The National Association of Realtors is raising members’ dues by $40 a year in spite of strong membership opposition. Most of us can scrape up an extra $40. It isn’t that much money — not even enough to fill the gas tank — yet the increase feels like a slap in the face.

The funds are going to be used for political lobbying. It would be hard for any organization that has as many members as NAR does to please all of the members, but often I disagree with its politics.

The association is unique in that it doesn’t have to please any of its members. Membership is mandatory in many market areas for agents who want to be affiliated with a major brokerage and have their listings appear on a Realtor-operated multiple listing service.

The reason the dues increase is unacceptable to so many is because we are struggling in a down housing market and have been for years. We have worked hard for years, only to see our earnings decline every year with home values.

Many of us never saw the crash coming, and apparently neither did NAR, which I personally find alarming. The crisis isn’t close to over, but we just walk around with smiles on our faces and make hopeful statements about the future because that is what we are supposed to do.

NAR’s membership has been shrinking, along with the housing market. The day will come when the association needs to increase dues again because of membership declines. I have already seen an increase to my local MLS dues because there are fewer local members to collect from.

Of the three associations I belong to (national, state and local Realtor associations), the only association that I feel helps my business is the Minnesota Association of Realtors.

I question why I need to belong to the three associations, and if I had any say over how my money is spent I would send everything I pay in dues to the state association. Real estate is highly regulated on the state level.

Homes have gone down in value nationwide, which means Realtor incomes have gone down, too, because commissions are typically tied to homes prices. I should not have to spell it out, but I do because the NAR leadership is so far removed from the struggling Realtor on the street that it has to be explained.

The mission statement of NAR, as stated on its website, is, "The core purpose of (NAR) is to help its members become more profitable and successful."

More than 25 percent of NAR members have no health insurance. I wonder if there is any other trade organization that can make the same claim.

Housing is just one part of a bigger economic picture. Unless the NAR can use the $40 to help create living-wage jobs, there isn’t much it can do that is going to improve the housing market.

We could have another round of tax incentives like we had last spring, which would create temporary demand for housing and a temporary increase in home prices, but it isn’t sustainable.

We already have a mortgage interest tax deduction, yet there are few homebuyers. The move-up buyers that I used to work with in the spring are not moving this year. They are either upside down on their mortgages, or the home they used to own is now owned by a bank.

As a Realtor I am on the edge. Like some of my peers I have reached the point where I am thinking about moving on and moving forward. There are more jobs this year than last year, and as some parts of the economy have started to recover there are new business opportunities.

Home prices have gone way down but the price of everything else has gone up.

Minnesota is on top in home-value declines. Prices took a nose dive here and it will be a long time before our housing market recovers. I was thinking this would be the year when things start to get better, but I was wrong.

In my market area, things will likely get worse before they get better. The lowest-priced homes are selling, and for those we are seeing three-digit commissions. The $40 dollar increase in dues feels like a kick when we are down.

NAR has had opportunities to help its members: was a prime example. It is hard to have faith in the association.

The timing of the increase in dues is a clear signal to me that NAR has lost touch with the membership and has managed to isolate itself from the collective pain of hundreds of thousands of members.

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