Jay Thompson is a former brokerage owner who spent more than six years working for Zillow Group. He’s also the co-founder of AgentLoop. He “selectively retired” in August 2018 but can’t seem to leave the real estate industry behind. His weekly Inman column is published every Wednesday.
This post was last updated May 19, 2023.
Back in the dark ages of 2008, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) announced it would be sponsoring a float in the Jan. 1, 2009, Rose Bowl parade.
I lost my mind. I was not alone. To me, this seemed like a complete waste of money and demonstrated that the NAR was out of touch with its membership.
Running a pretty popular real estate blog gave me, and my mouth, a platform to express my displeasure with NAR’s sponsorship. My experience with that blog also gave me the skills to launch another blog, this one dedicated to all that felt wrong about the NAR. I named it NAR Wisdom and can assure you that title was dripping with sarcasm.
NAR Wisdom gained quite a bit of attention across the real estate space. Based on the traffic stats, the city with the most readers was Chicago, home of NAR headquarters. Often, brave and thick-skinned NAR staffers would wade into the comment sections providing their insight. The CEO of NAR at the time even agreed to do a guest post.
While I was pretty miffed at most things NAR, I did have great respect for the leadership and staff for participating and listening.
Then, in early 2009, the shit hit the proverbial fan when the Indianapolis Board of Realtors (MIBOR) sent a cease-and-desist demand to a member to shut down her website because Google was “scraping” listings from the site. NAR supported the local association’s effort. (Read the original story here.)
The float sponsorship offended my common sense but had no real impact on me or my business. This ruling by MIBOR and NAR could have a huge negative impact on my ability to earn a living. Having far more knowledge about search engines and how listings are indexed than I had about parade float sponsorship, I ramped up the online assault. This was a war that had to be won.
To my astonishment, NAR invited me to address the upcoming Multiple Listing Issues and Policies Committee meeting in Washington, D.C., where the scraping issue would be discussed.
That would be my first visit to an NAR Midyear conference. (It’s since been renamed to the annual Realtors Legislative Meetings. It’ll always be Midyear to me.)
I expected Midyear to be nothing but a bunch of stodgy ancient people who’d been Realtors for decades and were set on keeping things the way they’ve always been. Figured they’d be surrounded by clueless NAR staffers.
I was wrong. What I found was a vibrant community. Agents and brokers working hard to make this industry better. Far from clueless, the NAR staff I met were bright, caring and committed to helping agents and brokers be successful.
Midyear was eye-opening, and I encourage everyone in the industry to attend this annual event. Do it at least once, and I’d bet big money that your attitude and knowledge of what NAR is and does changes for the better.
(Incidentally, the ruling on Google scraping listings was changed for the better, though it was a somewhat lengthy and convoluted process to get there.)
All this backstory was written to show that I’m not some flag-waving diehard NAR fanboy. The bureaucracy required to manage countless committees (some with hundreds of members) with the 900-plus member board of directors sometimes moves at a snail’s pace. The sometimes arcane rules and regs make change difficult but not impossible.
Do some things need to change? Of course. Is it a perfect system? No, it isn’t. But is NAR out to get us? No, it is not. NAR has a very dedicated, passionate staff. Your elected directors, the 2,500 some-odd committee members (the vast majority of whom take time from their business and money from their pockets to fulfill their duties) work extremely hard to make your life as an agent or broker better and more productive.
I’d lay odds those scoffing at the last few sentences have never attended a legislative meeting or a committee or forum meeting or participated in the local, state or national association.
Just two days ago, I finished up a two-week stint manning the primary election polls in my county of Texas. In my attempt to make voting as painless as possible, I engaged with many voters. You know what the most frequent phrase was that came up in our conversations?
“If you don’t vote, you can’t complain.”
One could easily extrapolate that to, “If you don’t participate, you can’t complain.” That’s easy to say about voting for elected officials or participating in organizations that help define how your career works.
Actually, if you don’t vote or participate, you can complain. You can be loud, obnoxious and relentless just like I was about NAR expenditures and misguided policy decisions. So complain away. But if you want to fix things, if you want to effect change, then you do have to participate.
How to participate at the national level
Just this week, NAR opened up the 2023 committee application website. It remains open through May 13. You can only serve on one committee at a time, but you can apply to serve on up to five. There are approximately 2,500 spots open.
So go to that site. Read the FAQs, View the available areas by expertise or required experience level. Find some committees that interest you and apply. Getting endorsements (recommendations) from others can definitely help you get selected, but they are not required. Do a thorough job building your expertise profile and that will also increase your chances of being selected to serve.
If you apply, what’s the worst thing that can happen? You don’t get selected. That’s not the end of the world. Spend time improving your service resume and apply again next year. How does one build their service resume? Go local.
How to participate at the local or state level
Processes vary by state and can’t possibly be rehashed in this column. Go to your local and state association websites and search for “committees.” Call your association and ask. Most local and state associations have a hard time filling spots on committees and boards. Just call and ask, “How can I get involved?”
Consider volunteering to help a committee. There’s a good chance your local and state associations have conferences, training, and meetings of boards and committees. Volunteer to help at a conference. Attend and participate in meetings. All this will help you gain awareness, make connections, and build that committee resume.
Don’t forget your MLS! They also have boards and committees you can participate on.
Volunteering for committee membership takes time. Attending meetings takes time. Simply applying takes time. It’s all time well spent.
Your MLS, your local, state and national associations need your help. They want your help. Help them help you. Working together to improve our industry is far from a waste of time. Affecting change in your industry helps you, and all of us.
Jay Thompson is a real estate veteran and co-founder of AgentLoop living in the Texas Coastal Bend. Follow him on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. He holds an active Arizona broker’s license with eXp Realty. Called “the hardest working retiree ever,” as the founder of Jay.Life he writes, speaks and consults on all things real estate.