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NAR – Stop wasting hundreds of millions of our money!

Realtor_logoNAR, start asking your members what they want before jumping headfirst into huge expensive projects. Take a survey, see what members actually need and want. After all, you are in business to support your members.

RPR is an example of this. According to Inman, NAR has spent $106 million on RPR since 2009. RPR was supposed to be earning enough revenue to break even as of 3 years ago, but I believe revenue to date is under $1,000,000, so not even close.

It was obvious RPR was not needed. They offered agents MLS data, along with tax data. Both of these things were already provided by the local MLS. They talked about having nationwide data for all agents. Really, is that what we need, data for areas we do no business in?

There was no reason to spend $100 million on RPR. Had NAR polled its members about this before starting, they probably would have come to the same conclusion.

Now NAR is stuck spending over $22 million per year to continue funding RPR, and today NAR approved another $12,000,000 for RPR-Upstream. Again, NAR asked for no input from their membership base, as they are starting another multi-million dollar project with our hard earned money.

In addition, the idea of making big decisions without any survey or vote from members extends to the local MLS Boards, as discussed in my last Blog post where my local Board decided to turned over all listings to Zillow without any survey or vote, it was a decision by one person, the CEO of the Board.

Maybe Notorious Rob is onto something when he posted about holding the NAR Directors personally liable for these fiascoes.

Someone should be responsible for the bad decisions, without any input from NAR members, that are losing hundreds of millions of dollars.

About Bryn Kaufman

Principal Broker and creator of OahuRE.com, one of the most popular websites on Oahu. I enjoy working with PHP, MySQL, jQuery, JavaScript, HTML5, Ajax and more. I am always looking to improve my Website and business. When not working, I enjoy spending time with my family and doing anything on or in the Ocean.

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  • Aaron Dickinson

    The NAR BOD voted on this. The BOD is made up of people appointed by the local and state BODs, which are elected by the members. The NAR BOD are themselves members.

    This is representative democracy. They are there to make decisions like this. You can disagree with the decision but while they may not have asked you, discussions about these actions do occur at several levels of the REALTOR organization.

    Our Congress doesn’t take surveys of their constituents before voting, but they do accept input. Get to know your representatives at NAR. They are good people.

    • Yes, our government is a fine example of a well run organization that does not waste money. LOL

      While I agree they are good people, I think they need to really think about what is going on and occasionally ask for feedback from their constituents.

      I know they can conduct surveys, as I have received surveys before, but most of their decisions they are making in a vacuum with no input from the agent population.

      Some how, they got sold on RPR that it was going to break even in 2012, and about how needed it was, so they voted for it.

      From what Rob is saying in his blog, it sounds like on this vote with huge implications, they did not even have time to really evaluate it.

      It seems to me they are just voting for what they are told to do, rather than really taking a hard look at what is needed.

      • What do you feel is actually needed?

        • I feel we should be surveyed on these big decisions.

          I believe had they surveyed us about RPR instead of jumping head first into this $100 million money losing investment, they would have realized that Realtors do not need it, and it will never turn a profit.

          They would have seen that it is a duplicate of what we already have, so there was no need to move forward.

          I am not talking about something complex, a simple survey can be made up and Emailed with minimum cost.

          With any large and important decisions, it never hurts to do some research and see how we feel about it. They do represent us after all. They are not locking themselves into anything, just asking for our opinion.

          Aaron made a good point, NAR is run like the Federal Government, and that is a problem.

          • If I was on the Board I would have sent out a survey. Then when it comes time to vote I would think about the results. Had the results come in where most feel this is not needed, I would have voted no.

    • Sep Niakan

      Good point. This is true.

      • Congress started this year with a 16% approval rating. Running NAR like Congress means NAR will have a lot of unhappy constituents. NAR can do better than Congress.

        • I agree that we elected our representatives and they should vote. I am suggesting though that more research be done including the most important step of surveying us to get our feedback.

          It seems they are voting with more of a herd mentality. I don’t have time to dig deeper, but I wonder if anyone voted against RPR or this new funding.

          I also wonder if any counter points were brought up or they just listened to the sales pitch and added their vote of approval.

        • Sep Niakan

          True, except congress is hated for different things…partisan nonsense, mudslinging, roadblocking, obstacle-throwing, etc, etc. They are hated for not getting things done, or getting things done that benefit big business not people. Maybe the latter might apply here? But I think that at best there are some bad decisions being made on money allocation but at least the tools they overspend on do provide value to a portion of the constituents…

          • Sep, your comment might give insight into how the board thinks. You say “at least the tools they overspend on do provide value to a portion of the constituents”.

            This is an assumption, as no survey has been done. This is probably the same assumption the Board had when they voted. They assume it is going to do some good, so they vote yes.

            Had they done a survey, they would not have to assume. Perhaps had they surveyed 95% of the membership would have said it is not needed.

            Then the choice if obvious. No need to spend $100 million on something 95% do not need. A simple, easy, cost effective survey would have made the choice obvious.

            I am glad to hear you agree with me, that surveys are a great idea.

  • Yes, it appears that NAR is all about wasting money on projects that don’t seem to really help agents. RPR is one such example. But the real issue is communication at the local level – there is none. None at all! Decisions are being taken up the chain of command without discussion by agents and brokerages in any meaningful way. However, the personal liability issue for NAR Directors is a good one.

    • I agree with 100%. Frustrating stuff, I hope they can change and start asking for input.

  • Sep Niakan

    Our local board gave each broker the option of choosing whether to opt-in their listings to the Zillow feed. And we can turn it off with a click of a button whenever we want. We also have control of the contact info that shows on Zillow. And as listing agents we ALWAYS appear at the top of the agent list on Zillow. It is a VERY favorable agreement for us. But our local board did that for us, not NAR. As for RPR it is one of the very few tools that is pretty advanced and functional. I know a lot of realtors that are using it. I am not sure it was worth all that money, but it does provide value to a good many.

    • Sep, what is wrong with surveying us before making big decisions? In the case of RPR, it might have saved over $100 million for something more useful. I am not going to get into a back and forth about Zillow, as there are a lot of agents that hate Zillow, and some that like them. The point is don’t make important decisions without input from us.

      • Sep Niakan

        Fair enough. I am certainly not against surveys. I think they are a great idea.

  • This was a great decision, made by educated directors who spent the week researching the unique opportunity. Members can elect their local board, state board, and national directors.

    The board is 900 members. To say that members weren’t involved in the decision making process is just silly. Someone is always upset when a decision is made. The vast majority of those involved in the agreement decided it was a good idea. I’m proud of leadership’s swift and forward-looking action.

    • Sam, while I like your positive attitude, I am not sure where you are getting your facts to back up your opinion.

      The facts I know are they felt it would break even by 2012. I believe on the $100+ million spent so far, they have taken in around $500,000 of revenue. To me that fact does not sound like a great decision, it sounds like a decision based on a huge assumption that did not materialize.

      Sam, those numbers are facts that mean something. It is not like they are getting close to breaking even, someone came up with some pie in the sky projections, which were so far off it is mind boggling.

      If it is a great decision RPR should be publishing usage data. It is very easy to tell if this was a good decision. Compare the number of agents logging into RPR daily from any specific area, to the number of agents logging into their MLS daily. NAR has this data, why don’t they share it so we know our $20 million per year is going to good use.

      When you say it was a great decision do you know the usage? If you do not know the usage, how can you say it is a great decision. They might be spending $20 million per year to fund something that is used very little compared to the MLS, which again would not point to a great decision.

      Also, what are your facts on members being involved in the decision? Was there a survey done? How many members were consulted on this. I never said no members were consulted, but if they consulted a very small percentage, then perhaps the results they got were skewed.

      Again Sam, I like your positive attitude, but at some point everyone has to face reality. If you have some facts that backup your opinion that this was a great decision, then please do share them.

      • It’s not about RPR’s past. That’s a sunk cost. This is a pivot. The product is built, and it’s an ideal platform to leverage for Upstream. The vast majority of brokers support Upstream, and NAR’s 900 member board overwhelmingly agreed that we should support it with our pre-built database as its foundation.

        • OK, I thought you were saying RPR was a great decision, so I was asking for facts to back that up.

          Sam, I am not upset about the Project Upstream decision, I really don’t have enough information on Project Upstream to form an opinion about it, maybe it is going to be a great thing, I sure hope it is.

          What I am upset about is the decision making process. I think surveys are needed to get ALL the members opinions before undertaking big expensive projects, or projects that could change how much income we earn.

          I am picking on the RPR decision because with the facts I have on their losses, it seems like it might not have been the best decision.

          If NAR can understand that their decision making process was not the best previously, maybe then they will be open to trying some surveys to see if that would help in their decision making process.

          For Project Upstream, if it is a great project then NAR can send out some information about it, and then take a survey to see what members think. After educating members on what Project Upstream is about, I would hope they find in their survey that members over overwhelmingly support Project Upstream. I hope once I understand what it is I would support it too.

          However, if they do not let us know what it is about, and they do not come to us for our opinion, then I think they are not doing the proper due diligence required to make these decisions. When you don’t do the proper due diligence, and you operate off assumptions, you can end up funding a project like RPR.

          I think Notorious Rob is getting at the same thing in his post. He says “So NAR Directors are asked to approve a partnership whose terms have not been fully worked out, for a project that is not yet clearly defined, but one that could have enormous long-term implications for NAR, for REALTORS, for brokerages, for MLSs, and for the industry as a whole.”

          I believe what he is getting at is do they might not have had enough time or clear information to make an educated decision on this new project. He also said “…the decision to put the issue before the Board of Directors was made yesterday.”

          So it seems a bit rushed, yet over $10 million has been allocated. Again, maybe it is a great decision, but let’s get the opinion of all members. Let us help set the direction on where our dues can be best spent.

          Sometimes governments or government like organizations have a lot of taxes/dues flowing in, and they feel the need to use that money in some meaningful way. Unfortunately, sometimes in a rush to make sure the money is used, some of it is wasted, and I would like to see surveys used to perhaps eliminate some of that waste at NAR.

          • I understand your concerns. I read Rob’s post last week, and then after sitting through the education in D.C. that was delivered on the agreement (I’m not a national director/voting member but was involved in discussions with my state board), I think the directors were well informed. Organizations sometimes have to act decisively within the timeframe that’s available to seize an opportunity.

            It can be frustrating for the individual member, but surveying 1 million Realtors isn’t the way to strategically lead an organization. Corporations don’t survey all shareholders before each decision, they let the key representatives weigh in. It’s not an easy answer, but the only way to affect it is to get more involved and influence those who are directors, or become one.

          • I understand your points too, but a couple of counter points.

            Smart corporations survey their customers, and are very responsive to what they get back. Also, smart politicians survey their constituents to get their input on the hot issues.

            I see us as NAR’s customers. We pay them, and in turn we want certain services from them for the money we pay. I see a director as similar to a politician, they are democratically elected to represent the people in their area, and they vote on important issues.

            So I think surveys are widely used by both corporations and local politicians, and it helps guide both of them to better serve their clients.

            Corporations are held accountable by their shareholders. If the CEO proposes a new big bold direction, and that direction flops, the CEO is going to be voted out, the stock price is going to drop, etc.

            At NAR they don’t have the same accountability. It is just oh well, we lost $100 million, we will just keep on going with it. It is not like agents (our customers) have a choice to join a competing organization, so we are going to keep collecting those dues dues regardless of how we perform.

            I understand where Rob is coming from. He is asking if we can hold the directors accountable for the decisions they make. When people are held accountable for their decisions, they put a lot more time and effort into making the right decision.

            I am trying to be more involved in this process by posting these blog posts. I hope it gets the directors and agents who read it thinking.

          • Sam, one other thing to keep in mind is good technology companies are constantly looking for feedback from their clients.

            In the case of RPR the first step would be to draft up some sample reports they will produce, and survey a large number of agents on how useful these reports would be.

            Assuming the initial feedback was positive, then take a small budget and roll it out perhaps to one area, then again survey all the users who have actually tried it. Do they feel they will use it frequently, what is the usage stats like compared to the MLS?

            Maybe NAR did all this and had some fantastic results, but the only thing I know for sure is they were very far off base in their revenue estimates, so it puts into question the reliability of their research and results.

          • I’m siding with Sam on this. Surveying 1 million agents isn’t the best way to make decisions for an association. Those agents are by no means experts, or have anywhere close to enough information to make an informed decision about technology. There is a lot of context that is impossible to include in a survey.

          • I understand your point, but I don’t see the harm in getting feedback from the folks that will be using their products. It is not like the decision has to be based off the survey results, but it might uncover some interesting things of value that NAR can offer to agents.

            Perhaps a yearly how are we doing type survey would be a start.

          • I would imagine individual associations do that, do they not? Can’t you go talk to the directors? Yes, surveys are valuable to some extent, but I’m generally skeptical of them to drive meaningful decisions/understanding. The value is giving decision makers enough data to have real in depth discussions with people to better understand the issues that are bubbling up.

          • They actually have done some surveys, but I do think they should do more. The surveys they do tend to be on light issues, rather than more important issues.

            I agree when you say “The value is giving decision makers enough data”. I would love to know what data they gave the decision makers when they were promoting RPR.

            The most important data they needed was what is important to agents, will they use it, could it be something they need, what problems is it solving for us. If they isolate themselves from all the agents that are going to use it and don’t get this data they might end up going down the wrong path.

            In my opinion they seems to have their own opinion on what we needed and it did not make a lot of sense. They kept promoting the whole nationwide aspect of it, like it was a killer feature that all agents needed and can’t get right now.

            As most agents are licensed in just one or two states, the idea of having all this data from all over the country was not exciting to me. Then they compiled MLS data, which we already have through CoreLogic, and tax record data, which we also already have through our MLS, and made them into some long PDF reports. I really tried to use it myself, but just could not find the value in it for my clients. I am not saying no one uses it, I am sure many do, but understanding our needs better might have guided this project to a better outcome.

          • The goal is the data would cost less for everyone if they bought it nationally rather than every mls buying it separately.

            “what is important to agents, will they use it, could it be something they need, what problems is it solving for us.”

            I also don’t put much weight in people’s answers to “would I use app/website/service X?” Until you put it in front of them, and they actually do use it…regularly…I don’t believe anyone that says yes.

          • …and that’s the crux of management decisions. They’re often made with long-term vision that the individual member may not yet see as immediately useful to them, but without those decisions we’d have no innovation.

          • True, although NAR and other government like organizations are not exactly known for innovating. Zillow, Trulia, Red Fin, & CoreLogic, they are innovating.

            I think NAR does a good job with the rules and Code of Ethics. Innovating on the technology side is going to be challenging for them, as proven by RPR.

          • “Zillow, Trulia, Red Fin, & CoreLogic”

            You had me until corelogic. What are they doing to innovate? Maybe they are, and I just don’t know it.

          • They are some what innovative which is why my MLS selected using them. Of course, their innovations are all behind the scenes as the public has no access to their system.

            So while Zillow, Trulia, and Red Fin innovate in the public eye for public websites, CoreLogic and other MLS vendors continue to innovate behind the scenes to collect, organize, distribute, and search on the MLS data.

            One thing these companies all have in common is they either innovate or they become obsolete compared to their competitors. Not so with NAR, they are a monopoly, and whether they innovate or not they will not become obsolete. I believe the motivation not to become obsolete pushes these companies harder to continue to innovate.

          • Sam, NAR can still do innovative long-term technology projects. Surveying does not stop them from doing these things. The point of surveying is to understand your customer better, what you are doing right and what you are doing wrong. What are your customer’s pain points, so you can consider innovative ideas to solve those pain points.

            Most Brokers send out client surveys right after closing, asking a number of questions designed to help them improve their business. If you don’t understand your customers really good, then your innovative ideas might not be what they really need.

            I have been a Realtor now for over 10 years. NAR has never reached out to me once that I can remember asking me to let them know how they are doing, how they can help me more, what are my pain points that they might be able to solve with innovative technology.

            My point is if they send out surveys so they can understand us better, their customers, they can then use that knowledge to develop innovative products, and it might prevent things like what has happened with RPR.

          • Innovation doesn’t happen with slow consensus-building. It happens through visionary management making decisions that will create value in the future that not everyone sees today.

          • Agree 100% with that statement.

            That being said we have to face the reality that NAR is not really innovative. I don’t fault them for this, they are a huge government like organization, and government like organizations are not where the hottest innovative products and websites are coming from.

            NAR has proven this point. Today when so much power and value comes from having a great public facing website for buyers and sellers, Zillow, Trulia, and Red Fin being the examples, how does NAR’s Website compare. It really does not, because they don’t even have one.

            Then, the other innovative company I mentioned is CoreLogic and others who are the backbone of the MLS. Again, NAR has no technology that can run the MLS, so they have no public facing website, and no website to collect data and run all the local MLS organizations. This is a pretty strong sign that NAR is not innovative.

            The other sign is RPR. They spent over $100 million, and continue to spend on it. That was their “innovative” move. However, the value of it is shown in the results. When you think you are going to be breaking even, and really you are not even close to generating any real revenue, I think that speaks for the value of RPR.

            So I am not saying NAR should not try to innovate, they are welcome to keep doing so. However, I think it would be smarter for them to get to know their agents better, get to know the agents pain points, and think about things they can do to help with these pain points. That is where they can add value.

            I know in your Inman article one comment used the term Delusions of Grandeur to describe NAR. I think he is saying what I am saying, NAR is not innovative and they probably should just face this reality and figure out how they can best serve the people they represent, and understanding them better is a good first step.

          • The goal is the data would cost less for everyone if they bought it nationally rather than every mls buying it separately.

            “what is important to agents, will they use it, could it be something they need, what problems is it solving for us.”

            I also don’t put much weight in people’s answers to “would I use app/website/service X?” Until you put it in front of them, and they actually do use it…regularly…I don’t believe anyone that says yes.

          • They actually have done some surveys, but I do think they should do more. The surveys they do tend to be on light issues, rather than more important issues.

            I agree when you say “The value is giving decision makers enough data”. I would love to know what data they gave the decision makers when they were promoting RPR.

            The most important data they needed was what is important to agents, will they use it, could it be something they need, what problems is it solving for us. If they isolate themselves from all the agents that are going to use it and don’t get this data they might end up going down the wrong path.

            In my opinion they seems to have their own opinion on what we needed and it did not make a lot of sense. They kept promoting the whole nationwide aspect of it, like it was a killer feature that all agents needed and can’t get right now.

            As most agents are licensed in just one or two states, the idea of having all this data from all over the country was not exciting to me. Then they compiled MLS data, which we already have through CoreLogic, and tax record data, which we also already have through our MLS, and made them into some long PDF reports. I really tried to use it myself, but just could not find the value in it for my clients. I am not saying no one uses it, I am sure many do, but understanding our needs better might have guided this project to a better outcome.

        • Mike

          I used to work for RPR and I can tell you with full conviction that their’s is not an ideal platform for anything in any stretch of the imagination.

          • Mike

            …just kidding they’re great 🙂

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