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NAR Once Again – Does Not Define

nar chicagoThe Realtor Code of Ethics is nothing more than a membership agreement to a membership that its membership does not want.  Realtors overwhelmingly state that if they could be members of the MLS without being a member of a local or national board, they would do so.  I for one am in strong agreement with my peers on this matter.

What brings this up again is the Danilo versus Kaufman controversy where Mr. Kaufman argues that Danilo has violated the sacred code of ethics of the NAR.  I’m certainly not here to debate that position, but I will, for the record, maintain that it is absurd.  NAR’s need to regulate its own once again proves that it oversteps its value and its authority to attempt to regulate freedom of speech. I would also submit to you that the code of ethics is in many cases subjective- for example, to act fairly and honestly, means what?  To many it means many different things, especially out of context. I digress in that the code does have some very good policy, but it should not be represented to supercede the law.

I think that NAR should take a firm position not to get involved in what citizens do with their speech or how they apply it, even in the case of an agent with a Realtor membership.  I say this with a certain context, and that context is, if a complaint has nothing to do with a real estate purchase or transaction then NAR has no authority-none.  Their response to Mr. Kaufman especially acting as a public official should be a swift and direct “not our problem.” 

Could you imagine a world where every public official flamed in an op-ed piece could sue a paper?  Legally threaten the writer using the paper’s policy? A public official answers to the public even if he is a so-called Realtor- and in this case the county should be doing just that, not hiding behind some code or policy.  We’re a country of debate, a public official should not fear a great debate, they should cherish the opportunity to educate. 

All citizens should speak up loudly and clearly on this issue.

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What say you?

Benn Rosales is the Founder and CEO of The American Genius (AG), national news network. Before AG, he founded one of the first digital media strategy firms in the nation has received the Statesman Texas Social Media Award and is an Inman Innovator Award winner. He has consulted for numerous startups (both early- and late-stage), and is well known for organizing the digital community through popular offline events. He does not venture into the spotlight often, rather he believes his biggest accomplishments are the talent he recruits and develops, so he gives all credit to those he's empowered.

31 Comments

31 Comments

  1. Jeff Brown

    January 4, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    Benn — If NAR’s existence could be explained via analogy, I’d use a poker game.

    NAR ‘wins’ 70% of the time they’re holding four of a kind or better.

    The rest of the time they’re horrible bluffers. Most people, and more importantly most institutions possessing three digits in their IQ before running into a decimal point have figured this out.

    In 38 years it’s been the same game. They’re the only people who can lose a hand while holding four kings with an ace kicker.

  2. Athol Kay

    January 4, 2008 at 12:37 pm

    I dunno Jeff. 1.4 million paying $100+ of dues every year for something they don’t really want. They can’t be that stupid can they?

    The other possiblity is NAR actually backing Danilo up. I’d be seriously amused if the County Assessor actually complained to NAR and NAR investigated and took the position that the Assessor was out of line.

    It’s quite disturbing that everyone default assumption is that NAR would do nothing and/or try and qwash it’s vocal dues paying member simply because the public official 6,545,781th in line for the Presidency simply asked them too.

  3. Benn Rosales

    January 4, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    1) make it optional and let’s see.
    2) won’t happen. But I’ll be the first to praise them if they did.
    3) they won’t touch this, but not for the reason you mention.

  4. Jeff Brown

    January 4, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    >I dunno Jeff. 1.4 million paying $100+ of dues every year for something they don’t really want. They can’t be that stupid can they?

    The MLS is NAR’s four kings w/ace kicker.

    >It’s quite disturbing that everyone default assumption is that NAR would do nothing and/or try and qwash it’s vocal dues paying member simply because the public official 6,545,781th in line for the Presidency simply asked them too.

    I guess the million dollar question, as Socrates my put it, is:

    Why is it the nearly automatic universal default assumption is that the NAR will fold like $9.99 folding beach chair when big Aunt Nancy plops down?

  5. Athol Kay

    January 4, 2008 at 12:50 pm

    I’m gonna hit YouTube and search for “Aunt Nancy” now Jeff. 🙂

  6. Jeff Brown

    January 4, 2008 at 1:08 pm

    Betcha find something pretty close, Athol. 🙂

  7. Mariana

    January 4, 2008 at 2:57 pm

    I can be a member of the local MLS without being a member of any local or national board. I actually was for quite some time. I was called an “official non-member” and there are plenty of them in the MLS, here.

  8. Chris Lengquist

    January 4, 2008 at 4:25 pm

    “Could you imagine a world where every public official flamed in an op-ed piece could sue a paper? Legally threaten the writer using the paper’s policy?”

    Well, in a way, they do. It’s called pulling advertising. For years the cig lobby successfully kept article out of the press by threatening to pull thier advertising. It goes on quite a bit, I would imagine.

  9. Benn Rosales

    January 4, 2008 at 4:51 pm

    Still not the same, Chris.

  10. Jeff Brown

    January 4, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    I’m with Benn on that one, Chris.

  11. Josh

    January 5, 2008 at 2:30 am

    @ Mariana

    I have also seen these members in the MLS but I haven’t seen them list properties in the MLS, only sell on the buyer side. Can they list as well? The only other issue is that, at least in New York, you have to join a board of REALTORs that your broker is apart of in order to work in that office. You can imagine how difficult it would be to find an office where this requirement wasn’t in place.

  12. Mariana

    January 5, 2008 at 11:29 am

    @Josh- How it works here is that the managing broker lists the home in the MLS for the non-member, which makes sense seeing as it is the brokerages’ listing in all actuality anyway.

    We only have a few boards in Colorado and only one board for all of Colorado Springs and surrounding areas. Also, we have a super-board that allows access to access to ALL properties from ANY board regardless of which board you are a member of.

  13. Matthew Rathbun

    January 5, 2008 at 9:10 pm

    I get pretty frustrated at the attacks on the Association. I find that most members don’t remotely tap the vast materials available on REALTOR.org and the local associations work with RPAC and education. Most REALTORS get their license and only want to know what they need to know just for the transaction that they are working on. Government involvement and education is vitally important for the industry to move forward. It is not mandatory in our 1800 member association to belong for any services, but they do belong.

    In Virginia, the Real Estate board does not hear issues with Broker to Broker disputes. However there are mediation and arbritation options. The COE is the predecessor of state statutes. When the COE changes, we usually see states modify their codes to match. So, someone is doing something right, because or legislators are creating laws based on these rules.

    People who attack the association for it’s lack of perceived worth, are typically too indifferent or inadequate in knowledge to utilize the many tools.

    When I hear members putting down the COE, I am afraid that all the consumers opinions of us are correct. The COE is a great business model that creates a set of rules for practice that protect one another and our clients. To have such disdain for those rules, makes me wonder if we are any better than the consumer perception.

  14. Benn Rosales

    January 5, 2008 at 11:35 pm

    Matthew, do you have a comment regarding regulation of speech?

  15. Jeff Brown

    January 6, 2008 at 12:03 am

    Matthew — I’m just one agent, and surely there are others who might have had far better experiences than I. That said, in over 38 years I’ve not seen NAR impact much of anything. What have they done? Use the MLS as a woodsman’s ax to enforce the agenda de jour.

    One training series has been worth more than a used Snickers Bar since I first darkened a real estate office’s door — back in Nixon’s first year in office.

    For example, the general quality of agent hasn’t changed enough to measure in nearly four decades. The public’s complaints haven’t changed a wit. Technology? NAR’s leadership just emerged from a weekend retreat finally able to spell b-l-o-g for God’s sake. Their economists embarrass the membership almost weekly with their foolish Wizard of Oz press releases and PR statements.

    It’s 2008 and any high school computer geek can program the local MLS to allow Mac users to access problem free. It’s so simple a Realtor could do it. Apparently not though, as most areas in which I operate still are verboten to Mac users.

    In essence, until they prove otherwise, NAR’s well earned reputation, built in the last 40 years, as the leader of an industry is that of an executive who couldn’t organize a one man picnic with a month’s notice.

    The good news? I don’t need them. If I did, I’d be in deep trouble. I’m a member because I’m forced. So are you — so is everyone. If their membership wasn’t tied to MLS access, they’d disappear before the Super Bowl.

    I know Benn, and consider him a friend. He’s always talking about improving NAR from within. That ship has sailed. In 10 years they’ll either be a meaningless shell of an organization, or won’t exist in their present form.

    Their only value to me is one of comic relief.

  16. Brian Brady

    January 6, 2008 at 12:40 am

    I see plenty of fight to defend free speech but the plain fact was that the conclusion drawn from the article was just plain wrong. Loudoun County taxpayers were not going to overpay taxes by 30% across the board. The math used showed a lack of understanding about how taxes are levied.

    The Assessor’s tactics were high-handed but his request for accuracy was reasonable.

    I can appreciate the passionate outcry but aren’t we defending the guy who says the world is flat? Again, I’ll reassert that I think that Todd Kaufman is another bully bureaucrat but shouldn’t we pick our battles judiciously?

  17. Benn Rosales

    January 6, 2008 at 10:20 am

    “The Assessor’s tactics were high-handed but his request for accuracy was reasonable. ”

    He didn’t request accuracy, he requested the article be pulled- and then he threatened to use an association membership code as levy- this is my beef, nothing more nothing less.

    You and I both can agree that what you would expect from a county, city, state, federal leader should have been a higher standard, and an opportunity to engage citizens. Right or wrong Danilo made a case to look at your tax bill, vet it, vet your homes value, and make sure the bill reflects the current market conditions- its a duh moment here.

    Todd can bully, but I’d prefer he bully using something other than a membership agreement and maybe address the issue at hand- that yes taxes may be skewed based on dropping housing markets and whether 1% or 30% inaccuracy that the tax board is willing to look at case by cases basis would have been a measured reply. And as you so brilliantly pointed out- a quick phone call to the author might have made a unique bond between the two and this county official could have come out a hero. That isn’t what has happened. Unfortunate. What I do hope might happen is NAR says not our problem, and maybe Todds option becomes actually discussing the subject of taxation.

  18. Matthew Rathbun

    January 6, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    I suppose in regards to both the MLS and right to speech, is that I have both these options outside of the Association. In my area (and in Loudon)we use MRIS MLS service, which can be obtained without being a REALTOR. I’ve commented twice on this story when it first came out on Bloodhound and Jim Duncan’s Blogs. I don’t want to arm the Assessor, but Virginia’s statutory laws require a practitioner to be accurate and truthful in their marketing. I know it sucks, but once licensed we are held to a different standard. Mainly because folks can make financial decisions based on our opinion or advice.

    That being said, I think a professional request from the Assessor to the Agent to correct an omission would have been a more intelligent approach and resulted in none of us arguing the point. I am COE instructor and Professional Standards member. I also happen to the Association AE that this involves and I find it hard to believe that even if a ethics complaint was filed, that they could find a violation.

    However, remember that the COE tribunal is asked to make a decisions based on “preponderance of the evidence” and not the legal standard of “beyond a doubt”. So, the wrong group of peers could setup a case history that would effect the rest of us when it comes to application of the COE.

    Personally… I think we’ve all (myself very much included) have feed the Assessors fire and taken the issue to a higher level. On the flip side, what kind of backwards county allows the assessor to tangle with the Association of REALTORS?!?! The county attorney (who would be presumably more professional) should have made a quite call to the Broker.

    Lastly, I do think that National has forgotten their members, but I think the state and local Associations are comprised of good intended and hard working folks. Most of which are treated like crap by the membership.

    I simply see purpose in the Association, because I fully utilize it’s offerings. Maybe it’s just not everyone’s cup of tea.

  19. Matthew Rathbun

    January 6, 2008 at 12:49 pm

    I’m sorry to be so winded… I did want to also say about the Association is that often their failures are public and success private. State and local associations really do try hard and are directed by members. So, in essence we’re arguing about ourselves.

    I do think the intent of the INTENT of the COE is being stretched. I think the intent was to protect the consumer and each other from misleading and untrue statements designed to hurt you. Would you want another REALTOR to lie about you and you have no recourse to hold them accountable?

  20. Athol Kay

    January 6, 2008 at 3:47 pm

    >>Would you want another REALTOR to lie about you and you have no recourse to hold them accountable?

    Isn’t that a basic libel/slander case/issue?

  21. Matthew Rathbun

    January 6, 2008 at 5:02 pm

    Athol, et. al – Yes, it is libel. In court you’d have to show damages, but for an Ethics violation it only had to happen. So in a tort situation, you’d just have to be upset unless you can prove it actually damaged you.

    Having read more than enough anti-NAR blogs, I know that I’ll not win this argument in the RE.net. But it’s very nature RE.net is made of non-conformist. Should NAR not exist, we’d all have to attack RESPA, Legislation the government, etc…

    I guess today it’s an Association that was developed in 1908 with the sole intent of protecting practitioner’s interest. Do they have their faults – yes.

    I relent to all the NAR haters. You’re right, we should all call and ask DOJ to summons us to court, so that we can help dissolve NAR as we all re-enact the “Lord of the Flies”. That’ll teach em…

  22. Jeff Brown

    January 6, 2008 at 8:18 pm

    Geez Matthew, with all due respect, either step up to the plate and bring something of substance to the table, or go away. Resorting to name calling as you run for the exit isn’t too becoming.

    NAR could disappear tomorrow and we’d all figure a way to limp along, probably massively improved technology, a new ‘association’, and a far more efficient system.

    If you don’t know to be embarrassed by your ‘Lord of the Flies’ comment, I’m here to tell you — be embarrassed.

    We’re not NAR haters. We have contempt for a largely inept association which has become the laughing stock of the nation. You must resort to name calling because you have nothing of substance to say. It’s ok, we knew that before the discussion began. 🙂

    If NAR was an effective organization it would be universally respected after a century on the job. Our contempt is born of being professionals while putting up with NAR’s ‘leadership’.

    NAR isn’t the value you represent it to be. Not even close. Lately they’d have to rise a level or two just to stop the nation from laughing.

    NAR haters? What’s to hate? They’re not a help or a threat to most of their membership. A membership held hostage by blackmail — access to the MLS.

    They not hated Matthew — they’re tolerated.

  23. Athol Kay

    January 6, 2008 at 8:50 pm

    Agree with Jeff. Neither hate nor see NAR as a help. Just a cost of doing business.

    That being said, my local board seems pretty decent. They actually have a hand in practical house selling needs like the electronic lockbox system, training classes etc. I’m happy to pay for that.

    My eyes kinda glaze over for our Statewide board. I can’t even figure out how to log into their website.

    NAR… 1.4 Million Members paying $100+ = $140 Million dollars annually.

    Where the hell does all that money go?

  24. Matthew Rathbun

    January 6, 2008 at 9:45 pm

    Point taken… Name calling was a step too far. I’ve had this discussion many times over and i still stand by the fact that being a REALTOR is a tool, that one can choose to use or not. It’s all about the information they can provide. Again, I have a different experience. I do not need them to belong to the MLS. The problem with my comments here, is the fact that I’ve not given the foundation that I have a few times over.

    I am in agreement (as stated earlier) that NAR does little for us, other than organize the State and local associations. In my case – they are effective and provide great tools. However, I’ve heard horror stories from many others around the state and nationally.

    Regardless, I’ve decided after this post, that I am just going to glaze over the anti or indifferent Association posts. It’s just not as effective as pitching in and molding the local and state associations.

    I’ve seen where I and others like me have made a difference. I have hope that NAR will get better as the leadership gets younger and more aggressive.

    The problem with bring something “of substance” is that it’s all perception. If we don’t value the same things, I am not going to win you over.

    I am studying to be a pastor and in my counseling training, I’ve come to realize that if we don’t have the same foundation – no argument will win you over.

  25. Jeff Brown

    January 6, 2008 at 9:59 pm

    Matthew — Welcome to the party. Hold your bat a little higher though. 🙂

    >I’ve seen where I and others like me have made a difference. I have hope that NAR will get better as the leadership gets younger and more aggressive.

    That’s the 5% chance you and Benn have of succeeding.

    >The problem with bring something “of substance” is that it’s all perception. If we don’t value the same things, I am not going to win you over.

    The problem isn’t of perception, at least for the most part. You and I do value mostly the same things. You wouldn’t be trying to change NAR if you didn’t agree with me, right? Right. The whole perception argument holds no water, Matthew, as results don’t have to be perceived, they just have to be empirically in existence.

    >I am studying to be a pastor and in my counseling training, I’ve come to realize that if we don’t have the same foundation – no argument will win you over.

    I’m a PK — and the grandson, great-grandson, and nephew of five retired ministers. Your argument, if you’d think for a moment is the opposite of what you’re now studying. By definition those for whom you hope to convert? They all have a different foundation than you and I. Yet you will ‘win’ many of them over.

    It won’t be by argument though, will it? Ah, there it is….wait for it….here it comes. Along with faith, they’ll convince themselves based upon the substance of your foundation.

  26. Benn Rosales

    January 6, 2008 at 10:05 pm

    Matthew, you’re actually not alone in how you feel about NAR or even the local boards, I too am actually defensive of the boards in large part. But I see a trainwreck coming in this case if NAR or VAR steps into this web- talk about turning this into a federal case… This First Amendment stuff isn’t a game to be played, citizens win these cases. NAR’s mission is not to control speech although I do understand your lean on professional speech- but it takes second seat to the constitution- Danilo will win. I am saying outloud in this piece that the best solution is for the boards to leave this alone and let Mr. kaufman and Danilo have a conversation about taxation or sthu. I do not pay dues to debate Danilo’s right to speak on any matter right or wrong- as I am sure you agree.

    It’s actually great to have another commenter speaking the pros to the boards, keep it up.

  27. Bob Wilson

    January 6, 2008 at 10:19 pm

    >That said, in over 38 years I’ve not seen NAR impact much of anything. What have they done?

    How about having a hand in crafting just about every piece of legislation that impacts homeowners?

    Try doing a re-make of “It’s A Wonderful Life” with NAR in place of George. The real estate business of today would not exist and we wouldn’t be here bitching about it.

    I think NAR has more flaws than you can count, but I don’t believe it is the laughing stock of the nation. I think that honor belongs to it’s collective membership.

    The Assessor vs the Agent fight is just another example. kaufman clearly handled this wrong, but as Brian pointed out, Danilo’s info was wrong, and his headline screaming that the county was ripping people off of upwards of $45 mil was unprofessional because it was inaccurate.

    All that has been lost in the din of “Freedom of The Speech”. I have read “I don’t care if Danilo was wrong” too many times. The so-called RE.net ought to be ashamed of itself for it’s recent behavior, which has nothing to do with freedom of speech. You want to shape public perception? Keep putting faces on the rear ends of animals. Yep, that makes you look professional.

    I am not NAR’s biggest fan. I’ve taken my shots at them, but not because they don’t try. Because they are too damn monolithic, and as a result, they have lost their effectiveness outside of their core competency, political lobby for the American homeowner.

  28. Jeff Brown

    January 6, 2008 at 10:54 pm

    Bob — Much of what you say is true. You go too far by orders of magnitude when you assert the business we know today wouldn’t exist. That’s a little much, don’t ya think?

    As for homeowner legislation, the huge majority was gonna be law with or without NAR. We both know that.

    Though we can reasonably debate what’s professional and what’s not, results is what the client pays for. Though as you, I prefer being and acting professionally, 99% of the public will choose results from a comedian over failure performed professionally.

    As for NAR’s core competency, I’d like to see them show that competence. The last two years they’ve set us back as a group who knows how far.

    I’ve paid my dues while ignoring them, and they’ve been happy with that arrangement. I see no reason to rock the boat. 🙂

  29. Bob Wilson

    January 7, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    >You go too far by orders of magnitude when you assert the business we know today wouldn’t exist. That’s a little much, don’t ya think?

    Not at all. NAR is more than a trade group and lobby. They are a cartel that has determined how real estate is sold.

    Take away the MLS stranglehold and it’s a brave new world for most.

    Take away their lobbying efforts and banks would be listing and selling their own REOs. Builders like Shea homes required contingent buyers to list their property with Shea’s resale agents. If not for NAR, banks would require short sales to be handled by their own in house agents. That would effectively take 25% of the So Cal inventory away from the traditional brokerage and give it to the banks.

    That move alone would devastate many brokers.

    I could go into a Wamu or BofA and list my property for a flat fee. They would be the Redfin model on steroids, and it would work.

  30. Josh

    January 7, 2008 at 12:33 pm

    Bob,

    I guess you’d have to be crazy to want less brokers in the business.

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