There’s always something to howl about

How does the National Association of Realtors love me? They sent me an evaluation so I could count the ways.

I appeared by videoconference at the National Association of Realtors Association Executives convention in March. At the time, I made note of my remarks in a comment to Teri Lussier’s first post on the NAR’s latest anti-consumer money-grab:

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.

Bob Bemis, CEO of ARMLS, intimated to me that there is video of the presentation somewhere, but I have not seen this. But yesterday there came by snail-mail a three-page evaluation of the event.

I think it would be fair to say that I made an impression. I knew going in that I would be telling them exactly what they did not want to hear, so I have to commend the people who made comments for their forbearance of my effrontery.

Here’s my take: What they don’t want to hear is precisely what they need most to hear. It’s not reflected in the evaluation, but a very important idea I took up with them is this one:

What happens if someone comes along and resolves to do real estate brokerage for free?

I’ve pointed out many times that Zillow’s “make me move” feature is brokerage: The introduction of buyer to seller. This is not affected by the real estate regulation machine since the act of brokerage is uncompensated — and since the real estate laws are concerned not with real estate brokerage in itself, but solely with real estate brokerage for compensation. Aunt Bea and Floyd the Barber can both sell all the real estate they want. The law does not forbid this. All the law is concerned with is making sure Aunt Bea and Floyd the Barber do not get paid for selling real estate.

So if someone decides to start marrying buyers to sellers for free, there is nothing the NAR or its slavish state departments of real estate will be able to do about it. In fact, our job is representation, not mere brokerage, but the NAR has never defended the value of representation. All the National Association of Realtors has ever cared about is restricting consumer access to real estate brokerage so the NAR’s brokers will get paid above-market commissions. And the music will stop on that coy dance just as soon as someone finds another way to monetize brokerage, without taking any sales commissions.

That one observation took the wind right out of them.

This won’t happen, but it should: The NAR should invite me to the national convention to do ninety minutes on everything it is getting wrong.

And since that won’t happen, I would be happy to talk to a start-up about how to effect real estate brokerage profitably without accepting any compensation from the principals.

Meanwhile: Thanks for the evaluation, NAR. Me and my co-panelists only got a 4.3 out of 5 for our grade, but I’ll bet I induced some 5-star nightmares in the ensuing days.

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