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Opinion Editorials

Realtor Party? Count me out

One Realtor’s editorial column with her formerly private, controversial thoughts on the Realtor Party.

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Realtor Party

Realtor Party

I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member

I’ve been reading and sitting on the sidelines for months, contemplating this “Realtor Party” movement and wondering why I am not at all a card carrying member of this. After some soul searching and research on the National Association of Realtors (NAR) press, below are my problem(s) with this political movement:

What is the Realtor Party? According to their website, “We are the REALTOR® Party: An energized movement of real estate professionals fighting to keep the dream of homeownership alive for this country. Now more than ever, it is critical for REALTORS® across America to come together and speak with one voice about the stability a sound and dynamic real estate market brings to our communities. From city hall to the state house to the U.S. Capitol, our elected officials are making decisions that have a huge impact on the bottom line of REALTORS® and their customers. Through the support of REALTORS® like you, the REALTOR® Party represents your interests.”

The site continues, “As a member of the REALTOR® Party, you…

  • Vote for REALTOR® Party Candidates.
  • Act on REALTOR® Party Issues.
  • Invest in RPAC.”

Why I do not support the Party

While I am for homeownership, I don’ t believe that every red-white-and-blue American needs to or deserves to buy a house. Oh my God! Blasphemy! A Realtor stating she is not for homeownership for each and every American! Yes, you have that right, some Americans don’t want to or don’t need to buy a house. Some shouldn’t. And many don’t have the economic means to do purchase and support the house once it is owned. So there. As a Realtor I make my living my helping people buy and sell houses. But that does not mean that it is a God-given right for every single American to buy one.

Homeownership is a priviledge and unless you have a bag of cash to pay for this purchase outright, you will be beholden to banks and underwriters and appraisers. You will have to prove your worthiness to purchase and repay this debt. And if you don’t have the financial stability to do this, then you may not be able to buy a house. Period.

Voting with the REALTOR Party

As for the points above “As a member of the REALTOR Party, you…” let me address these one at a time.

I will vote for who I want to, whether or not they are the REALTOR Party Candidate of choice. I vote with my head and I vote for who I think the best candidate is, no matter what their party affiliation or whether or not they are the “union endorsed candidate” or not. I do my research and never vote straight party line, Democrat, Republican or REALTOR.

This reminds me too much of when my father, a teacher, would come home from school and hand out little wallet cards telling my mother and grandmother who to vote for. The wallet cards were a cheat sheet filled with teacher’s union candidates. As far as I knew, my father, mother and grandmother walked into the polls and voted for whoever was listed on that wallet card. They didn’t think or question. The card was all knowing. The union was God. That is until the union forsook the teachers in my father’s district in the 1980s and sold them out to another school district. Today I wonder who my father now votes for, without the union to guide him. He probably votes straight party.

Not me. I do my research and vote for the candidates who I believe will do the best job, no matter what the REALTOR party says. So no, I won’t be marching into the polling station and voting for your REALTOR party candidates. I have a brain and an opinion and I’ll be using it.

Acting on REALTOR Party issues

ACT on REALTOR Party Issues…. Okay, that’s an interesting one. The REALTOR Party expects me to contact my local, state and national politicians to spout the party line and urge them to vote for issues that support homeownership and our business. That makes sense.

A few years ago I worked side by side with one of our state representatives to change the way our school districts were handling tax assessments and appeals. I worked with him for several years. Nothing changed. This politician beat his head against the wall and we were so close to fixing something that is very wrong with our state system. Twice, the state’s governor promised us if we got support passed in the senate and house he’d sign the bill into law. Twice, he lied. I got a very up close and personal view of how our government (on a state level at least) works. Those few years of me being at the forefront of this movement were enough.

I will never run for any government office — and I’ve been asked. I’ve been asked to run for school board and turned it down twice. I was asked to run for county positions and ran for the hills (including one very important political position running the county). And I was asked to help recently with a state initiative and I refused. I am burned out. I see how the inside works and it is ugly (uglier than seeing sausage being made).

God bless anyone who wants to attempt this thankless job. I will lend my verbal support but will no longer serve in the trenches. It’s a thankless job where those who are idealistic are beat into the ground and those who have ulterior motives step all over the rest of the soldiers.

Promising to contribute to RPAC as a Party member

And finally, if you are a true REALTOR Party member you will contribute to RPAC. Nope, never going to happen in my world.

I donate each year to our United Way (I am a Pacesetter and send a significant contribution in before the campaign officially starts) which goes to support 13 local agencies. I am a Rotary Paul Harris Fellow (Sapphire) and donate every year to the annual fund for our fundraisers. I send individual contribution checks to the politicians of MY choice.

Why don’t I contribute to RPAC? I choose where my money goes. I send charitable contributions to the charities I choose. I send political contributions to the politicians I choose. I don’t want to send money to some bit PAC or slush fund to allow someone else to decide who deserves my funds. I am sorry if that sounds anal or controlling, but a few years ago, I read a piece about a monument that a group I belonged to had donated millions to. I realized that the millions could have gone to feed the hungry or clothe the homeless in my area, not to this piece of bronze or steel in a park. At that point, I decided to give contributions to the parties and the groups I want to support, not some general fund that I don’t have a say in.

The Groucho Marx quote is appropriate here: “I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member.” I am my own person with my own mind. Nobody defines me in one word — not a party affiliation as Republican or Democrat or REALTOR.

I am a REALTOR. I am a wife, mother, daughter. I am a registered Democrat, yet ask me to define my political beliefs and I am a Blue Dog Democrat like my cousin Tim Holden. I am a photographer, reader, writer and blogger. I am an entrepreneur and multiple business owner. I am multi-faceted. I will vote for who I want, who I believe in. I will give money to who I want, who I want to support… No matter who likes it or doesn’t like it.

Erica Ramus is the Broker/Owner of Ramus Realty Group in Pottsville, PA. She also teaches real estate licensing courses at Penn State Schuylkill and is extremely active in her community, especially the Rotary Club of Pottsville and the Schuylkill Chamber of Commerce. Her background is writing, marketing and publishing, and she is the founder of Schuylkill Living Magazine, the area's regional publication. She lives near Pottsville with her husband and two teenage sons, and an occasional exchange student passing thru who needs a place to stay.

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16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. Jay Thompson

    July 11, 2012 at 11:28 pm

    Hear that? It’s a small, one-man standing ovation in Seattle… 

  2. ericaramus

    July 11, 2012 at 11:30 pm

    I will take that as a compliment @Jay Thompson 

  3. drewfristoe

    July 12, 2012 at 12:20 am

    Erica, I agree with a lot if not all of what you have said.  It is your right not to want to be a member of “The Realtor Party”  BUT I do see that it has its place.  Having been involved on the State and Local level, working with The Party, I have seen my work be helpful.  From a national level with Flood Insurance, to a local issue we had with Septics.  

  4. Roland Estrada

    July 12, 2012 at 12:37 am

    I vote Conservative, period! If some the The Realtor Party agenda happens to fall into that slot, fine. 

  5. JayMyers

    July 12, 2012 at 3:24 am

    Love, Love, LOVE this. I agree with almost everything.
     
    This RPAC stuff is getting out-of-hand and downright ridiculous. I really pity the members who sit and complain about special interest groups and lobbyist and wanting smaller government but are either ignorant or blind to the fact they are continually fueling the fire with their contribution to one of the more powerful -lobbyist, or PAC groups in D.C. 
     
    With technology where it is now all members should be able to give their input where this money is used, if they are even interested in doing so is a whole other issue.

  6. JuliaOdom

    July 12, 2012 at 7:30 am

    I could have sworn I was the only one! What is good for Realtors is not necessarily good for the country and I’m not going to advocate for my interests over the greater good.

  7. Jeff Brown

    July 12, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    As a second generation Reelitor, I’ve watched every level of their so-called ‘leadership’ for over four decades. I’d compare it to the Keystone Kops, but don’t wanna insult the Kops. This new ‘party’ is merely another example. 
     
    I’ve never solved the dilemma: Are they that stoopid, or do they think we are? Or both? At least they’re somewhat entertaining at times.

  8. joemspake

    July 12, 2012 at 8:28 pm

    I am with you 100% Erica.  I have built my business on doing what is best for consumers and not what is best for NAR.

  9. denise.hamlin

    July 12, 2012 at 9:35 pm

    Nicely put Erica. I don’t agree with putting us all in one sack either. We’re as diverse in our thoughts, ideas and motivation as the rest of the nation. Being members of NAR doesn’t mean they get to tell us what to think. We can do that all on our own. @JuliaOdom Nice to see you chime in. Exactly what I would have expected. I’ve missed seeing you around lately.

  10. TAR_bca

    July 13, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    If you don’t think political advocacy is important to our industry, just ask an appraiser how it’s worked out for them …
     
    The appraisal-industry trade groups were unwilling or unable to have any effect on the implementation of HVCC … and it’s turned their business upside down and put a lot of them out of business.
     
    I don’t agree with straight-ticket voting either, but I know that the Realtor Party, Realtor associations, and RPAC. are all critical parts of the political advocacy game … a game the real estate industry MUST play. @laniar

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Opinion Editorials

How to find the sweet spot between procrastination and desperation

(EDITORIAL) Many intelligent people find themselves stuck in analysis paralysis (procrastination) and missing their window of opportunity. Others make decisions without enough information. How do you find the sweet spot between the two?

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I need to confess something to you

So, a little confession’s good for the soul, right? I feel like I need to confess something to you, dear reader, before we jump right into this article. What follows is an article that I pitched to our editor some months back, and was approved then, but I’ve had the hardest time getting started. It’s not writer’s block, per se; I’ve written scores of other articles here since then, so I can’t use that as an excuse.

It’s become a bit of a punch line around the office, too; I was asked if I was delaying the article about knowing the sweet spot in decision making between procrastination and desperation as some sort of hipster meta joke.

Which would be funny, were it to be true, but it’s not. I just became wrapped up in thinking about where this article was headed, and didn’t put words to paper. Until now.

Analysis by paralysis

“Thinking about something—thinking and thinking and thinking—without having an answer is when you get analysis by paralysis,” said St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Matt Bowman, speaking to Fangraphs.

“That’s what happened… I was trying to figure out what I was doing wrong, or if I was doing anything wrong. I had no idea.” It happens to us all: the decisions we have to make in business loom so large over us, that we delay making them until it’s absolutely necessary.

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Worse still are the times that we delay them until after such a time as when making the decision no longer matters because the opportunity or market’s already moved on. So we try to find the avenues for ourselves that will give us the answers we seek, and try to use those answers in a timely fashion. Jim Kaat, the former All-Star pitcher said it well: “If you think long, you think wrong.”

Dumpster Diving in Data

In making a decision, we’re provided an opportunity to answer three basic questions: What? So what? And now what?

The data that you use to inform your decision making process should ideally help you answer the first two of those three questions. But where do you get it from, and how much is enough?

Like many of us, I’m a collector when it comes to decision making. The more data I get to inform my decision, and the sufficient time that I invest to analyze that data, I feel helps me make a better decision.

And while that sounds prudent, and no one would suggest the other alternative of making a decision without data or analysis would be better, it can lead to the pitfall of knowing how much is enough. When looking for data sources to inform your decision making, it’s not necessarily quantity, but an appropriate blend between quantity and quality that will be most useful.

You don’t get brownie points for wading through a ton of data of marginal quality or from the most arcane places you can find them when you’re trying to make an informed decision. The results of your ultimate decision will speak for themselves.

“Effective people,” said Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, “know when to stop assessing and make a tough call, even without total information.”

Great. How do I do that?

So, by what factors should you include (and more importantly, exclude) data in your decision making?

Your specific business sector will tell you which data sources most of your competitors use already, as well as the ones that your industry disruptors use to try to gain the edge on you.

Ideally, your data sources should be timely and meaningful to you. Using overly historical data, unless you’re needing that level of support for a trend line prediction, often falls into “That’s neat, but…” land. Also, if you’re wading into data sets that you don’t understand, find ways to either improve (and thus speed) your analysis of them, or find better data sources.

While you should be aware of outliers in the data sets, don’t become so enamored of them and the stories that they may tell that you base your decision making process around the outlier, rather than the most likely scenarios.

And don’t fall into this trap

Another trap with data analysis is the temptation to find meaning where it may not exist. Anyone who’s been through a statistics class is familiar with the axiom correlation doesn’t imply causation. But it’s oh so tempting, isn’t it? To find those patterns where no one saw them before?

There’s nothing wrong with doing your homework and finding real connections, but relying on two data points and then creating the story of their interconnectedness in the vacuum will lead you astray.

Such artificial causations are humorous to see; Tyler Vigen’s work highlights many of them.

My personal favorite is the “correlation” between the U.S. per capita consumption of cheese and people who died after becoming entangled in their bed sheets. Funny, but unrelated.

So, as you gather information, be certain that you can support your action or non-action with recent, accurate, and relevant data, and gather enough to be thorough, but not so enamored of the details that you start to drown in the collection phase.

Trust issues

For many of us, delegation is an opportunity for growth. General Robert E. Lee had many generals under his command during the American Civil War, but none was so beloved to him as Stonewall Jackson.

Upon Jackson’s death in 1863, Lee commented that Jackson had lost his left arm, but that he, Lee, had lost his right. Part of this affection for Jackson was the ability to trust that Jackson would faithfully carry out Lee’s orders. In preparing for the Battle of Chancellorsville, Jackson approached Lee with a plan for battle:

Lee, Jackson’s boss, opened the conversation: “What do you propose to do?”

Jackson, who was well prepared for the conversation based on his scout’s reports, replied. “I propose to go right around there,” tracing the line on the map between them.

“How many troops will you take?,” Lee queried.

“My whole command,” said Jackson.

“What will you leave me here with?,” asked Lee.

Jackson responded with the names of the divisions he was leaving behind. Lee paused for a moment, but just a moment, before replying, “Well, go ahead.”

And after three questions in the span of less than five minutes, over 30,000 men were moved towards battle.

The takeaway is that Lee trusted Jackson implicitly. It wasn’t a blind trust that Lee had; Jackson had earned it by his preparation and execution, time after time. Lee didn’t see Jackson as perfect, either. He knew the shortcomings that he had, and worked to hone his talents towards making sure those shortcomings were minimized.

Making trust pay off for you

We all deserve to have people around us in the workplace that we can develop into such a trust. When making decisions, large or small, having colleagues that you can rely on to let you know the reality of the situation, provide a valuable alternative perspective, or ask questions that let you know the idea needs more deliberation are invaluable assets.

Finding and cultivating those relationships is a deliberate choice and one that needs considerable and constant investments in your human capital to keep.Click To Tweet

Chris Oberbeck at Entrepreneur identifies five keys to making that investment in trust pay off for you: make authentic connections with those in your employ and on your team, make promises to your staff sparingly, and keep every one of them that you make, set clear expectations about behaviors, communication and output, be vulnerable enough to say “I don’t know” and professional enough to then find the right answers, and invest your trust in your employees first, so that they feel comfortable reciprocating.

Beyond developing a relationship of trust between those who work alongside you, let’s talk about trusting yourself.

For many, the paralysis of analysis comes not from their perceived lack of data, but their lack of confidence in themselves to make the right decision. “If I choose incorrectly,” they think, “it’s possible that I might ________.” Everyone’s blank is different.

For some, it’s a fear of criticism, either due or undue. For others, it’s a fear of failure and what that may mean. Even in the face of compelling research about the power of a growth mindset, in which mistakes and shortcomings can be seen as opportunities for improvement rather than labels of failure, it’s not uncommon for many of us to have those “tapes” in our head, set to auto play upon a miscue, that remind us that we’ve failed and how that labels us.

“Risk” isn’t just a board game

An uncomfortable fact of life is that, in business, you can do everything right, and yet still fail. All of the research can come back, the trend lines of data suggest the appropriate course of action, your team can bless the decision, and you feel comfortable with it, so action is taken! And it doesn’t work at all. A perfect example of this is the abject failure of New Coke to be accepted by the consumer in 1985.

Not only was it a failure to revive lagging sales, but public outrage was so vehement that the company was forced to backtrack and recall the product from the market. Sometimes things just don’t work out the way they’re supposed to.

You have to be comfortable with your corporate and individual levels of risk when making a decision and taking action. How much risk and how much failure costs you, both in fiscal and emotional terms, is a uniquely personal decision, suited to your circumstances and your predilections. It’s also likely a varying level, too; some decisions are more critical to success and the perceptions of success than others, and will likely cause you more pause than the small decisions we make day-to-day.

In the end, success and failure hinge on the smallest of factors at times, and the temptation is to slow down the decision making process to ensure that nothing’s left to chance.

Go too slowly, however, and you’ve become the captain of a rudderless ship, left aimlessly to float, with decisions never coming, or coming far too late to meet the needs of the market, much less be innovative. Collect the information, work with your team to figure out what it means, and answer the third question of the series (the “what”) by taking action.

#TakeAction

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Opinion Editorials

Study says women need to be seen as “warm” to be considered confident

(EDITORIAL) A new study reveals that despite progress, women are still successful when they fall into a stereotype. Let’s discuss.

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About 15 years ago, I took a part-time job in a mental health clinic handling bookkeeping and billing. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, but I attacked the job with what I felt was confidence. For the first few days, I simply felt as if I was an imposter. I kept asking questions and pushing forward, even though I didn’t make much progress. Within just a few days, I felt the hostility of the office manager.

It got progressively worse, and I couldn’t figure out what the heck I’d done to make her so confrontational with me. I thought I was pleasant and respectful of her position, and I was getting along with the other employees. When I talked to our boss, I was told that I intimidated the office manager. HUH? Me? Intimidating? I was a complete mess at the time. I could barely put together a business casual wardrobe. My emotional health was so fragile that I rarely went anywhere new. And she found me intimidating?

Researchers have been studying how people judge others. Susan Fiske, researcher out of Princeton, found that competence and warmth are two of the dimensions used to judge others. Based on that research, Laura Guillén, Margarita Mayo, and Natalia Karelaia studied the competence and warmth at a software company with 236 engineers.  Guillén and her team collected data at two separate times about these engineers and their confidence and influence within the organization.

They found that “men are seen as confident if they are seen as competent, but women are seen as confident only if they come across as both competent and warm.

Women must be seen as warm in order to capitalize on their competence and be seen as confident and influential at work; competent men are seen as confident and influential whether they are warm or not.”

We encourage women to be confident, but based on current research, it may not be enough to close the gender gap in the workplace. A woman must be seen as helpful and dedicated to others to have the same influence as a man. As a woman, it’s easy to be seen as the #bossbitch when you have to make tough decisions. Those same decisions, when made by a man might be considered just “business as normal.”

I guess the lesson is that women still have to work twice as hard as men just to be seen as equals. I know that I have to work on empathy when I’m in an office environment. That office manager isn’t the only person who has thought I’m intimidating. I’ve heard it from it others, but you know what?  As a self-employed writer, I’d rather be seen as undeterred and daunting than submissive and meek.

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Opinion Editorials

“Starting a business is easy,” said only one guy ever

(OPNION EDITORIAL) Between following rules, finding funding, and gathering research, no business succeeds without lifting a finger.

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While browsing business articles this week, I came across this one, “Top 10 Business Ideas You Can Start for Free With Barely Lifting a Finger.” These types of articles make me mad. I can’t think of many successful freelancers or entrepreneurs who don’t put in hours of blood, sweat and tears to get a business going.

The author of the article is Murray Newlands, a “VIP Contributor.” Essentially, he’s a freelancer because he also contributes to Forbes, HuffPro and others. He’s the founder of ChattyPeople.com, which is important, because it’s the first business idea he promotes in the article.

But when I pull up his other articles on Entrepreneur.com, I see others like “How to Get Famous and Make Money on YouTube,” “Win Like A Targaryen: 10 Businesses You Can Start for Free,” and “10 Ventures Young Entrepreneurs Can Start for Cheap or Free.”

I seriously cannot believe that Entrepreneur.com keeps paying for the same ideas over and over.

The business ideas that are suggested are pretty varied. One suggestion is to offer online classes. I wonder if Newlands considered how long it takes to put together a worthy curriculum and how much effort goes into marketing said course.

Then, you have to work out the bugs, because users will have problems. How do you keep someone from stealing your work? What happens when you have a dispute?

Newlands suggests that you could start a blog. It’s pretty competitive these days. The most successful bloggers are ones that really work on their blog, every day. The bloggers have a brand, offer relevant content and are ethical in how they get traffic.

Think it’s easy? Better try again.

I could go on. Every idea he puts up there is a decent idea, but if he thinks it will increase your bottom line without a lot of hard work and effort, he’s delusional.

Today’s entrepreneurs need a plan. They need to work that plan, rethink it and keep working. They have to worry about liability, marketing and keeping up with technologies.

Being an entrepreneur is rewarding, but it’s hard work. It is incredibly inappropriate and grossly negligent to encourage someone to risk everything they have and are on the premise of not lifting a finger.

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