“It’s been far too long since the established practices were set in place, and with the changing times, it’s not just real estate agents who need to pivot to remain successful,” writes broker Mayleene DeFreece. Redfin’s departure from NAR reminds us of the importance of choice and transparency.

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In an unexpected turn of events, Redfin, one of the real estate industry’s biggest names, announced its decision to bid adieu to the National Association of Realtors (NAR) on Monday. This monumental decision has sent ripples across the real estate community, sparking discussions and debates about the role and value of NAR in today’s real estate landscape.

At the heart of this debate is the pivotal question: Why would Redfin, a prominent player in the industry, choose to sever ties with the largest professional association in the country? According to Redfin News:

Redfin is moving to end our support of the National Association of Realtors for two reasons:

    • NAR policies requiring a fee for the buyer’s agent on every listing
    • a pattern of alleged sexual harassment.

These are points of conversation that have frequently been debated among industry peers. However, when I first heard the news, I speculated that NAR’s approach to membership and the often-overlooked, yet highly significant, non-member fee could also be a factor. (It was one of the multiple reasons I personally resigned from working at a local Realtor association some years ago.)

After reading the entire article, my suspicion was confirmed as Glenn Kelman, CEO of Redfin writes: 

NAR Has Forced An All-or-Nothing Choice On Us

But this all-or-nothing approach isn’t of Redfin’s choosing. NAR rules require us to leave local and state associations even when our only beef is with the national association. The rules require that for a broker to be a member, she must pay dues for each of the agents under her supervision, regardless of whether an agent wants to be a member. The rules further say that if a broker isn’t a member, no agent under her supervision can be a member.”

The powerhouse National Association of Realtors (NAR)

First things first, we must acknowledge that the National Association of Realtors is an undeniable powerhouse in the real estate industry. With over 1.5 million members, it’s the largest professional association in the country.

However, there’s a hidden aspect to the membership structure that raises eyebrows. While NAR charges a non-member fee for real estate sales agents to not join, this fee isn’t significantly less than the actual membership fee, thus insinuating that membership might as well be mandatory, without actually stating it. 

This pricing strategy has led many to believe that Realtor membership is imitating more of a monopoly-like system than an actual voluntary resource. NAR frequently boasts that professional association membership is not a requirement, but is it? Does this pricing strategy truly align with the values of professionalism and support that NAR loves to promote?

Redfin’s bold departure

Redfin’s decision to leave NAR underscores the importance of choice and autonomy within the real estate industry. By stepping away from the National Association of Realtors, Redfin aims to make a powerful statement about the need for transparency and equitable choices. This move shines a spotlight on the importance of providing real estate professionals with options that suit their individual needs and priorities.

It’s about time a company with enough power makes such a blatant move, providing (some) indie companies a voice that would likely not have been heard otherwise. Redfin has built a reputation for pushing boundaries and challenging traditional real estate norms. This bold step is a testament to its commitment to its vision, and it has sent a clear message that they are determined to operate in a way that aligns with its unique values.

It’s been far too long since the established practices were set in place, and with the changing times, it’s not just real estate agents who need to pivot to remain successful. The conglomerate associations and professional organizations may now be forced to look inward and decide if they really are serving us in the right capacity.  

Supporting our community

In times like these, it’s crucial to remember the fundamental goal of professional associations like NAR — to support its members and the communities they serve. By and large, the NAR Political Action Committee serves the interest of homeowners everywhere, and that is a huge resource.

However, member engagement and services seem to have been suffering for some time now. I personally hope this breath of fresh air enlightens some deep conversations and forward-moving changes to eventually portray a professional association that hears its members and supports them accordingly.

Join the conversation

As the real estate industry continues to evolve, so should our professional associations. Redfin’s departure from NAR reminds us of the importance of choice and transparency. In the true spirit of community and evolution, I hope this news prompts us to come together to discuss the implications of Redfin’s decision. I hope each and every one of you share your thoughts at the local association level, and they share it at the state levels, and consequently the national level.

We want grievances and concerns to be vetted accordingly. Serious topics such as buyer agent commissions, sexual harassment and membership fee structures shouldn’t be ignored. We are a vibrant and dynamic community, and our future should be shaped by the collective passion and dedication of its members. As we bid farewell to the status quo, let’s make sure we rebuild the infrastructure of our industry to meet the true needs of its members. 

Mayleene DeFreece is an associate broker at VRA Realty. Connect with her at her website.

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