This article was originally published on February 24, 2019 as part of my regular column on Inman News under, “From critic to fanboy: How this NAR detractor turned” Links may send you to articles behind Inman’s paywall.
For the budding copyright attorney, relax. My agreement with Inman allows me to republish.
(Inman heavily edited the version I submitted. This is my full submission)
Living on the Texas coast this last week has been . . . interesting. The lights went out early Monday morning, followed shortly by the absence of running water. Cell service came and went. Days crawled by with no power or water. The wind was howling, temperatures plunged to a level not seen around here for 118 years.
As the temperature inside the house dropped into the mid-50s, the news started reporting the tragedies happening across the state. People were dying.
Then came the jokes, the memes, the attacks on Texans unable to tolerate a little cold. We were laughed at and ridiculed by our neighbors to the north, those who face these conditions (and worse) on a daily basis every winter.
To be honest, the jokes, memes and ridicule were a little annoying, and a lot disheartening. I believe many of the jabs at Texas occurred from misunderstanding. Well-meaning friends would say, “sure, 19 degrees is cold, but it’s eighteen below zero here. You’ll be fine.” And, “it gets way colder here for weeks at a time!”
Of course it gets colder, for longer, in many places. But that’s typical weather in those places, and they have the infrastructure to support living in those conditions. Things like insulated pipes, winterized power stations, snow plows, salt/sanding trucks. We were experiencing “once in a generation weather.” The closest snow plow to my house is 250 miles away. The local grocery store was taking salt shakers off their shelves and using them out front in an attempt to de-ice their sidewalk and keep people from slipping and breaking their neck.
This is hard for people used to weather like this to understand. “Why would you put exposed water pipes outside a house? Only an idiot would build like that.” I don’t know, maybe because it’s never been an issue in the past 120 years? What seems so stunningly obvious in your area of the country isn’t so obvious in other parts. We humans tend to be quite ignorant at times of how other people live, work, and function. It’s pretty much human nature.
As I ventured off the weather news and reactions, it didn’t take long to see that misunderstanding and ignorance isn’t limited to record breaking Texas weather events.
Take a quick look around the real estate news world. Jump into just about any real estate group on Facebook. Read the comments on media posts about real estate and you’ll see countless examples of misunderstanding and ignorance on display. You are likely guilty of it. I know I’m guilty of it. Let’s be honest–we’re all guilty of misunderstanding and ignorance of many things.
I could dust off my Zillow hat that’s been sitting on a shelf for almost three years, put it on along with a Zillow shirt, socks, scarf and jacket (why didn’t I ever get Zillow pants?), and talk for days about how misunderstood that company is. But no one wants to hear that.
Instead I’m going to talk about the National Association of Realtors (NAR), a very misunderstood organization by many. Yes, I fully realize many won’t want to hear this either, but bear with me. Keep an open mind. Shouldn’t you know and understand more about your trade organization?
In the beginning
No, not the beginning of NAR. That was almost 113 years ago, not long before the last time Texas turned into a frozen wasteland. “In the beginning” as in my beginning with NAR.
I still remember walking into my broker’s office, the ink on my sales license not even dry. “Bring your checkbook, we’re going over to the Association office,” mumbled my new broker.
We literally walked across the street to the local Realtor association office. I was about to become a REALTOR®! At that time, like many people, I equated the word “realtor” with “real estate sales agent.” I knew nothing about NAR, local or state associations, what they did, or why I was joining them.
My checkbook was on fire. Local association dues. State association dues. National association dues. MLS fees. Software. Signs. Business cards. All I did the first few days of my new real estate career was write checks. It was not exactly a pleasant experience.
“Why do I have to join all these associations?” I asked my broker. “What do they do?”
He just sort of smiled, shook his head, and said, “Not much. It’s just what we have to do. Get used to it.”
This set me down the road of wondering, and more than occasionally whining, about NAR.
Then came the Rose Bowl parade flasco. Anyone remember when NAR sponsored a float in the 2009 Rose Bowl parade? I lost my freaking mind. If you thought “Logo-gate 2018” was bad, that was nothing compared to the Rose Bowl float.
Yours truly set up a blog (now defunct) called NARWisdom. I can assure you that title was dripping with sarcasm. Having no shortage of material, I went on a tear, lamenting virtually every action NAR took, or did not take.
The came the Great MIBOR S**tstorm of 2009. To make a very long and painful story short, the Metropolitan Indianapolis Board of Realtors sent a cease and desist letter to a local broker forbidding her IDX listings from being indexed in Google.
During this travesty, Mr. NARWisdom vocal detractor was invited to speak on the subject at the NAR Midyear conference. After that, NAR asked me to sit on the MLS Issues & Policy committee. That action was met with this headline right here on Inman–NAR Appoints Critic to MLS Committee.
Me, an “NAR critic,” asked to be a member of an NAR committee. Who would have thought that was possible?
What I learned
Spending three years on the MLS policies committee, along with a couple of subsequent IDX workgroups, and attending NAR midyear and annual conferences for committee meetings completely and totally changed my opinion of what NAR does for its members (along with the general public).
I wish the many members who regularly deride the NAR would spend some time attending committee meetings. Doing that would show you there are hundreds of Realtors and dozens of NAR staffers that are committed to serving you. Yes, the NAR staff gets paid. Of course they do, it’s a job. They have to pay their mortgage and feed their children, just like you and me. As a whole, they are incredibly dedicated professionals–dedicated not to a paycheck, but to you and me. You can choose to believe that or not. I’ve met them, talked to them, worked alongside them. If you’re claiming they’re beholden only to a paycheck, then it’s crystal clear you have not met them, talked to them, or witnessed their work.
Along with witnessing them in action, spend some time on the NAR website. The site is a wealth of information, and provides countless answers to the oft-asked question, ‘What does NAR do for me?”
Here just a few, of hundreds of pages, with detailed information on what NAR is working on:
Advocacy & Outreach
NAR’s Federal Advocacy Agenda
Federal Issues Tracker
The Washington Report (advocacy updates)
State and Local Advocacy
State and Local Success Stories
Member & Consumer Mobilization
Consumer Outreach Program & Grant
2019 NAR Advocacy Success; Federal
2019 NAR ADvocacy Success: State and Local
Zillow Instant Offers: What State and Local REALTOR® Associations Need to Know
Antitrust compliance (login required)
The Code of Ethics
From Critic to Fanboy
Yes, I was once one of NARs loudest, mouthiest critics. Now I suspect some will accuse me of being a “fanboy” or a “shill” for NAR. Think whatever you like about me, but read through those links (and more) posted above and tell me NAR does nothing for you but collect dues.
NAR is far from perfect. It’s a big, bloated, bureaucratic organization. It takes too long to make changes. Many committees and the Board of Directors are too large (sorry to my committee and BOD member friends, but it’s true). Their agenda and advocacy won’t please everyone, but pleasing 1.4 million members is an impossible task.
They do care–about you, consumers, and the industry. Have they made bone-headed moves? Of course they have. So have you. They’re human beings, and humans aren’t perfect. I for one am glad the tireless volunteers and staff are in my corner, our corner, working hard. The next time you feel the need to launch into NAR just pause for a moment, and consider all they do.
Photo credit: Shamelessly pulled from NAR’s Facebook page. Please don’t sue me.