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Why NAR’s new 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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realtor safety network

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.

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius - she has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

Real Estate Associations

Finally a mentorship program comes to real estate, thanks to the NAR

(REAL ESTATE ASSOCIATIONS) It’s been a long time coming, but the call for mentorship in real estate has been realized thanks to the new NAR program. Here’s how to sign up.

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Mentor speaking with his mentee over mentorship video.

A mentor can help you grow and develop your knowledge and skills. Unfortunately, in the real estate industry, “being thrown into the deep end”, without proper mentoring, has become the norm. For years, we’ve said this shouldn’t be the case and those realtors should be mentored so they can be set up for success. Now, the National Association of Realtors® has finally heard our cry for mentorship.

The NAR has launched a mentorship program that is “designed to help budding professionals in underserved areas thrive in a real estate career”. Named NAR Spire, the program will match mentees from “historically marginalized communities” with seasoned Realtors.

Those in the program will not just be exposed to the day-to-day business operations, but will also receive insights into marketing, appraisal, IT, and financing aspects of real estate. Along with that, they will be given educational opportunities, be able to attend business-related events, have one-on-one mentorship meetings, and have access to an online platform designed specifically for the program.

“NAR Spire is a groundbreaking new initiative designed and developed to drive inclusivity in the real estate industry,” said NAR CEO Bob Goldberg in a press release. “We’ve reached beyond NAR’s walls to collaborate with partners across a number of industries, and we’re confident this program will help Realtors® enhance their reputation as invested, engaged and integral members of every U.S. community.”

How do I apply for the program?
You can join the program by completing an application form to become either a Mentor or Mentee.

After you’ve submitted your form, a program coordinator will evaluate your information to conduct a matching process. Your educational and professional background, experience, time availability, and location will all be taken into account to make a match.

When a match has been made, the Program Coordinator will provide you with your mentor/mentee contact details and make an introduction. Then, you will fill out an agreement, review guidelines, and complete an action plan. Afterward, it’s up to the mentor and mentee to start the mentoring process.

2021 Participating state/local associations
So far, the mentorship program has been launched in nine pilot regions across the country, but they are planning on expanding.

Chicago, IL – Chicago Association of REALTORS®
Durham, NC – Durham Regional Association of REALTORS®
Maryland – Maryland REALTORS®
Memphis, TN – Memphis Area Association of REALTORS®
Raleigh, NC – Raleigh Regional Association of REALTORS®
Rochester, NY – Greater Rochester Association of REALTORS®
Seattle, WA – Seattle-King County Association of REALTORS®
Trenton, NJ– New Jersey REALTORS®; CORE Association of REALTORS®
Washington, D.C. – DC Association of REALTORS®

According to the NAR website, the mentorship experience provides opportunities for both the mentor and the mentee, and I think we can agree that is true. For mentors, they will have the opportunity to coach the new kids to help them reach their full potential and also learn a thing or two in the process. For mentees, well, they will finally get the guidance they need to learn the ropes and thrive in their careers.

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Real Estate Associations

How do you react to housing discrimination? Learn from NAR’s new course

(REAL ESTATE ASSOCIATIONS) NAR’s new interactive training simulation confronts housing discrimination by putting agents in the shoes of homebuyers.

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Man sitting in a home with dog at his feet, subject to housing discrimination.

Would you know housing discrimination if you saw it?

Are you sure?

And what would you do about it?

If you’re a real estate agent, broker or Realtor, you’ve had a fair amount of training on fair housing laws. But discrimination can sometimes creep in in subtle ways – from which listings you offer a client to which clients you decide to work with to just an offhand remark about a neighborhood.

What if you’ve been part of the problem – and you didn’t even realize it?

Now you can test yourself while sharpening your understanding of housing discrimination to ensure you’re offering all clients a fair, equitable, and positive experience.

This week the National Association of Realtors (NAR) launched an online interactive training toolFairhaven.realtor – to let you do just that.

In the fictional town of Fairhaven, you work against the clock to close four different transactions that involve some kind of discrimination. You must choose how to respond, and those responses determine your journey through the simulations. Built-in feedback along the way illustrates how you could avoid the fair housing pitfalls in each situation.

To deepen the impact, the course puts you in the role of a client experiencing discrimination and pairs that with testimonials from real people whose lives have been impacted by it.

“Fairhaven uses the immersive power of storytelling to deliver powerful lessons that will help promote equity in our nation’s housing market,” said Charlie Oppler, CEO of Prominent Properties Sotheby’s International Realty, NAR’s incoming president for 2021. “NAR will continue our work to create innovative anti-discrimination training and to champion efforts that encourage diversity, fight racial bias and build more inclusive communities.”

The online platform is free to real estate professionals and doesn’t require NAR membership to use. NAR will also offer Fairhaven as a software package for brokerages and associations to incorporate into their learning management systems. It was developed in partnership with global professional services firm Ernst and Young.

Fairhaven.realtor is the latest resource offered to realtors as part of its Accountability, Culture Change and Training (ACT!) initiative designed to promote equal opportunity in real estate.

At the Nov. 19 Diversity and Inclusion virtual summit hosted by The Hill, Oppler offered a formal apology for the role realtors have played in the history of housing discrimination, including the practices of redlining and blockbusting.

“We can’t go back to fix the mistakes of the past, but we can look at this problem squarely in the eye,” Oppler said. “And, on behalf of our industry, we can say that what Realtors did was shameful, and we are sorry.”

Bryan Greene, NAR’s director of fair housing policy, discussed the effects of housing discrimination, including creating disparities in wealth. Discrimination denied Black families the same opportunities to build wealth through home ownership, Greene said, adding that white Americans own 10 times the wealth of African-Americans.

“Realtors have an admittedly tough history,” Greene said. “But we have turned the corner and now have emerged as leaders on these important issues.”

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Real Estate Associations

Combatting key claims in class-action accusations toward NAR [EDITORIAL]

(REAL ESTATE ASSOCIATIONS) With the latest accusations in class-action suit against the NAR, one real estate agent has done some digging to see how viable these claims really are.

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Woman looking at laptop open to shopping website.

I am a member of NAR, and for full disclosure, I am not an attorney. I reviewed the various complaints and performed research, discovering information that could aid in the defense. In my view, Plaintiff (Conti-CA) makes misleading claims and adds assertions to muddy the waters in this class-action suit.

For example:

“Requiring every seller‐broker, when listing a property on an MLS, to make a “blanket unilateral offer […] of compensation” to any buyer agent who may find a buyer for the home;”

This is misleading; compensation is not paid to agents who “find a buyer for the home.” Commissions are earned upon an Agent procuring a client who successfully closes on a transaction that includes mutually agreed terms and conditions. This is not an adversarial transaction, despite how Attorneys try to frame it. Sellers want to sell; Buyers want to acquire, and Agents facilitate.

Moreover: “Requiring that the offer of compensation to the buyer agent be a blanket offer — i.e., the exact same compensation terms must be simultaneously offered to every buyer agent without regard to their experience, the services they are providing to the buyer, or the financial arrangement they have made with the buyer;”

If a Buyer’s Agent procures a Buyer who successfully acquires a residence at a price and terms agreeable to the Seller, then “compensation terms must be simultaneously offered to every buyer agent without regard to their experience” is irrelevant.

Furthermore, I challenge these “high power” law firms to name a profession where compensation is not established upfront.

Additionally, they claim “NAR’s requirement that offers of compensation be expressed in specific dollar or percentage terms enable buyer agents to easily compare the financial compensation offered to them by home sellers and steer their clients to higher commission homes.”

Would the Plaintiff’s Counsel share an alternative method for conveying compensation? Maybe the Peso so Agents would take extra steps using currency converters?

In the same complaint, Plaintiffs assert, “According to data from the NAR, many homebuyers no longer locate prospective homes with the assistance of a broker, but rather independently through online services. Buyer agents increasingly have been retained after their client has already found the home the client wishes to buy.”

These assertions obliterate the Plaintiffs’ allegations of massive steering. If a Consumer finds a home, and a Realtor refuses to show the house, the Consumer will find another Agent. Zillow had 9.8 billion page views in 2020.

Conspiracy

The most significant allegation is that a conspiracy exists between NAR members to use the MLS to create a supra-competitive pricing scheme, and decoupling agent commissions (each Consumer pays their agent) would result in a significant decline in commission structures.

This claim fails.

1st Plaintiffs attempt to frame the argument based on the percentage of the sale price when the fees to transact are a superior factor. Consumers bank dollars, not percentages. Moreover, they cherry-pick a few markets with an emphasis on Singapore as examples of lower commission percentages.

In a three-minute discovery session, I researched the US v Singapore markets, and these are my findings.

  • The average price of a US residence totaled $389,400 (based on 2019 data.)
  • The commission paid, based on the US average of 4.94%, totaled $19,236
  • The average price of a Singapore residence totaled $874,372 USD.
  • The commission paid, based on the Singapore average of 3%, totaled $26,231 USD.

Moreover, some publications suggest there is commission sharing between Buyer/Seller Agents in Singapore. Again, Consumer’s bank dollars, not percentages, it appears that the Plaintiff’s counsel is oblivious to this variable.

It is MORE expensive to transact in Singapore.

Decoupling Commissions

I have found no evidence that decoupling reduces commissions. As shown in the following images, I discovered the opposite based on a 2015 study by the Wall Street Journal. The WSJ articles display in the first position when performing a simple Google search; however, I have yet to see WSJ commission studies cited in any complaints. Alternatively, they cite studies from 2002. Furthermore, the US average rate is only slightly higher than the 10-Country average.

Data | WSJ

 

Counterclaims Against Plaintiffs

In my view, a reasonable person would conclude Plaintiffs used irrelevant data and omitted material information. Most purchase agreements include language similar to “ATTORNEY FEES: In any action, proceeding, or arbitration between Buyer and Seller arising out of this Agreement, the prevailing Buyer or Seller shall be entitled to reasonable attorney fees and costs from the non-prevailing Buyer or Seller.”

Considering Plaintiffs are suing NAR, the four largest Brokerages, the MLS system, and smaller Brokers as co-conspirators, these misleading claims impact 1000’s firms, so I suggest counterclaiming Plaintiffs for $5,000,000 and publicize it.

This may deter Consumers from engaging with ambulance-chasing law firms.

The issue of who pays commissions is irrelevant and undeterminable because Sellers will claim they are deducted from net proceeds while Buyers will claim it is baked into the purchase price, thus commissions are paid by Buyers. Even the various class-action claims conflict related to the party paying commissions.

In reality, the commission percentage assertions are a feeble attempt by parties to create an apples-to-apples comparison to other markets, however the information included in this opinion makes these claims defective.

It is time to inflict an overwhelming response.

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