February 8, 2010 1 Comment
In the #RTB(Raising the Bar) discussions, comments have been made that I am anti National Association of Realtors®. That in fact is absolutely not the case. As a past staff member of another professional association, I became active in my the Chicago Association of Realtors upon entering my real estate career. Professional organizations are crucial to the profession. The post is long but is my insight as a practitioner and a participator. Think of NAR as a union.
It Does Not Pay But it Gives Back
Over the past decade as a volunteer, participating has helped my grow professionally and personally. I have met many great individuals, both volunteer leadership, committee members and staff, many who I am now proud to call friends. The different committees I have been a part of have all given me different knowledge.
I started off as a member of the Government Affairs Committee for the Chicago Association of Realtors® 10 years ago. Advocacy at the local, state and national levels is the number one strength of the organization. Locally I can proudly say we have one of the largest PACs and a highly regarded lobbyist by both our members and politicians. We have a voice. Locally, the issues are wide which include building codes, abandon buildings, signs and transfer taxes. I have spent entire days with our lobbyist sitting in City Hall waiting to testify on behalf of property rights issues. This is a place I know that the only way to create change and in some cases maintain the status quo is being part of the coalition know as the Realtor® Association. Sitting back and complaining does no good and you can make yourself part of the process here. Participation is just as important at the state and national levels as well and can be as simple as responding to the call to actions you receive.
The Good Neighbors Program has always been rewarding. It takes me out to areas in the city I typically don’t get to. I get to meet some incredible members of local communities. The list of committees I have been a member of over the years is long but I always take away something that helps me continue to develop as a professional. In addition to being a major donor, I work to raise money for RPAC(Realtor® Political Action Committee). It is the strength behind our voice. No different than anything else: Money talks, bull s..t walks.
A residual effect of my giving my time, I have also developed relationships that lead to referrals which have resulted in some nice business. You give and you get back.
I look positively at some of more recent intiatives the National Association are doing such as RPR(Realtors® Property Resource). REALTORS® Federal Credit Union offers full service virtual banking. My vote is still out on House Logic, a consumer site for home buyers and home owners, so let me know what you think on that one. It is good to see NAR capturing new involvement through new concepts such as YPN(Young Professionals Network). @nobuhata thinks YPN gives him a voice but I would disagree with him on that and say it got him engaged. There is a very large difference between voice and engagement.
The Distinction Between Voice and Engagement
We need affiliates to sponsor, members to show up and participate to thrive. Programming needs to constantly be created to meet the changing needs of our members and marketplaces. I see great value in education but little value in our current outdated designation system.
The true voice is really at the executive leadership level. I am in my fourth year as a member of board of the Chicago Association of Realtors® and have also served as a director at the Illinois and National levels. I would say that is changing with social media. I would also say they are reactive rather than proactive. The national association also thought and have fought for a long time to maintain control of information which is now backfiring on them. Hence RPR(finally) and why we are stuck with Realtor.com, an antiquated public search site.
Over the years there has been talk of a national database but there was a larger concern with stepping on the toes of local MLSs. There has also been discussions about the control of information. With Reggie Nicolay now on board I look forward to the prospect of a national database exclusively for Realtors®. But why did it have to take so long. With sites like Zillow, Trulia and Blockshopper much of it is already available to consumers in many markets. It is a behind the eight ball move for member value. Why was it third parties giving transparency to our clients?
I remember sitting in a local leadership retreat several years back and the “consultant”(I use that term lightly but am not naming names) telling us we were all going to be out of business like the travel industry because of this new website called Zillow. We should be scared. I read today Zillow is celebrating its 4th birthday. I say happy birthday to you. This site is an example of transparency the association should have been on the forefront of. Personally, I have embraced this website and a few others although I think the Zestimates are still off. I get to interact with both consumers and other professionals. These sites have been good for my business.
This brings me to Realtor.com. Because of decisions made by our leadership we(all of us members) are stuck with an outdated website that should have remained the leader and is now trying to follow. Although still number one according to the website trackers, month by month the site we own is losing visitors to sites including the aboved mentioned. I spoke with someone a few weeks back at Realtor.com. I asked why my listings and my profile don’t show up on Google like all the links from all the other websites out there. I baffled the first few people I spoke to about this and as a result of a tweet, I received a call from someone asking me what I was looking for. My answer was the value that I am receiving from the other websites I participate in. I am still not sure “the Office Website of the National Association of Realtors® understands what its members and the consumers value today. Rather than trying to embrace and grow different internet models members where being told they are bad for the industry. Now what’s bad for the members/owners of Realtor.com?
If you as an agent and your company as a brokerage did not quickly facilitate change over the last year or so where would you be? It was not until recently that NAR became a voice in the short sale and FHA issues. It is been about 2 years since thea voice at the local level started. Because banks are nationally chartered and FHA is under HUD it is at our national level of the association where are voice is. It was frustrating to me that it took 2 years and a survey to show these are is is an issue to its members. Where was the “Voice of Real Estate” 1 and 2 years ago when were struggling with these issues?
Thinking back to the presentations of the consultant who travels around the country from association to association trying to scare us that a website will finish us I think we should ask for our money back. What will drive both brokers and agents out of business is the combination of the economy and not moving forward to adapt and grow. Its about how the transactions and technology changes. Every business, regardless of industry, has to evaluate what will keep them healthy and profitable.
Because of the enormity of the organization many decisions are made on based on the financial repercussions. If we moved as slow in making changes in our business we would be gone. It is about the jobs, the cost of real estate and the existing operating structure. Besides the credit union, most of what I see is reactionary. Keep as many members and generate as much non dues dollars as possible to carry the current model. We all need to do things differently to survive and grow. I see many of their reactions as an association in panic mode. I still looking for action. My bigger picture question is can the current structure carry us forward?
I think the social medium platform enables us all to have a greater voice and we need to use it. It should not be used for bashing but to feed a larger voice from the local levels. Social networking gives all of us the opportunity to let someone know you may have never had direct access to before what you think. It can create great opportunity that may benefit all of us.