When you walk the streets of New York City, so many people have dogs that you must carefully sidestep the poop even though New Yorkers are mindful about picking up their crap. That’s what it must be like to run the National Association of Realtors, where messes and surprises are routine with one million independent real estate agents as stakeholders.

  • Dale Stinton’s last year as CEO of the National Association of Realtors is expected to be 2017.
  • Stinton will leave big shoes to fill after leading the association during a treacherous 10 years for the real estate industry.
  • The trade group's decision will say a lot about its future commitments to making tough decisions swiftly and overhauling an old-school system.

When you walk the streets of New York City, so many people have dogs that you must carefully sidestep the poop — even though New Yorkers are mindful about picking up their crap.

That’s what it must be like to run the National Association of Realtors, where messes and surprises are routine with one million independent real estate agents as stakeholders.

Dale Stinton

Dale Stinton

For 11 years, Dale Stinton has had that job. Though paid handsomely — at least $1.6 million each year according to IRS filings — Stinton has commandeered the Realtor ship with care, dignity and purpose.

Change ahead

No official statement has been made; however, Stinton’s last year as CEO of the National Association of Realtors is expected to be 2017.

He served as CEO during a treacherous 10 years for the real estate industry.

There was the birth and maturation of online behemoth Zillow, with whom Stinton still purportedly feuds, then the 2008 housing and economic collapse, the sale of realtor.com to Rupert Murdoch, a move by the banks to get into real estate and various attacks on Realtors from all sides over the last 11 years.

He honed NAR’s powerful political machinery to keep Realtors out of trouble and to implement tax rules and other regulations that were favorable to his constituents.

He negotiated the gnarly Department of Justice settlement in which the industry was accused of business interference and constraint of trade over practices with new online business models.

This was the poop that his predecessors left for him to clean up — dating back to the Homestore scandal, in which somehow an insider group of industry leaders were left unscarred.

Stinton was a big promoter of technology, starting a venture capital arm and building out the trade group’s tech initiatives. A big man physically, Stinton didn’t manage with a stick, say his colleagues. He was a master delegator, developing internal talent and recruiting a very capable team.

Potential candidates in the mix

So who should replace Stinton? The hunt is not officially on, but NAR leadership is purportedly scoping out the process for finding his replacement.

brown-bill-2016

Bill Brown

The trade group is hounded for being exclusive and insular, and transparency and member outreach on this decision would be a way to reset the table. Since the process will happen on California agent Bill Brown‘s watch in 2017 and then Missouri broker Elizabeth Mendenhall in 2018, expect it to be more open than how decisions have been made in the past.

One internal candidate has already let it be known that he is unofficially throwing his hat in the ring: Bob Goldberg, Stinton’s no. 1 lieutenant.

Bob Goldberg

Bob Goldberg

According to Stinton’s office, “The current 2016 President Tom Salomone, 2015 President Chris Polychron, the 2017 President Bill Brown, and 2018 President Elizabeth Mendenhall all are working very closely to create a process and timeline that results in the absolute best candidates being identified.

“The process and timeline will be announced at the Annual Convention in Orlando. Stinton has committed to being with NAR through all of 2017 to assure a smooth transition going in to 2018.”

What’s at stake with this decision

From the cheap seats: I think NAR has a couple of important choices.

The presidential election may resolve priorities more clearly. If Trump is elected, tax reform will be one of his policy priorities, which is a sticky wicket for NAR because the deductibility of mortgage interest is always center stage in that debate.

Then, the trade group must be fortified to do battle over the next several years, and the NAR CEO’s credentials may be important.

But NAR has done just fine on the political front with Stinton at the helm. And his background was not as a D.C. powerhouse.

The other threat to NAR is its own sprawling decision-making structure. It needs to be revamped to help it withstand the radical changes to how real estate will be bought and sold in the future.

When it comes to its archaic organization, NAR is like an old-school auto company that has to be retooled, top to bottom.

Elizabeth Mendenhall

Elizabeth Mendenhall

The challenge for NAR is how how can it leverage its vast membership (which gives it so much clout), remain democratic and at the same time become lean enough to make tough decisions easily.

The organization needs a corporate makeover artist.

Houston Association of Realtors CEO Bob Hale points to Zillow. The portal has a seven-member board; NAR has a 700-member board.

NAR is working hard to become more inclusive and tear down its white-boy insider club. This decision could be telling on that front as well.

Stinton will be missed mightily. But he is self-aware enough to know that handing off the wand at the right time is critical.

NAR is ready for its next chapter of change.

Email Brad Inman

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with a comment from NAR.

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