There’s always something to howl about

It’s the REALTOR Party, you can cry if you want to…

…But when push comes to shove, I’m a Midwesterner- practical, down-to-earth, not prone to crying over spilled milk. If something is wrong, let’s fix it. If there is a problem, let’s find the solution and move along. So when push recently came to shove and the NAR rolled out their latest membership shakedown benefit, my Midwestern mind mulled over what was really happening and whether or not there was a fix.

There is a video that’s been making the rounds in Ohio as public union options are being reconsidered. In 2007, Bob Chanin, General Counsel to the NEA for over 40 years, gave a farewell speech to the NEA. This is a fascinating look inside the history of one of the biggest, most powerful unions in the country, but at 25 minutes it’s a bit long. Let me break it down for you: Chanin describes in loving detail how the NEA was once-upon-a-time, a quiet little organization of long suffering do-gooders. Then they got politically organized. He says:

“It is not because of creative ideas, it is not because of the merit of our position, it is not because we care about children, it is not because we have a vision of a great public school for every child. NEA and its affiliates are effective advocates because we have power and we have power because there are more than 3.2 million people who are willing to pay us hundreds of millions of dollars in dues each year because they believe we are the unions that can most effectively represent them, the unions that can protect their rights and advance their interests as education employees.”

But wait, there’s more:

“When all is said and done, the NEA and its affiliates must never lose sight of the fact that they are unions and what unions do first and foremost is represent their members.”

If this doesn’t disturb you, fine. I’m not here to change your mind. And just so I’m clear about this: I’m a REALTOR because I’m forced to be, for access to the MLS, and not necessarily because I want to be (and just for the record, Dear NAR- I’m not anti-NAR per se, but I am anti-coercion. Force is coercion and coercion is thuggery and thuggery is evil. Now that we’ve got that straight… ). It does make me very proud to be a real estate agent though, because, to the very depths of my soul, I love the big idea of property rights and property ownership. That’s the bigger picture for me and that’s the thing that has kept the thuggery from getting too firm a grasp in my own REALTOR/ real estate business. But now the REALTOR Party changes all this. I’m now forced to pay into a PAC- which in essence and for all intents and purposes makes me part of a union in action if not in name. This is problematic for several reasons- one, because I become a direct party to any and all sorts of misguided lobbying that I might find ethically reprehensible, and two, because I can’t serve two masters at the same time and neither can the NAR and what that means is that inevitably there will come a painful moment when the NAR will have to make a decision that will pit its own members (me, you, us) against our own clients. And please don’t lie to yourself- it’s not a matter of if, it’s only a matter of when it happens, although I’d love to be wrong about that (but I won’t be wrong about it). 

So this quiet unassuming Midwesterner can take a push -forced membership- but now I’ve been shoved- forced PAC contributions. This is where I could waste a lot of time whining about this or endlessly debating the pros and cons, but what would be the point? Do you believe that because the NAR is closely monitoring these discussions they will suddenly decide to dump the REALTOR Party? I’d love for you to be right about that (but you won’t). Instead, my simple and pragmatic mind quickly went through the five stages of grief and decided to move on.

I’m thinking about what I can do to be the change I want to see in this world and lo and behold, I’ve decided that for me, the most effective plan of action against the latest NAR thuggery benefit is to make a renewed effort to vigorously engage in an ongoing and relentless campaign of  public education about everything that might affect real estate transactions, including exposing whenever the NAR is doing harm.

Oh I know, I know, mine is but a small voice, in a small town, most clients don’t really care, blah, blah, blah- whatever. Here’s the thing (graphic visuals forthcoming, if you are easily offended, please avert your eyes): I’m not inclined to be gently bent over a barrel by or for any organization, so doing nothing is not in my nature. At the same time, I’m not naive enough to think that my whining about this to the NAR is going to amount to a hill of beans. The way I see it, my biggest weapon is my own grunt on the ground status. By serving my clients and educating them to think for themselves, even in small numbers and one at a time, they will begin to expect, then to demand transparency, better behavior, better service, better real estate transactions, not only for themselves, but for their loved ones. When my clients understand what I understand, they will make their own demands on the NAR and that’s when (and I’m willing to bet only when) real change will happen. Right then. Moving on…


31 Comments so far

  1. Ken Brand March 24th, 2011 5:35 pm


  2. Greg Swann March 24th, 2011 6:49 pm

    A question for the National Association of Realtors:

    When, after a century of sucking the lifeblood out of the body politic, the victim is near death, what should you do?

    The NAR’s answer?

    Suck harder!

    I spoke by videoconference to the NAR Association Executives conclave on Monday. I held nothing back, patiently explaining to them that legislation is crime — using force to induce an outcome that would not have occurred without the imposition of force.

    I explained that a legislature can do nothing in a free market except harm, and that the American economy is by now essentially a vast mutual-vampirism cult: Each one of is sucking the lifeblood out of his neighbor’s neck, and each one of us is being sucked dry by his next neighbor. Taking a death-grip on the obvious, I patiently explained that this cannot but result in pandemic disaster.

    Instead, I said, if the National Association of Realtors were to come to be as zealous about private property rights as the National Rifle Association is about firearms ownership rights, I would be proud to call myself a member.

    As you might expect, the reaction was subdued.

    I didn’t know about this Political Survival Initiative crap at the time — where “political survival” equates to campaigning for the Congresscreeps the NAR has already bought, no matter how hostile those folks might be to private property rights. This might be the right time to bring that right-to-work suit against the NAR. I only belong to it because I have to in order to gain access to ARMLS. That’s an anti-trust issue, too, as well as a throttling of competition.

    As part of its political posturing, the NAR is apparently sending its rent-seeking Rotarian Socialists to BloodhoundBlog, citing us as being “not a friend of NAR’s.” They have no idea…

  3. Teri Lussier March 25th, 2011 4:40 am

    >if the National Association of Realtors were to come to be as zealous about private property rights as the National Rifle Association is about firearms ownership rights, I would be proud to call myself a member.

    That’s very well said, Greg. I would love to be a member of that group! Wait. On second thought I think I already am…

    >They have no idea…

    No they don’t.

  4. Mike Pacfico March 25th, 2011 5:02 am

    Great Post!

  5. Mike Jacobson March 25th, 2011 9:29 am

    What a great post!!! NAR is no longer a group that speaks for real estate agents or consumers. Greg’s right, they HAVE turned into the blood sucking vampires that everyone has come to hate. Why do we pay them dues? To have access to the MLS or online forms? I say we agents (lets not call ourselves Realtors anymore because our clients, the consumers, compare that name to used car salesmen anyway, make up our own group that represents us and our clients. Does anyone know what the salaries are at NAR anyway? How much of our dues are going to who’s salary? I would like to know this. Sorry….I just get so mad thinking about NAR. I’ll let someone else take over from here.

  6. Michael Cook March 25th, 2011 10:41 am

    With all the real estate data now readily available, how long before that MLS argument becomes a non-issue? In New York City, realtors keep a death grip on their listing. I have no idea how it serves your consumer to only allow certain people to view their homes, but some how realtors continue to win. I think the bell is tolling though.

  7. Matthew Fuller, GRI March 25th, 2011 10:49 am

    As my mind was meandering off to sleep last night, I started to think about the parallels between NAR, union membership, RPAC and RPPSI. I’d never really thought of my membership in NAR as membership in a union, but it seems more and more appropriate lately. If we want MLS access, we must join NAR, so let’s face it, independent contractors or not, we work in a closed shop. Thanks for the thoughtful blog post.

  8. Al Lorenz March 25th, 2011 11:46 am

    I plan to start making the case with the other brokers here, where our MLS is only coop of local brokers, to end the requirement that members be a realtor. The largest mls in the state doesn’t require membership. Take away the MLS access issue, and suddenly being a realtor is no longer forced. I think of it as our own right to work applied to mls systems. Of course, I only have less than a half dozen people to convince…

  9. John March 25th, 2011 12:12 pm

    Awesome blog post Teri.

    I’d never really thought of my membership in NAR as membership in a union, but it seems more and more appropriate lately.


  10. Joe Montenigro March 25th, 2011 3:26 pm

    Just fyi, many MLSs allow non-Realtor members… mine does (TrendMLS). After some litigation on the issue in other states, they decided to get ahead of the curve on it several years ago…. mainly from a risk reduction standpoint. Of course, they don’t advertise that they take non-Realtors.

  11. Joe Montenigro March 25th, 2011 3:28 pm

    To keep desperate agents with unqualified and unmotivated buyers from wearing out your carpets !! I have two listing that have had 50 and 60 showings respectively…..majority of feedback: “they loved it, they’re working out the mortgage now… I’ll get back to you”

  12. kerry melcher March 25th, 2011 3:39 pm

    What does “rent-seeking Rotarian Socialists” mean?

  13. Greg Swann March 25th, 2011 6:29 pm

    > What does “rent-seeking Rotarian Socialists” mean?

    From Wikipedia:

    Rent-seeking generally implies the extraction of uncompensated value from others without making any contribution to productivity, such as by gaining control of land and other pre-existing natural resources, or by imposing burdensome regulations or other government decisions that may affect consumers or businesses.

    Virtually all business regulation consists of rent-seeking by the allegedly-regulated parties, camouflaged under the banner of “consumer protection.” Everything the NAR and its lesser demons seek to do by legislation is rent-seeking.

    Rotarian Socialists are the (alleged) business-people who seek coercive advantages over their competitors, suppliers or customers by means of rent-seeking legislation. The NAR did not invent Rotarian Socialism, but that organization originated the strain of rent-seeking that is by now destroying the once-free American economy.

    There is no one in the permanent management structure of the NAR who does not understand all of this. They are fully-conscious vampires-by-choice, and they do not care that they are destroying the host they feed upon.

  14. Jay Thompson March 25th, 2011 4:37 pm

    GS: “As you might expect, the reaction was subdued.”

    I’m stunned. 😉

    I don’t suppose that video conference to the conclave was recorded and is available anywhere?

  15. Greg Swann March 25th, 2011 6:32 pm

    > I don’t suppose that video conference to the conclave was recorded and is available anywhere?

    Someone intimated in email that there is, though I wouldn’t know how to get hold of it. AEI or Jerry Matthews can tell you, perhaps.

  16. […] […]

  17. Teri Lussier March 26th, 2011 9:35 pm
  18. Greg Swann March 27th, 2011 7:24 am

    That was backspin. That was an attempt to quiet an incipient rebellion. Very interesting. Terrible video, too. Aren’t the SMMI smarmies teaching them anything?

  19. Thomas A B Johnson March 27th, 2011 8:41 am

    A bus! Whenever the Illuminati get on a bus in public, they know they are in trouble. For example, we are still awaiting the arrival of the “Straight Talk Express”.

  20. Thomas A B Johnson March 27th, 2011 8:45 am

    It is time to resurrect the NAR pencil sharpener.

  21. Teri Lussier March 27th, 2011 12:58 pm

    I could not get that NAR pencil sharpener off my mind as I wrote this post.

    >That was an attempt to quiet an incipient rebellion.

    We can only hope.

  22. Steve March 28th, 2011 6:32 am

    If you ask me , I would say we have ourselves to blame , if we all unite and go against them then its a different story.

  23. Sue Puleo March 28th, 2011 1:19 pm

    Thanks for opening the communication channel that might make it back to NAR. This is sorely needed.

    Let me start by saying that I am very proud to be a REALTOR. I am very involved in our local association. I think that this Political Survival Initiative is NOT a good idea, not now for a number of reasons. NAR has multiple issues with membership about which they seem completely out of touch, from my perspective. Members that I hear from are VERY disappointed in the value that they receive from paying their NAR portion of their dues. The perception is that NAR has become a bloated organization seeking more money on all levels to sustain the salaries of its own giant bureaucracy. WE have all had to cut back on local and state level and yet we have seen no cut backs with NAR staffing.

    Here are the areas I see as big disappointments:

    NAR failed to be effective on any level to help REALTORS with regard to short sales for years. We were asking for some representation as if we were a national force and yet we got nothing. Lenders continue to make realtors appear powerless and ineffective. We look like fools to the public when the answer to so many questions with regard to short sales is “It doesn’t make any sense but that’s the way it is”. I realize the difficulty involved with corralling all the powers that be to any kind of consensus but no attempts were made for the first 3 years that I know of.

    NAR has been spewing misinformation with regard to MID and that has hurt NAR’s credibility. To the best of my knowledge the only thing that was proposed was either limiting the deduction to 80% of interest paid or limiting the amount you can deduct for a mortgage over $500k or on second homes. NAR made it sound as if the sky was falling in. Only 34% of Americans itemize deductions at all.

    We asked for help with health care and we got a credit union. I’m not sure how many of us had a problem figuring what to do with their money, if they were lucky enough to have any to deposit.

    NAR inflicted Sentrilock on us. I can’t tell you how much damage this caused on in PR and on an economic level to our members. They had to cope with affording 2 lockbox system during the worst economic times. We lost a fair amount of members over this issue. We loved our Supra system. “It wasn’t broke and it didn’t need fixin”. The fact that NAR owned Sentrilock made it appear as a conflict of interest and nothing more than another profit center for NAR. The lockbox systems have not gotten cheaper since NAR introduced Sentrilock as was the goal. Sentrilock is far inferior to Supra system technology and reliability.

    NAR totally missed the boat on the MARS regs. It is my understanding that NAR has a staff of 70+ folks whose job it is to watch for new legislation that affects Realtors they must have all been asleep at the switch. The attorneys got themselves exempted. NAR seems to have assumed that we would be too. When we were not they failed to notify members of their legal requirements to disclose. As a holder of SFR wouldn’t it have been nice if NAR notified me and provided sample disclosures?

    I hear many members saying if they had an option they might choose not to pay the NAR portion of their dues. NAR needs to get to work to earn the portion they already get. I am a huge supporter in volunteering my time to my local association and I support RPAC as well because I can see the money is spent effectively locally. Sadly I have no faith that would be the case with NAR. NAR seems to have lost touch we the fact the REALTORS are struggling. I think it is absolutely the wrong time to propose a mandatory dues increase for any purpose. Local associations are struggling to keep members. They don’t have the option to raise dues for fear they’d lose members, so why should NAR feel so free to propose such a thing. Is NAR aware that 30% of our area members have closed less than 2 transactions in the last 12 months? $40 is a big deal to them. NOT a good idea, not now!

    Last but not least I firmly believe that the power of RPAC comes from the fact that it is voluntary. This translates to votes for prospective candidates and they know it. If mandatory, it speaks for nothing. If it were mandatory it would lose the clout it now has. Local associations are doing a much better job of showing members what they get for their voluntary RPAC contributions than is NAR. Locally our percentage of participation has been rising despite hard times. That is because we have demonstrated to members the value. This mandatory across the board $40 will hurt our local initiative.

    Thanks for offering members a voice. I hope NAR listens

  24. Ronda April 3rd, 2011 4:16 pm

    I too am very active in our local,state and NAR. I would like to commemt on a few not true items as stated.
    This iniaitive IS NOT all about candidates getting money. Have you reviewed the power point and noticed the house that fully explains what is going on. Out of the $40.00 that they are asking for 70% of the $40 will go back to the states for states candidates endorsements or expenditures. THIS IS NOT a RPAC investment. You still will be able to invest if you choose and I only hope you still do. The other funds will be used for IMF,issues to state associations,grants for housing workshops,workforce housing and educational programs such as the short sale grants that were given to states to go out and certify members im shortsales so we were informing the public the correct things. NAR has been the REALTOR party for years and what a great way to be. It’s not about Republicans and not about Democrats its about the people who believe in what our industry is all about.Further more,remember in your RPAC investment your state keeps 70% and NAR gets 30% of VOLUNTARY investmemts.
    A few other thoughts. NAR was on top of the MARS. They had met with the FTC. We were informed of this at our convention in New Orleans. It was thought we were going to be exempt but the FTC decided no. Forms were immediately sent out. Our state sent the forms to our provider immediately with the help of NAR.
    The MID is a huge things to homeowners. I would like for you to share with me your source of who said we have lost our credibility. It is amazing that we are still invited to participate in hearings to the issue. Also, Senator Max Baucus who is from my state and is the chair of finance is also in agreement and thanks NAR and MAR for their continued support in this. He also has stated that Congress does not need to mess with MID.
    Health Insurance-My understanding is the reason we have such a hard time in getting imsurance is because of our
    membership age. NAR does offer a supplemental insurance that I use. I don’t have any other insurance. I negotiate with the hospital or clinic on the charges and they usually are less than what a regular insurance policy would pay and for half the price for premium.
    When you said members don’t feel they get any benefits from NAR they can’t be to involved or want to know. For the past 2 years we have had the opportunity to use Right tools right now. What a great program with so many things to make our business be better. Our web page has the most up todate information anyone could want to get. Yes, we even have our credit union and how proud I am to be a member. They have the best interest rate for loans. They also work with their members where alot of places won’t if you have a ding on your credit report. The list goes on.Thank goodness they are constantly lobbying for the MID,the appraisal situation when we were all having problems,fighting to keep FHA and VA loans so we have low down payment loans. It is a bang for our dollar. My local association raised its dues last year by over $100. That is where you ask what do you get for your dollar. When 70% of my 1100.00 dues goes to my local association that isn’t good. They didn’t lay off people.I have been told by a communications NAR employee that NAR is not rehiring anyone who leaves.They are tightening their belts.Also you made a comment about sentrilock. NAR did not force any association to have to use Sentrilock. Our association stayed with Supra and we are still using it today.
    I only ask that you look at the power point that NAR has put together. It tells you the facts not made up things. Please review it and ask questions and they will answer you. If the BOD approves the increase then you still have an option. Either belong or don’t be a member. Your RPAC investment,you will still be able to make and I hope you do. We need to act-vote-invest to help keep our industry strong.
    Thanks for allowing me to respond with facts that are very true. I, as the President of our State Association have been presented with the information. Our executive team has met and discussed and our NAR directors will be voting for the $40 dues increase and doing it with pride! I think all voices need to be heard. I know NAR listens and thank goodness they see the journey that we are heading down the road to. With our strong association that we are and will continue to be,our industry is only going to get stronger.

  25. Sue Puleo April 4th, 2011 9:18 am

    Hi Rhonda,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. As a point of correction, I didn’t say I thought it was about money for candidates but that the volunteer nature of RPAC more tangibly translates to “VOTES” in candidates perspective.

    I have seen the power point. It was helpful but a few details are still missing like the fact the plan to give a portion of the money from the Political Survival Initiative to the locals and states will be only if the states & locals can still meet their RPAC goals. Many REALTOR will think that this initiative takes the place of RPAC.

    I am amazed at how different our perspectives our on how effective our local organizations are. In my case our local association of about 1,000 members. We have not raised our dues for years. Our staff and budgets have been seriously cut down to survive. Our association brings huge value to our members with timely free trainings at least monthly and many other things. The “Board of Choice” arrangement has left it very hard for us to compete with our closest neighbor (a few miles away) because they out numbered us 10-1 from the get go. This is also why we felt forced to switch to Sentrilock.

    As far as MARS goes, NAR might have been involved but when they were unsuccessful in exempting REALTORS then they failed to notify members that the disclosures were required starting in Dec. I thought at least they could have notified SFR holders.

    I’d love to see that stats on how many members found Real Tools Right Now useful to them. But it was something, I’d forgotten.

    You have a point about Health Care and aging REALTORS but with a million members surely they could put some options together.

    I would never want, not to be a REALTOR. I do not see it as an option. I love being a REALTOR and work hard to make sure my agents hold themselves to the highest of our Code standards. I just think NAR has grown out of touch and is more interested in sustaining the bloated machine they have in place than in serving members. But I appreciate your loyalty.

  26. Hawg April 4th, 2011 10:14 am

    You are spot on here and it is refreshing to see some Realtors who don’t mind standing up and howling about the NAR’s latest shenanigans. How many times in the past have we seen the NAR do something ludicrous and its members just nod and accept it lest they be branded as “negative,” enemies of the NAR (a title the NAR has slapped on BloodhoundBlog, by the way) or worse?

    Keep up the good fight…

  27. Teri Lussier April 5th, 2011 4:49 pm

    Does anyone know if this agreement, below, from the Realtor Action Center, means anything? Would mean anything? Would be removed? Ammended?

    Join the REALTOR Party

    I agree to:

    I support the REALTOR Party goals and values and join with other REALTORS around the country working together in the best interest of our industry and our customers. I will:

    * VOTE for candidates at the local, state, and national levels who support the REALTOR Party and make the right decisions for my profession and my customers.

    * ACT when called upon to support the REALTOR Party at the local, state, and national level. I recognize the importance of REALTORS speaking with one voice, therefore I will participate in Calls for Action, and if a broker, I will join the Broker Involvement Program.

    * INVEST in my business by giving to the REALTOR Political Action Committee (RPAC), and help RPAC build the bipartisan relationships necessary at all levels of government to ensure a sound and dynamic real estate market.


  28. Sue Puleo April 5th, 2011 6:31 pm

    It is my understanding that NAR expects RPAC to remain the same. So all the above (Vote, Act, Invest) is unchanged. The Survival Initiative is a separate thing. NAR would still expect locals and states to meet their RPAC goals.

    If anyone has heard different I’d like to know.

  29. Bill Schmiett April 7th, 2011 10:08 am

    Very nicely done. My local association and NAR are the 2 most useless organizations I’ve ever seen.

    At least my state organization provides me with benefits I can use.

    I’ll be leaving the Realtor fold at the end of the year.

  30. Teri Lussier April 7th, 2011 10:35 am

    Thanks, Bill. Good for you on leaving- would if I could.

    Totally off subject but, I love the way you’ve handled the MLS search registration on your site:

    “If you’re just browsing through for entertainment or curiosity, when asked for your name and phone number just enter your name as “just browsing”. If you really do want to find out more information, please enter your information and we will do the best we can to help you.”

    I’ve been trying to draft a way to convey that same message, but mine is very wordy (shocking, I know!) whereas you’ve done a good job of keeping it clean and brief.

  31. john kinser April 30th, 2011 4:45 pm

    The NAR is a leech that needs to be removed and discarded. THEY SERVE NO PURPOSE EXCEPT THAT WHICH SERVES THEM.

    Corporate welfare.