I didn’t expect to write anything else on the topic of the proposed NAR dues increase, but with the situation as it now stands, I feel I must speak to make sure people don’t jump to the wrong conclusions.
First, let me start by reiterating once again that we have the utmost respect for Elizabeth Mendenhall, John Smaby, and Bob Goldberg, as well as the rest of the NAR Leadership Team and staff. We consider them all to be friends. This isn’t a “fight” as some people have characterized it. We believe they are trying to make the best out of a bad situation that they inherited. We’ve been in near constant contact with them during the past few weeks. In fact, when we took a particular action, we informed NAR leadership before we did it. We have had an open dialogue with them, which we appreciate.
HAR’s opposition to the proposed dues increases, including opposing the 2.5% annual automatic escalator, simply comes down to a question of how to fund the budget in the most financially prudent way. Some have said that $30 isn’t that much money, and many of our members agree. This isn’t about $30 though. It is about $39 million. They feel it would be throwing good money after bad.
We have asked questions about the budget, but they have always been professional and respectful. These questions have resulted in a thoughtful dialogue with respected leaders of our industry, such as Sam DeBord and Bill Lublin. That’s a good thing and was part of our real goal; get people talking and looking at all sides. We don’t believe it is ever appropriate or warranted to make reckless claims against anyone in volunteer or staff leadership.
The op-ed I submitted to Inman News, as well as letters sent to HAR members and association leaders across the country presenting our positions, were written as a collaborative effort among the HAR executive officers and executive staff. A small group of us drafted each of these documents and then sent them out to our executive committee, boards of directors and local NAR directors. This list totaled about 37 people reviewing each of these communications before they were sent to anyone outside of HAR. Some people had very valuable suggestions, which were incorporated into the letters. If our original letter expressing our positions was somehow twisted into the accusations that were made about honorable NAR leaders, then I personally apologize. That would never be our intent.
No consultant was involved at any time in our process, including preparation of the member survey, Inman op-ed or any other communications related to the proposed NAR dues increase.
The fact that we surveyed our members has also come into question. NAR invited member feedback, which is what led us to survey our own members, which are also NAR members. We are all on the same team and want to do what is best for REALTORS®. We have a robust research program, which includes regular surveys of consumers and members. We are a membership-based organization, so we want to know what our members think. Does it mean you have to follow exactly what they say? No. But it does provide helpful insight and give you a sense of the sentiment among the members at large. When 97% of the respondents say they oppose something, then that is hard to ignore. There are literally thousands of comments that they submitted, all of which may be viewed at www.har.com/NARDues.
Even though we have been sidetracked by the other (now retracted) op-ed, we stand behind our original proposals for funding the budget. We fully support the REALTOR® Party political advocacy efforts at which NAR usually excels. Note that HAR is well on its way to raising more than $1 million for RPAC for the third year in a row.
We don’t necessarily expect the vote to go our way on May 19, but we do hope that it has opened a constructive dialogue about priorities and how to fund them. All of our communications with Elizabeth, John, and Bob lead us to believe that this coming year will be one to review these activities, and we believe they are the right people at the right time to make NAR stronger.
As I also keep saying, we want NAR to succeed because its success is our success. If there’s one thing we learned from the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, it’s that REALTORS® are stronger together. I, along with everyone else from Houston, look forward to a productive NAR Midyear and Board of Directors meeting.
Kenya Burrell-VanWormer is the chair of the board of directors of the Houston Association of REALTORS®, which is the second largest local REALTOR association in the country, with more than 37,000 residential and commercial members.