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Opinion Editorials

NAR & Local Boards Should Go Back to Being Broker-Only Organizations

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puntAnd Agents Should Form Their Own Membership (Union)

I think that maybe NAR and local boards in their zeal to capitalize on dues by a larger membership may have bitten off more than they can chew when they allowed regular agents to join the boards (as is evident by continued tensions between the boards and average agents on the ground).

The Punted Football That Has Become The General Membership

It’s true, in every instance we’re told to get involved, however, involvement has become to complicated, that one hand has no idea what the other is doing.  Rules are consistently created by Broker boards, and enforced and agreed upon by the NAR that have absolutely no Agent interest protected.

So Maybe It’s Time to Protect Ourselves

Once upon a time, the membership really was Broker only, and maybe it needs to be that way again.  The birth of an actual membership of agents could be born with a proper voice at the table, similar to a real trade union with real votes in our best interest.

Such representation could beat down costs for Realtor.com, and other services we’re producing content for, thus reducing costs to the agent.  Such representation could seek out better, more competitive boards that would spring up in contrast to existing boards and the NAR.  It’s conceivable that an opportunity such as this could fracture the entire MLS cluster flip, allowing for possibly a smaller more nimble MLS that could be provided to the agent membership at a much more fair price as it has now cut out the middle men.

The Time May be Near..

…that enough is enough, that when and if a rule greatly disrupts the agents’ ability to adopt new technology, that a simple vote of no says that the massive bureaucracy that has become the collective board needs to clean up, scale down, and take it’s policies back to the drawing board for a decision that weighs all things equally.

The Broker Can Pick Up the Shortfall for NAR

This would force the Broker to pay a larger premium to the board and the NAR I’m sure, but in reality, that in and of itself would force Brokers to become more competitive where the rights and interests of their agents were concerned.

NAR would only need engage with Brokers, simplifying the conversation of progression.

The Agent Membership Now Represented

  • Has a larger voice, and choices.

Yeah, if they really want to go backwards in time, maybe we should. And yes, I am aware that there are independent versions of the current NAR that have never really taken hold, but if the current state of affairs continues, I can see a day in the future where the concept has a more stronger footing.

Benn Rosales is the Founder and CEO of The American Genius (AG), national news network for tech and entrepreneurs, proudly celebrating 10 years in publishing, recently ranked as the #5 startup in Austin. Before founding AG, he founded one of the first digital media strategy firms in the nation and also acquired several other firms. His resume prior includes roles at Apple and Kroger Foods, specializing in marketing, communications, and technology integration. He is a recipient of the Statesman Texas Social Media Award and is an Inman Innovator Award winner. He has consulted for numerous startups (both early- and late-stage), has built partnerships and bridges between tech recruiters and the best tech talent in the industry, and is well known for organizing the digital community through popular monthly networking events. Benn does not venture into the spotlight often, rather believes his biggest accomplishments are the talent he recruits, develops, and gives all credit to those he's empowered.

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7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Michelle DeRepentigny

    May 7, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    With the technology available now, my opinion is that all NAR policy & procedure items for consideration should be put to an all member vote with majority ruling, instead of being limited to a recommendation by committee and vote from board of directors. Our future within what is supposed to be our trade organization is mapped by very few hands, and it seems many of us feel very unrepresented by those hands.

  2. Paula Henry

    May 7, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    While the current system may be mapped by few hands, I’m not sure the answer lies in a majority rules vote. For those of us who grasp the technology, it seems a wise choice. Still -agents who want to keep things “the way they were” may actually outnumber us.

    In any other business,(insert field), an owner who failed to keep up with changes in their industry would be out of business. They languish for lack of knowledge and no drive to learn – they have no one to blame but themselves.

  3. Michelle DeRepentigny

    May 7, 2009 at 5:20 pm

    Paula, it may not give us the answer we want/need either, but it would give us more opportunity and a reason to attempt to educate others, and a vehicle to at least attempt change. I was thrilled to see that NAR is giving “us” voices through yourself and Jay at mid year.

  4. Joe@Augusta GA Homes

    May 8, 2009 at 8:21 am

    A simple example of how this is failing us all can be found in the Tax Credit. Some states allow the $8,000 to be used as a downpayment on FHA loans, others do not. A Federal tax credit for downpayment on a Federal mortgage, and the rules are determined in each state? Why isn’t NAR involved in that to push it nationwide? What exactly are they doing to further our trade and increase our visibilty and reputation? The schmitzy NAR ads wouldn’t make me buy a house – and the whole “only Realtors are members of the National Association of Realtors” line in the radio and TV ads begs the question – if that’s the case, then why aren’t they out front?

  5. Mary Englund

    May 8, 2009 at 12:23 pm

    Oregon is an all broker state (no agents) so we have a lot of small broker businesses. Making NAR broker only won’t solve the lack of responsiveness NAR has to small brokerages (or independent brokers). Serving the Big national franchises seems to take precedence. NAR needs to get back to basics and remember why we organized in the first place. And it wasn’t to market to consumers, the internet, google, or anywhere else. NAR is an important lobby, one we need. One to serve all brokers and agents. The MLS is a vehicle not for the consumer, but for brokers to make business offers to each other to share commissions. NAR should facilitate our businesses, nothing else, whether you are a small independent business or a large one. Let us decide HOW we will market and do business–give us the tools to make cooperative offers to each other (MLS), provide a forum for disputes, and get out of the way on everything else. NAR, in creating Realtor.com, has created a monster, something way beyond the scope of our basic premise for the organization. Let the marketplace handle the technology and how it works, stick to the basics. NAR can’t stay ahead of the technology curve anyway. In creating RETS NAR missed the boat in prohibiting MLS’s from charging outrageous fees to small brokers who want to use RETS, thus preventing them from playing. All in favor of big offices with huge desk fees? Thank NAR for supporting this idea by failing keep an eye on how their actions will be manipulated by local associations to suit the dominant players at the expense of everyone else. I’m sick of paying MLS fees and Realtor dues only to be told that no one cares if I’m not getting my money’s worth–or even close. It’s a take it or leave it game, and the small brokers have no choice, or voice.

  6. Benn Rosales

    May 8, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    Mary, 2 years ago, hell, maybe even a year ago, I was standing exactly shoulder to shoulder with you, but I fear that genie has escaped the bottle.

    The problem we seem to have now, is now…

    We railed about this out here in the public, and to be honest, got very little support from offline agents, and some online agents.

    The fight is still ongoing to frame the issue and reverse what damage that can be reversed, but without real help from offliners, it isn’t going to happen.

    I really feel your frustration in your words, I really do.

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Opinion Editorials

7 ways to carve out me time while working from home

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) It can be easy to forget about self-care when you’re working from home, but it’s critical for your mental health, and your work quality.

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Woman in hijab sitting on couch, working from home on a laptop

We are all familiar with the syndrome, getting caught up in work, chores, and taking care of others, and neglecting to take care of ourselves in the meantime. This has always been the case, but now, with more people working from home and a seemingly endless lineup of chores, thanks to the pandemic. There is simply so much to do.

The line is thinly drawn between personal and professional time already, with emails, cell phones, and devices relentlessly reaching out around the clock, pulling at us like zombie arms reaching up from the grave. Working from home makes this tendency to always be “on” worse, as living and working take place in such close proximity. We have to turn it off, though.

Our brains and bodies need down time, me-time, self-care. Carving out this time is one of the kindest and most important things you can do for yourself. If we can begin to honor ourselves like this, the outcome with not only our mental and physical health, but also our productivity at work, will be beneficial. When we make the time to do things we love, our body untenses, our mind’s gears slow down that constant grinding. Burnout behooves nobody.

Our work will also benefit. Healthier, happier, more well rested, and well treated minds and bodies can work wonders! Our immune systems also need this, and we need our immune systems to be at their peak performance this intense season.

I wanted to write this article, because I have such a struggle with this in my own life. I need to print it out and put it in my workspace. Last week, I posted something on my social media pages that so many people shared. It is clear we all need these reminders, so I am paying it forward here. The graphic was a quote from Devyn W.

“If you are reading this, release your shoulders away from your ears, unclench your jaw, and drop your tongue from the roof of your mouth.”

There now, isn’t that remarkable? It is a great first step. Let go of the tension in your body, and check out these ways to make yourself some healing me-time.

  1. Set aside strict no-work times. This could be any time of day, but set the times and adhere to them strictly. This may look like taking a full hour for lunch, not checking email after a certain hour, or committing to spending that time outdoors, reading, exercising, or enjoying the company of your loved ones. Make this a daily routine, because we need these boundaries. Every. Single. Day.
  2. Remember not to apologize to anyone for taking this me-time. Mentally and physically you need this, and everyone will be better off if you do. It is nothing to apologize for! Building these work-free hours into your daily schedule will feel more normal as time goes on. This giving of time and space to your joy, health, and even basic human needs is what should be the norm, not the other way around.
  3. Give yourself a device-free hour or two every day, especially before bedtime. The pinging, dinging, and blinging keeps us on edge. Restful sleep is one of the wonderful ways our bodies and brains heal, and putting devices away before bedtime is one of the quick tips for getting better sleep.
  4. Of course, make time for the things you absolutely love. If this is a hot bath, getting a massage, reading books, working out, cooking or eating an extravagant meal, or talking and laughing with a loved one, you have to find a way to get this serotonin boost!
  5. Use the sunshine shortcut. It isn’t a cure-all, but sunlight and Vitamin D are mood boosters. At least when it’s not 107 degrees, like in a Texas summer. But as a general rule, taking in at least a good 10-15 minutes of that sweet, sweet Vitamin D provided by the sun is good for us.
  6. Spend time with animals! Walk your dog, shake that feathery thing at your cat, or snuggle either one. Whatever animals make you smile, spend time with them. If you don’t have pets of your own, you could volunteer to walk them at a local shelter or even watch a cute animal video online. They are shown to reduce stress. Best case scenario is in person if you are able, but thankfully the internet is bursting with adorable animal videos, as a backup.
  7. Give in to a bit of planning or daydreaming about a big future trip. Spending time looking at all the places you will go in the future and even plotting out an itinerary are usually excellent mood-boosters. It’s a bit different in 2020, as most of us aren’t sure when we will be able to go, but even deciding where you want to go when we are free to travel again can put a positive spin on things.

I hope we can all improve our lives while working from home by making time for regenerating, healing, and having fun! Gotta run—the sun is out, and my dog is begging for a walk.

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Opinion Editorials

Why robots freak us out, and what it means for the future of AI

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Robots and humans have a long way to go before the social divide disappears, but research is giving us insight on how to cross the uncanny valley.

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Close of R2D2 toy, an example of robots that we root for, but why?

We hate robots. Ok, wait, back up. We at least think they are more evil than good. Try it yourself – “are robots” in Google nets you evil before good. Megatron has higher SEO than Optimus Prime, and it’s not just because he’s so much cooler. It cuz he evil, cuz. It do be like that.

It’s not even a compliment to call someone robotic; society connotes this to emotionless preprogrammed shells of hideous nothing, empty clankbags that walk and talk and not much else. So, me at a party. Or if you’re a nerd, you’re a robot. (Me at a party once again.)

Let’s start by assuming robots as human-like bipedal machines that are designed with some amount of artificial intelligence, generally designed to fulfill a job to free up humanity from drudgery. All sounds good so far. So why do they creep us out?

There’s a litany of reasons why, best summed up with the concept of the uncanny valley, first coined by roboticist Masahiro Mori (Wow he’s still alive! The robots have not yet won) in 1970. Essentially, we know what a human is and how it looks and behaves against the greater backdrop of life and physics. When this is translated to a synthetic being, we are ok with making a robot look and act like us to a point, where we then notice all the irregularities and differences.

Most of these are minor – unnaturally smooth or rigid movements, light not scattering properly on a surface, eyes that don’t sync up quite right when they blink, and several other tiny details. Lots of theories take over at this point about why this creeps us out. But a blanket way to think about it is that our expectation doesn’t match what we are seeing; the reality we’re presented with is off just enough and this makes us uncomfortable .

Ever stream a show and the audio is a half second off? Makes you really annoyed. Magnify that feeling by a thousand and you’re smack in the middle of the uncanny valley. It’s that unnerving. One possible term for this is abjection, which is what happens the moment before we begin to fear something. Our minds – sensing incompatibility with robots – know this is something else, something other , and faced with no way to categorize this, we crash.

This is why they make good villains in movies – something we don’t understand and given free will and autonomy, potentially imbued with the bias of a creator or capable of forming terrifying conclusions all on its own (humans are a virus). But they also make good heroes, especially if they are cute or funny. Who doesn’t love C3PO? That surprise that they are good delights us. Build in enough appeal to a robot, and we root for them and feel empathy when they are faced with hardships. Do robots dream of electric sheep? Do robots have binary souls? Bits and zeros and ones?

Professor Jaime Banks (Texas Tech University’s College of Media & Communication) spends a lot of time thinking about how we perceive robots. It’s a complex and multifaceted topic that covers anthropomorphism, artificial intelligence, robot roles within society, trust, inherently measuring virtue versus evil, preconceived notions from entertainment, and numerous topics that cover human-robot interactions.

The world is approaching a future where robots may become commonplace; there are already robot bears in Japan working in the healthcare field. Dressing them up with cute faces and smiles may help, but one jerky movement later and we’ve dropped all suspension.

At some point, we have to make peace with the idea that they will be all over the place. Skynet, GLaDOS in Portal, the trope of your evil twin being a robot that your significant will have to shoot in the middle of your fight, that episode of Futurama where everything was a robot and they rose up against their human masters with wargod washing machines and killer greeting cards, the other Futurama episode where they go to a planet full of human hating murderous robots… We’ve all got some good reasons to fear robots and their coded minds.

But as technology advances, it makes sense to have robots take over menial tasks, perform duties for the needy and sick, and otherwise benefit humanity at large. And so the question we face is how to build that relationship now to help us in the future.

There’s a fine line between making them too humanlike versus too mechanical. Pixar solved the issue of unnerving humanoids in their movies by designing them stylistically – we know they are human and accept that the figure would look odd in real life. We can do the same with robots – enough familiarity to develop an appeal, but not enough to erase the divide between humanity and robot. It may just be a question of time and new generations growing up with robots becoming fixtures of everyday life. I’m down for cyborgs too.

Fearing them might not even be bad, as Banks points out: “…a certain amount of fear can be a useful thing. Fear can make us think critically and carefully and be thoughtful about our interactions, and that would likely help us productively engage a world where robots are key players.”

Also, check out Robot Carnival if you get the chance – specifically the Presence episode of the anthology.

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Opinion Editorials

4 simple tips to ease friction with your boss while working remotely

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Find it challenging to get along with your boss while working from home? Here are a few things you can try to ease the tension.

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Woman stressed over laptop in remote work.

Most people probably feel like their relationship with their boss is fine. If you’re encountering friction with your boss for any reason, though, remote work will often exacerbate it—this is one instance where distance doesn’t necessarily make the heart grow fonder. Here are a few ways to remove some of that friction without adding to your boss’ overflowing plate.

According to CNN, determining the problem that exists between you and your boss should be your first step. There’s one caveat to consider, however: Your boss’ boundaries. Problem-solving on your own time is fine, but demanding more of your boss’ time—especially when you’re supposed to be working—may compound the issue.

An easy way around this is a low-impact communique—e.g., an email—sent at the beginning or end of the workday. Since that’s a more passive communication style that takes only a minute or two out of your day, it’s less likely to frustrate your boss further.

If ironing out the issue isn’t your prerogative for now, examining your boss’ parameters for success is another place to start. Does your boss prefer to receive multiple updates throughout the day, or do they want one summative report each morning? Do you respect your boss’ preferred communication styles? These are important questions to ask during remote work. If you find yourself reaching out more than necessary, for example, it may be time to cut back.

It can also be difficult to satiate your boss if you don’t know their expectations. If you’re able to speak to them about the expectations regarding a project or task, do it; clarifying the parameters around your work will always help both of you. It is worth noting that some supervisors may expect that you know your way around some types of responsibilities, though, so err on the side of complementing that knowledge rather than asking for comprehensive instructions.

Finally, keep in mind that some bosses simply don’t communicate the same way you do. I’ve personally been blessed with a bevy of nurturing, enthusiastic supervisors, but we’ve all had superiors who refuse to acknowledge our successes and instead focus on our failures. That can be a really tough mentality to work with during remote periods, but knowing that they have a specific communication style that hampers their sociability can help dampen the effects.

As always, communication is key—even if that means doing it a little bit less than you’d like.

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