REThinking the Future

After going through the major political, economic and technological shifts of the past decade, many real estate professionals are probably asking themselves, “When is business going to get back to normal?” And the answer is never — if “normal” is defined as a market that operates similar to the one that existed before 2001.

If the discussions at the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) Leadership Summit yesterday afternoon in Chicago were any indication, the changes over the next few years could come faster — and hit the industry harder — than the ones experienced during the boom and bust of the previous decade.

About 1,600 association executives, real estate practitioners, and brokers shared their ideas on what’s next for real estate as part of a REThink session, NAR’s new “open source” strategic planning initiative. REThink aims to involve tens of thousands of REALTORS® across the country in high-level conversations about how to adapt to many different futures for the industry. To accomplish this, NAR is presenting various plausible scenarios that have been generated through consumer research, as well as fostering discussions among large groups of members and real estate experts about those hypotheticals.

These scenarios include:

Near-term (2012-2017)

Ostrich: The leaders of associations count on what they already know, while consumers migrate over to so-called “Big Data” providers of real estate information on the Web. Members see their associations as out of touch, and leave in droves.

Beauty and the Beast: Many new real estate brands come into being, and old ones reinvent themselves. The housing market comes roaring back in some places, while others remain depressed, contributing to a growing wealth divide.

Jungle: A flood of new businesses, many of them non-traditional players such as Martha Stewart, Costco, and Facebook, crowd into real estate. Additionally, younger consumers who value access over ownership give rise to new concepts like “lease-r-ship,” a hybrid owning-renting model.

Long-term (2012-2022)

The American Dream Recaptured: By the start of the next decade, consumers still enjoy buying stuff and still believe in home ownership as part of the American Dream. New hotbeds of innovation arise, and energy and food prices remain somewhat low. Life is good, but is it sustainable?

The New American Dream: Resource scarcity and global conflicts have forced a reevaluation of priorities among consumers. The traditional American Dream is seen as largely unsustainable, so the marketplace provides myriad residential models that revolve around communal ownership.

“Hopeful,” “optimistic,” “excited,” “concerned,” “glad,” and “anxious” were some of the terms attendees used to describe their feelings about these potential outcomes.

Amanda Addington, a residential practitioner and chair of the Frederick County (Md.) Association of REALTORS® Young Professionals Network (YPN), predicted that the sudden introduction of several new technologies would continue to change real estate professionals’ value proposition.

“Consumers are going to find the homes they’re going to live in before they ever have to talk to a REALTOR®,” she explained. “The good part is that it can be a time saver for agents. The bad part is that we’ll have to undo a lot of what consumers learn from doing their own research online.”

Robb Pair, president of Harlem Lofts and vice president of the Manhattan (N.Y.) Association of REALTORS®, pointed to Streeteasy, a consumer-facing MLS-scraping site covering the New York metro area, as an example of this kind of disruptive technology. Created just a few years ago, it’s become one of the most popular sources of real estate data in that market.

“Agents go there because it’s better than our MLS,” Pair said. “Real estate associations are threatened in a way they never have been before because of the speed at which other successful business models can spread.”

Pair argued that associations at all levels should closely monitor trends outside of their area — particularly in leading-edge markets such as New York — to anticipate what challenges are headed their way. “Pay attention to hyperlocal issues and look at the broader reach those will have on the market at the national level,” he said.

Despite the potential turbulence in real estate’s future, Sarah Taylor, a practitioner from Port St. Lucie, Fla., and NAR’s YPN and Technology Liaison, is enthusiastic about the future. “It’s exciting to see the prospect of the industry getting turned upside down and discovering what’s important and what’s not,” she said.

To survive the ongoing evolution in real estate market, Taylor recommends having deep market knowledge, seeking out formal learning opportunities on technology and selling techniques, and looking outside the industry for sources of inspiration and innovation.

Brian Summerfield

Brian Summerfield is Manager of Business Development and Outreach for NAR Commercial and Global Services. He can be reached at

More Posts

  1. Awesome experience. It no longer is business as usual but rather, a sense of urgency will be applied to the Realtor brand, homeownership, and local associations. YPN was totally a game changer at the summit!

  2. Terrific experience. Considerably different than years past. Quite upbeat.
    My feeling is we need to think of Realtors from the consumer’s point of view and not limit ourselves. Get out of the box. This meeting started the discusssion in that direction.
    The change of how the moderators were used kept the meeting focused on the purpose rather than on the moderators. Good job.

  3. Christopher Tscherne

    Just came across this review of the REThink program and after attending the New York event a couple of months ago, I left the event with a much more sinister opinion of the program.

    As crazy as it might sound hear it is …….

    Just like many other aspects of American society today such as family values, religious freedom, marriage, gun rights, free speech, etc… the idea of homeownership being a fundamental part of the American Dream, appears to be targeted for redesign.

    Evidence of this opinion is littered throughout the recent program sponsored by the Strategic Planning Committee of the National Association of Realtors, REThink: The Future of Real Estate.

    Based on its contents, the creator of this program, an outside consulting firm, believes that NAR members should embrace change to insure our survival and prosperity. We should avoid being the proverbial “ostrich with its head in the sand” and be open minded about the future. No one wants to be thought of as being the closed-minded ostrich.

    The creator’s manipulative intent with this obvious use of persuasive symbolism borders on insulting.

    While the program offers various scenarios about our future, the proposed scenarios offered appear to be pre-approved concepts right out of the global think tank playbook. In general, globalists, as they have come to be known, consider American sovereignty to be subservient to global initiatives endorsed by institutions such as the United Nations.

    In REThink: The Future of Real Estate, we are asked to consider two future scenarios.

    One future scenario, The American Dream Recaptured, promotes modest, green urban living near public transportation and rejects suburban development because of environmental concerns & the supply of natural resources.

    The second future scenario, The New American Dream, promotes not only urban living but vertical communities that offer shared housing, “leasership” versus homeownership, shared facilities, access to public services ….. a combination of features bordering on communal living.

    It is interesting that another future scenario was not offered. One that would have freedom loving pro-American Realtors push policy makers back to sound mortgage financing principles that lead to stable markets, and successfully protect the basic principle that served our country so well, the right to own and benefit from private property.

    REThink: The Future of Real Estate reveals that there are global minded thinkers that have been planning for some time to achieve for what most of us would think is impossible, the redesign of the traditional American Dream.

    In order for you to see the subtle evidence, you must be able to put yourself in the role of a globalist.

    Global central planners realize that the American experiment of self government and individual freedom has been so successful and so popular that in order to try to get people to take a different path, one can not blatantly expose a different plan but must slowly nudge and persuade individuals to believe that the American experiment is no longer a viable long term form of living.

    Globalists cloak their collectivist goals in the form of human rights objectives and environmental sustainability initiatives. These objectives can be made to appear compassionate while initiating programs that will ultimately lead to the demise of the American Dream as we know it.

    Let’s take a look at recent history to review some evidence that is only apparent with the benefit of hindsight.

    In 1992, President George HW Bush along with other world leaders, traveled to Brazil for a United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. It was at this conference that world leaders ratified a program called Agenda 21.

    While Agenda 21 contains so many anti-American objectives that books have now been published on the subject, I would like to focus on Section 7 from which the following statements are sourced.

    “Providing Adequate Shelter For All”

    “7.6 The right to adequate housing as a basic human right is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights.”

    “7.9 d. All countries should, as appropriate, facilitate access of urban and rural poor to shelter by adopting and utilizing housing and financing schemes and new innovative mechanisms adapted to their circumstances.”

    That was 1992. It was no coincidence that we first started to hear about the loan products that have come to be known as the infamous “sub-prime” loans in the mid-1990’s shortly after this conference. Looking back, I think we can all now comfortably consider these loans to fit the description of the financing schemes and new innovative mechanisms referred to in Agenda 21.

    Ironically though, the long term viability of these sub-prime loan products was anything but “sustainable,” a word that seemed to originate out of the Agenda 21 Conference and has been a catch phrase for the next decade and continues today in many aspects of our society.

    Your attention is brought to this aspect of Agenda 21 because it reveals the original source of the “sub-prime loan” concept but the underlying purpose had been elusive …. Till now. …. Till REThink: The Future of Real Estate.

    In one of the scenarios, the actor, portraying a future Realtor, suggested that their generation did not put the same value on homeownership as did their parents because they saw their parents struggle to maintain their mortgage payments or worse, lose their homes in foreclosure due to the sub-prime crisis.

    That future generation, having seen their parents endure a nightmare with homeownership, were afraid to take on the responsibility of owning a home and paying a mortgage. Instead they chose to embrace “Leasership” & communal living.

    Since globalists think and plan long term, even generationally, it is now evident that the sub-prime crisis is serving to influence a whole generation of young people that will look at homeownership with skepticism in the future.

    There is much more evidence to suggest that home ownership and private property rights are under attack.

    Why would any politician or policy maker in the middle of a recession even think of eliminating any of the incentives associated with owning real estate?

    It would only make sense if they believe that private property rights are dispensable and that the government or government endorsed conglomerates can do a better job of providing housing for the people. They just need a fresh generation of citizens that will embrace communal living and view individual homeownership as a needless financial burden.

    Policy makers will sugar coat government sponsored housing as being more affordable and more environmentally “sustainable” because we have to protect our natural resources for future generations.

    It is amazing how hypocritical the policy makers can be when talking about the environment and sustainability while they go about creating enormous amounts of “unsustainable” debt that will ultimately be passed on to the future generations they claim to be concerned about.

    As Realtors, we should acknowledge that the scenarios posed in REThink: The Future of Real Estate are in fact possible and maybe even probable if we choose to do nothing but remain passive participants …. while The American Dream is redefined.

    That being said we should use this program as a wake-up call.

    The scenarios presented should be rejected.

    We should make it clear that our National Association of Realtors should be steadfast champions and protectors of private property rights and the current American Dream of Homeownership.

    We must stand on principle at any cost.

    To NOT speak out on this matter is to endorse a future that would ultimately have the next generation of Realtors becoming mere rental agents for government sponsored housing.

    How sad would that be?