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Dear Santa NAR: A Christmas Wish List

Christmas Treet with Stockings

Now that I’ve been stuffed like the turkey I ate and had a chance to reflect on the many things I need to be thankful for it’s time for the next holiday to begin. Parties galore and, best of all, I get to sit on Santa’s lap and tell him what I want for [insert name for hugely successful December holiday here].

This year, I know the economy is in the doldrums and, heck, even membership in our beloved National Association of Realtors is down a tad.  So I don’t want to seem selfish.  I just have a few little things I’d like Santa NAR to put under my tree this year.

1. Put the REALTOR back in the National Association of REALTORS

All those nice tax breaks for the home buying public are nice and all.  I understand that they do have an indirect effect on Realtors (especially those that are really working their business) but I would much rather have some direct benefits of membership coming my way.

For example, you know those nice “discounts” you get from the Realtor Benefits® Program.  A little leg work and web surfing can make those discounts look like price gouging.  Hey, get your negotiators in there to make those things really worthwhile.  Make them something other than glorified and targeted advertising for the “partners”.

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Another little thing you might do is explain to me how I can explain to anyone who asks what a Realtor is other than “a member of the National Association of Realtors.”  I’ve been doing this for 10 years now and I still haven’t figured it out. And, yes, I know about the Code of Ethics.

Santa NAR, help me believe that being a Realtor means something other than paying my dues.

2. Get Real With Your Our Advertising Dollars

Can we talk, here? Showing ads on TV with the picture perfect family straight from Hollywood Central Casting sitting on the metaphorical (and literal) white picket fence looking wistfully at a house doesn’t do jack. The Hollywood model who is supposed to be “the Realtor” doesn’t look nearly as beat up enough to be anywhere near real.

Look.  I know you guys only have 30 seconds or 60 seconds to get a message across. Why don’t you try getting the message across that Realtors are an important and necessary part of the real estate home buyer and home selling process. “Now is the time to buy” and all the similar message are worthless and fall on deaf ears.  Of course, it’s time to buy and if anyone who can possibly arrange to get a mortgage and has the slightest inclination toward buying will buy a house.  These buyers and their seller counterparts need to know why their first call needs to be to their local Realtor.

3. Get Some Real and Affordable Health Care for Realtors

Forget all that crap about health care reform.  The public option. Death panels. Abortion funding.  Fogedaboutit.  Just get something so we don’t have to go out looking for spouses that have real health insurance.  Supposedly the NAR is the largest trade association in North America (source: Wikipedia) with its one million plus members. Why can’t someone sit done with a money hungry, profit driven, super capitalist, Fox News watching insurance company and tell them point blank that you can deliver 1,000,000 premium paying customers if they’re willing to play ball?

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When I was a single (i.e,  unmarried) Realtor I had to get a health insurance policy that was bare bones, expensive as hell and had premiums that increased 10% per year if I so much as filled a ‘script for a generic antibiotic that grocery store pharmacies now give away for free.


4. Stay Out of the Commission Discussion

Hey, guys, we’re paying our dues which are paying your salaries and all the nice perks and nice buildings.  Can you do us all a favor and shutta your face when it come to our compensation?  It’s obvious from Gift Requests 1,2 and 3 that you really consider us as independent contractors and not much of a cohesive group. I understand that it’s sometimes like herding cats.  However, since you really don’t see much value in providing members with serious, direct benefits, the least you can do is let us set our own compensation.  All this talk about “the future of real estate” and “trending” doesn’t do anyone any good unless the master plan is to turn us all into employees.

Whether I want to charge a flat fee or a percentage is my deal.  I’m the one that puts food on my table and pays for all — and I mean, all — my own business expenses.  The best thing you can do is stand back and help us promote the Realtor brand by making it mean something in the minds of the home selling and home buying public. Using whatever influence you folks in leadership may have to determine compensation models is counter productive.

Too Much To Ask?

Don’t worry about the Tickle Me Elmo or whatever toy du jour is out this year.  I don’t need a Play Station 3 or an Xbox.  All I want is a trade association that get puh-lenty of moolah from it’s members to pretend like they care.

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By the way, dear readers, feel free to add to the list.  I’m not proud.

Written By

“Loves sunrise walks on the beach, quaint B & Bs, former Barbie® boyfriend..." Ken is a sole practitioner and Realtor Extraordinaire in the beautiful MD Suburbs of DC. When he's not spouting off on Agent Genius he holds court from his home office in Glenn Dale, MD or the office for RE/MAX Advantage Realty in Fulton, MD...and always on the MD Suburbs of DC Blog



  1. Duke Long

    November 29, 2009 at 8:43 am

    Reference the above suggestions. Get on the appropriate committees at Nar. Serve one year and then tell me what you have accomplished. If getting on the committees is not the answer, Then what is?

  2. Fred Romano

    November 29, 2009 at 9:22 am

    IMO NAR is just a glorified union! We are forced to join otherwise we can’t compete in the games.

  3. Vicki Lloyd

    November 29, 2009 at 11:59 am

    Good start Ken!

    I would also love to see some kind of quality control or “raising the bar for Realtors”. Not just “pay $399 and snooze through a seminar to get another designation”, but something meaty with actual requirements to prove that you know what is going on in the business.

  4. Joe Spake

    November 29, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    Ken, I wonder how many realtors (lower case used intentionally) agree with your position? Unless a significant portion of the 1M members starts to get active in changing the course of the ship, we will have more of the same. The problem with NAR, not everyone at NAR- the institution of NAR, is that they feel that their mission is to maintain the status quo. More and more of us are beginning to reject the status quo.
    Duke – I am on a NAR committee for 2010 – expect honest reports from me on what happens. Fred – I am seeing more and more people making lots of money in real estate who are not playing the NAR game or joining the organization. Vicki – “raising the bar” will not happen until the public (including the Federal and local lawmakers) demands it.
    Thanks again Ken. It will be interesting to see NAR’s response to this post.

  5. Missy Caulk

    November 29, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    Hey Ken, I serve on my local committees and been a Director for 7 years in Ann Arbor, two more to go. I don’t like the ad’s much either about now is a good time to buy….agree just focus on what Realtors bring to the transaction.

    But, realistically we only pay 80.00 of our dues to NAR right? That is not much IMO. I have seen great improvement in NAR over the last few years, probably due to Todd getting them up to snuff on what is happening out there.

    P.S. I want a Kindle for Christmas. Merry Christmas.

  6. ShortWoman

    November 29, 2009 at 2:35 pm

    You forgot “Stop telling the public it’s a great time to buy at every opportunity; Yun said that all the way down and it makes us look stupid.”

  7. Ken Montville

    November 29, 2009 at 6:10 pm

    @ Duke – I’ll get on it as soon as I can pry myself loose from the State and local Association committees I serve on.

    @ Fred – that pretty much says it.

    @ Vickie – nice addition to the list. Don’t hold your breath.

    @ Joe – Thanks for chiming in. Best of luck being on the inside of NAR. I agree. We need a large, grass roots movement but that won’t happen in our lifetime, I’m guessing.

    @ Missy – let’s see, $80 x 1,000,000 = a lot of money. I know it pales in comparison to the trillions we’re spending on Iraq and Afghanistan and the bank bailouts but still. Besides, the NAR forces collection from the State and Local Associations so you really have to belong to all three which…all together now…sing from the same hymn book. PS. I’ll put the word into Santa for that Kindle. I’m sure you’re on the “nice” list.

    @ shortwoman Amen. See Request # 2

  8. Joe Spake

    November 29, 2009 at 7:05 pm

    Ditto, Shortwoman. Time for Yun to get a job with the WSJ or Comedy Central.

  9. Matthew Rathbun

    November 29, 2009 at 10:04 pm

    NAR is the members. If the 1 million really wanted change they would get off their apathetic asses and make it happen.

  10. Vicky Henry

    November 30, 2009 at 7:22 am

    Sometimes I feel like our associations have created a reality they can live with. Commercials on tv will not change the general public opinion of realtors. Only our practices will. Just saying…. Our days are numbered if we don’t learn to adapt quickly and engage.

  11. Todd Carpenter

    November 30, 2009 at 2:30 pm

    Hi Ken, I’m a staff member for NAR.

    “All those nice tax breaks for the home buying public are nice and all. I understand that they do have an indirect effect on Realtors (especially those that are really working their business) but I would much rather have some direct benefits of membership coming my way.”

    The biggest share of the $80 a year you pay to NAR goes to lobbying efforts. But other member benifits are important and since you asked, here are a few.

    Have you check out the Right Tools Right Now program. NAR has created down-loadable versions of a library of content that you can ow have for Free. On example is the 2009 NAR Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers report. I know a bunch of agents that use this report in their listing presentations. If you’re a member, you can download it for free.

    Another cool new member benefit is NAR’s new Credit Union. Beyond offering all the great affordable benefits a credit union can, RSFCU employs underwriters that are better qualified to provide loans to REALTORS®. Meaning, they understand how member’s income streams work.

    Agent Genius doesn’t allow linking anymore, but if you search for “Breaking Down NAR Dues- the NAR’s Value Proposition” here on this site, you’ll see a breakdown of where your $80 goes.

    >>”For example, you know those nice “discounts” you get from the Realtor Benefits® Program. A little leg work and web surfing can make those discounts look like price gouging.”

    If you any specific examples of where these discounts are price gouging, please email me and I will bring it to the immediate attention of the department that negotiates them.

    >>”Another little thing you might do is explain to me how I can explain to anyone who asks what a Realtor is other than “a member of the National Association of Realtors.”

    IMO Matthew said it it best. The standards for entry into NAR are voted on by it’s members.

    >> “2. Get Real With Your Our Advertising Dollars”

    Have you seen yet? NAR has worked to build a site that connects with homeowners outside of the sales cycle to build a stronger relationship with them by providing them with resources that help them improve and maintain their homes. The beta site just launched this month. TV spots are not the exclusive focus of NAR’s outreach to consumers anymore. Another example launched this year is Real Estate Today, NAR’s new radio talk show available on radio stations, satellite, and podcasts.

    >> “Why can’t someone sit done with a money hungry, profit driven, super capitalist, Fox News watching insurance company and tell them point blank that you can deliver 1,000,000 premium paying customers if they’re willing to play ball?”

    Today is my day off. I can’t reach the right person to get you the exact reason why, but it’s just not that easy. If I remember correctly, legislation will have to pass before it could happen. I think it’s because insurance companies are only offer group policies to companies, not membership groups. Please don’t quote me but I will follow up. I do know that it’s a HUGE issue that NAR has been working on for a long time. We’re just not there yet.

    >>”Stay Out of the Commission Discussion”

    I’m at a loss here. I don’t know of a NAR staff member who has inserted themselves into such a conversation. Can you give me some additional details as to what you’re pointing to?

    >> “All I want is a trade association that get puh-lenty of moolah from it’s members to pretend like they care.”

    There are ~340 staff members serving 1.1 million members. I’ve met most of them. I’ve never come away with the impression that any of them don’t care. Quite the opposite. It’s a great group that’s trying very hard to give you the most for your $80 a year. In the last year or so, they’ve launched,, The Credit Union, RPR, Real Estate Today, and the Right Tools Right Now program.

    I know I care. Enough to comment on my day off. Happy Holidays Ken.

  12. Ken Montville

    November 30, 2009 at 4:10 pm

    Hey, Todd. Thanks for responding. We actually met, all too briefly at #rebcva in Fredricksburg, VA – your NAR coming out, so to speak.

    — I just came away from the Right Tools, Right Now page. NAR Research is good stuff. No doubt about it. However, a lot of the of stuff that’s on the page (at least, today) is something I can pick up through my Broker, title company or coaching guru du jour.

    — I love the idea of the Credit Union. I’m a rather smallish depositor in the Credit Union. I’ll concede this is a nice innovation but….it really is another profit center (at least, I hope it will be) for the NAR. It still has a few bugs in it such as a simple, easy way to transfer funds from my bank to the Credit Union. I know it’s still new, though.

    — Discounts: perhaps price gouging is slightly hyperbolic but it ain’t no great discount either. I only used FedEx, Dell and the Entertainment Book programs. FedEx – negligible, at best. Dell – phone sales people that upsell like crazy and discounts you can find elsewhere. The Entertainment Book – It was actually a dollar cheaper before it became associated with the NAR. Perhaps the dollar increase is inflation and has nothing to do with the NAR.

    — HouseLogic: the jury is still out on that. I just looked at that site, too. Lots of good information for homesowners. Lost of great opportunity for the NAR and their partners to aggregate lots of good data about home owners and home buyers. I don’t see the benefit to Realtors It’s not fully implemented and I wonder why the NAR wants all this great info? To sell it back to us? There was a rep from LPS talking about this in an oblique way to the MRIS subscriber advisory council and my impression was that they were, indeed, going to sell it back to us in the form of “pretty” IDX.

    — Perhaps you’re right about trade association health insurance being a legislative matter. As you mention, most of our dues goes to legislative and don’t forget RPAC. Time to get serious.

    — Commissions: this is purely anecdotal but as I was sitting in a 90 minute seminar being put on by a title company about the new RESPA rules. I could have sworn I heard, “HUD went to NAR to find out what was the one thing they wanted on the new HUD-1 and NAR says to eliminate reference to commissions as percentages.” Whether or not this is a good thing as far as the HUD-1 goes is open for discussion. It sure seems odd to me. I may be one of those wacko conspiracy guys that sees any NAR input about anything about commissions as a sign…and not a good one.

    BTW, aren’t we really talking about $80,000,000 … not just $80

    PS thanks for taking time to respond on your day off. Happy Holidays to you as well.

  13. Todd Carpenter

    December 1, 2009 at 11:35 am

    Ken, take another look at HouseLogic. It has nothing to do with the MLS system, or any agreement with LPS. RPR and HouseLogic are two different programs. HouseLogic is a public outreach done in a way that is more engaging than those picket fence commercials you didn’t think so highly of. Members benefit through that outreach and through a set of tools that allow members to reuse that content in their own marketing campaigns.

    Also, we’re talking about ~$88,000,000 split ~1,100,000 ways. Several agents have told me how much they appreciate the deal we worked out with Lowes and I know the NAR discount for Budget Rent-A-Car is great. But I bet 900,000 members could care less about stuff like this. We serve a lot of different interests. How much of your $80 do you really want allocated to helping you save a dollar or two on a coupon book, or 5% on a printer?

    I’m not sure where some guy at a title company got his information, so I can’t really speak to the commissions argument. But I don’t understand why his account of what NAR said conflicts with what you want to charge.

    As far as the Credit Union goes, NAR is a not for profit. The streams of revenue we generate are designed to keep membership dues low, and provide enhanced services in down years. For instance, in most years REALTOR® Magazine more than pays for itself. These streams also help NAR build reserves so they can launch all these programs in a year when members are really struggling. NAR saved for a rainy day, and now it’s raining.

  14. Vicky Henry

    December 1, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    Regardng insurance, I believe it has more to do with our legal entity structure and the lack of insurance portability. Simply, we don’t all work in the same state. We essentially are not employees but different business entities working under the umbrella of an organization that has memberships in all states. Each state can have their own insurance coverage requirements. However, there are companies (and employees) that are covered by the same insurance carrier in several states so there must be a way. With as big of an organization as we have, I suspect no one has approached several carriers negotiating coverage. It can be and should be done.

  15. Ken Montville

    December 2, 2009 at 9:47 am

    @Vicky – I’m sure it may be a little different but it seems to me that if AARP can offer huge insurance and product discounts to it’s members through it’s partners that the NAR should be able to do the same. I’m no insurance expert. Just sayin’

  16. Todd Carpenter

    December 2, 2009 at 10:34 am

    This is a copy and paste from a page on I would link to it but Agent Genius no longer allows linking. We’re working to get this done Ken. It’s just not as easy as you might think.

    REALTORS® Core Health Insurance Overview

    Here NAR addresses the current medical insurance landscape including issues and barriers many real estate professionals encounter in gaining medical insurance, as well as NAR’s lobbying efforts towards making comprehensive medical insurance more accessible to small businesses and independent contractors. Finally, NAR introduces a new affordable and guaranteed-acceptance limited health insurance program developed exclusively for NAR members. The program, called REALTORS® Core Health Insurance, is available today.

    The Current Health Insurance Problem
    Despite a long-standing tradition of employer-provided health insurance, today more than 46 million individuals in our nation have no health insurance. More than half of these Americans are self-employed, own small firms, or work for small businesses.

    The Struggles are Greater for the Self-Employed
    In most states, the self-employed are relegated to the state’s individual insurance market, where applicants can be turned down for medical reasons, such as pre-existing conditions, and there are few limitations placed on the premiums companies can charge (often making premiums unaffordable). Real estate professionals have found it even more challenging, evidenced by the fact that today nearly 30 percent of NAR’s membership – more than one in four REALTORS® – have no health insurance coverage.

    Why Isn’t a Group Major Medical Insurance Program for Members Offered Through NAR?
    In an effort to find a solution, many members turn to NAR hoping that the Association offers a national group major medical insurance plan. Although group health insurance plans are available to corporations for their employees, “A”-rated insurance companies have been reluctant to offer such plans on a national scale to associations for their members, particularly when the members are independent contractors and participation in a plan is voluntary. This is because of the complexity and administrative burden of offering a group insurance program that meets the differing requirements of all 50 states.

    NAR’s Ongoing Efforts in Washington
    NAR continues its lobbying efforts to encourage Congress to pass small business health care legislation that would allow independent contractors and small businesses to band together to receive more affordable major medical health insurance. Should legislation be adopted, NAR will be actively involved in discussions with the nations’ insurers to work out a comprehensive health insurance coverage package that they could provide to REALTORS® nationwide. Track the issue of Small Business Health Insurance >

    What Options Can NAR Offer Members Today?
    To address the issues of those who simply do not qualify for major medical insurance due to pre-existing conditions or the high cost of premiums, NAR has developed, in partnership with an A.M. Best “A”-rated insurance company, the REALTORS® Core Health Insurance Program (RCHIP). RCHIP offers affordable, guaranteed-acceptance limited medical insurance plans for NAR members under the age of 65.

    REALTORS® Core Health Insurance Is Not Major Medical Insurance
    It is important to understand the difference between major medical and limited medical insurance. Ideally everyone would have “major medical” insurance, but many people simply do not qualify due to pre-existing conditions, or because they cannot afford the high costs. “Limited” provides the guarantee of affordable insurance but limits its coverage to everyday illnesses and accidents. In addition, the maximum benefits paid in each medical situation are capped. The table below offers a side-by-side comparison of the general differences between major medical and limited medical.

    Important: This program includes plan options that offer limited indemnity benefits which are not intended to cover all medical expenses and should not be considered as comprehensive health insurance coverage.

    Key Features of Limited Medical Insurance (What the REALTORS® Core Health Insurance Program IS)

    * Good Front-End Coverage
    o Little or no deductible or co-pays
    o 100 percent first-dollar coverage for most benefits (no deductible)
    o Provides basic medical coverage for everyday health issues
    * No Underwriting
    o A guaranteed issue program – no eligible member will be turned down
    o Next-day coverage available
    o No medical questions or exams required
    o Pre-existing conditions accepted following a 12-month waiting period
    * Rates
    o Plans are not age-rated – rates are the same for everyone based on state
    o Rates based on group demographics
    o Inexpensive and affordable for many people

    Key Features of Major Medical (What the REALTORS® Core Health Insurance Program IS NOT)

    * Comprehensive Coverage, High Limits
    o Typically $1 million to unlimited maximum coverage
    o Great for major illness and accidents
    * Typically High Out-of-Pocket Costs
    o Deductibles
    o Co-insurance
    o Co-pay
    * Extensive Underwriting to Qualify
    o Underwriting time can take up to 60 days
    o Not available to many people with certain pre-existing conditions
    * Rates
    o Rates are determined by age, sex, location, and other demographic characteristics
    o Typically costly even for healthy individuals

    NOTE: Like all insurance, the policy itself contains exclusions and limitations which are important for you to read and understand to determine if the policy fits your specific needs.

  17. Debbie Summers

    December 2, 2009 at 11:59 am

    Ken –

    Thanks for having the ‘courage’ to say what a lot of us are thinking. I read every comment and the conversation between you and Todd Carpenter. I would like to see a change in the message that NAR sends to the public, most people don’t even understand that there is a difference between a REALTOR and a licensed sales associate – shouldn’t they back up and realize that they need to start with the basics? The public doesn’t get it…

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