The issue comes up again because of this speech by Bob Goldberg to the NAR Board of Directors at the recently concluded NAR Convention. In it he says:
First and foremost, it’s imperative that we are not just the National Association OF REALTORS®, we are also the National Association FOR REALTORS®. Every action we take is geared to making sure our members come first.
He goes on to list a number of initiatives that NAR will undertake to become the National Association FOR REALTORS. They seem like reasonable efforts, and I take no issue with any of them specifically (yet).
My issue is simpler and more profound: The National Association FOR REALTORS represents a complete departure from the origins of the REALTOR Movement and strips organized real estate of nobility and high purpose.
This cannot be what Bob Goldberg and the NAR Leadership Team, from President Elizabeth Mendenhall on down, want for NAR. I know them to be good people who got involved for the right reasons and want to change the direction of organized real estate to reclaim its greatness. I hope that they will respond publicly, whether here or elsewhere, to let us all know that this National Association FOR Realtors business is just a rhetorical flourish.
If not… the future is grim indeed. Let me explain.
As most of you know, I’ve been on the road for the past month or so — three weeks of that in Asia touring Korea and visiting Tokyo, Japan. The image above is from the Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku, billed as “Robot Burlesque”. Except there were no robots, and no burlesque, so….
In any event, I’m back and more or less recovered from jet lag. Which means I can get back to enlightening some of you, annoying some of you, and sometimes even educating a few of you on a whole lot of topics.
Given all of the changes from NAR, there are quite a few topics to tackle, but let’s start with the world of the MLS. As most of you know, there were some changes made at NAR about the whole MLS of Choice deal. Since I don’t think that’s a huge thing, although events could prove me wrong, I’ll skip it and move on to this: NAR MLS Consolidation Resources.
There’s so much here to discuss, but for this post, let’s keep it to one thing from the Challenges and Obstacles page. Towards the bottom, under Take Away, the authors of the… study? documents? consolidation resources? list a number of things that they say that the members of the MLS want.
I’d like to ask some questions about that. Because the list makes me wonder, most of all about an obvious solution that is sitting right in front of us.
I know I should just be focusing on my Asian vacation/trip, but it’s been too long. Plus, I got a bit of time to hang out at one of these ultra-modern cafes in Apgujeong, one of the hippest parts of Seoul. So I figured I’d opine on a couple of things having to do with the arcana of MLS policy.
I realize that most people are going to be focused on the “MLS of Choice” piece. But I think there’s another piece that is a doozy: the proposed changes to sold data over IDX/VOW have some implications that make me wonder if the folks on the Committee have really studied them fully. So to help them think about the issue, as well as MLS people who may be required to deal with the policy change, I figure I’ll throw some thoughts out.
One of the recurring problems of the real estate industry is that it is almost entirely reactive when it comes to problems. We continually look backwards, rather than forwards, then wonder why things don’t improve.
A good example is the latest recommendation from Victor Lund of the WAV Group, who promotes Redfin’s idea that IDX policy require linking back to the listing broker. The goal is to drive more traffic to brokerage (and agent) websites by providing more Google-juice via authorship and canonical URL information. This, he (they) believe would let brokers fight off the portals like Zillow and Realtor.com:
As much as any other company, Redfin sees where real estate search has gone. The overwhelming majorities of consumers visit advertising websites rather than broker websites. In his opinion, this is a challenge for real estate brokerages and a tax on consumers who ultimately pay for the advertising costs agents bear to appear on other websites, and it is getting worse.
This is a classic example of fighting the last war. What’s worse, should the industry go along with this suggestion, not only would it not help brokers and agents, it would actually make things worse if your brokerage is not named Redfin.
It’s been weeks since I’ve put pen to paper — or rather, pixels to the vast electronic swamp that is the interwebz, but you know what I’m sayin’, right? — and the only excuse I have is that I’ve been home for roughly five days in the past eight weeks. It’s been wonderfully busy, but that doesn’t allow for a lot of thinking and writing.
In any event, I just got home from the CMLS 2017 Conference in Austin, hosted wonderfully by the Austin Board of REALTORS. And the whole CMLS crew put together a great program, so kudos to all for that. And frankly, I’m bubbling over with a few things to talk about, but many of those will require further reflection.
Instead, I thought I’d share my biggest takeaway from CMLS 2017. It’s something I’ve been saying for a while (found a presentation from 2015 where I talked about it) but in light of all that I’ve heard the past couple of days, I think this might be more important and relevant than ever.
Here it is: Don’t tell me what you’re going to do, what you have to do, what you plan to do — tell me where and how much money you’re going to spend.
Rob has been asking me to step into the Notorious ring for months. And while I have a lot of things to say, I don’t use nearly as many words as he, or Notorious S.A.M., or the other guest contributors. So. Many. Words.
But here goes …
I moved to Houston in February, which is one of the pivotal moments of my life. Not because I had lived in Washington my entire life. Not because I was leaving the community I had been ingrained in for over 20 years. But because it made me an honorary Texan. If you don’t believe me, I’ll show you my mug. H/T to Jennifer Archambeault.
I travel a lot for work. I spend far more nights in hotel rooms than I would like. But I’ve never seen anything like what I have seen from Texans during my short tenure in the Lone Star state. There is a sense of pride and humble gratitude. There is a strength of character. There is common courtesy that has been lost in so many other places.
I have felt a profound sense of helplessness since Thursday, August 24th when I landed in Denver. I haven’t been able to get home since. What was supposed to be a quick overnight trip has turned into 10 days and counting. Away from my home. Away from my dog. Away from my new community. All I can do is watch and wait and pray.
I am humbled by my new community. People have been coming together to help each other. We’ve all seen it on the news. The horror is not over; but the transformational healing process has started. And it started with some of the most unexpected heroes.
It’s not the folks in charge that I’m talking about when I speak of heroes. It’s the folks coming from across the country with cargo trucks full of food and supplies. It’s the strangers in fishing boats rescuing those who can’t rescue themselves (including animals), the most famous of whom is the Cajun Navy but includes hundreds of unnamed and unsung people who have done the same. It’s the furniture store owner opening the doors of his showrooms to people who have lost everything, so they can feel a little comfort in the most uncomfortable and uncertain of times.
They’re not showing up because it’s their job. They’re showing up because it’s their responsibility as human beings. They’re showing up because Texas pride teaches that they take care of each other; that they are all in this together; and that they will not let others slip through the cracks. They see the need and say, “We have work to do.”
Yes, the leaders at the local, state and Federal levels have all done their jobs. They worked tirelessly, made decisions that none of us want to have to make, showed up taking responsibility when things didn’t go as planned or the public didn’t understand the reasoning.
But it is the everyday heroes who inspire us. We are all seeing just a small percentage of those people on the news and social media. But we are feeling the impact of all of them.
I’m proud to be an honorary Texan. And as soon as I’m able to get home, I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and help however I can.
What The Real Estate Industry Can Learn From This
In addition to being a Texan, I am a real estate nerd and industry lover. And I have been feeling utterly helpless for the past 13 years, as I watch the industry I love destroy itself.
An idea that I can’t get out of my head is this:
If everyday Texans can come together in a time of crisis to help heal the lives of those around them, can’t the everyday Realtor do the same to help heal the organization and industry?
I’m not talking about NAR staff or elected leaders. I’m talking about ‘boots-on-the-ground, feeding-their-families, building-communities’ everyday Realtors. I think that the majority of the over a million Realtors are these folks. They’re not the ones who get the recognition and the glory. They’re not Madam President or Mr. Chairman or Director of anything. They’re the ones that practice real estate as their chosen profession, without the need for outside recognition or the desire to push a political agenda.
NAR leadership and staff have work to do, just as the elected leaders across Texas did: make the tough calls, be held accountable, and stand up for the decisions and direction of the organization. But these people aren’t going to be the movement that heals the Realtor organization — not by a longshot.
I’m sure a lot of people reading this will say “The everyday folks aren’t true Realtors. They don’t feel the need to get involved. They’re unprofessional and untrained.” Trust me, Rob says this right here on Notorious, as well as on stages across the country. But some of those same naysayers, including Rob, might not have thought that random guys would risk their lives, boats, and trucks for strangers. They might not have imagined that average people would get involved to the extent in which they have and become heroes.
I’m not saying that every Realtor has the best interests of the public and community at heart; but I believe that a majority are good people. Just like I think that a majority of people on this planet have good intentions. Maybe I’m naive. But I don’t think so. And thousands of Texans are proving me right day after day.
So only 15% of members respond to NAR Calls to Action. Maybe it’s because the rest feel disenfranchised from an organization that has been run by political agendas instead of the original core values — an organization that has lost its way. Maybe they feel like their voice doesn’t matter because only the chosen few hold all of the power.
Or maybe the other 85% don’t know that it’s raining because they are so busy serving their clients, taking care of their families, and trying to balance it all that they haven’t slowed down long enough to feel the rain.
People, it’s raining.
I think the everyday Realtor is more powerful than she might understand, and certainly more powerful than she is often given credit for. I believe that she will rise to the occasion in times of crisis.
Well, folks, the crisis is upon us. The Realtor organization is terribly broken. Some may say irreparable. Some may say NAR needs to be burned to the ground for a fresh start. <raises hand/>
Realtors, get your boats.
Instead of waiting for leadership to fix the problem of professionalism in the industry, go out and help your fellow Realtors by offering guidance and support.
Don’t publicly shame them because they “Ask the wrong questions.” Words DO matter, but actions and character matter more. How are we supposed to heal a broken organization if we aren’t willing to treat each other with dignity and respect? Why should consumers treat us as trusted advisors when we stab each other in the back?
Granted, there are some truly crappy agents out there that don’t care about their clients or the industry. They don’t know the contracts. They put their needs above their fiduciary duties to their clients. They see people as leads.
Those people need to go. But those people aren’t the majority.
Realtors, drive your truck full of supplies to those who don’t have the resources that you do. We know that all brokerages are not created equal, and some leaders make better mentors. But that doesn’t make the Realtor under that leadership less worthy or less professional.
Use these moments as opportunities to serve one another and provide a better experience for everyone involved. Don’t wait for NAR to rescue ‘the others’ while you sit comfortably high and dry.
I am a recovering broker; and as one person, I did the best I could to serve the agents in my office. But as one person, I fell short at times. I acknowledge my limitations and take responsibility for them.
But I didn’t wait for the Realtor organization to solve my problems. And frankly, I don’t think it can or will. Just like the leaders in Texas couldn’t save every devastated community. We have to save each other. We have to serve each other.
So to all of the NAR leadership, both paid and volunteer, keep doing what you do. And to all of the Realtors doing it to provide a living for their families and create vibrant communities, get your boats. We have work to do.
So as most of my readers know, the Coronation of Bob Goldberg just happened. Sure, he’s been in the job officially since August 1, but his “coming out party” (Bob’s own words) was Tuesday at the 2017 NAR Leadership Summit. That was followed in short order with a 1-on-1 interview with Andrew Flachner, CEO of RealScout, and a friend of Notorious. And then he must have done an interview with The Real Daily, because that story (complete with many typos, suggesting hasty transcription) came out right afterwards.
I’ve watched all of the videos and read The Real Daily and Inman News stories from the day.
And then, I spent the last couple of days reaching out to dozens of people trying to scratch an important itch. What I’ve learned is a little bit tragic, but ultimately hopeful for the future of organized real estate. It also makes me believe that Bob Goldberg is absolutely the best man for the job today. He is the right person at the right critical time.
For the TL;DR crowd, the takeaway (some of you young Millennial types might want to consult Google and history books):
Bob Goldberg could be the real estate industry’s Mikhail Gorbachev: the ultimate insider who rose to power at the right time to bring about a revolution. He could bring about perestroika and glasnost to NAR and change the culture of the organization at a time when it so desperately needs to change.
For the rest of you, who don’t mind thousands of words, let’s go on this journey together, shall we?
Okay, it turns out that Part 2 was the difficult one to write, because of how complicated organized real estate is. Part 1, the impact on brokerage, is here in case you missed it.
The final question is the impact on technology vendors in real estate. They are actually a pretty important part of the industry, after all. If you’ve already read Part 1, then you know the general direction of this thought experiment already.
I have to be honest here. I thought this post would be easy to write after Part 1, where I talked about impact on brokerages. Turns out not to be the case.
There are several reasons why, but the biggest is that there are a lot of “if-then” branching scenarios that made me get into some game theory for a while. Plus, organized real estate is really, really complex. It’s not clear how the various players would react.
Nonetheless, in the vein of “crappy product shipped is better than perfect product on the drawing board,” I figured I should just think out loud with everybody and take my lumps where I’m just misguided or wrong.
Okay, so look, I know that I have a certain reputation in the industry. Pot-stirrer, trouble-maker, truth-teller, all around pain in the ass, and so on. Even my friends know I can get argumentative about some things. And I do wish that I could post positive uplifting things all the time, but you know, when you’re working to reform the industry, it isn’t very often that I get positive uplifting things to talk about.
But today, I got one for y’all and I was so impressed I had to share it with everyone, and tell you why it struck me so, and why it represents one of the reasons why I do what I do.
I’d like y’all to meet Krista Kenner. She’s a brand new agent at Coldwell Banker Bain in Bellingham, WA., who got her license in September of last year. That’s right, she’s been in the business less than a year.
Despite being new, Krista just sold a house. And she wrote about it. Go read the whole thing, right now. Then come back. I’ll wait.
This is the best thing I’ve read on the real estate web in a long time. It gives me hope for the future, and reminds me why I do what I do.