The REALTOR® family lost one of its most well-known and distinguished leaders when NAR’s 1984 president, Donald H. Treadwell, passed away March 30. As president of NAR, Treadwell helped the association become more politically active, launching a voter registration campaign as part of the REALTORS® Active in Politics program and lobbying to prevent major cuts to HUD’s budget and to preserve the mortgage-interest deduction (MID).
Treadwell also started the “On Your Mark” campaign to promote awareness of the REALTOR® trademark among members and consumers.
Treadwell’s real estate career started in 1935 when he began working summers at his father’s real estate office in Detroit. After earning both a bachelor’s and a law degree from the University of Michigan, he served in the U.S. Coast Guard, participating in the Battle of Okinawa in World War II. He became a REALTOR® in 1946.
Treadwell served as president of the Michigan Association of REALTORS® in 1959 and was named the state’s first REALTOR® of the Year in 1965. He also served on the NAR Board of Directors, was a regional vice president for Michigan and Ohio, and was on numerous NAR committees — most recently the Research Committee in 2004.
In both his business and association roles, he was interested in the role that technology played in real estate. His son, Donald Treadwell Jr., said he got a computer for his business back in the mid-1970s — still a rarity in the industry — for bookkeeping and database services.
“He constantly wanted to learn things,” said Treadwell Jr., a real estate practitioner himself and past president of the Down River Association of REALTORS®, based in Trenton, Mich., near Detroit. “One of the last conversations he had with me was a discussion of the huge impact the digital age was having on society and real estate in particular.”
Treadwell Jr. added that his father understood how to get greatness out of the people, whether they were part of his staff, across the closing table, or association volunteers and employees.
“There’s always a fine line between trying to get them to do their best and putting too much of a burden on them,” he explained. “He was very supportive and fair.”
The former NAR president is survived by his wife, Marjorie; five of his six children, and numerous grandchildren. To learn more about his service to NAR, you can read his official biography at REALTOR.org.
It didn’t take long once the pressure was on to shut down Realtor-complaints.com. The Web site was misusing the REALTOR® trademark, posting false complaints about real estate practitioners, and demanding money to have the complaints removed from the site.
On Jan. 10, I wrote a post about the site and more than two dozen readers responded. Many recounted their stories of finding their name on Realtor-complaints.com and being asked to pay to have the complaint removed. NAR and many state associations were working in concert to end the misuse of the trademark. Yesterday, a page appeared indicating that the site had been sold and that it would be re-launching May 1. Today, the site is simply a page of links operated by one of the advertising sites.
The WHOIS record indicates that the site is suspended. “That is encouraging,” says National Association of REALTORS® attorney Mike Thiel, “but we are trying to find out what that means going forward.”
One thing’s for sure: The closure of Realtor-complaints.com isn’t the end of such Internet scams. My Jan. 10 post included simple steps you can take to manage your own reputation online. But there’s one step you should never have to take: paying money to have false information removed from a site.
A Web site of suspicious origin is misusing the REALTOR® trademark in what seems to be an attempt to get money from real estate practitioners.
The site, Realtor-complaints.com, supposedly publishes consumer complaints about real estate agents. However, an investigation by the New Jersey association of REALTORS® showed a string of complaints against its members, all using similar phrasing. “This leads to suspicion that these are not all public-submitted complaints,” says Lauren Castellano, director of communications for the New Jersey Association of REALTORS®.
Not only that, when agents who have been the subject of a complaint attempt to make contact, the site offers them the “opportunity” to pay to have the complaint and their name removed from the site, says Michael Thiel, an attorney for the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. NAR legal staff checked the WHOIS record for the site and discovered it’s hosted on servers located in the Seychelles. “It’s recorded as having been initially registered on Jan. 1, 2013,” Thiel says, ”which makes the site’s claim of having been around since 2002 very suspect.”
Thiel’s office has received a number of calls from members who’ve been informed, via e-mail, that their name is listed at the site. NAR attorneys are investigating and, if necessary, will take steps to have the site shut down. [Jan. 23 Update: Wendy Legerton below asks why NAR isn't taking more aggressive action. In response, NAR Associate General Counsel Ralph Holmen offers this: "This site does not have authority to use the term REALTOR®, and NAR has taken action to stop them from using it. That action does not (yet) involve litigation, but the possibility of initiating suit remains if our efforts are not successful.”] But it’s important to approach with caution any service that claims to either track or burnish your reputation. Online reputation management—and reputation trashing—is a growing enterprise, and there are simple steps you can take to manage your own reputation online:
- Make sure all of your profiles (on social media sites, at REALTOR.com, and so on) are complete, up to date, and consistent.
- Be proactive in asking customers for reviews in legitimate forums, such as Yelp and LinkedIn.
- Search Google and Yahoo for your name and your company’s name. Save each search as a browser favorite and check them daily.
- Sign up for Google Alerts so that you’re notified when your name appears in a search. Also set up alerts for variations of your name, your company name, and other keywords.
- Ask your customers where they’ve gone to search for information about real estate and other professionals.
- Correct errors quickly. Immediately contact the Web site and be willing to prove your case with information from your MLS or other sources. But don’t be tempted to pay to have information removed. “It’s hard to imagine a legitimate site requiring you to pay to take down false information,” Thiel says.