Tag Archives: NAR

On returning to NAR

Well, the independent writer/consultant/pundit/speaker thing has been really rewarding, but I’m moving on to the next phase of my career.

2013-08-14 10.22.49As of today, I’m the first employee (Managing Director) in a new Data Analytics Department at the National Association of REALTORS®. My team’s job will be to build tools that help NAR’s members make better, data-driven, business decisions.

I’ll make some decisions about the future of this blog after I get settled in at my new gig. In the mean time, thanks for reading. It’s been great sharing my perspectives over the last few months.

REALTOR® Influence; This is for effect


Rumor has it that Pierre L’Enfant designed Washington D.C.’s network of streets to disorient foreign leaders (or their troops) as they moved throughout the city. Of course, once they got to the Capitol, there were all those stairs to walk up as well. This is for effect. By the time a foreign leader has made his or her way to the offices of a senator or house rep, the city and its buildings have already begun to influence, impress, or even intimidate that leader.

tcardcFor years, the National Association of REALTORS® rented an office on K Street to accommodate their government advocacy staff. This neighborhood is where most lobbyists can be found, so it made sense at the time. But NAR wanted to own, and they also wanted to build a landmark that would give NAR a higher profile and better visibility (literally) from the halls of Congress. They eventually found a small, triangular lot by the intersection of New Jersey Avenue and First Street. The location is literally steps from the Capitol. So close in fact, that the Secret Service has closed the office’s roof deck during high profile events.

D.C. has various building codes that limit the height of office buildings, essentially guaranteeing that the Capitol overshadows all. NAR built right up to the limit. In addition the primary conference/event room within the building is located on the top floor, facing the Capitol. When you walk into this room it actually feels like you are looking down on the Capitol. The first time I saw it, I couldn’t help thinking,

“this is for effect.”

NAR hosts networking parties and meetings in this space all the time. Members of congress often attend. When the conference table is set up, those congressmen and women have seats reserved that face the window. Imagine sitting in NAR’s office and looking down on your own. It’s all very impressive, but a member of congress doesn’t even have to visit the building to be impressed by it. It’s so close that you can see it from the grounds of the Capitol. NAR discreetly etched the block R into the glass of the building. There is no doubt who owns it.

All of this to leave one very deliberate impression: We are here.

The building is a symbol of NAR’s commitment to defending the agenda of homeowners and the real estate industry. Want to advance a bill that cuts the MID? We’re here to talk to you about that. Want to impede on homeowner property rights? We’re here for that too. Want to talk about GSE reform? You whoo, we’re right over here. Every day, NAR’s government affairs team meets with congressional leaders and executive administration staff. Most of what they do is behind the scenes, but don’t mistake it for doing nothing. Because NAR’s agenda is bipartisan, they find themselves aligning with different sides of the aisle at different times. Grandstanding about a bill they just killed is not an option when they know they will need to work with the sponsors of that bill in the future.

Because they don’t talk about this stuff, they get more done. Unfortunately, the lack of communication about NAR’s lobbying activities also leads members and industry pundits to question the association’s effectiveness. This criticism has come to a boil of late as Zillow has made some very impressive moves in the public sector.

I think it’s awesome that Zillow is doing events like these. It’s one of those differentiating factors that separates them from their competition. But the competition is Trulia, not NAR. Zillow is doing a public service by hosting these events, but don’t mistake the events as a serious policy discussion. Serious policy discussions never happen in public. I hope Zillow continues to hold these events, but I also hope NAR continues to do the heavy lifting, even if it is behind the scenes.

Will NAR’s bold moves with realtor.com pay off?

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for my family. We are in the process of moving back to Chicago, and I haven’t had much time to write. Last week, the National Association of REALTORS® Board of Directors met to approve “historic” changes to their agreement with Move Inc, to operate realtor.com. Inman News provided good coverage here.

Screen Shot 2013-07-29 at 1.05.07 PMBasically, realtor.com will be able to display non-listed rentals, new construction properties, and some distressed properties. Basically, idea 3 from my prior post. I’m a proponent of moves like this.

NAR definitely paid a price to make this happen. REALTOR.com is no longer the members-only club it was a week ago. The site is now offering about the same member benefit as Trulia.com offers every real estate agent, REALTOR® or not. What will NAR receive in return?

These changes should help Realtor.com improve traffic, but will they be enough to regain the lead among real estate portals? I’m skeptical. It would be interesting to know what the BOD’s expectations are, which leads me to a question I would love your input on.

What result should NAR expect from Move Inc, now that it has “let realtor.com soar?”

Furthermore, will Move be able to deliver? The BOD’s decision is definitely a step in the right direction, but at best, they are playing catch-up. Trulia and Zillow have robust rental, new construction and distressed property programs in place. Move’s incorporation of New Home Source listings will likely make them a leader in new construction listings, but by how much? Meanwhile, Zillow is still meeting consumer demand for things that remain taboo for the REALTOR® family (agent ratings, Zestimates, FSBOs…). If NAR is expecting Move to regain the lead in traffic, they have their work cut out for them.

Only time will tell what will happen, but I think NAR will have some interesting decisions to make in the near future. Should the association bet on their horse to win, place, or show? If Move can’t deliver, the next special BOD meeting could be about a partnership with Zillow instead.


NAR Executive Committee seeks to send public MLS issue back to Advisory Board. #narmidyear

Updated; See below

What started as a lockbox issue, and evolved into a debate about classifying public MLS web sites as a basic service, has further evolved into a power struggle between large brokers and MLSs. I certainly understand why a large broker would not want a public MLS site. I also understand why small and medium brokers would. It’s a tough issue and it looks like one that NAR is not quite ready to make a definitive decision on. While the MLS committee approved amendments on Tuesday that list public MLSs as a basic service, NAR’s Executive Committee moved to add an amendment that sends the issue back to a workgroup in their meeting today. I received some clarification on this from Laurie Janik, NAR Chief Counsel:

punter“The MLS Committee’s recommendation will be presented to the directors tomorrow morning. The Executive Committee will recommend to the directors amending the Committee’s recommendation to delete the one sentence that lists public facing websites as a “basic” service. The Executive Committee would like this aspect of the policy to receive further study by the Advisory Board over the summer. The Executive Committee is not recommending a prohibition on the operation of public websites. There will be no loss of NAR-provided professional liability insurance should the amendment pass.”

This is mixed news for MLSs already operating public sites. While NAR is stating that no immediate action will result if passed, the move certainly leaves those MLSs in limbo, especially now that the issue is far more public. It definitely looks like tomorrow’s BOD meeting will be lively. Stay tuned.

Update: NAR’s BOD passed the MLS amendment as presented by the MLS Committee. The Executive Committee’s amendment failed. Good news for publik facing MLSs

Photo: Creative Commons license via Flickr user  Ron Cogswell