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NAR pushes back on DOJ’s reneging on antitrust settlement

(REAL ESTATE) After coming to a settlement with the DOJ, the National Association of Realtors is petitioning the court to keep the DOJ from reneging.

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The National Association of Realtors (NAR) filed a petition in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to push back on the Department of Justice’s (DOJ’s) reneging on their existing antitrust settlement agreement reached in November 2020.

In a statement NAR notes that the DOJ began attempting to “withdraw from that fully binding agreement in July 2021, after NAR had already begun to implement its term,” adding that this is “a breach of the agreement and the law.”

It is uncommon for the federal government to reach a settlement then go back on that agreement, which is why this stands out.

The Petition’s first line summarizes the scenario aptly: “The National Association of REALTORS® brings this petition to quash a Civil Investigative Demand (CID) issued by the Antitrust Division of the United States Department of Justice because it violates a binding settlement negotiated and agreed-to by the last Senate-confirmed head of the Antitrust Division.”

“The DOJ action should be considered null and invalid based on legal precedent alone,” said NAR President Charlie Oppler. “The DOJ must be governed by principle, and NAR simply expects the department to live up to its commitments.”

Oppler points to this case as damaging in the long-term for the federal government, as American’s trust and confidence would be eroded. If the DOJ can reconsider terms of any agreement, Oppler states, “If that view prevails, it would undermine the strong public policy in favor of upholding settlement agreements and public confidence that the government will keep its word in future cases.”

In their public statement, NAR asserts that they have always pushed for competition in the marketplace. We long ago agreed in our news stories, debunking the anti-trust suit allegations.

So will this petition make a difference? Going before the Courts is the only option for relief possible, and since the association took that step, NAR members we spoke with today feel optimistic. It appears that NAR is simply pushing for the DOJ to make good on an existing agreement, it’s not complicated.

“NAR remains hopeful the DOJ will honor its agreement,” Oppler said. “We also remain committed to advancing and defending independent and local real estate organizations that provide for greater economic opportunity and equity for small businesses and consumers of all backgrounds and financial means.”

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Real Estate Associations

Why NAR’s Realtor Safety Network is so critical [personal story]

(REAL ESTATE) NAR has launched the meaningful Realtor Safety Network – here is a personal story, and an exclusive interview with NAR CEO, Bob Goldberg.

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It was a Wednesday evening, the sun would soon be setting, and I was exhausted after pulling an all-nighter the previous night. Our study group would continue, but as a safety-conscious person, I knew it was best to head out.

I walked alone, which was normal for a college student that lived on campus. I held my pepper spray at the ready, had my keys in hand before leaving the building, and was alert. Although tired, I knew I had enough energy to go to dinner with my grandparents.

I get to the full parking garage, and halfway to my car, I hear steps behind me. I look back, and no one is there. I didn’t even see someone duck behind a car. “I’m being paranoid,” I think. “Why is no one around? It’s a full lot!”

I take a few more steps, and I am confident that I hear someone coming up behind me. I turn around, and nothing. I’m ready to use my pepper spray because there is definitely someone following me and I needed to make a decision quickly.

I had three choices – run quickly to my car where I may or may not be able to close the door fast enough, turn back and walk with authority the way I came (risking confrontation), or just straight up confrontation.

I quicken my pace, they quicken theirs, and I know what is about to happen. I turn around so I’m not blindly ambushed by someone I cannot later identify, and it is someone I recognize. Someone I had a class with. But not someone I had ever spoken with before. I hadn’t calculated how I would react in that situation and it slowed me down.

My hesitation meant he was able to shove me, and I fell backwards.

I re-calculate my choices, but this time there was no hesitation because I already knew I was in danger. As I tried to get up, he poised himself to pounce, and I used the pepper spray, knowing I’d probably get a dose, too. I missed his forehead (which is the ideal target as it drips into their eyes, extending the impact), and mostly got his mouth, but enough got into his face that it stalled him.

I rolled over before he could fall on me, and I ran. I was only yards away from a large, densely populated building.

This was nearly 20 years ago, before cell phones were mainstream, and I quickly found help from the school who called police. I won’t go into how they brushed me off and nearly refused to write a report, didn’t want to look for the guy, and so forth.

But I notified my professor as to why I couldn’t possibly go to class the next day. She was the one who insisted the University get involved, and the city police take action. She knew his name and gave it to all entities. And she was the one who never made me step foot in that classroom again, just in case. I got a restraining order, and it apparently scared him enough to stay away, but I knew he could violate it at any moment, so I remained on alert. I’m still on alert today. For him or others that think I might be an easy target.

I later learned he had stalked dozens of students, and attacked several before and after he tried to get to me. He has been in and out of jail since then.

But I always had a nagging thought… what of the other potential victims? Back then, the schools didn’t have any sort of alert system (for school closings or mass shootings). An alert system of systemic attackers could have saved others from being harmed.

It is for this very personal reason that I was moved to hear of the National Association of Realtors’ (NAR) new Realtor Safety Network, which was inspired by a Realtor’s child going missing (who is now safe).

NAR CEO, Bob Goldberg took the time to talk me through what the network does – it’s not a pointless group where people whine about missing pets, no, it is activated when there is a potential safety issue, be it physical or online.

NAR is now able to gather information about potential safety issues and either issue a national alert, or share the information through local and state associations via social media, email, and text where applicable.

At this time, it is not set up like an Amber Alert where you can opt in for texts (although I do hope this is ultimately an option), so we encourage members to read any email that is sent to them as an alert, and follow the social media hashtag, #realtorsafetynetwork.

They do have criteria that must be followed prior to a Realtor Safety Network alert being sent out by NAR. It must be a widespread threat impacting Realtors. Qualifying incidents include a pattern of assaults on Realtors, a Realtor or immediate family member going missing (and there is an open police investigation, and the family asks for NAR’s aide), or an association name is being used fraudulently to scam members out of money or identifying information.

Members and Association Executives can fill out a simple incident form, and Goldberg notes there is dedicated staff ready to respond.

While they are going to “continue to perfect” the program, it can be invoked immediately. Goldberg says that members are “our family,” and that the goal is to coordinate with local authorities to keep members safe physically, and keep their identities secured.

Goldberg notes that they intend on using the network sparingly, which makes perfect sense – remember when car alarms came out and you’d jump when one went off, but now you ignore all car alarms as a nuisance? The association has long offered Realtor Safety reports and statistics, as well as safety guidance and classes, but to see this meaningful step taken is one worthy of applause.

My inner 18 year old that still remembers the heart-in-my-throat fear of an impending attack thanks NAR. Truly.

This story was first published here in March of 2019.

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Real Estate Associations

NAR and AARP partner to create livability index for house hunting

(REAL ESTATE ASSOCATIONS) The National Association of Realtors® and AARP integrated the AARP Livability Index scores across the Realtors Property Resource® platform.

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A neighborhood with close-together houses, with different livability factors.

When you’re searching for your dream home, there are a lot of things to consider besides what you can afford from a financial standpoint. Factors such as being able to have a short commute to work, living in an area with a good school district, or being close to nearby entertainment and restaurants are all things you might take a look at. These are all considered livability factors — the measure of how various community characteristics play into where you choose to live.

Having access to all this information can be difficult to come by, especially if you live out of state and aren’t familiar with the area. The information you do have access to is what is available in the home listing and answers you get from your realtor or seller, but not much else.

So, where can you go to get that information? Well, the National Association of Realtors® and AARP are making it less of a hassle to acquire that information. In a joint effort, the two are integrating the AARP Livability Index scores across the Realtors Property Resource® platform.

“One of AARP’s goals through this collaboration with NAR is to help people better understand their housing needs over their lifetime and address the barriers that prevent people from living in their desired communities as they age,” said Rodney Harrell, VP of Family, Home & Community at AARP. “We are thrilled about the AARP Livability Index integration as it will provide homebuyers and other movers with the necessary information to make informed choices that meet their needs for today and into the future.”

To assist and give property buyers a chance to make “age-friendly decisions and purchases for the home”, the Index will offer insights on community factors. The tool will access these 7 categories of livability:

  • Housing (affordability and access)
  • Neighborhood (access to life, work, and play)
  • Transportation (safe and convenient options)
  • Environment (clean air and water)
  • Health (prevention, access and quality)
  • Engagement (civic and social involvement)
  • Opportunity (inclusion and possibilities)

The tool will score each neighborhood between 0 to 100, with an average score being 50. Communities with more diverse features that appeal to all ages, incomes, and abilities will score higher than those that are not.

Although a total livability score is based on the average of all 7 category scores, the Index lets you customize your score based on your personal preferences. If transportation is more important to you than housing or the environment, the tool will take into account what you set as most important.

The AARP Livability Index will give Realtors® access to “robust national data” that can be broken down by address, ZIP Code, city, or county to share with buyers. This data will have information on updated metrics and policies. You’ll also be able to compare up to three community performances side by side and even share a score on social media.

What is considered “livable” is different for each person. It can be that affordable home right in the middle of town or that spacious house removed from the bustling city. Whatever your form of livability is, the AARP Livability Index score aims to help you find the right home in just the right community.

This story first appeared here in May 2021.

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Real Estate Associations

NAR updates code of ethics – here’s why it matters

(REAL ESTATE ASSOCIATION) The NAR amended their code of ethics to cover hate speech online – a decision for which we’ve been waiting for years.

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A welcome sign inside of a home that cannot be removed thanks to updated code of ethics

The National Association of Realtors voted to amend their realtor code of ethics in November 2020, leading to a crucial addition that will change the way realtors approach off-duty interactions and behavior—for the better.

This motion passed on the heels of several reports regarding disturbing speech and actions from realtors. While the comments in question were allegedly restricted to social media, some other members of the NAR went so far as to do things like remove property (e.g., Black Lives Matter signs) from neighbors’ yards. This clearly constitutes an ethical violation, but the line isn’t always so clear-cut—hence the updated code of ethics.

According to the revised code, any kind of hate speech or dissenting behavior toward protected classes from realtors will constitute a violation; this includes comments or harassment based on race, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, age, and much more. Should a realtor be found guilty of making such comments, they could face severe penalties.

Changing the code of ethics to reflect common decency is a part of this decision, but it isn’t the most important component. By adopting and enforcing these changes, the NAR gets one step closer to fair housing for all—something that many realtors consider to be of paramount value.

“[Fair housing] is something near and dear to my heart, and most Realtors’ hearts,” says Jennifer Stevenson, president of the New York State Association of Realtors and board member for the NAR.

Some may view this addition as meddlesome—after all, what one says in their private life and on social media has a certain impervious air to it. But the fact remains that realtors really are public servants; by that logic, they should be held accountable for their words whether they are on-duty or off—just like all other public servants.

Furthermore, realtors represent real estate as a whole; the institution itself deserves to be able to eradicate the member status of anyone who violates the ethics held by that institution. It’s a simple concept: Society is—or should be—moving towards greater acceptance and support of protected classes, and that support includes fair housing. Anyone who isn’t on board with that, even if it’s “just in their personal life”, should jump ship now.

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