Apps and Naps: Defining the REALTOR® Future

Editor’s Note: REALTOR Magazine welcomes guest blogger Jeremy Conaway with his take on the proposed Political Survival Initiative. Conaway is an expert in the field of real estate brokerage, association, and MLS design, and a leading strategist in the real estate industry.

By Jeremy Conaway, President of RECON Intelligence Services

jeremy conawayThis is a time of challenge for all Americans.  We live in a environment ravaged by a recession that seems to defy recovery, made confusing by a global economy that seems to take as much as it gives, a generational mash-up that seems to defy compromise, and a tsunami of knowledge that keeps us in constant confusion by “invading” every aspect of our personal and professional lives.  This is the very definition of a renaissance, a time of reawakening and renewal, an environment in which opportunity is the key element.

Nowhere have these forces impacted as significantly as they have in our real estate industry.  It is almost impossible to find a single geographic area, market segment, or professional group that isn’t dealing with massive shifts, transitions, and changes in one or more of its most basic and critical operational elements.  The cause of each of these “life quakes” can be traced to some combination of the current economic, regulatory, demographic, generational, and knowledge forces that are sweeping across the American political, business, and cultural landscape.

The men and women who are experiencing these events as REALTORS® tend to communicate one of two reactions and responses to their representatives within organized real estate.  The first reaction comes from a group that sincerely and honestly believes that the current economic, market, and consumer-centric environment can be likened to a bad storm, and that the best response is just to chill out and let it pass.  Life’s experience has taught them that, sometimes, “waiting it out” is the best response to a threatening situation. This group wants organized real estate to protect their position during the storm and preserve a marketplace that will allow them to continue their traditional practice once the storm has passed.  It cannot be denied that sometimes the best solution to stress and trauma is just to take a nap and live to deal with it another day.

The second reaction comes from a group that sincerely and honestly believes that success and survival in a renaissance requires them to be in the middle of the fray.  For this group, satisfaction comes from being armed with the best technology, a winning strategy, and the ability to mount a courageous campaign into the middle of the social media battleground.  For these connected warriors the entire battle takes place somewhere between the software and the Internet.  If it cannot be reduced to a blog, a ‘tweet’ or an ‘app’, the challenge just doesn’t exist.

It is against this backdrop that a group of industry consultants and NAR staff convened in Chicago to consider the REALTOR® future – the varying needs, expectations and, indeed, demands of the NAR membership.  Finally one member summed up what we all agreed was the very essence of our long discussion:  “It is like we are caught between providing a nap and an app.”

To recognize these two spheres of influence is to understand that they comprise the glory, the power, and the potential of today’s REALTOR® world.  Individually, each is limited to addressing their unique needs and expectations. Together, they have the power to create a whole new REALTOR® world.  The challenge of the national association is to represent and advocate for these two groups within the greater sphere.  Doing so requires an exacting and delicate procedure incorporating research, analysis, diplomacy, and surgical precision.

The National Association of REALTORS® has successfully fulfilled this mandate for over a century.  The fine balance that exists today between the loyalty, passionate support, and concerned criticism powerfully expressed by both constituencies best measures this ongoing achievement.

Throughout its distinguished history, NAR has acquired a wide range of skill sets and competencies, all of which have prepared it to meet the challenges of the current environment.  NAR has learned that the key to every achievement lies in knowledge.  Perhaps no organization in the country today invests as many resources into basic research and learning as NAR.  The range of these efforts is expansive.  Within its staff structure, many areas of expertise are represented. Believe it or not, NAR listens – it listens a lot.  A constant stream of outside experts and consultants flows through the NAR process, enriching leadership, staff and members.  To ensure that its strategies and tactics are grounded in the reality of the day-to-day real estate business, every year, literally hundreds of NAR member volunteers are engaged in everything from local focus groups to national Presidential Advisory Groups, studying, discussing, and evaluating the critical issues of the day.  The knowledge shared among these member groups, and of the experts, becomes a mutual learning experience as the process continues toward a decision.

But even with a process as seasoned, experienced, and inclusive as it tries to be, surprises are still a part of NAR’s daily experience.  As the current situation in the real estate industry has developed, NAR has responded with the “Second Century Initiatives,” each of which had the benefits and due diligence of the process described above.  The response has underscored the differences between the two spheres.  Generally, the initiatives have suffered the scorn of the seclusion group and enjoyed the praise of the ‘app’ warriors.  But it is the current Political Survival Initiative (PSI) that may provide the ultimate example of this phenomenon.

Even within the NAR knowledge-driven culture, few initiatives have received the attention to research, detail, and analysis that created PSI. Professional staff, historians, political experts, elected officials, and members at every level have contributed to the future vision that PSI seeks to impact.  Eighteen months of applied research, analysis, and discussion have all led to one inescapable conclusion.  Over the next three years, the very survival of home ownership as the centerpiece of the American dream will be threatened.

This threat will be delivered through a constellation of theories (beginning with the mortgage interest deduction and the demise of the 30-year fixed mortgage), each put forward and represented by groups, entities, and individuals working through the legislative and regulatory environment who sincerely and reverently believe that home ownership should no longer be the centerpiece of the American dream.  This movement will be financed through a consortium of interests, both philosophical and profit driven in nature.  Unfettered, this movement has the potential to render the American dream, and the American real estate industry, as we know it, a quickly fading memory.

Armed with the enormity of these findings and their probable impact upon its members, NAR has brought forward its political survival initiative.  Much thought and discussion was given to whether or not to use the term “survival” with all of the drama and finality that it portends.  Yet, in the end, it was the only term that properly gave notice of what was to come.

The month that followed the PSI announcement produced two surprises that have demonstrated the sometimes unpredictability of both membership sectors.  The membership segment that has elected to ease its way into the future, the “naps” as it were, has instinctively and immediately understood that no amount of seclusion or isolation will prevent the most dire of results and that the entire REALTOR® culture must respond effectively.  Interestingly enough, they understand that PSI is what must happen to ensure that when they are ready to reengage that there is a real estate world in which to conduct their business.

Equally surprising has been the response of the ‘app’ group. Generally they have elected to oppose PSI.  The same group that has lobbied NAR to provide the most effective, aggressive, and strategic technologies and applications the industry has ever seen has, interestingly enough, missed the fact that PSI is actually an ultimate ‘app.’  While not attached to a specific item of hardware, it nevertheless seeks to provide a complete solution to a real challenge.  If the concept of mobility has become essential to qualification as an ‘app’, it could be suggested that few environments are as mobile and fluid as the political and regulatory worlds.  It is within this tension that our future is being forged.

The REALTOR® world can take pride in the fact that it has the ability and the willingness to produce both naps and ‘apps.’   Regardless of what may happen over the next 36 months one cannot diminish the fact that in designing the PSI strategy the opinions, needs, and demands of both membership spheres were considered and combined to meet the attack on the American dream.

In the same vein, it is appropriate to revisit the wisdom of John Dickinson as expressed in his 1768 Revolutionary War song entitled The Liberty Song, in which he expresses the sentiment that together we stand, divided we fall.

As we prepare to engage the current real estate industry renaissance and embrace the new REALTOR® opportunities that lie ahead, our ability to prevail will hinge on the fact that we approach it as an ‘extreme competition’ marketplace where, just as on “Survivor” nothing will be given and all must be won.  It is a challenge worth experiencing.

Stacey Moncrieff

Stacey is vice president of business-to-business communications for the National Association of REALTORS®, overseeing the association's key communications with NAR members and REALTOR® association executives.

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  1. Nancy

    NAR is sending the wrong message by calling itself a “REALTOR party” and it can scale back on expenditures just like all the hard working members have had to do. For example it can save over $5 million by eliminating the print magazine and the worthless “awareness” campaign that has not taught the public any difference in agent and REALTOR. Just the name of this initiative calling it “Political Survival” is the first sign NAR is involved in excessive hype claming that today’s challenges are monumental. REALTORS have been involved in politics VOLUNTARILY on these issues a long time before NAR ever came up with the idea. It is done on the local level in the voting booths. The way NAR has crammed this dues increase down our throats and taken away our rights on how our money is used is the most disgraceful thing done yet. It will drive practitioners away from the organization and it has already created such outrage and elevated resentment . To the members it means that the decision makers that allocate the money will no longer have to consider what the rank and file member political priorities may be….we have to contribute no matter what. With that NAR has diminished the members’ respect to the extent of using power of force in its dues mandate.

    I have been active in local politics for more than the 31 yrs I’ve been REALTOR and the fact our industry faces challenges is not new nor monumental. REALTORS have overcome things in the past and it will be done in the future VOLUNTARILY. We were already one of the most influential advocacy groups in America long before NAR ever came up with the idea, especially before NAR decided to forcefully extract $40 from each of its members in the future for what NAR wants to do…NOT what the members want to do. The economy is already very bad and not going to recover any time soon and a forced dues increase at this time is wrong.

    There are already new MLS systems coming up that only require a real estate license fo post listings. Technology is driving the market and there are plenty of websites that generate more business at lesser cost than an association run MLS.