Change SwitchJeremy Conaway, Dale Stinton, and Bob Moline used the Swanepoel Trends report to push the real estate elephant into the spotlight in America. There are simply too many REALTOR® Associations not providing adequate service and support to their members.

Today, 1100 of the 1400 REALTOR® Associations in America have fewer than 300 members. Many of these smaller organizations have a difficult time delivering the depth of services and training REALTORS® need to effectively serve the needs of their clients and stay relevant with all of the technology options available to today’s demanding consumers.  At the end of the day, real estate aren’t associations supposed to exist to help their members be successful while nurturing a thriving community and real estate market?  It is time for us as an industry to try to figure out how to get every REALTOR® member a comprehensive and relevant suite of services and support no matter what local association they belong to.

These issues and struggles are not limited to the United States. The Quebec Boards of REALTORS® separated from the Canadian Real Estate Association in absolute protest of some of CREA’s policies that they did not believe were in the best interest of their members.  The revolution took courage, but these Canadian boards were able to live up to the challenge and make it happen.  The good news…. the revolution created positive change, and now CREA and the Quebec Boards of REALTORS® have new terms in their relationship.

Conaway mentions in his contribution to the Trends Report that “what one won’t find at the annual (NAR) meeting are demonstrators, protesters, dissenters, revolutionaries, or counter-culture types…”  It shouldn’t necessarily have to come to this, but I think we’re all growing weary of little progress being made about an obvious problem in our industry.  It’s too easy to ignore the need for change without a crisis or critical event to bring it to our attention.

I fear blanket condemnation of small boards.  There are some boards that deliver an amazing suite of services and demonstrate total member-centricity.  There are some larger boards that are much less responsive to their member’s needs than smaller boards. They bring an arrogance to the table that is not at all welcome with their members.  Some have staff leadership that has been in place WAY too long and has grown completely complacent.  My personal experience has taught me that just because an Association is small does not necessarily mean that it is ineffective, or poorly operated. Unfortunately, for every small one that serves its members well, there are many others that do not.

You will not find leaders of these non-responsive organizations at NAR events. They only infrequently attend State association meetings. They rarely, if ever attend a CMLS event, even though they “run” MLSs. By “run” I mean to say that they contract with a vendor who they pay to operate the MLS, provide training, provide support. Their only role is to arbitrate, assign fines, collect money, and manage contracts. Many of these small organizations cannot afford the depth of technical staff required to effectively deliver tech support,  policy enforcement and listing data protection critical to brokers today.

Many of these underperforming associations have not kept current with NAR rules and regulations. They do not know what they do not know. We encounter them when working with a broker is rolling out technology. The Associations that are not in touch fail to approve the data use or when a neighboring MLS would like to discuss a data share to address the “overlapping market disorder” in their area.  Either they do not understand the application, do not understand or even allow VOW in their market even though they have a legal mandate to do so, use a committee to approve that only meets once a month, or simply fail because they don’t have enough staff to operate the business.   They become a hindrance to the success of a broker who is trying to use MLS data in unique ways in their business.

I’m sure nothing I’ve stated here in this article is news to our readers.  The big question is “Why have we not done anything about it”?   Aren’t brokers tired of their agents getting inconsistent training and support?   Aren’t state associations tired up propping us those that are not doing the right thing for REALTORS®.  Isn’t NAR tired of the difficulty of rolling out ANY new program with such disparate levels of communication support at the local level?  It’s time that we got on this topic.

I just heard recently that NAR has started a PAG to address this issue – KUDOS for that, NAR!  The group is working to define a set of core standards and best practices about what it takes for an Association to be a meaningful support mechanism for REALTORS® today.  It is a great start to define a standard that every Association needs to adhere to.   Once that hard work is complete the real work will begin.   Will we as an industry have the guts to require that every Association adhere to the standards outlined?   Will we have the courage to clear out the underperformers by pulling the charter of an Association that is not doing the right thing for their members?

I would love to see state associations and NAR assess penalties and fines for Associations that fail to meet minimum standards of programs, services and support or even pull their charter as necessary.  If an Association is not providing full service to their members, they need to be held accountable.  It would be great if NAR could treat its Associations like Associations treat REALTORS®. If you do not follow the rules, you pay a fine or worse.  It’s time to put some meat behind the policies that have been outlined, but not enforced.

Revolutions like the one in Canada were natural. They came from constituents.  The NAR revolution would be top down. NAR must mandate attendance at conventions. They must mandate adherence to NAR Rules and Regulations.  Here’s a start… simply enforce the adoption of the RETS standard which has rarely been adhered to anywhere in the country. Force every Association to allow brokers a VOW feed if they so choose.  Withdraw charters for Associations that do not step up.

Consolidation in real estate is natural. Larger Associations can many times provide better member services for lower costs.  State Associations can also step in and support smaller organizations. This is being done successfully in Texas, New Mexico and other places currently.  To make every REALTOR® successful, their Association must provide a core set of services that effectively support the continued growth of every member.  If an Association is not capable or willing to supply the core services requires, they either need to consolidate with others who can, find a resource to support them or, dare I say it…..throw in the towel and let others continue the work they started.  The revolution must begin.