The National Association of Realtors’ official kick-off event for its mid-year conference, NAR 360, was missing its party-like atmosphere this year as it went virtual during the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, the trade group marshaled its members to continue being active in their communities and take advantage of the resources NAR has to offer.
The Virtual Realtors Legislative Meetings, which began at the end of April, is NAR’s first-ever virtual conference. While two-thirds of its sessions are closed to nearly all NAR members and press, the 1.4 million-member trade group is streaming some sessions, including NAR 360.
The session seemed geared toward bucking up Realtors’ spirits during the crisis, emphasizing their role in their communities as the nation adjusts to a new normal and showing them their dues dollars are being put to good use. Realtors pay $150 each in annual dues to NAR, of which $67 goes to political advocacy, plus a $35 special assessment for consumer advertising.
NAR President Vince Malta began the event with a moment of silence for all families affected by the coronavirus. His remarks echoed the conference’s slogan: “Home Front: Fighting for the Future of Real Estate.”
“The meaning of home has been redefined by this pandemic. The role that each of you play and the role that NAR will continue to play on your behalf, is more important now than ever. You are defenders of the homefront. And as Americans look to stay safer at home … what you do is tremendously important,” Malta said.
“Real estate is the backbone of our nation. It is the most powerful catalyst to restart economies. So Realtors will play a pivotal role in restoring the economy and establishing our nation’s new normal.
“I want to assure you today that NAR will continue to be on the front lines with you every step of the way protecting and defending what home means and ensuring that the entrepreneurial spirit that defines our industry thrives in this new landscape.”
The trade group’s leaders played up NAR’s advocacy work, which they said has been able to continue even as everyone works from home because of the longstanding relationships between NAR and policymakers. The trade group pointed to some lobbying wins, including the federal CARES Act making the self-employed and independent contractors eligible for unemployment benefits, including an employment retention tax credit and a delay in business payroll tax payments and offering small business loans, some of which are forgivable.
Still, NAR leaders emphasized that this will continue to be a busy year for its lobbying efforts as additional coronavirus relief legislation is drafted at federal, state and local levels, the presidential election gets underway and the decennial census is ongoing.
Christine Hanson, NAR’s vice president of advocacy, urged all Realtors to participate in the census and to encourage members of their communities to do so as well.
“The census has broad impacts on communities nationwide, determining political representation and allocations of resources like funding for schools, hospitals, libraries and transportation infrastructure projects. We have a real-life example of the importance of the census right now as our country battles the coronavirus,” Hanson said.
“We need to know how many people are living in our communities to make sure that federal funds for public health are properly allocated and our communities can be ready when it really counts,” she added. “The census also provides a trove of information for our industry. NAR’s research team uses this data to make industry growth projections and evaluate generational housing population demands.”
NAR CEO Bob Goldberg and NAR Treasurer John Flor pointed members to resources the trade group has offered during the crisis, including its call centers, its Right Tools Right Now program, its telemedicine program and its financial wellness program. NAR Past President John Smaby pointed viewers to NAR’s COVID-19 response hotline and its coronavirus resources page.
“The core message here is that NAR is here for you. We’ve been working very diligently deploying all of our staff ensuring that our core mantra of ‘members first’ is reality,” Goldberg said.
NAR leaders praised members’ volunteer efforts and acts of kindness during the pandemic. “The home front remains resilient because Realtors are passionate community activists, and even in the most turbulent times, you work to fulfill your clients’ dreams and build your businesses and cultivate strong communities,” Malta said.
As NAR 360 wrapped up, NAR signaled that its events would likely be changed for the foreseeable future because of the crisis. NAR First Vice President Leslie Rouda Smith noted that after its Association Executives Institute was canceled in March, the trade group had been holding weekly virtual sessions on Fridays at noon Eastern time. “Because of that, we are now going to have AEI year-round, so stay turned,” she said.
In addition, NAR announced on Monday that its Leadership Summit and Leadership Week events will go fully virtual this summer. The trade group said the “virtual format will give thousands of additional Realtors the opportunity to participate in these events.” Asked whether Leadership Week will still be August 16-21, who the virtual sessions will be open to and how many sessions will be streamed, a NAR spokesperson said staff was still ironing out the details.