In light of the transitions the American real estate industry is undergoing, it’s important for readers to recognize the benefits that REALTOR® membership provides and the potential of REALTOR® organizations to represent their interests moving forward.

This month’s article focuses on a new program designed to provide participating state and local REALTOR® associations with advanced training in key areas that have been identified as essential to their new roles. National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) CEO Dale Stinton recently announced the program during NAR’s Association Executives Institute (AEI).

Our industry consists of four elements. The first is the service provider segment, populated by direct service providers who function as brokers, agents or support personnel. The second element is the affiliate group that provides the industry with direct services such as information, technology, MLS, title, Internet, financial (mortgage-related) and various transactional services. The third element is what is commonly referred to as “organized real estate,” and is comprised of REALTOR® associations at the local, state and national levels. The fourth group consists of consumers who, at any given time, might be buyers, sellers or homeowners.

Over the past several decades, the relative power and influence of these segments has fluctuated and continues to do so today. Currently, individuals and entities within all four segments are engaged in a competitive effort to exercise control and/or influence over the future direction of the real estate consumer, marketplace and transaction.

Organized real estate is very much engaged in this process. Lead by the Second Century initiatives, designed, developed and supported by NAR, organized real estate at all three levels appears to recognize the importance of its role and viability. The more pressing question is whether or not organized real estate at all levels will come together to support and advocate a common position that is sufficient to protect the interests of its REALTOR® members.

Few experts disagree with the notion that in order to meet this challenge, organized real estate will have to coordinate and collaborate its efforts. This, in turn, will require fielding a winning team that brings all three levels of the movement together in a manner that is coordinated, collaborative, powerful, focused and relevant enough to appropriately respond the many issues that the industry is facing.

The Houston Association of REALTORS® (HAR) has, for some time, been on the leading edge of this challenge. HAR leaders have used their influence and wisdom to become a unifying force within the REALTOR® movement. HAR leaders and volunteers regularly discuss these issues and advocate for REALTOR® unity and effectiveness across the country.

During the second and third quarters of 2011, a team working with Stefan Swanepoel, publisher of the 2012 Swanepoel Real Estate Industry Trends Report, conducted an exhaustive research project that examined every aspect of the current REALTOR® association operation and mindset. Much of this research was reported in the “Trend One” chapter of the 2012 Swanepoel report. HAR CEO and President Bob Hale was quoted extensively in the publication.

The research established that, with few exceptions, REALTOR® associations at the state and local levels were not maintaining a pace sufficient to keep them current with industry trends and opportunities. It concluded that unless this situation was remedied in the very near future, the vitality, usefulness and ultimate relevance of these organizations would be severely limited. A strong argument can be made for the proposition that the failure of state and local associations to rise to the occasion could ultimately negatively impact organized real estate’s ability to play out the role envisioned by the Second Century Initiatives as well as the efforts being made by agents and brokers to transition themselves into the new marketplace and transaction.

None of this will come as news to HAR’s leadership, senior management and staff. All three have worked together tirelessly over the past several years to ensure that HAR was and would continue to be focused on the ultimate priority: doing everything possible to promote and support member success in a transitioning marketplace and transaction.

As a result of these efforts, HAR today is recognized across the country as the leading model of what REALTOR® associations can become with the benefits of focused and passionate leadership and management.

NAR’s new program is referred to as the Pinnacle Group Project.  It seeks to engage at least 100 REALTOR® associations into a learning and training experience designed to both bring them together in their advocacy efforts and to either develop or sharpen the skills that will be necessary for their to prevail in these efforts.

The learning and training elements of the Pinnacle Group Project promote a wide range of organizational skills sets through eight modules that range from Promoting Consumer/REALTOR® common interests, setting strategic directions and integrating communications to building leadership excellence, maximizing mobile and social media mindshare and pushing for perfection.

While several of these modules reflect initiatives similar to those that HAR has already undertaken, they will be first blush efforts for most of the project’s participating associations.

According to Stefan Swanepoel, a member of the innovation team that designed the Pinnacle Group Project, “Every one of these modules will incorporate the current wisdom and teachings of the ‘best of the best’ experts in the field of organizational performance.”

Each of the eight modules will include new knowledge, hands-on training, specific assignments, orientation videos, practical tools, and coaching components. The modules will be delivered in a sequence that builds on the skill sets provided by their predecessors.

In announcing this new project, Dale Stinton recalled the audience’s attention to the 2009 Game Changer program and made it clear that “this is my personal game changer.” HAR members might recall that HAR won one of the top ten awards out of 158 entrants in the Game Changer competition.

Jim Sherry, another member of the innovation team, stated, “Through this project organized real estate will create a powerful group of high performance state and local REALTOR® associations that can come together over the next few years and deliver the competence and passion necessary to support REALTORS® in the new industry environment.

HAR members can be proud of the contributions their association has made, not only for the benefit of Houston area REALTORS®, but also for inspiring the REALTOR® movement across the country.