In the latest salvo of an ongoing and heated debate over the threat iBuyers pose to the real estate industry, video blogger Frank Garay attacked the National Association of Realtors (NAR) Tuesday for not defending traditional agents.
Garay’s 3-minute video opens with a series of questions asking why NAR doesn’t help agents or use “the hundreds of millions of dollars” it gets in dues to “launch massive social media campaigns comparing using a local Realtor to using an iBuyer.” He goes on to argue that iBuyers have smeared agents by suggesting that they represent a hassle for consumers.
“We thought you, NAR, were our voice,” Garay says in the video. “Were we wrong?”
Garay posted the video to the YouTube channel of the The National Real Estate Post, a video blog that he runs with Brian Stevens. The channel has about 2,000 subscribers. Prior to video blogging, or vlogging, Garay worked at a mortgage company in California.
Other issues Garay raises in the video include iBuyers partnering with homebuilders, a lack of NAR campaigns “exposing the true cost of using an iBuyer,” and well-funded iBuyer marketing pushes that “discredit Realtors.” Garay goes on to argue that NAR is also well-funded but most recently has merely launched a “pathetic” campaign of its own.
“It looks to me, NAR, like you’ve forgotten who we are,” Garay concludes.
Garay’s video prompted some discussion Tuesday among Inman’s Facebook community, with at least one broker applauding the attacks on NAR.
However, a number of other commenters suggested that defending agents from iBuyers goes beyond NAR’s mission and that the line between agents, NAR and iBuyers is grayer than Garay’s video suggests.
“A bunch of NAR member-brokers are launching iBuyer programs,” one agent responded on Facebook. “You want NAR to diss its members?”
“NAR initiatives are all member driven,” another commenter wrote. “So fussing at NAR means you are actually fussing at fellow Realtors.”
The debate highlights just how disruptive iBuyers have become, or at least are perceived to be. Opendoor, the largest and oldest of the dedicated iBuyers, launched in 2013 and has since raised more than a billion dollars from investors. The company has a major presence in a number of Sunbelt markets across Arizona, Texas and Florida.
Offerpad, another dedicated iBuyer that Garay specifically called out in his video, also operates across the Sunbelt and is a kind of Lyft to Opendoor’s Uber — which is to say that it too is well-funded and a significant player in the space. Moreover, Redfin, Zillow, Keller Williams, Realogy and other well-known firms have launched their own versions of iBuying.
All of these programs are relatively new and, given their growth, it’s no wonder that there is an ongoing debate within the industry about what kind of threat they pose to traditional agents. And despite most of the iBuyers’ claims that they have nothing against agents, many observers have noted that consumers can easily go directly to a company like Opendoor.
And that’s the crux of Garay’s argument in his video. He’s saying that iBuyers are encouraging this behavior from consumers, and that NAR is not stepping in to stop them.
NAR did not immediately respond to Inman’s request for comment Tuesday.
However, some members of the industry are cautioning against lashing out at NAR or iBuyers. In an opinion piece for Inman published today, real estate consultant and blogger Jay Thompson suggests that rising levels of angst have more to do with a normal autumn market slowdown than tectonic shifts in the industry landscape. He also mentions “a pretty absurd video floating around questioning why NAR isn’t ‘doing something’ about iBuyers.”
“So why doesn’t the NAR ‘do something’ about iBuyers?” Thompson wonders in the piece. “I don’t know. Maybe it’s because so many Realtors — NAR members — are rolling out their own iBuying programs?”
Given the fact that companies like Opendoor, Offerpad and Zillow show no signs of slowing down, it’s unlikely the debate over iBuying and its impacts will be settled any time soon. If anything, it’s likely to become even more heated as established players increasingly try to chip away at the newcomers head start.
But Thompson, at least, advises agents to take a pragmatic approach. Rather than railing against NAR or iBuyers, industry professionals should “learn how these portals and iBuyers work and leverage them to help your business.”