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Opinion Editorials

Would you join the Association if you had free access to the MLS?

With new poll results in, we found that agents were very vocal on one specific topic, so let’s dive deeper into it.

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Applying local logic to the national scene

Chicago Agent magazine recently sent out a comprehensive survey to our Chicagoland database of agents and posted it for our readers to take on our website. Our goal? To find out how things are changing and, hopefully, improving in the industry for our recent “Truth About Agents” issue. For instance, agents are making a higher average annual salary (it increased to $95k in 2011 from about $70k in 2010) and are spending more of their incomes on marketing (5.8 percent in 2011 vs 4.9 percent in 2010), which suggests to us that, in Chicagoland at least, we are creeping back towards a housing recovery.

But one of the more interesting questions we asked agents was if they had access to the MLS, would they still join an association? In 2010, 64 percent of agents said they would still join the association, and last year, 67 percent said they would. Keep in mind, NAR raised its dues last February, and still there was a 3-percentage point increase in favor of joining an association.

Agents were very vocal on the topic

Since agents were vocal about how they felt about that, as well as recently over an investment in Chicago that no one knew about, if a situation like this ever arose, what benefits that NAR does provide would agents miss out on? Here’s a quick list:

  • Financial protection: Realtors Federal Credit Union merged with Northwest Federal Credit Union to fill the “unique” financial needs of agents everywhere, according to NAR’s website.
  • Partner Benefits: there are various affiliates that work with NAR to give agents discounts at FedEx and FedEx Office, Budget car rental, phone lead tracker Ifbyphone and Lowe’s, among many others, to help agents in their business.
  • Insurance: NAR offers plans for individual agents and their families for health, cars and homes.
  • Educational opportunities: NAR not only has a library with thousands of digital books, audiobooks, instructional videos, journals, reports and guides, but the association also provides free monthly webinars, various courses and its own Realtor University to further agent education.
  • Advocacy: The chance to get involved in government affairs and help develop, advance, and implement the federal legislative objectives of agents and the association.

Even though members gripe about an increase in dues and wonder how exactly NAR is spending that money, at least according to Chicago agents, the benefits NAR provides is still worth hanging onto the membership, and clearly, people don’t typically join NAR only for MLS access.

But, since AG is a national website, what about the rest of the agents nationwide? Would you still join the association, even if you had access to the MLS without it? Why or why not?

Stephanie Sims is the managing editor of Agent Publishing, which currently has online publications in Chicago, Houston and Miami. With expertise in evaluating housing markets, website content and social media strategy, and reporting information agents want to know about, Stephanie can be found at her desk with coffee that got cold or not eating lunch because she’s busy planning editorial assignments and interviews for the Agent Publishing websites.

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11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. RussBergeronMRED

    August 28, 2012 at 5:32 pm

    I don’t believe the original question included the word free.  This is a strangely worded question.  I think it would have been more effective had it been written as “If you did not have to join the association in order to gain access to the MLS would you still join the association?”.
     

  2. hempler

    August 28, 2012 at 5:55 pm

    No. Do I really need to say anything else?

  3. Eric Hempler

    August 28, 2012 at 6:02 pm

    no

  4. Katie Willson Cosner

    August 28, 2012 at 6:08 pm

    Why not ?

  5. Velda Miller

    August 28, 2012 at 7:04 pm

    Probably not.

  6. Catherine Del Rey Kolodin

    August 28, 2012 at 7:49 pm

    no

  7. Joe Loomer

    August 29, 2012 at 6:48 am

    Screw NAR, I’m moving to Chicago!  A better than 30% increase in average salary over ONE YEAR??!?!   Either the sampling size was so small as to make the results skewed, or a completely different class of agent took that survey.   As for the actual question?  Probably not. 
     
    Navy Chief, Navy Pride.  

  8. beachtowne

    August 29, 2012 at 9:15 am

    The question, as phrased, is meaningless and seems to have been so as to get a high percentage of surveyed agents to answer “Yes”…
    The question – “If you access to the MLS, would you still join the association?”
     
    It should have been, “If you access to the MLS, would you still (PAY $400/YEAR TO) join the association?

    • Erin Round

      September 7, 2012 at 12:23 pm

       @beachtowne Agreed, its two different beasts

  9. rqd

    August 29, 2012 at 10:12 am

    How many agents collect a “salary”?   I sense the answer provided may have been gross revenue before expenses which may or may not include agency split.   The article also mentions marketing expenses were up over 18% from the prior year.  Did all expenses go up at a similar rate?

  10. RussBergeronMRED

    August 29, 2012 at 2:47 pm

    In the words of that great philosopher Dr. Gregory House “Everybody lies”.  And nobody lies more than people taking a survey trying to either say the right thing (of course I watch PBS) or inflate the truth to appear more successful, profitable, smarter…

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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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