Is NAR A Net-Positive? It Depends If You Ask An Agent Or A Broker: Intel

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These increasingly uncertain attitudes among agents in March were a departure from brokers, who were more likely to tell Intel that they still view the National Association of Realtors positively.

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In a sign of how much work the National Association of Realtors has ahead of it, 7 out of 10 agents surveyed by Intel now question if the trade group with approximately 1.5 million members is a positive force for the industry.

  • 28 percent of agents who responded to the March Inman Intel Index survey said NAR wasn’t a positive for the real estate industry, according to the survey of more than 1,000 real estate professionals.
  • That’s slightly more than the 24 percent who said NAR was a positive force.
  • Another 43 percent who responded said they weren’t sure whether NAR was still a positive for real estate.

The results are a stark contrast to the views held by brokers who responded to the survey.

  • 42 percent of broker-owners and executives who responded to the survey said they believe NAR is a positive for the housing industry, compared to 31 percent who said it wasn’t and 16 percent who said they weren’t sure.

The responses to these questions, from 565 agents and 231 brokerage leaders, highlight an industry that has been divided among itself over the best path forward and a trade group that has undergone a tumultuous 18 months.

The survey took place between March 20 and April 1, within just days of the news that NAR reached a proposed settlement with the homeseller plaintiffs in lawsuits that had been filed across the country.

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The settlement, which was preliminarily approved last week, offered protection for more than 1 million Realtors and all but approximately 90 brokerages. Those left out were brokerages that conducted more than $2 billion in sales volume in 2022 and multiple listing services that aren’t owned by NAR.

But NAR negotiated a pathway for those who aren’t covered by the settlement to opt in.

NAR President Kevin Sears has made several public statements on podcasts with industry insiders.

He said on an appearance with BAM last week that NAR contemplated filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection but ultimately opted to settle the case.

“It would have only protected us, the National Association of Realtors,” Sears said. “It wouldn’t have protected our members, our association, the MLSs or the brokers.”

Part of the differing opinions among agents and brokers about NAR’s value could stem from the fact that NAR is in closer contact with brokerage leaders than with individual agents.

Sears said NAR was in contact with brokerages that would and wouldn’t be covered by the proposed settlement when discussing paths forward.

“As we laid that out, the brokers realized that they were going to be on the hook regardless of the option that the NAR took of the not so good options,” Sears said. “It would have been potentially a tremendous cascade of really bad, bad things happening.”

Sears has also said he believed the organization needed to do a better job of communicating its value to agents and the broader public.

“There was a void or a vacuum in communication,” Sears said on the Unfiltered podcast with NextHome CEO James Dwiggins. “I said we need to do a better job of communicating with not only our members but with consumers, with the media and with interested parties.”

NAR is undertaking a nationwide effort to have its supporters speak with the media and the public about the value of NAR. An arsenal of hundreds of Realtors is being recruited to carry a positive message of NAR and the real estate industry in generally, Sears said.

But it may have to pull off that work with a slimmer budget. As part of the settlement, NAR agreed to pay $418 million to the settlement class. A legal filing estimated that was about half of NAR’s assets.

As such, NAR will be looking at “streamlining” its budget.

“I expect that the senior vice presidents are going to go through all their programs and say, ‘OK is there any fat that can be trimmed?’” Sears said on the BAM podcast. “We’re not looking to carve out muscle or impact the bone, but what can we do to streamline things?”

Methodology notes: This month’s Inman Intel Index survey was conducted March 20-April 1, 2024. The entire Inman reader community was invited to participate, and Intel received 1,009 responses. Respondents for this survey were directed to the SurveyMonkey platform, where they self-identified their profiles within the residential real estate market. Respondents were limited to one response per device, but there was no limitation to IP addresses. Once a profile (residential real estate agent, mortgage broker/banker, corporate executive/investor/proptech, or other) was selected, respondents answered a unique set of questions for that specific profile. Because the survey did not request demographic information for age, gender or geography, there was no data weighting. This survey will be conducted monthly, with both recurring and unique questions for each profile type.

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