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Op/Ed

America’s racial homeownership gaps remain focus of the present and future

NAR CEO Bob Goldberg calls the racial homeownership gaps “the most consequential civil rights issue of our day” in this editorial.

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homeownership racial gaps

The following guest column from Bob Goldberg, CEO of the National Association of Realtors® looks at the history of division in our nation and examines what the future of healing looks like, particularly regarding racial homeownership gaps that persist today.


Last month, the nation honored the life, memory, and enduring legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


In conversations with my staff surrounding the holiday, I was reminded of Dr. King’s “Freedom Sunday” march in the summer of 1966.

On that July morning, King and some 30,000 activists braved angry mobs and the threat of violence as they progressed toward Chicago’s City Hall to present to Mayor Richard Daley a list of reforms they hoped would break down the city’s “infamous wall of segregation.”

Although resulting in only modest changes to Chicago’s housing policies, Dr. King recognized the moment as a pivotal “first step in a thousand-mile journey.”

While Congress passed major civil rights legislation in other arenas in 1964 and 1965, the Fair Housing Act was stalled as opposition from powerful forces, including the National Association of Realtors®, made its passage virtually impossible. History was forever changed, however, when Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis in the early spring of 1968.

Within a week, President Lyndon B. Johnson had successfully pushed Congress to pass the landmark housing rights legislation. On the day he signed the bill into law, April 11, 1968, the President labeled the accomplishment that seemed improbable just a few months prior “a fitting memorial to Dr. King’s life’s work and legacy.”

As we commemorate Black History Month in February, this “legacy” that President Johnson spoke of lives on, in the triumphs of Dr. King and of countless other Black Americans.

Indeed, untold current and former members, staff, and volunteer leaders have worked tirelessly to transform NAR from an association that barred Black members and fought passage of the Fair Housing Act to one of the real estate industry’s most vocal drivers for universal access and equality.

At the heart of this month of remembrance is the heroism, bravery, and leadership of these individuals.

At NAR, like much of America, we continue our study of the past in order to dismantle the systemic barriers impeding a more prosperous future. This is the only way to make the next wave of Black history – and American history – a story we will all be proud to tell.

America’s racial homeownership gap is perhaps the best living example of the consequences of a long history of widespread, pervasive discrimination.

The 43% homeownership rate for Black Americans significantly lags the national average (65%). Compare that to the rate for White Americans (72%), and the contrast is even more stark.

This, we view, as the most consequential civil rights issue of our day.

Alongside a steering committee of representatives from the National Association of Real Estate Brokers, the National Fair Housing Alliance, the Mortgage Bankers Association, and the Urban Institute, among others, NAR recently helped launch the Black Homeownership Collaborative—a mission-focused coalition intent on creating 3 million net new Black homeowners in America by 2030.

Identified within the initiative, known simply as “3by30,” are seven programs and policy areas the Collaborative contends will help make this 3-million-new-homeowner goal a reality before the end of the decade.

Among those action items are the broadening of access to mortgage credit, a nationwide increase in housing supply, and a targeted down payment assistance program.

Homeownership remains the standard marker of the American Dream. Various converging market forces, however, have made this goal less attainable over the past decade — a phenomenon that is true for countless prospective homebuyers, no matter their race.

But, as an NAR study from earlier this month (The Double Trouble of the Housing Market) shows, these factors have made circumstances particularly bleak for Black Americans.

The research, released on February 7, examines the impact of rapidly escalating home prices and diminishing inventory on housing affordability in America.

In their joint report, NAR and realtor.com® combed through affordability data by race in the nation’s 100 largest metro areas, accounting for the affordability of homes currently for sale to consider affordability for all income groups.

The report identified Minneapolis, San Francisco, and Charleston, South Carolina, among the metropolitan areas with the largest affordability gaps between White and Black households.

Here, Blacks are roughly half as likely to be able to afford a home as their White counterparts.

One of (although far from the only) variable exacerbating this problem is the fact the 35% of White households in America have incomes greater than $100,000, while just 20% of Black households exceed that six-figure threshold.

This February, as we observe Black History Month, we consider the sacrifices of so many Black Americans who helped pave the way for the overdue transformations unfolding in society today. We remember this enduring “legacy” — of Dr. King and countless others — as we continue our pursuit of a more fair, equitable, and accessible real estate market in America.

But our study of history is essentially rendered meaningless if not applied to improve our future.

As the individuals perhaps most closely associated with the transfer of property and the attainment of the American Dream, Realtors® find themselves in an incredibly impactful position to better future circumstances for Black Americans — and for everyone in this country.

I am tremendously proud that NAR was one of the initial sponsors of construction of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington D.C. Our organization remains a close partner of the Memorial Foundation, having supported the group last year as it launched a Social Justice Fellows program to mold our nation’s next generation of community and civic leaders.

Today, a decade after opening to the public, the Memorial attracts some 3 million visitors annually to its site along the National Mall’s Tidal Basin.

Last year, many of us from NAR joined the Memorial’s 10th anniversary ceremony to celebrate the tenets of democracy and justice the monument embodies. These ideals, the foundation of Dr. King’s lasting legacy, fuel NAR’s unceasing efforts to increase access to safe, fair, and affordable housing in America.

The pursuit of our own earthly legacy is continual. We seek to create a better future for our grandchildren and make meaningful progress with each passing generation.

The legacy of our association and of our industry could well be judged by our work today to ensure homeownership — and all of its long-term wealth-building opportunities — is accessible to as many Americans as possible.

And for as long as our work remains incomplete, our history will continue to be written.

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Op/Ed

8 lessons on how to keep work-life balance in your real estate career

(EDITORIAL) Your real estate practice can be overly consuming if you let it. With discipline, you can have a good work/life balance.

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Real estate agent shaking hands with clients over a For Sale sign marked sold.

8In your real estate practice, you have a plate, and you can only put so much onto that plate before things begin to fall off into the cracks. These cracks are what I call “fires” – you know, those things that become emergencies because simply put, you let them.

What I am about to share with you at first glance may come off as cold, however, I believe that with a little thought, some practice, and your own tweaks, you can realize the income you want and afford time with your family – all while elevating the respect you deserve from your real estate clients.

Balancing work and life in real estate is no easy feat.

At no point in my real estate career have I ever allowed myself to appear too eager or desperate for a client, and my clients always felt special and cared for, even though I observed a strict daily schedule. The following is how this can be accomplished:

Lesson one: You know your threshold of how many clients you can handle at once. Your pipeline should be full, and the next client in line for your services should know you’re worth waiting for, and be assured that the same care and attention will be shown to them as soon as they are “next” (never answer a client call while with another client, or this will not work for you). A client became “next” when an offer was accepted on one of my existing transactions. My threshold was originally four clients. If my pipeline was expanding quickly, I brought on agent assistants. As they waited their turn, my assistant held their hand and kept them busy with pre-qualification, buyers agreements, and the like.

Lesson two: When I took on the next client, clear rules of the road were established. I do not leave the house (home office) until 10. I have better things to do with my time than to sit in rush hour needlessly. Some like this time for phone time, however, your undivided attention is not always given, and the possibility of missing vital details while driving and negotiating grows exponentially (as do safety risks). My phone calls were made from 8am to 10am before I left my office.

Lesson three: All of my appointments were set on the half-hour – I’m not sure why, but it worked and I was always on time, as were my clients. The same went for phone calls. Schedule them on the half-hour. You will find, for example, that if you grab lunch at noon, you’re ready for business again at 12:30.

Lesson four: Be home either before or after rush hour. I preferred before. The implied impression of my work hours with my clients worked in my favor nearly 100% of the time. Why? Because I skipped the salesman b.s. of showing them more expensive homes first – I actually took them to the home described in the range they wanted. I set the proper expectations in the first place. I listened to my clients, and they appreciated it. The day they may have waited for my undivided attention gave them immediate results, and they loved it.

Lesson five: If you cannot show your buyers their next home within five showings, either you’re deaf to their needs and wants, or they don’t intend to buy – if you’re experienced, you know it when you see it, and they’re wasting time for the next customer in your pipeline. Place them on a drip campaign with a buyer’s agreement in place, or refer them.

Lesson six: Decide when your workday ends. Mine was at 5:30. However, from 8:30pm to 10pm I would work on offers, faxes, enter listings, answer texts, and emails.

Lesson seven: Not every client was right for me. For example, I have a zone of travel. The markets I work in. Working outside of that zone takes up time from my clients in travel, and time from my family. Refer them, or if you’ve tapped into a further away zone, build your team. Teams can grow and shrink as needed.

Lesson eight: You are a business. Real estate is a business. You have business hours, and you have you time. My you time was with my family, but I love marketing, so I added a 6th half-day for my marketing, blogging, and the like.

As my business grew, my referral network grew. I utilized an assistant until an indie brokerage was established. We had a clear code of how we conducted business, encouraged our buyer’s agents to adapt their business model as I’ve described, and never allowed an unseasoned agent to handle more transactions than their limit. Inevitably my threshold grew to six, but it took time.

With the technologies we have today with instantaneous communication, it’s very easy to allow things to creep onto your plate. So my final lesson is to utilize an assistant frequently.

It is possible to work and live but it takes discipline and a set of business rules for yourself that you’re accountable to besides just the Code of Ethics. It’s about being honest with yourself, and never being so desperate that something can’t wait a minute.

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Op/Ed

Tips to become one of those people who is good with their money

(EDITORIAL) In real estate, it’s difficult to anticipate which years will be the busy ones and which will be eerily empty. So how do you manage money?

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money for transactions

I’m a firm believer in making mistakes. Specifically, the all-out, crash-and-burn kind. You know those people who say “own it” – yeah, that’s definitely me. That’s the sort of high-risk, high-reward mentality that leads to really thrilling moments onstage and in life. And when the reward is that intense, so is the loss. It’s the same with money.

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My formal background is as a professional opera singer. The level of training for a full-time career in the field includes Olympic-level physical, emotional, and intellectual training. Opera singers don’t use microphones, which means they must use their bodies in a perfect, practiced physiological balance to become a human megaphone.

They learn several languages, with enough facility to jump into rehearsals with colleagues who are relative strangers, singing about passionate love, and infuriating politics while maintaining that physical balance in a foreign tongue.

Unlike the Olympics, regular opera singers don’t get endorsement deals. (Okay, famous tenor Plácido Domingo is sponsored by Rolex, but that’s a particularly singular example.) So despite its extreme training, opera is a medium that requires its artists to manage themselves as freelancers. Freelancers and be-your-own-boss types, I know you feel me:

It’s difficult to anticipate which years will be the busy ones and which will be eerily empty.

Preparing for financial uncertainty

So how do you manage finances with so much up and down?

Invest time instead of money. I rethink how I’m approaching my everyday needs. I’m talking about what methods of transportation I use and how often; I’m talking about regular doctor’s visits or self-care; I’m talking about any payments that you owe regularly. Is there any way to reassess seemingly non-negotiable expenses? Can you refinance a mortgage? Can you drop the gym altogether and commit to really learning and developing an exercise routine? Find something convenient you can replace with a free education; the Internet is an insanely abundant resource and should be milked for information.

Develop multiple interests and invest in them. I am a professional singer, but I also love to cook and am serious about it. I write frequently and across a wide spectrum of interests. I read avidly. When you invest in other ideas and interests, you make yourself a more powerful candidate for the workforce, and you give yourself more ability to seize opportunities. Who knows – you might find yourself pivoting careers.

Design a financial contingency plan before you need it (but go broke at least once). Do you have a place to crash if you can’t afford your own place? How much money do you really need to get through the month? How far can you stretch $50? If you can’t define your limits, you’ll never be able to develop a plan with thoughtful security.

What’s life without risk?

The freelancers who truly succeed are the ones who failed. It’s that Oscar Wilde quote, right? “Experience is merely the name men give to their mistakes.” And so have I before, and so will I again. The only way forward is up. I’m going to take my experience along with me for the next chapter. I hope mine will help color yours a little, even if with a passing thought. Dare to lose it all — and see where it leads.

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Op/Ed

Tips to combat lack of participation in virtual meetings or online events

(EDITORIAL) Even after the pandemic, virtual meetings and online events have no end in sight. But how do we get people to participate?

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Online conference call on skype, without Meet Cam widgets.

Online meetings are here to stay and increasing participation is key to making them fun and inviting for everyone involved. Those little icons of our faces and initials showcasing the fact that cameras are off-strike dread in the heart of the presenter. Or even worse, the camera-on view of the ceiling fan or mic-on sound of the smoke detector that needs a new battery.

Instead of leaving the success of an online meeting to chance, presenters can help make their meetings more fun for everyone with a few easy practices.

Send out an agenda with meeting expectations early. If attendees know the time investment, expectations, and what will be covered, it’s easier for them to be involved. Do you want cameras on? Share that. Be specific with what that means. If you don’t make that expectation clear, be prepared for bookcases instead of people, ceiling fans instead of people, and other distractions. Do you know specific questions you will be asking? Include those in the agenda so people can be thinking about them ahead of time. Often people don’t talk because they don’t understand what you want them to say or they’re not sure you really want them to participate.

Ask participants to help create the agenda ahead of time. What questions do they want answered? What do they need from you?

Let people know you will be asking questions regularly and answers are appreciated either on the mic or in the chat. If you can, include when you will be taking questions or opening up for conversation in the agenda. The chat feature can run seamlessly throughout the meeting. Allowing and encouraging the use of the chat feature regularly increases participation and leads to a more conversational feel for the session. If you can have a co-facilitator who can answer questions on the chat so they don’t get lost, that helps. If you don’t have one, consider asking an attendee to watch to help make sure questions are answered throughout the meeting.

Break the meeting up into sections. Don’t throw all the information out at once. Instead, make sure you pause regularly for feedback and questions and answers. If the group is large consider breakout rooms where smaller groups can answer questions, work through agenda items or participate in roundtable discussions, then come back to the large group with their ideas and answers.

Know your end destination. What’s the purpose of the meeting? What do you want or need to accomplish? Make sure everyone involved knows what that is and why. That helps keep everyone focused.

Set a time limit for responses if needed.

Be prepared. It’s even more important to be prepared for your online meeting than in-person meetings where you have multiple resources at hand and the energy of the crowd to bounce off of.

If these online meetings are a regular occurrence, consider adding a fun element like bringing your pet or plant to the meeting day. If it’s a brainstorming session, consider creativity ice breakers. And again make sure attendees know the expectations.

Use the poll feature to help encourage participation. Then follow up with participants to go deeper with those answers.

Instead of asking are there any questions at the end, ask everyone to either tell at least two things they learned or share two things they still have questions about. Again utilize the chat feature here. Some people are more comfortable chatting than speaking on the mic.

Consider offering prizes and give-aways to those participating. It’s not always necessary, but it’s fun when you can.

If you can, run the meetings live instead of recorded presentations with the leader in front of a slideshow. The sit and get PowerPoint and speaker presentation leads to bored participants who aren’t invested in the content. However, if that’s not possible, make sure you have a real-time chat session available for participants who are watching and make sure your slides are light on text. That chat session can change “sit and get” boredom to excitement, fun, and learning for all.

As always remember the meeting needs to last long enough to cover what’s essential but should be short enough to keep people engaged. Use surveys to gather meaningful feedback throughout the meeting and at the end. You can’t get better without feedback from your participants.

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