Recently, it was announced that Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp has made a bid to acquire Move, Inc. and all of their subsidiaries for $950 million, a deal that is expected to close before the end of the year. Staff and headquarters will remain in San Jose, and there is no word yet as to what Move brands will be dissolved, consolidated, or spun off (if any).
Realtors reacted to the news in a variety of ways – some with support, others with skepticism, and we have found there to be a tremendous amount of misinformation floating around. To debunk some of the myths regarding the deal, we asked the CEO of the National Association of Realtors, Dale Stinton to weigh in, given how closely tied Move, Inc.’s realtor.com is with the trade group.
Stinton peppered the conversation with the theory that in partnership with Move, Inc., NAR must be looking into the future and advocating for their members and for homeownership, noting that this acquisition strengthens the brands and their advocacy potential.
How this acquisition is an advantage
After the news, many members made their opinions public, but what did they miss?
“Our members are really really insightful,” Stinton noted, “they are getting it mostly right but there are a few things I would emphasize. First, people see this as a response to current competition – and in the process are missing the point.”
Stinton added, “We see it as an opportunity to redefine the portal space for real estate and prepare ourselves and our members for future, as yet unknown competition.”
While the majority of the response has been positive, he asserts that they are “preparing for competition that we don’t even know about yet,” and we would add that there is competition that may not exist yet (but could pop up overnight).
“What’s the Gretzky saying?” Stinton asks, “don’t skate to the puck, skate to where the puck is going to be.”
This acquisition is part of the NAR’s long term strategy, and we believe is representative of Stinton’s leadership. “One of the dangers of organized real estate, not just NAR,” he notes, “is our short term thinking, our tendency to become complacent. I try desperately to keep pushing and looking at tomorrow’s challenges.”
Will NAR terminate the operating agreement before the deal closes?
In some circles, it is believed that NAR will terminate their operating agreement with realtor.com prior to the projected fourth quarter closing of the News Corp deal in an effort to assuage the vocal minority against the acquisition.
“There are a number of misconceptions around the operating agreement and this is the most common,” Stinton observes. “The operating agreement cannot be unilaterally terminated by either party, and this will carry forward with our new relationship with News Corp.”
What will change at Move after the deal closes?
The NAR has said that News Corp. will not disintermediate Realtors, but what other changes are (or are not) on the table? There is an underlying fear of change, and this acquisition could certainly pave the way for changes at Move.
“What [Realtors] should fear is ‘not changing,'” Stinton explained. “We have to be willing to let go of what used to work in order to make room for what might work next.”
So what will change? Stinton says speed to market, creativity and innovation, and a renewed focus and commitment to Realtors is to be expected. “News Corp intends to turbo-charge the Move Network, with Realtors as the centerpiece and bring even greater numbers of consumers to them.”
Regarding the speculation that ListHub could be spun off to make the deal work or otherwise altered, Stinton noted that because it is not a realtor.com company, “it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to comment.”
Will NAR lose their grip? Shouldn’t they own realtor.com already?
There are boots on the ground that believe this deal will lead to NAR losing its grip in realtor.com, and others that joke it will become “rupert.com.”
Stinton responds, “A very interesting question and perhaps the most useful one in terms of explaining NAR Leadership’s vision for not only realtor.com but for NAR too. The operating agreement is tightly written by some of the finest attorneys in the country at our disposal.”
“Think of this in a somewhat paradoxical way,” he explains. “The stronger Move and Realtor.com become, the tighter our grip. That’s because fundamentally our strength has always been in our unity and purposeful commitment to each other. If our membership holds together – so will our grip!”
What of the argument that NAR could have purchased realtor.com when the market cap was lower?
Stinton says he’s heard this theorized since the dawn of realtor.com, that if each member contributed a few hundred dollars and bought out the Move stock, realtor.com could be made private, operating it much like a utility.
“I would answer this question with a question. If NAR owned it, would the members allow it to do the things necessary to compete with the other portals? If you say no, then we would inevitably fall behind and we certainly would not have the capital to stay competitive. If you say yes, then why would you not allow the current Realtor.com those same competitive advantages?”
Why didn’t the NAR Board of Directors know in advance?
Some complain that the NAR Board of Directors was not notified in advance of this acquisition.
Stinton states that provisions about change of control are in the operating agreement, which is legally overseen by the RIN (Realtors Information Network) Board. “It was designed this way, and approved to operate this way, by the NAR Board of Directors way back 18 years ago when our consumer facing website strategy was approved.”
There will be a new nine-member advisory board at the News Corp.-owned Move, Inc., and the two seats that will be filled by NAR will be decided closer to the end of the acquisition process, Stinton tells us.
And the holy ad rates; what of them?
The knee-jerk (and potentially merited) reaction of many was fear that realtor.com’s ad rates will be increased. The fear is that a disinterested investor has snatched up a Realtor asset without caring about the good people in the field trying to make an honest living. Right or wrong, it is a theory some stand by.
Stinton expresses, “Markets are markets, value is value. Our members have always been the arbiters of the price/value equation’. If the products and services of Realtor.com are worth what they ask – then our members will pay for them. If they’re not – they won’t.”
Further, he notes, “If the real question is – will they try to take advantage of us, I can only tell you that we have had very fruitful conversations about individual market pricing competitiveness and the need to provide best in class solutions.”
Did News Corp. really want Zillow?
In secret groups deep in the belly of Facebook, there is a rumor floating around that News Corp. may have flirted with investing in Zillow, which we cannot in any way corroborate.
We asked if Stinton believes it is better that News Corp. invested in Move over Zillow/Trulia, and he noted, “First of all, I don’t believe that it was one over the other. The decisions and factors involved in coming to this partnership are vastly more complicated than an ‘us vs. them’ comparison.”
“This is not a case of two online real estate sites merging,” Stinton retorted. “This is a robust, experienced digital real estate business nurturing a powerful connection with the million-plus member National Association of Realtors® and joining forces with the world’s preeminent media, publishing and digital information business.”
Will the deal scrap co-branding efforts?
Some have concerns that this deal could nix the current co-branding efforts between NAR and realtor.com, or that it could be revised during the marketing overhaul?
“While there are certain to be changes in the marketing and messaging, NAR is absolutely committed to continuing the branding campaign,” Stinton said. “The current national advertising campaign aims to enhance the Realtor® and realtor.com® brands, and future marketing campaigns will be similarly coordinated between companies.”
Now on to the ethical questions regarding News Corp.
Some people truly believe that News Corp. is an evil right-wing monster, which they think will alter NAR’s political dealings. Before we let Mr. Stinton tackle this issue, let us point out that five seconds on the News Corp Executive Leadership page will surface the name Antoinette Bush, Global Head of Government Affairs. Don’t recognize the name? She’s Valerie Jarrett’s cousin (that’s Obama’s right hand man), and her sister is married to Vernon Jordan (a bleeding heard liberal that’s ultra connected in D.C.) – not exactly the Tea Party breed some expect to be running News Corp.
Although Stinton and others would not confirm, we understand Bush was at the table at the original meetings, which we see as proof that the partisanship of the organization is exaggerated. When asked if he spent time with Murdoch himself, Stinton did state, “Our Team has interacted directly with all the leaders at the highest levels of the company.”
So despite the perception not exactly reality, for those who believe the acquisition will influence NAR’s political leanings, Stinton says, “No way!”
“Advocacy is NAR’s number one priority and always will be,” he adds. “It is the jewel in our crown and we will never compromise our most sacred asset. There are tremendous checks and balances in how our government affairs and Realtor Party operations are governed by our members.”
Further, he notes, “Categorically I can state that the even handed non-partisan approach we take on Capitol Hill will not change. We are not the Democratic Party or the Republican Party – we are the Realtor Party.”
What NAR’s senior management hires reveals about their strategy
(REAL ESTATE) The National Association of Realtors (NAR) has hired two powerhouses, and their choices speak volumes of what to expect from the trade group going forward.
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) confirms two top hires – Victoria Gillespie as the new Chief Marketing & Communications Officer, and Shannon McGhan, the new Sr. VP of Governmental Affairs.
These two hires reveal two major signals from NAR.
First, and most unavoidable, these are two rising stars that happen to be women, putting more females in the boardroom which the industry has struggled to do, even in recent decades. In fact, McGhan is the first female in her role in NAR’s 110-year history.
Secondly, these two executives are extremely qualified and come from within their respective segments to serve their roles, and clearly prove CEO Bob Goldberg’s continuing to boldly restructure the corporate organization of the association since his taking the reigns last year.
McGahn will fill the very big shoes of Jerry Giovaniello who retires this year after nearly four decades at NAR and a stellar record of successes. McGhan is sharp and modern – she cut her teeth on the Hill as communications director for the House Republican Conference, and spent over six years serving in various policy communications roles for the House Republican Conference, the Office of the House Majority Leader, and Congresswoman Jennifer Dunn (R-WA). She served as counselor to the secretary of the U.S. Treasury, spearheading relationships with members of banking and tax writing committees alongside House and Senate leadership, managing legislative agendas and priorities.
“I’m excited to join NAR and bring my experience in the legislative and executive branches to support policies that not only benefit members, but promote property ownership for everyday Americans,” said McGahn. “On behalf of NAR’s 1.3 million members, I look forward to promoting the American dream of homeownership, bolstering private property rights and emphasizing the financial security and other associated benefits of owning real property.”
NAR has hired an up-and-comer that knows the intricacies of inside baseball to handle the policy nuances.
Equally impressive is the fact that they’ve also brought on a power player, Gillespie, who has owned her own real estate agency for over 12 years, and served as Sr. VP of Enterprise and Marketing Communications for Northwest Federal Credit Union. She’s extremely well versed in real estate and finance, a powerful combination for the next communications leader at NAR, as the trade group seeks to tackle the daunting and endless task of strengthening their relationship with consumers and activating the Realtor brand.
“I’m thrilled to take on this new role at NAR and put my knowledge of the real estate industry to use for our members,” said Gillespie. “Having spent much of my career in the industry, there are tremendous opportunities to increase the awareness of the value and services that NAR offers so that our members understand that NAR is a radically member-centric organization. I look forward to working with our talented team to do so.”
“The addition of Victoria and Shannon’s strategic leadership to our already powerful team will help us once again make real estate a topline issue,” said Goldberg. “Together, they will lead our strategic direction in Washington and around the country to better serve our members’ interests.”
The combination of these two hires strongly indicates powerful, modern communications and policy strategies in coming years. In short, these hires indicate that they’re not messing around.
NAR sends strongly worded letter to House and Senate on tax reform
(ASSOCIATION NEWS) NAR President, William E. Brown has written a letter detailing the NAR’s concerns over the Blueprint tax reform plan. Here’s what you need to know about it and what NAR foresees for the future if it passes.
Regarding the American Dream
President of the National Association of Realtors®, William E. Brown, wrote a letter to the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, as well as the Chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, Kevin Brady, expressing the NAR’s feelings about the challenges and opportunities Brown believes will be upcoming in the Trump administration. The letter was sent to all members of the House and Senate, but Brown primarily focuses on the House Republican Tax Reform Blueprint.
More specifically, he writes, “the interaction of two specific features of the plan, which are designed to simplify the tax system” as they would have “the unintended consequences of nullifying the long-standing tax incentives of owning a home for the great majority of Americans who now are, or who aspire to become, homeowners.”
Brown goes on in the letter to detail the specifics of the Blueprint that could become problematic for homeowners. He states, “the Blueprint calls for the standard deduction to be almost doubled from its current levels. The plan also includes the repeal of the deduction for state and local taxes paid, as well as, the elimination of most other itemized deductions.”
He explains the gravity of this potential reform by stating, “Either of [the aforementioned] monumental changes alone would marginalize the value of the current-law tax incentives for owning a home. Unfortunately, the combination of these two revisions would cripple the incentive effect of the federal tax law for all but the most affluent of taxpayers.”
Protecting first-time homebuyers
Brown continues by explaining, “two potentially devastating problems in the aftermath of these modification (are anticipated). First, the impact on the first-time homebuyer could be enormous.”
In many cases, the tax incentives enable first-time homebuyers to be able to afford their very first home. Brown states, “at a time when the rate of first-time home-buying is well below the average of the past few decades, this could be particularly debilitating for the housing industry and the entire economy.”
Home and property value
If that weren’t enough of a reason to take notice of the impending possible reform, Brown goes on to detail the second reason.
He states, “the decimation of the mortgage interest and real property tax deductions would very likely cause a significant plunge in the value of all houses[…]the housing sector has not fully recovered from the thrashing it took during the Great Recession, this drop, even if temporary, could be calamitous.”
This would mean that millions of Americans might quickly find, “the value of their largest financial asset has dived below the amount of debt that is owed.”
NAR protecting homeowners
Brown realizes the Blueprint is aimed at modifying the tax system and attempting to “supercharge growth in our Nation.” He believes there has to be another, better way.
In a statement to The Real Daily, Brown said, “the NAR continues to believe that any tax reform proposal should respect and uphold our system’s longtime support for homeownership. That means avoiding changes that would negate the important incentive effects of the mortgage interest deduction and the state and local property tax deduction.”
He continues, “We’ll be making that case in the months ahead and look forward to working with policymakers in Washington to promote an overhaul of the tax system that engenders positive change for all Americans.”
Read it for yourself
This letter aims to bring this belief to the attention of lawmakers before any changes are made to the existing tax laws.
Read the full letter here (PDF).
If you are interested in learning a little more about the Blueprint, you can read an overview of it here (PDF).
Modern Family, NAR team up to humorously express what it means to be a REALTOR®
To further contemporize the REALTOR® brand, NAR teamed up with Modern Family and actor Ty Burrell to create ads and an integrated storyline.
If you watched ABC’s comedy, Modern Family last night, you witnessed Phil Dunphy (played by Ty Burrell) wear his REALTOR® pin, express what it means to be a REALTOR®, and ultimately save the day with his REALTOR® skills. And that was no accident – the show teamed up with the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) and their new creative and media agencies Arnold and Havas, for what may be the most organic, natural ad integration to date.
We’ve all seen hit shows like New Girl struggle to integrate awkward ads about Ford that painfully go against the grain of the show. But this storyline brand integration was natural to the existing brand of the oafish character who is actually quite good (and serious about) his real estate career.
The episode coincides with a series of :15 and :30 ad spots for television and online, as part of NAR’s gutsy “Get REALTOR®” campaign seeking to help consumers understand the value of a REALTOR®, and how that differs from a real estate agent.
The two spots already airing
The two spots, “Silence” (below) and “Ball” (which we call “Cat-Like Reflexes,” seen here) are already airing nationwide.
NAR’s involvement in the creative process
NAR Senior Vice President of Communications Stephanie Singer notes that Dunphy “always does the right thing,” making it a natural fit. At the shoot, she observed Burrell do a lot of improvisation with show creators Christopher Lloyd and Steven Levitan who directed the ads. She reports a lot of laughter on set.
The truth is that this was a collaboration between three brands – NAR (and their Consumer Communications Committee), Modern Family, and Ty Burrell – which means that unlike traditional advertising, no single entity had complete control (although NAR did have input into the scripts). In our assessment, the risk paid off.
Reactions have been positive, with members tweeting frequently about the idea that finally the public has been offered a definition of “REALTOR®” versus “agent.”
Singer notes that this is part of the “Get REALTOR®” effort to redefine the REALTOR® brand and contemporize it. Although they “protect the brand voraciously,” this integration is, indeed indicative of the trade group’s adaptation to modern culture.
One episode only, but Phil’s-osophies live on
Dunphy will only wear the REALTOR® pin for this one episode, as the ad integration was for one episode only, but in addition to the two aforementioned ads, there are nine more that have been produced (0:15 seconds each), which will be reviewed at the upcoming 2016 REALTORS® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo (“Midyear”) by the committee.
On top of all of that, NAR will be using the social and digital assets through May of 2017, so look for TGIP posts (“thank goodness it’s Phil”) and humorous posts of that nature.
Singer opines that it’s important for readers “to understand the strategic vision this campaign executes,” that they’re redefining the REALTOR® brand, updating it for today’s hyper-connected consumers who think they can DIY. They’re seeking to appeal to digital natives nervous about reaching out to a human (REALTOR®). This all “aims to overcome that reluctance, and demonstrate a friendly, approachable way that REALTORS® can help [consumers] succeed in real estate.”
Our favorite Phil scenes from the episode
Aside from the ending of the ad where Dunphy gets hit by a ball repeatedly (we’re all quoting “sexel fear kyle tac” around the office), there were two great scenes you should be aware of.
First, if you haven’t seen the full episode (go watch it, that would make things easier), Sophia Vergara’s character has a salsa line that is taking off, and they find a competitor has stolen her recipe. Here’s how Phil wins that fight (watch for the ninja REALTOR® skills):
Realtors are just your everyday superheroes, NBD. https://t.co/r22zalj5Rc
— Modern Family (@ModernFam) May 5, 2016
Earlier in the episode, he’s upset that he was bumped at his niece’s career day for a periodontist. Gloria mentions his being an agent, and he responds, “first of all, I’m not just a real estate agent, I’m a Realtor. I’m a member of a national association, a brotherhood, sworn to the Realtor Code of Ethics. That’s what this R stands for,” he says, pulling out his jacket with the REALTOR® pin on the lapel.
“A brotherhood!” Perfect timing for the countless professionals about to hop a plane for NAR’s Midyear conference to celebrate that “brotherhood.”
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