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.
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.
“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.
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!
photo courtesy of VivaoPictures