Things to Watch for at NAR New Orleans

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This is a post I’ve been wanting to write for over a week now, except that work and life got in the way. Well, with my long drive to the Big Easy scheduled for tomorrow (by the way, I’ll be doing a fun and thought-provoking event with Stefan Swanepoel at the NAR Strategic Thinking Forum from 9AM to 11AM at the Hilton… /endselfpromo) I thought I’d spend a few minutes discussing something… intriguing.

Said something is the REALTOR(r) of the Future policy proposal that will be brought before the NAR Board of Directors in New Orleans. A faithful reader sent me a copy in PDF, which I’ve embedded below.

Read the whole thing; it’ll be interesting if you’re a real estate industry nerd like… well… me.

Since these are mere proposals, we’ll have a chance to delve into them deeper after the NAR Board acts on them. Changes may be made between now and the vote. But with that said, there are a few really intriguing things in this. We touch on those now.

Increased Professionalism

The biggest Hmm is the entire section dealing with a new proposed Code of Excellence, as well as the new requirement for biennial education and testing.

There are at least three questions I can think of.

1. Code of Excellence?

First is why the Code of Excellence is required at all. Look at the Preamble to the existing NAR Code of Ethics:

Under all is the land. Upon its wise utilization and widely allocated ownership depend the survival and growth of free institutions and of our civilization. REALTORS® should recognize that the interests of the nation and its citizens require the highest and best use of the land and the widest distribution of land ownership. They require the creation of adequate housing, the building of functioning cities, the development of productive industries and farms, and the preservation of a healthful environment.

Such interests impose obligations beyond those of ordinary commerce. They impose grave social responsibility and a patriotic duty to which REALTORS® should dedicate themselves, and for which they should be diligent in preparing themselves. REALTORS®, therefore, are zealous to maintain and improve the standards of their calling and share with their fellow REALTORS® a common responsibility for its integrity and honor.

In recognition and appreciation of their obligations to clients, customers, the public, and each other, REALTORS® continuously strive to become and remain informed on issues affecting real estate and, as knowledgeable professionals, they willingly share the fruit of their experience and study with others. They identify and take steps, through enforcement of this Code of Ethics and by assisting appropriate regulatory bodies, to eliminate practices which may damage the public or which might discredit or bring dishonor to the real estate profession. [Emphasis mine]

Given that those are the words of the founding document of NAR, what can we infer from the fact that a NAR committee has proposed a Code of Excellence that will “increase professional training and the awareness of both professional behavior and consumer satisfaction”?

To me, it seems like a tacit admission that the vaunted Code of Ethics — which was the centerpiece of an entire social media campaign in 2013 with a bunch of “I live by the Code” photos pasted seemingly everywhere on Facebook — has not led to any more professionalism from a REALTOR as compared to the dreaded and much-maligned “mere licensee” (who is not a member of NAR, and therefore, not a REALTOR).

Maybe more legally minded defenders of NAR will say that the Preamble isn’t any sort of a binding requirement, and they would be correct. But can we at least be honest about the fact that the leadership and the dedicated real members of NAR are acknowledging that NAR is rife with MINO’s (Members-In-Name-Only) who could give two dungheaps about the spirit of the Code of Ethics and its ringing call to professionalism?

Which then leads to…

2. Why is the Code of Excellence “aspirational”?

Throughout the document, it talks about the new Code of Excellence being “aspirational”. Since there is as yet no Code of Excellence (I’m going to start abbreviating that as CoX, as opposed to CoE for Code of Ethics, despite the unfortunate homonym) and the proposal will simply setup a member workgroup to develop the actual CoX… all we can go by is what’s on this proposal.

And every reference to CoX is “aspirational”. Why?

Simply by calling the CoX aspirational, it seems to me that NAR is suggesting that the new CoX — whatever it looks like when it’s finally drafted — will be some sort of a voluntary, hey-it’d-be-real-nice-if-you’d-do-this sort of thing that could be called “lacking any teeth” except that people without teeth would be offended, since they can at least do some damage by gnawing with their bony gums.

I imagine that being “aspirational”, there could be no such thing as a violation of the Code of Excellence. So it’s not a Code per se. It’s more of a gentle suggestion. So I’d like to move that the Code of Excellence be renamed to Gentle Inoffensive Suggestions of Excellence that NAR members should commit to, if they felt like it, but if not, they should strongly think about aspiring to commit to it one day.

Seeing as how one of the goals/aims of the CoX is “taking steps to secure or insure the privacy of the consumer’s personal information”, it seems caustically amusing that a REALTOR can be brought up on an ethics complaint before the Association for saying naughty things about another REALTOR (Article 15 of CoE), but should she post the client’s naughty Instagram photo with his phone number on the Internet, she’ll be told to aspire for more.

3. Advocacy for Property Rights?

I repeat my question from #1 since any member of an organization whose founding document talks about “grave social responsibility and patriotic duty” who does not advocate for property rights should be held in violation of the existing Code of Ethics. For that matter, such a person should be asked to aspire to leave the Association and pursue his own aspirational path of not giving a crap about property rights.

But try as I might, and as big a fan of advocacy for property rights as I am, I simply cannot understand what that has to do with the word “excellence”. Is the idea then that a REALTOR whose clients all love her with devotion approaching Branch Davidian levels, who is selling two homes a week for 10% over list price, is non excellent because she doesn’t do political advocacy?

The notion itself makes mockery of the word Excellence. And to me, it seems like a pale reflection of the work and policy that NAR needs to do, should do: advocacy for property rights should be a Code of Ethics provision, with teeth.

I’ve met REALTORS, actual card-carrying members of NAR, who think that the government should absolutely provide rent control to punish greedy landlords. They are members of NAR in the same way that Douglas McCain is an American.

I’ll be curious how the discussion goes, if there is discussion, since the proposal as it stands is pure wonderful soft marshmallow pillows, and the vote would merely authorize a workgroup to go write the CoX. But boy, it’d be nice to see at least some REALTOR leader take a firmer stance on these things.

Policy #3? What the…?

I’m almost tempted to post the entire proposal here without further comment. Here is Policy Proposal #3:

POLICY

REALTORS® will have efficient access to the most comprehensive data, including more efficient MLS systems.

OBJECTIVE: NAR should strive to ensure REALTORS® have the best data available by using its size and scale to help members compete in a complex environment and should adopt policies that promote a broader data reach, embrace efficiencies and eliminate unnecessary or duplicative costs.

What in the world does this mean? So many words that could be interpreted in so many ways.

  • “Comprehensive data”
  • “More efficient MLS systems”
  • “best data available”
  • “broader data reach”
  • “unnecessary or duplicative costs”

All of these have at least a couple of possible interpretations. And the whole thing is premised on NAR using its size and scale in some unspecified way. Guess we’ll find out what these things might mean this week in New Orleans. But….

Am I just completely off the reservation for reading all of this and immediately thinking that Dale Ross of RPR is making like Lionel Richie:

Hello?
Is it me you’re looking for?
I can see it in your eyes
I can see it in your smile
You’re all I’ve ever wanted
And my arms are open wide

Rating REALTORS

Policy #4 will likely get a lot of action, since it’s about rating REALTORS. Some of the factors are simply amazing for a “rating” system.

For example, NAR would like for the rating system to take into account a REALTOR’s level of local market knowledge. Um, how? Exactly who is qualified to pass judgment on a REALTOR’s level of local knowledge except… maybe another REALTOR in that same market area? And obviously, there’s no conflict of interest there.

Another factor is taking a REALTOR’s civic, charitable, and community involvement into account. Because… obviously, a part-time real estate agent who volunteers at the soup kitchen three days a week, takes in stray cats, and sits on the board of the local orphanage should absolutely be rated higher than just a money-grubbing capitalist scum who’s spending 70 hours a week closing deals for clients and has no time for civic, charitable, and community involvement, because… shut up.

A more serious one is a REALTORS’s level of education “in the areas consumers value”. I can say with a straight face and with total confidence that the consumer most values a REALTOR’s level of education and training in returning phone calls. So what sort of education will there be about “return the damn phone call”? What sort of training is required for such a complex topic? Should REALTOR University start offering a Ph.D. in Telecommunications?

We’ll see what emerges over the next few days. I’ve got to start packing for my trip. 🙂

For those readers in NOLA, if you see me, say hello. If you see Lawrence Yun, go right up to him, give him a hug, and say “Hey Rob! Loved your last blogpost!” He’ll be all sorts of confused initially, but then will give you props and probably some cash too. Just sayin’

As always, your thoughts and opinions are welcome. 😉 See you in NOLA.

-rsh

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