Ever wonder what exactly the National Association of Realtors does for you? Here’s how Jay Thompson went from vocal critical blogger to NAR defender.

Jay Thompson is a former brokerage owner who spent over six years working for Zillow Group. He retired in August 2018 but can’t seem to leave the real estate industry behind. His weekly Inman column publishes every Wednesday.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) is a very misunderstood organization. Yes, I fully realize many won’t want to hear this either but bear with me. Keep an open mind. Shouldn’t you know and understand more about your trade organization?

In my beginning with NAR, I still remember walking into my broker’s office, the ink on my sales license not even dry. “Bring your checkbook, we’re going over to the association office,” mumbled my new broker.

We walked across the street to the local Realtor association office. I was about to become a Realtor. At that time, like many people, I equated the word “Realtor” with “real estate sales agent.” I knew nothing about NAR, local or state associations, what they did, or why I was joining them. 

My checkbook was on fire. Local association dues. State association dues. National association dues. MLS fees. Software. Signs. Business cards. All I did the first few days of my new real estate career was write checks. It was not exactly a pleasant experience. 

“Why do I have to join all these associations?” I asked my broker. “What do they do?”

He just smiled, shook his head, and said, “Not much. It’s just what we have to do. Get used to it.”

This statement set me down the road of wondering, and more than occasionally whining, about NAR.

Then came the Rose Bowl parade fiasco. Does anyone remember when NAR sponsored a float in the 2009 Rose Bowl parade? I lost my freaking mind. If you thought “logo-gate 2018” was bad, it was nothing compared to the Rose Bowl float. 

Yours truly set up a blog (now defunct) called NARWisdom. I can assure you that title was dripping with sarcasm. Having no shortage of material, I went on a tear, lamenting virtually every action NAR took or did not take. 

Then came the great MIBOR sh*t storm of 2009. To make a very long and painful story short, the Metropolitan Indianapolis Board of Realtors sent a cease-and-desist letter to a local broker forbidding her IDX listings from being indexed in Google. 

During this travesty, Mr. NARWisdom’s vocal detractor was invited to speak on the subject at the NAR Midyear Conference. After that, NAR asked me to sit on the MLS Issues & Policy committee, which led to this headline right here on Inman: “NAR Appoints Critic to MLS Committee.”

I, an “NAR critic,” asked to be a member of an NAR committee. Who would have thought that was possible?

What I learned

Spending three years on the MLS policies committee, along with a couple of subsequent IDX workgroups, and attending NAR midyear and annual conferences for committee meetings entirely changed my opinion of what NAR does for its members (along with the general public).

I wish the many members who regularly deride the NAR would spend some time attending committee meetings. Doing that would show you there are hundreds of Realtors and dozens of NAR staffers who’re committed to serving you. 

Yes, the NAR staff gets paid. Of course, they do; it’s a job. They have to pay their mortgage and feed their children, just like you and me. As a whole, they are incredibly dedicated professionals — dedicated not to a paycheck but to you and me. You can choose to believe that or not. I’ve met them, talked to them and worked alongside them. If you’re claiming they’re beholden only to a paycheck, then it’s crystal clear you have not met them, talked to them or witnessed their work.  

Along with witnessing them in action, spend some time on the NAR website. The site is a wealth of information, and it provides countless answers to the oft-asked question, “What does NAR do for me?”

Here just a few, or hundreds of pages, with detailed information on what NAR is working on:

Advocacy and outreach

NAR’s Federal Advocacy Agenda

Federal Issues Tracker

The Washington Report (advocacy updates)

State and Local Advocacy

State and Local Success Stories

Member & Consumer Mobilization

Consumer Outreach Program & Grant

2019 NAR Advocacy Success: Federal

2019 NAR Advocacy Success: State and Local

MLS and IDX rules

Handbook on Multiple Listing Policy

IDX Rules

Health insurance

Health Care Reform and Association Health Plans

Health Insurance Issue Summary

NAR’s Work for an Association Health Plan

On Zillow

Zillow Instant Offers: What State and Local REALTOR® Associations Need to Know

On antitrust

Antitrust compliance (login required)

Antitrust overview

Discounts and benefits

Realtor Benefits Program

Library and Archives


Research Reports

Housing Statistics


Arbitration and dispute resolution

Commitment to Excellence (C2EX)

The Code of Ethics

From critic to fanboy

Yes, I was once one of NAR’s loudest, mouthiest critics. I suspect some will now accuse me of being a “fanboy” or a “shill” for NAR. Think whatever you like about me, but read through those links (and more) posted above and tell me NAR does nothing for you but collect dues. 

NAR is far from perfect. It’s a big, bloated, bureaucratic organization, and it takes too long to make changes. Many committees and the Board of Directors are too large (sorry to my committee and board member friends, but it’s true). Their agenda and advocacy won’t please everyone, but satisfying 1.4 million members is an impossible task. 

They do care — about you, consumers and the industry. Have they made bone-headed moves? Of course, they have (see float-gate). So have you. They’re human beings, and humans aren’t perfect.

I, for one, am glad the tireless volunteers and staff are in my corner, our corners, working hard. Next time you feel the need to launch into NAR, just pause for a moment, and consider all they do. 

Jay Thompson is a real estate veteran and retiree living in the Texas Coastal Bend, as well as the one spinning the wheels at Now Pondering. Follow him on FacebookInstagram and Twitter. He holds an active Arizona broker’s license with eXp Realty. “Retired but not dead,” Jay speaks around the world on many things real estate.

Jay Thompson | NAR
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