A presidential advisory group of Realtors and staff will probe the impact of digital money in the real estate industry, with a potential eye toward completely digitizing the transaction process.

The president of the National Association of Realtors has marshaled a group of staffers and members to explore how cryptocurrency could affect real estate.

Leslie Rouda Smith

Leslie Rouda Smith, the 1.5 million-member trade group’s 2022 president, assembled the presidential advisory group (PAG) in March. PAGs study “topical emerging issues in the real estate space,” NAR spokesperson Mantill Williams told Inman via email.

Mantill Williams

“The PAG’s purpose is ‘To explore the cryptocurrency landscape and its potential impact on the real estate industry, and recommend the most effective approaches for educating Realtors and advocating on their and their clients’ behalf within this evolving environment,'” Williams said.

“The PAG will meet throughout the year and deliver its report to the President prior to the Annual conference” in November, he added.

Dallas Realtor Kristin Smith of Dave Perry Miller Real Estate will chair the ad-hoc workgroup, which is made up of 17 NAR members. Smith gave a presentation on cryptocurrency at the Strategic Planning Forum of the Realtors Legislative Meetings, NAR’s midyear conference, Wednesday afternoon.

Cryptocurrency is a digital form of money secured by encryption. Examples are bitcoin and ethereum.

Kristin Smith

“I really think that we should create our own Propy, dare I say it,” Smith said, referring to a blockchain transaction startup NAR’s venture capital arm, Second Century Ventures, has invested in. Propy’s goal is to completely digitize the transaction process, allowing buying or selling using any global currency, including cryptocurrency.

“I think we’re giving away our information again,” Smith continued. “We should consider our own platform for this and let the Realtors invest. Give us the first, second and third round seed of investing and that gives us vested interest.

“Then what does that do?  It creates mouthpieces on the ground. Of course, we’re gonna promote a product that we’re invested in, right? Not only are we invested, just volunteer-wise, but we’re invested monetarily so I think that that will create a good advantage for us in the future.”

NAR’s Williams told Inman any outcomes of the PAG would be within its charge and “creating a cryptocurrency is NOT within the realm of the PAG’s charge.”

The PAG will meet on May 24 and 25 to discuss the impact of cryptocurrency on the industry and how NAR educates members on the topic, according to Williams. The PAG will assess the need for further meetings after this month’s gathering.

Asked what research steps the PAG will take, Williams said, “Focus groups and surveys could be outcomes of the meeting. This topic is forever developing. We have members who have completed cryptocurrency transactions and those who are very knowledgeable on the topic.”

The PAG will create a report with its findings and present it to Rouda Smith. According to NAR’s website, it will be at the president’s discretion whether to provide the report to NAR’s leadership team for review and from there the leadership team would decide whether to forward the PAG’s recommendations through NAR’s committee process for potential approval.

Some PAGs, like the PAG that lead to NAR’s governance overhaul in November, hold open forums to discuss the subject of the PAG, but that is up to the president’s discretion.

Five NAR staff executives will support the PAG members’ work:

  • Jennifer Rzeszewski, vice president and executive director at the Center for Realtor Development;
  • Suman Patil, manager of online course development;
  • Alex Lange, vice president of strategy and innovation for the Strategic Business, Innovation & Technology (SBIT) team and also CEO of Forbes Global Properties;
  • David Conroy, director of the emerging technology group and the trade group’s staff expert on cryptocurrency; and,
  • Matt Emery, senior policy representative on financial services.

At the end of the presentation on Wednesday, an attendee said he heard through a contact close to Zillow subsidiary Dotloop that “Zillow’s been creating their own crypto” and asked if NAR was thinking of “making their own crypto or tokenization of real estate.”

Reached by email, Zillow spokesperson Viet Shelton said there was “zero truth” to the assertion that Zillow was building its own cryptocurrency or a platform for the tokenization of real estate. “Totally not true at all,” he said. Tokenization refers to creating a virtual token that represents ownership of a real estate asset.

Smith said she would pass along the attendee’s thoughts to the PAG.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with Jennifer Rzeszewski’s current title.

Email Andrea V. Brambila.

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NAR | realtors
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