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“Mr. Stinton, Tear Down This Wall” – Is This The End Of The Cold War?

Berlin 1989, Fall der Mauer, Chute du mur

This week in history…

I watched the TV with great interest when the Berlin Wall came down. I had been in Germany three years previously and stood in front of it. I had my bags searched by East German guards as I crossed “die Grenze.” I listened intently as our guides told us about the mines floating in the Spree River – all designed to keep people out and in. I was fourteen years old and didn’t quite understand what the Wall represented to people like my father, but I knew from history class (Mr. Hoetzer, how can I forget him?) that it was a significant monument to a closed minded world that wanted to keep others out.

Years later I would pass freely from West to East, spending time in clubs in the former Eastern Germany (as well as former Soviet Bloc countries and deep into the former U.S.S.R.), and even watch a friend swim from one side of the Spree to the other – all thanks to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the demise of the Soviet Empire. The more time I spent there, the more I learned about what life was like before the Wall, during the Wall, and after the Wall. It was a living history class I’ll never forget.

The National Association of Realtors® and the Wall.

With all the chatter lately about the Realtors® Property Resource and the Second Century Initiatives, I’ve been feeling a little contemplative about where the Association is heading and what we might gain or lose with their latest projects.

The words “Second Century Initiatives” evoke a certain feeling that I think is targeted for a reason. These aren’t just the usual day to day operating changes that NAR is involved with. These are sweeping changes. These are big ideas with even bigger consequences. These could change the way we relate to the Association. Of course, they could also backfire completely and bring us into the Dark Ages of “us against them.” Even though the title is derived from historical time, I think there is much bigger meaning behind those words.

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The Realtors® Property Resource

Could this be any more ambitious? I don’t think so. Whether they intended to or not (I’m leaning towards intended – with a large scale plan), the National Association of Realtors® has embarked on a path that can’t be ignored. In comments on his post, “Breaking News: NAR/RPR + Cyberhomes =,” Jim Duncan said this to me:

…it would seem that Move would be 1) helpless and 2) severely marginalized.

Emphasis inserted by me. Please read the entire series of comments to get the full understanding of what Jim was discussing.

Marginalized? Let’s think about it for a moment. With NAR’s affiliation with Move.com (and we all know the opinions on that), we’re stuck in a rut, right? There is no escape from the one thing that probably causes more hatred from the membership to be directed at NAR. Or is there? Imagine if Move.com collapsed. What if it folded? Where would that leave the agreement between NAR and Move.com? This could be NAR’s big chance to right the wrongs of the past. Of course this is mere speculation on my part, but just give it some thought. What if NAR wasn’t the evil empire and realized they had to make some changes or face a revolt from within?

Despite its misgivings, I like the National Association of Realtors® and believe in them. I think there’s a lot of work to be done to truly make it a functioning member-centric association, but overall, I believe they can do it. Call me naive if you wish, but I have to hang onto that hope – otherwise my money is just flying out of my pocket with no real effect.

Committees

“NAR is so out of touch with what’s happening in the field.” This is a common sentiment that is voiced over and over again on countless blogs. We love to talk bad about NAR, it’s what real estate bloggers do best. With the recent announcement that NAR is bringing in some of these voices, including my own, to various committees, it looks as if the Association leadership has realized they need to connect with the membership in a new way. To some, this may seem as an act designed to co-opt the voices of real estate and use them as megaphones for the cult of NAR. If the Association tried to plan that, then we are all doomed, because nothing could be more stupid and moronic. The real estate agents that I know that have been picked for committees are all the last people you’d want to have on a committee if your only intention was to quell the masses and show how forward thinking you were.

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I think NAR is up to something bigger – bringing us back to member-centric. They will never please everyone, no one’s foolish enough to think that, but this simple move gives members a new inside look at NAR and will certainly be a topic of discussion over the next year. They know that we will talk, blog, and exchange ideas amongst ourselves. They certainly seem to be courting that and they should be. Innovation and ideas don’t happen in a petri dish, there you just get the same old mold growing over and over again. Introducing new elements will bring about change and growth.

Websites, discussion, and social media

It seems to me that NAR has become more involved everywhere I turn. Sure, there’s Todd Carpenter, NAR’s Social Media Manager, but outside of him I have had a bit of interaction with folks at NAR through blogs and email. Considering how many members there are, the fact that I have had direct interaction with several different people on different topics, I’d say the outlook for meaningful discussion is good. They’ve worked to make our website a better, easier to use place to gather information and stay current on important topics. They’re attempting to engage us in our stomping grounds, not just waiting for us to come to them. How many times do we need to stress engagement and listening as important factors in our own business? The Association is doing the same.

As they speak to us directly, I also think there is some savvy marketing happening with it too. Releasing the webinar about the Realtors® Property Resource to a group before going more public with it? Look what that did for the buzz generated around it – positive and negative. If you didn’t hear about the RPR this weekend, you probably weren’t online.

Welcome to the Second Century

A century is a period of 100 years. That’s a long time. I’ll be dead in 100 years (or frozen alongside Walt Disney at least). I don’t think NAR intends to wait until I’m dead to make their plans clear, but I do think it will be a long time before we see the full effects of the things we talk about today. Evolution, revolution, or bad idea – no matter what you think it is, I think it’s here. The National Association of Realtors® has been listening quietly and has put plans in motion to try and maintain their relevance and position for the future. If they pull it off without a hitch, they will be welcomed as returning heroes. If they fail or take too many missteps to get there, I fear the backlash might signal their demise someday. None of this will happen tomorrow. None of this will happen in the near future. This is a long term situation and whether NAR has clearly plotted this course or just just happened upon by sheer random luck, I think things can change drastically. To further Rob Hahn’s war analogy, I think NAR has just begun to move troops into the bunkers and lay fortifications for the coming years. Shifting that many troops and putting the systems in place to feed, re-supply, and allow for back-up is a huge process and it takes a lot of strategy to do. Let’s hope NAR is up to something bigger and that the “something” includes a fresh new look at the membership and what they can provide to improve the Association and the industry as a whole.

Mr. Stinton, Tear Down This Wall!

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photo courtesy of VivaoPictures

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Written By

Matt is a former PA-based rockstar turned real estate agent with RE/MAX Access in San Antonio, TX. He was asked to join AgentGenius to provide a look at the successes and trials of being a newer agent. His consumer-based outlook on the real estate business has helped him see things from both sides. He is married to a wonderful woman from England who makes him use the word "rubbish."

14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. MIssy Caulk

    November 11, 2009 at 8:50 pm

    Wow Matt, excellently written and said. I have been having similar thoughts. I’m not ready to give up on NAR or our local associations that is why I am involved.
    I am holding out judgment on the RPR til I look at it, play with it.

  2. Joe Loomer

    November 12, 2009 at 5:39 am

    Matt – by far the best post on the future of NAR I’ve seen on any site in several months.

    I flashed back to the scene in Saving Private Ryan when General George C. Marshall tells his adjutant to get Ryan “the hell hell out of there.” The thrust from his advisors was that it was too hard, the sticks (parachute regiments) had fallen off target, no way to find him, he’s probably already dead – in essence – WE CAN’T DO IT.

    My reason for stating that is that it appears the leadership in NAR is in tune with what needs to happen to the organization. I’m sick of the “us vs. Nar” mentality – it’s negative, unproductive, and frankly – not a true representation of what the folks at NAR want, or what we want. This initiative – pass or fail – is a great sign that OUR leadership at NAR has the ambition – regardless of the odds – to prove to its membership that it exists solely to further the membership’s goals and is willing to take radical action to ensure success.

    This post and the background links (including the webinar and original Jim Duncan post) should be required reading for any agent diligent enough to keep an eye on the horizon as they toil in the here and now.

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

    p.s. loved the Berlin Wall analogy – I actually have a piece of it.

  3. Joe Loomer

    November 12, 2009 at 5:41 am

    – meant to add that not all decisions will be popular – including NARs lobbying efforts (successful as they were) to extend the tax credit – something I disagreed with….

  4. Matt Stigliano

    November 12, 2009 at 7:16 am

    Missy – As you know, I’ve made it my mission to become more involved. I’ve been lucky enough to be one of the invitees to the NAR committees and I’ve just received word from my local board that I also made a second committee there – Education (the previous one I was chosen for was Communications). These two local committees should be very interesting as they are two things I really care about in our industry. I’ve already put Matthew Rathbun on notice that I might just have to call him for advice when it comes to building a better education system here in San Antonio.

    I just have this feeling that sometimes we play the “us vs. them” card so hard, that we miss the big picture. Of course, NAR holds its cards close to its chest as well…so we’re never quite sure what exactly it is they’re thinking (long term) until they let us know. I do believe that they couldn’t have ignored all the murmurs over the years about Move.com and the general “they’re in it for themselves” vibe I get from a lot of agents when talking about NAR. If they haven’t heard it, they need to, but I think they’ve been listening and much like was discussed back during the Google/scraper situation, they are a behemoth of a machine and not always quick to change course. I suspect much of this has been tossed around for several years and is only now starting to see the light of day as they begin cranking the gears and moving their machine into place.

    Joe – Can you believe I’ve never seen that movie? I’ve seen just about every war movie on earth, but somehow missed that one. I do believe that NAR is listening, much like I said to Missy in my comments above. They listen here, they listen at conferences, they’re out and about and they’re (in my opinion) trying to become more connected to us in order to hear us more clearly. I’m happy to see them taking on a project of this size. Will it work (and what defines “it worked”)? What will the final outcome be? Those all remain to be seen. The steps are there, the idealism is there, the mechanics are there – now it’s up to execution.

    Based on what I saw in the webinar, I think the biggest block is going to be the sheer size of the RPR. It is probably going to seem overwhelming to many (ever met an agent who still can’t work an MLS user-interface?). Some people will see no need for it, as they don’t see a need for stats and more info about a property other than the color of the curtains. Some agents operate in that simplicity mode and it works for them. I do think they’ll be dooming themselves as younger generations, bred on a constant flow of data, demand more and comes of (home-buying) age.

    The Berlin Wall has a lot of significance in my life. Being there before it came down, traveling freely after its fall, and working my way through the Eastern Bloc all the way into the heart of Russia (Yekaterinburg), I learned a lot about the world. I grew up with Reagan and the Cold War and the Soviets were my “enemy,” and years later I learned how we were really all the same. Political ideologies are what keep us apart, but when I spoke to people (and not just from former Communist countries) I learned that we all want similar things, no matter how we attempt to get them. It really helped me form my views on the world as a whole and I’ll be an old man telling his grandkids stories one day, boring them to tears, telling them about the days when the world was so different. Perhaps I’ll be able to include old NAR war stories in that as well.

  5. Fred Romano

    November 12, 2009 at 8:35 am

    I have been reading all the posts about this, watched the entire webinar yesterday too. I could be a game changer in many ways…

    For me, as a flat fee broker, It could open doors. I plan on monetizing this new platform and offering valuation reports for a fee. We’ll see how it all plays out.

    RPR could also easily be transformed into the new “national” mls. Just add the offer of compensation to the mix, feed the listings to Realtor.com, ListHub.com and let Google do it’s thing and we are done.

    It looks very promising, why do we need local associations anyway? let’s all join the national system and cut out the middleman. CE courses can be taken online, so we don’t need associations for that.

    For me… I’m excited about the changes! Bring it on!!!

  6. Fred Romano

    November 12, 2009 at 9:05 am

    I meant to say “IT” could be a game changer 🙂

  7. Matt Stigliano

    November 12, 2009 at 12:24 pm

    Fred – I had to re-read that three times to catch the “I”/”It” mix up. My brain needs to stop seeing words that aren’t there!

    Although I’m not a fan of your idea of charging the way you talk about (just different ways of doing business, nothing more), I certainly can see where that could become an additional offering from flat-fee brokerages. The RPR could easily become a National MLS, I think everyone sees that possibility (and have been buzzing about it on both sides since). Would it be the downfall of local associations? I don’t know.

    Let’s suppose there were a National MLS created tomorrow. What needs to happen (from a local association point of view) is a change in relevance. We see the local boards and associations as nothing more than an MLS in many cases. Without the MLS in their hands (because of a National MLS), they would need to change their relevance to us as agents. Much like the music industry was forced to look deep within themselves during the Napster-into-iTunes years, the local associations would need to rethink their strategies and become relevant once again. The music industry took a long time to figure that out and a lot can be learned from them if one is to pay attention.

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