I don’t know if you noticed, but fellow Agent Genius Bill Lublin wrote a post that started an interesting debate about the National Association of REALTORS.
If, tomorrow, you could access the MLS anytime you wanted to, and you never had to pay NAR dues again, would you?
Well, Barry, I’m glad you asked!
My answer: HECK YES!
Breaking Down My Dues
Barry’s question got me to thinking. Even though my gut response was “yes,” I wanted to check into things a bit more, make sure that the value I thought was there, was actually there. I had to break down my dues, the first thing I had to determine was, “what are my dues paying for?”
FIRST: NAR DUES ARE SEPARATE FROM MLS ACCESS FEES. The dues I pay to NAR DO NOT give me MLS access. The NAR has nothing to do with my MLS. I pay a separate fee to my local association in order to be able to access the MLS. In some areas, one doesn’t even need to be a REALTOR in order to access the MLS. In some areas, local REALTOR membership is required. It varies everywhere. In my case, local membership is required for MLS access, so I gotta be a REALTOR. NAR makes no rules with regard to MLS access. That is entirely the purview of individual MLS systems, some of which are owned by local REALTOR associations. (Interestingly, my father is a property manager, and a REALTOR. He needs MLS access, so he had to become a REALTOR, even though he didn’t really want to. When in Rome. . .)
CAAR (local): $320
VAR (state): $133
Grand Total: $563
NAR DUES ARE A STEAL!
Look at the figures above for just a second. . . notice something? NAR DUES ARE THE LOWEST OF THE THREE FIGURES. In fact, there are additional assessments rolled into those fees. The base membership fee of NAR is only $80. The other $30 is my share of the much-maligned national public awareness campaign. VAR base membership fee is $90, still slightly higher than NAR.
$80– are you kidding me? That is PEANUTS. Even when you throw in the public awareness campaign, $110 is a deal. Just for reference, I am also a member of the National Association of Sports Officials, my annual dues are $94. Membership dues at the National Society of Accoutants— $189. The American Bar Association— $125.
NAR dues look a little different now?
Why the Dues are a No-Brainer
I don’t pay dues to NAR for MLS access (obviously). I pay my dues to the NAR because I know that the collective power, influence and resources of the organization is much greater than that of any one individual member. I don’t give money to RPAC (that’s another issue), but one cannot deny the power of the NAR lobby. The NAR gives REALTORS a voice that I could never have by myself (even with a blog).
NAR exists in part so that REALTORS from all over the country can share their individual resources and help each other tackle issues that might exist in their individual or state markets. When something is happening in Maine, NAR is able to put together people from the other 49 states so that problems can be solved and issues can be resolved.
NAR also aggregates more data than any housing research source on the planet. If you want to know what is going on in the housing market anywhere in the country, NAR has the data. When the Federal government needs housing market data, guess whose phone rings? No on else has the power or resources necessary to compile all the sales data from all of the local markets around the country. Heck, I would pay $110 a year JUST for this information. The Swanepoel Report costs $150. Oh, by the way, NAR data is critical to the Swanepoel Report.
REALTOR.org is a site that is chock full of resources for REALTORS. Is it hard to navigate? Yeah, it is, sometimes. But, the resources are there. The information is all there. LOTS of it. Economic data, a library, REALTOR Magazine, legal information, it’s all there.
It’s not All Kittens and Cotton Candy
If you want to argue that an organization that takes in well over $100M dollars a year in dues could spend it better, that’s fine. Heck, I’ve made such an argument on this very blog.
If you want to argue that your state association is costing you too much, go ahead. I would NEVER argue that. The Virginia Association of REALTORS is incredible, and their dues are also an awesome value.
If you want to argue that local association dues are too high, you might be right. I know that, I certainly took notice of how high mine are.
It is much harder to argue, however, that the $110 NAR dues are a waste of money. But hey, I’m always willing to listen.
Barry Cunningham Did Me, and NAR, a HUGE Favor
Barry’s question got to me, admittedly. I knew the answer to his question, but I’m glad that he asked it, because it forced me to evaluate the dues that I pay, and what I receive in return.
NAR should have to establish in the minds of its members the value offered in return for their $110 investment. That is always one of the roles of paid-membership organization. NAR could probably do a better job of this. I sincerely hope that they do, because if members don’t see value in their organization, it just creates unnecessary tension and potential problems. Questions like Barry’s provide the perfect opportunity to address the question of value.
There is always going be criticism of NAR, that is the nature of such a large and visible organization. Asking questions and answering criticism is also a critical part of trying to establish a more vibrant organization going forward.