Dale Stinton, the CEO of the National Association of Realtors, is retiring at year’s end. After 36 years of service to the largest trade association in the United States, 12 of those as CEO, I’d say he deserves it. Whether you are a fan of his or not, I believe that Dale deserves a round of thanks from the membership. Anyone who can deal with a bunch of Realtors day in and day out for 36 years has earned my respect.
And so now the search is on for a suitable replacement. With that search has come every theory and though process on choosing the successor that you can possibly imagine Some of them are great and some of them make you question how the person putting that theory forward puts pants on in the morning, much less runs a successful, international real estate company. So, I thought I’d weigh in for the 19 of you that regularly read this and share my thoughts on what I think the National Association of Realtors should be doing, what I hope the new CEO brings to the table, and why some of the talk around the “type of person” the successor is scares the crap out of me for the future of the association.
NAR’s Core Competencies
I know that I am not alone in my bewilderment at some of the things NAR tries to do. On the other hand, some things that NAR does couldn’t be done better by anyone else, in my opinion. Here’s what I don’t need. I don’t need NAR to be my bank or my university or anything else like that. If they want to do something like that under the Member Benefits department and it costs zero dollars for a dues paying member, I am ok with it, but otherwise, no thank you.
There are four things that I believe NAR should be primarily focused on every single day for every single member. They are simple, or so it would seem, and the good news is that NAR is already above average to great in three of the four.
- Brand the R – This is the one area where NAR would rate a zero to me. I believe that they have utterly failed to not only differentiate between real estate agent and Realtor, but to show the value of the Realtor to the consumer. I listed this number one because I believe it is the most important thing NAR should be doing and they aren’t doing it. When both Zillow and Realtor.com have better advertising, you have failed. But when the Canadian Association of Realtors has better ads, you should just be embarrassed of yourself. (Seriously though, if you haven’t watched some of the CAR ads, they are great.)
- Advocate – NAR does a great job, in my opinion, of advocating at the federal, state, and local levels for the consumer and for the Realtor. It’s one of the things that they could do a better job publicizing to both the members and the public as a value to both. I’ve written about politics more than enough on this site, so I won’t go too deep here. I am writing this on a plane back from D.C. and the NAR Mid-Year Conference and Legislative Visits and can tell you, at least for the people representing Houston, that they not only know and listen to their local Realtors, but they know our issues. They know our issues, because instead of partisan politics, our issues support and protect all Americans regardless of their political leanings.
- Educate – Again, NAR does great with this. Are there opportunities for improvement, sure, but overall I think that NAR does a great job offering excellent educational resources to their members. Whether the members take advantage of those or not is on them, but they are there.
- Defend the Code – What I really wanted to write as the heading of this section is Defend the Code with Extreme Prejudice, but it just didn’t fit the flow. I want NAR and their state and local associations and the state regulatory bodies to begin working together to shred licenses of dead weight, garbage agents that are killing our brand. I know it won’t happen, but between drastically increasing the number of hours needed for license renewal and faster, stricter enforcement of the Code of Ethics and state regulations (by each state’s commission/regulatory agency) I believe we could start to weed out bad agents and brokers quickly.
The One Characteristic I Want in a New CEO
If you’ve never read my post called Realtor Tastes A Lot Like Travel Agent, it would probably help with the point I am about to make. I am a firm believer that if Realtors are going to remain a viable part of the American Dream then there must be a paradigm shift in the mentality of agents, MLS boards, and associations at every level. The bottom line is this: If we as a body are going to assume that our value is derived from having valuable information instead of providing value information, we will lose. Don’t believe me? When was the last time you had a client ask you about their Zestimate? Whether you want to believe it or not, the Zestimate, and Zillow for that matter, are relevant because the Realtor community continues to fail to provide the consumer with what they want without having to ask for it. The Zestimate is right as long as we don’t make it as easy for a consumer to get an estimate of what their home is worth.
The new CEO of NAR must understand this, embrace it with everything that they have, and drive the change needed to protect this industry for the future. They must force board consolidation in a big way. They must force local and state associations to create and aggressively market consumer-facing websites that include search, sold data (if allowed by law), VOWs, AVMs, and anything else that puts the local Realtor in the seat of the value provider, not Zillow, Realtor.com, Trulia, or any other aggregator. That’s it. That’s the number one thing I want to see in a candidate for CEO of NAR. Number one with a bullet.
On a quick side note, it would also be cool to see a member-oriented CEO. We’ve been without that since at least 2005.
What Scares Me
Between the recent T3 conference where a panel was convened, to published posts and articles, to the talk around happy hours at Mid-Year, I keep hearing something that, quite frankly, scares the shit out of me. The conversation somehow turns to something along the lines of “The new CEO should be a _______”. Insert woman, minority, young person, industry outsider, or whatever descriptive you can imagine. My personal opinion is that line of thinking is extremely dangerous. It’s going to be hard enough to find the right person without narrowing the pool. Personally, I don’t care if the person is 100 years or 35, male or female, black, white, or blue. I want the right person in place to lead the organization where it needs to go for the next 10-20 years. If someone on the selection committee or whoever it is that is going to narrow this thing down is operating with an agenda to have type x or type y of person be the next CEO, then they need to be removed immediately.
That’s it. 1234 words to tell you that I think the next CEO should be the right person for the job. You’re welcome. You’re never getting this time back.