Don’t wait for NAR to rethink the future

Realtor Notebook

It has been my observation that people who are not members of the National Association of Realtors are more supportive of the organization than many of its members.

To me, as a member, NAR is big and bureaucratic and seems out of touch with the average member. The average member is much older than the ideal member, more likely to be female, and may not have health insurance but still pays dues every year.

And every year, NAR launches some new initiative. The latest is called "Rethink the Future of Real Estate." 

According to a dedicated website created by NAR, rethinkfuture.com, the Rethink initiative will launch in August. A number of workshops will be held with a goal of reaching 20,000 people before publication of a final report at NAR’s 2013 annual conference.

NAR is seeking input from "key thinkers and industry leaders," which may or may not include people who derive most of their income from selling real estate.

It is unclear as to what will become of all this thinking, but the implication is that NAR will shape or reshape the real estate industry as part of some strategic plan for the future of NAR members or NAR.

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But reshaping the real estate industry isn’t something NAR can do — and even if it could, it probably shouldn’t.

I signed up for a "Rethinking" presentation and sat through almost an hour of it. It had nice graphics and was well-done, but I could not figure out what it was about, other than the idea that the future will be different from the past. It was unclear to me what is going to be accomplished through the program, or why we need to rethink, or what we need to rethink.

There have been no sudden changes in the industry, only gradual changes since the crash of the housing market. That was kind of sudden, but is in the past. Why is it important to "rethink" the future at this point? Why now? Is NAR trying to be more relevant? 

NAR usually reacts to changes after they occur. Like this spring, when NAR held a rally in Washington, D.C., to protect homeownership after millions lost their homes. I know the members who participated in the rally felt really good about it, and I am not trying to diminish that.

But homeownership is never really safe. Homes will go back to the bank and then be resold, so that the new owner will have the lower payments that the previous owner could have afforded. 

As the housing market crashed, NAR was there every step of the way, reminding people to work with a Realtor and that "now is a great time to buy a home." NAR has never been good at helping us prepare for the future, or even keeping up with us as we learn how to succeed in ever-changing markets. 

We read and learn from experts in other industries as well as our own, and we listen to real consumers in our own markets.

Most of the innovation in the industry comes from NAR members who sell real estate. We are the ones who preorder the iPads before they hit the market, and figure out how to use them for business before anyone writes a book on the subject or teaches a class. We see the changes coming and adapt to them and a few years later NAR follows — after the innovation trickles up to the big real estate companies. 

It was at least two years after I started my blog before NAR caught onto the idea that blogging for business might work in real estate. I think it was two years after that before NAR started embracing the idea of blogging, and then another couple of years before it provided blogging education and hired social media experts and started using Facebook and Twitter.

NAR can think and "Rethink," but those of us who are real estate agents and brokers work in a fast-paced, dynamic environment. We don’t have time to wait for committees to group-think their way all the way into the future. 

It is important to get the most out of the here and now. We can learn from now, and use that knowledge to prepare for the future. No one is going to figure it out for us no matter how much thinking and rethinking they do. It really is a great time to be in real estate — don’t forget to go out and make some money and enjoy now as much as you can.

Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.

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