The search for a new chief executive officer to lead the 1.2 million-member National Association of Realtors trade group is in its final stages, Inman News has learned.

Steve Cook, a spokesman for the association, said Wednesday, “The search is making progress and our hope is to announce a new CEO before the annual meeting at the end of October. No selection has yet been made.”

After NAR’s search committee completes its work, the final selection will be made by the association’s Leadership Team and Board of Directors, Cook said.

A source familiar with the search process said that a selection could be made within a month, while another source said the process “isn’t down to it’s last second” yet. Sources also said they would not be surprised if the new leader is an industry outsider with experience in the nation’s capital.

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Many of the association’s top issues are centered in Washington, D.C. The association is in the midst of a battle to block federally chartered banks from branching into the real estate brokerage business, for example, and the association has been working to thwart an antitrust lawsuit by the U.S. Justice Department over association policies for online property listings.

Also, controversy continues to swirl over possible changes to mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and the outcome could impact the overall housing market.

Though the association has its headquarters in Chicago, the NAR is a major lobbying force and campaign contributor to congressional candidates, and maintains a building, staff and a strong presence in Washington. The CEO will need to have a foot in both cities, say insiders.

Current CEO Terrence “Terry” McDermott, who joined the association eight years ago, is scheduled to depart at the end of this year, the association announced in March. The association hired Leonard Pfeiffer & Co., a Washington, D.C.-based recruiting firm, to assist with the search process.

Industry insiders have bandied about the names of some likely candidates for the trade group’s top executive post: Bob Hale, president and CEO for the Houston Association of Realtors; Steve Ozonian, national homeownership executive for Bank of America; and Joel Singer, executive vice president of the California Association of Realtors, though sources also said the top candidate is anybody’s guess at this point.

Clark Wallace, a former president for the National Association of Realtors who is a Realtor in Orinda, Calif., said that in his experience with past search committees, the total list of candidates would be trimmed down to about 10 candidates based on their experience and written resumes. In some cases, all of these candidates would be interviewed, he said. Then, he said, “it becomes a rapidly declining process,” with the list of candidates thinning down to about three finalists in some cases before the selection.

The short list, he said, “almost always includes somebody internal to the organization, who is, for example, a state association executive officer,” Wallace said, though it’s not uncommon for CEOs to be selected from outside the real estate industry.

McDermott, for example, had held the top post at the American Institute of Architects prior to joining the Realtor trade group, and he had formerly spent 27 years in the publishing industry and served as president and COO for Cahners Publishing Co., a business and special-interest magazine publisher, from 1987-93.

Washington experience is definitely a plus for those in the running for the CEO spot, Wallace said. “Connections in Washington, D.C., will elevate their candidacy. It always helps to have an understanding, if not an involvement, in the governmental affairs of Washington, D.C. They better have at least an appreciation, if not (actual experience) with Congress and the White House,” Wallace said. “It will be a major issue.”

Ed Krafchow, president of Prudential California Realty, said he would like to see someone with real estate industry experience hired to lead the association. “My concern is that in hiring some one from outside — the speed of change inside the industry is so rapid right now that by the time (the new CEO) learns the job, learns the industry — it’s going to be in a completely different place,” Krafchow said.

 

“I think the industry’s a fairly complicated industry. The issues are going to have to be confronted fairly quickly and early on,” he added. Krafchow also praised McDermott’s accomplishments.

 

The NAR search committee is led by Mike Brodie, a Realtor in Plano, Texas, who is also the trade group’s treasurer. Other search-committee members include: Bruce Aydt, Prudential Alliance, Realtors, Chesterfield, Mo.; Virginia Cook, CEO of Virginia Cook, Realtors, Dallas; Bill Malkasian, executive officer of the Wisconsin Realtors Association, Madison, Wis.; Charles “Chip” Roach Jr., of Prudential Fox & Roach, Realtors, Devon, Pa.; Cynthia Shelton, vice president of acquisitions, Commercial Net Lease Realty Inc., Orlando, Fla.; Martin Edwards Jr., of Memphis, Tenn., past president of the national association; Thomas M. Stevens, Vienna, Va., of NRT Inc. and NAR president-elect; and Gary Thomas, president of RE/MAX Real Estate Services, Aliso Viejo, Calif.

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Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to glenn@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 137.

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