Following a mass resignation and weeks of turmoil at the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals (NAGLREP), two different groups have emerged that hope to take up the original organization’s mantle of serving the LGBT real estate and homeowner community.
The two groups are calling themselves the Real Pride Network and the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance, respectively. They both formalized their existence this week, after NAGLREP founder and President Jeff Berger refused calls to step down last week.
Currently, an interim board of six people is leading the Real Pride Network. The board includes both Robert Peterson and Gene Brake, two of the agents who first raised questions about Berger’s leadership at NAGLREP and who eventually dug up documents indicating his family sat on NAGLREP’s board, among other things.
Brake told Inman in an email that as of this week the group has now been incorporated as a non-profit. He added that the group’s goal is to “bring together LGBTQ+ real estate professionals, affiliated service professionals and allies to form enduring professional relationships and advocate for and support the LGBTQ+ professional community and the LGBTQ+ communities they serve.”
He also said that the interim board members are not “looking to do this forever.”
Meanwhile, the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance — which is a working title until a formal name is chosen — was organized by former NAGLREP chapter leaders, dozens of whom publicly resigned last week. Ryan Weyandt, a St. Paul-based mortgage professional and former executive director of the NAGLREP Foundation, is serving as chair of the group’s steering committee. Sean Frank, a former NAGLREP chapter leader and founder of Mainframe Real Estate, is acting as the group’s spokesperson.
Frank told Inman that everyone affiliated with the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance is disappointed about the way the NAGLREP situation unfolded. But they have also thrown themselves into building a new network that is ” bigger than it’s ever been.”
“We’re really looking forward to starting this new organization,” Frank said. “Last week was about trying to save things. When we realized it couldn’t be saved, we moved on to a new initiative.”
Both organizations are still in their infancy and figuring out how they should be governed. Frank, for example, said that the goal is to eventually form a board and choose an executive director, though the details of that process are still being hammered out. For the time being, the hope is simply to get as many people involved as possible, and to avoid some of the issues that plagued NAGLREP.
“We want to make it a very transparent organization,” Frank explained.
Brake offered a similar perspective regarding his organization, saying that the current leadership is “purely interim in nature, seek no favor, advantage or compensation in this role and merely desire to lay a foundation within the legal framework of a nonprofit corporation to build from.”
So why two organizations rather than one?
Though the story is long, the most basic factor may have to do with the way they were organized.
The controversy at NAGLREP began in mid-May when Berger first posted messages on Facebook expressing skepticism about the public response to the coronavirus pandemic. Peterson, Brake and others had concerns about the comments and eventually also raised questions about the nature of NAGLREP’s board of directors, as well as Berger’s apparent unilateral control of the group.
The controversy grew after Berger severed ties with brokerage Engel & Völkers and after he made a number of incendiary public comments.
Those events ultimately led the entire local leadership structure, as well as the board of directors, to abandon NAGLREP. But before that happened, Berger kicked a number of people who asked questions out of NAGLREPs private Facebook group and deleted their profiles from the organization’s website.
Those NAGLREP exiles eventually formed the Real Pride Network Facebook group to fill in for the online community they had been kicked out of. Brake said Tuesday that the group now has 1,400 members.
On the other hand, because the organizers of the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance were primarily local chapter leaders in NAGLREP, they spent the final days of the crisis last week trying to save the organization by pressuring Berger to relinquish control. It was only after Berger refused those requests that the chapter leaders decided to use their existing relationships and experience to build something new.
All of which is to say that there are a number of factors at play, but timing, past experience and vision appear to have contributed to the formation of the two groups.
It’s also worth noting that while many observers have characterized the crisis at NAGLREP as the organization’s collapse, it does still exist and Berger remains in place as its leader. Berger didn’t immediately respond to Inman’s request for comment, and it does not appear that he has been in touch with the leaders of the two groups this week. However, Brake pointed out that NAGLREP makes money — among other work it also generates leads and is consumer-facing — which means that it can likely continue to operate in some form or another going forward.
The end result is a situation that currently looks a bit like the Reformation of the 1500s. During that period, complaints about the Catholic Church led to religious schisms and protestant denominations such as the Lutherans and the Anglicans. The Reformation didn’t wipe out the Catholic Church, but a number of the splinter organizations became major forces in their own right.
The NAGLREP schism has already happened, though it remains to be seen how it will play out in the longer term. Brake, for example, said that he believes “there’s a possibility that we can merge” the two LGBT real estate groups eventually. And Frank said “we are trying to form a group that represents a huge variety of people.”
Those comments suggest that neither group plans to rally behind the other right now, though such a scenario could theoretically play out someday.
For its part, NAGLREP itself has continued to face additional struggles: On Friday, eXp Realty told Inman in a statement that it was ending its relationship with the organization because “we do not condone the behavior of current leadership.”
Other big companies haven’t cut NAGLREP off, but are aware of the controversy. Realogy told Inman in a statement that it was “hopeful NAGLREP will be able to address concerns recently raised by its constituents,” while RE/MAX said it “will monitor and keep lines of communication open with the LGBTQ real estate community on any developments so we can ensure our partnership continues to create a better homebuying experience for our clients.”