After a year-long pause due to the coronavirus pandemic, the National Association of Realtors is planning to start holding its conferences in person beginning in April, though whether Realtors will attend and whether conditions on the ground will allow the events to go forward are open questions.
The 1.4 million-member trade group told Inman its first in-person event will be the 2021 RPAC President’s Circle Conference to be held in Maui from April 14-17. That event will be followed by NAR’s midyear conference, the Realtors Legislative Meetings and Trade Expo, in Washington D.C. from May 10-15, the Government Affairs Directors (GAD) Institute in Denver from July 20-22 and the Innovation, Opportunity & Investment (iOi) Summit in Boston from Aug. 16-17.
“NAR is currently proceeding with scheduled in-person meetings beyond March and monitoring the following as we consider each event: [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines, host city restrictions, the current trajectory of infection, concerns with air travel, rate of vaccination, and capacity and staffing available at hotels,” an NAR spokesperson told Inman in an emailed statement.
“NAR continues to research best practices that enhance protection of members, exhibitors, partners and staff — and prevent the spread of COVID-19 — to implement when we resume in-person events.”
NAR declined to comment on whether it will require anything of attendees in regards to the pandemic for its in-person events, for instance if attendees will have to have been vaccinated or whether a certain percentage of attendees overall will have to have been vaccinated. NAR also declined to say whether sessions for its in-person conferences will be livestreamed.
The availability of vaccines will likely be a determining factor in whether Realtors attend the events in person. The earliest that government officials expect vaccines to be available to the general public is April, though incoming surgeon general Vivek Murthy has warned that widespread vaccination may not happen until mid-summer or early fall. So far, vaccine distribution has lagged behind expectations in much of the country.
In a thread on Inman’s Coast to Coast Facebook page, Chris Carrillo, CEO of Wisconsin’s Metro MLS, said, “I’m not in the President’s circle. However, I would still be good [to attend] if the vaccine was widely available and in arms. I don’t see those logistics coming together by April though.”
Krishna Malyala, CEO of real estate tech firm TLCengine, said in the same thread that he’d consider attending NAR’s iOi tech conference in August “[o]nly if everyone attending has a rapid test each day and have been vaccinated.”
Andrea Geller, a broker at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices in Chicago, said she might consider going to iOi in the summer “[i]f everyone has had their [two] vaccines and it’s safe to eat in a restaurant.”
Regarding attending a conference as early as April, Geller said, “I don’t go into a grocery store at this point. I can’t eat in a restaurant. I know it varies state to state but in Illinois … you have a 1 in 16 chance to get COVID in a group that size. It will be months before I am eligible for the vaccine. Why would I put myself at risk at this point after taking every precaution to stay safe.”
“More people are dying every day,” she added. “I don’t understand why anyone would risk it.”
Matt Consalvo, CEO of Arizona Regional MLS (ARMLS), said he has “strong feelings” that the midyear legislative meetings in May will be virtual, “but I would absolutely attend if they are held in-person.” He’s been going into the office multiple days a week and ARMLS locations have remained open through the pandemic, he said.
“We have a host of new protocols and are always looking for new options to keep everyone safe,” he added. “Yes, we have changed, but we are still open for business. The housing market in Arizona is at record numbers of transactions and our Subscribers need, but also deserve, our support.”
Scott Forcino, an associate broker at eXp Realty, said he was impressed that NAR will make the effort to meet in person, but suggested it was nonetheless a dicey proposition.
“[T]he entity that conducts an event runs a real risk if an event is shown to have caused a hot spot for the tragic transmission of C[OVID] 19,” he said.
He predicted that even iOi in August would not be well attended in person and added, “I’ll bet a coffee it doesn’t happen.”