member available from any source, including a huge library of free educational materials. From the speakers at NAR’s national events, to the educational events run by State and Local Associations, each of the associations provide members with opportunities to increase their professional expertise and product knowledge – at little or no cost. In addition there are a large number of fee programs developed by NAR ,its Affiliates, and State REALTOR Associations. But the member needs to avail themselves of the opportunity to improve. 

A second argument that finds itself repeated again and again is that NAR (and again its member associations are ignored)  would somehow benefit from a smaller membership with higher dues. This argument fails on a couple of levels. First of all, the truly committed and passionate members are already there and donating substantial amounts of time and money to help move the group forward. Secondly, in the political arena, groups with smaller numbers of members have less influence with politicians, who are interested in special interest groups that have the ability to sway larger numbers of votes – not fewer numbers for passionate votes! For NAR and the state and local associations to be effective with their political advocacy, the number of members we represent is crucial to maximize the impact of RPAC and the RPICs that work so hard to help provide a space private property rights are protected, home ownership is promoted, and we can practice all the forms of real estate that our membership represents. But the members need to participate in the political advocacy on their local or state level, and to contribute to the overall effort being made by our associations. 

Kennedy’s original quote “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” was a rallying cry for a generation – a call to activism rather than complacency. A demand that we recognize that we are the solution to our problems, not a question about the value of our country or our government.  I think we should complete  Rob’s paraphrase – “Ask not what NAR Can Do for You,  Ask What you can do for your NAR” and in asking that question, take the responsibility for improving our industry into our own hands by contributing to the improvement of the whole rather than criticizing the work of others. A contemporary of Kennedy’s Football coach Vince Lombardi said “Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”  It is what makes NAR work as well.

Oh, BTW, regarding Rob’s question about  whether JFK would be a democrat today? Absolutely! Though he was a Commander-In-Chief  in the cold war, he was as liberal as they come in his domestic policies – at a time we needed them.

As far as Rob’s question about what I would like to see change in the real estate industry – that will be next up 🙂

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