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NAR members stymied by clogged construction

Agents expressed their concerns at a board meeting that also poured money into fighting a misclassification lawsuit

The most pressing concern for real estate agents? Not enough homes being built, say real estate agents who attended the National Association of Realtor’s legislative meeting this week in National Harbor, Maryland.

At a three-hour Board of Directors meeting held in a ballroom with 30-foot-high ceilings and plush, blue and red carpeting, Rebecca Thomson, a Coldwell Banker regional vice president in Chicago and part of NAR’s strategic planning committee posed two questions:

In your community, what is the biggest reason for the lack of inventory? And what is the biggest challenge real estate agents face over the next five years?

The answers perhaps revealed something about the psyche of NAR members, who are facing a housing market in which demand is historically outpacing supply as well as a legal system probing NAR’s active hand in the home sale process.

In the instant poll answered by approximately 1,000 people in the convention hall, including board members, 36% pointed to the lack of new construction as the biggest culprit for lack of inventory. About 18% laid the blame on restrictive zoning, while a few respondents cited cash or corporate buyers.

When asked to name the biggest challenge five years out, a few agents said climate change or cryptocurrency and non-fungible tokens in real estate. But about 33% said legislative advocacy and a similar number said the “change in the role and the focus of the NAR member agent.”

The real estate agent agent’s role is challenged in court right now. A certified class action lawsuit in Missouri is looking at how listing and buyer’s agents split home sale commissions, a NAR promulgated rule. It is also being probed in a U.S. Justice Department Antitrust Division inquiry.

But Thompson and other speakers Friday did not address such probes. Nor were they mentioned in deliberations from NAR’s Legal Action committee. The board did pass a measure to pour $97,000 into a New Jersey brokerage, Weichert Realtors, which is fighting a lawsuit alleging its agents are misclassified as independent contractors.

More than 90% of NAR’s member agents are independent contractors, and the board decided, “This is an important case to support in order to preserve the ability of real estate professionals to be classified as independent contractors.”

The Board also adopted a measure raising members’ dues toward advertising from $35 a week to $45.

Neither of these measures, or any other agenda matter, was met with discussion or debate. At one point, Leslie Rouda Smith, NAR president, mistakenly thought someone stepped to the microphone.

“I’m seeing that everyone is going to the bathroom, and no one is seeing recognition,” Rouda Smith said to laughter.

The relatively sedate Board meeting was in sharp contrast to the last get together in November. Then, the trade group adopted measures that were part of a consent decree that the U.S. Justice Department withdrew from.

Those items included a change requiring the expected sales commission of buyer’s agents to be disclosed to consumers, and another stating home search results on a multiple listing service cannot be sorted by commission compensation.

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