A standing-room-only crowd was on hand as members of the National Association of REALTORS®’ Strategic Planning Committee revealed a report Tuesday afternoon that summarized the results of a year’s worth of REThink sessions.
Released at the Midyear Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo in Washington, D.C., the report was compiled from 16 workshops across the country in an effort to answer the question over the future of NAR in uncertain times.
“I’m glad to see that we had a small enough room for this crowd,” joked NAR 2013 President Gary Thomas. He said he was thankful for the enthusiasm, adding that broad engagement is what makes the REThink report special. “It’s coming from the members rather than a small, insular group.”
The event was so widely attended that the committee added a second session Wednesday, May 15, at 1:30 p.m. Eastern at the Omni Shoreham hotel.
The report distilled responses from 4,500 individuals who used these workshops to come up with actions that individual real estate professionals, industry players, and NAR can undertake to stay relevant in the changing world of real estate. But this was not just an exercise of pulling the curtain back on data.
“We’re here to ask your feedback,” said Strategic Planning Committee Chair Shannon W. King. “We want you to agree that these are the right issues.”
Some of the many items discussed at Tuesday’s event were “big data” issues, industry collaboration, the opening up of association leadership positions, and more. Two suggestions that garnered widespread applause among attendees were increasing professional standards for members and “taking back realtor.com,” as one facilitator quoted from the report.
Both at the local workshops and at the event at Midyear, members expressed skepticism about the engagement of NAR leadership. One of the volunteer coordinators recalled the initial backlash she experienced when organizing a local REThink seminar.
“Many of the participants just thought we were from NAR,” said Summer Greene, a volunteer coordinator and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based REALTOR®. “After we got past that, it was all about, ‘Is the leadership at NAR really going to listen?’”
The difference between those local information-gathering sessions and Tuesday’s presentation was that NAR leadership was present at the Washington D.C. event and made it clear that they were not only listening, but were also ready to act.
“I didn’t want to just have another plan that would sit on the shelf and gather dust,” said Thomas, “which is basically what happens with strategic plans … when it’s done, it’s done — meaning nothing happens with it typically.”
Another hot topic was the issue of who the national association should serve first and foremost: consumers or members? Many in Tuesday’s session said the association should strive to be a resource for both groups.
“We serve the consumers through the REALTORS®,” said Bob Hart, a real estate professional from Santa Barbara, Calif. “We have to empower REALTORS® to do a better job serving the consumers.”
NAR CEO Dale Stinton agreed with this sentiment, but only to a point.
“I want to serve the consumer, but only if it helps you,” he said. “Let’s deal with realtor.com, and then let’s deal with the three-way agreement. Let’s figure out what it means to serve the member.”
One theme common among facilitators, session attendees, and association leaders alike was the idea that upsetting the status quo can be a dangerous proposition.
“You can’t ever talk about a national MLS without getting into trouble. You can’t talk about the number of associations without getting in to trouble. You cant ever talk about professional standards without getting in to trouble,” Stinton warned. “What I’m here to say on behalf of leadership is we’re ready to get in trouble.”
With that, the organization’s next leader ended the lively session with a call to action.
“Your leadership team is here, and they’ve been listening,” said 2013 NAR President-elect Steve Brown. “Are you ready to stand behind your leadership team when they get in trouble?”