un. 13, 2012 - The NEW Internet Landscape: A Primer for Realtors and MLSs
The Big News
By now the news is out: earlier today the names of applicants for new top level domains (or TLD, the name that follows the dot in an internet address) was released. Over 1900 applicants hope to gain a branded domain name where previously only 26 TLDs existed.
This release date was long anticipated by US Multiple Listing Services, many of whom have banded together to form the MLS Domains Association, a non-profit group which exists to make application for the .MLS domain name and restrict its use only to recognized MLS organizations. The group recruited members, collected funds, gained non-profit status, conducted a feasibility study among consumers and MLS members, and completed the application process with a partner, the Canadian Real Estate Association.
Round One of the process had an application deadline of May 30 and— at long last—the names of the applicants were revealed by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). The Washington Post says, “The list’s release marks the latest phase of ICANN’s long process to remake the landscape of the Internet.” Companies who applied for new addresses include Apple, Amazon, Google and Microsoft as well as prominent firms such as Macy’s and Wal-Mart and Associations such as NAR and AARP. Each application carried a hefty price tag of $185,000.
Also at issue in the domain allocation process is a segment known as the ‘community TLD’. The ICANN wiki defines this as follows: The “Community gTLD is one of the different categories of generic top level domain names (gTLDs) created by the ICANN, which is intended for cohesive, community groups that are interested in operating their own TLD Registry... A good example of community group that represents a clearly defined group of people that maybe qualified to apply for a community gTLD is the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), as this group is well-established and it can demonstrate that it has a continuous relationship with its members. “
The community TLDs is intended to identify a group which is united in a cause or commonality which extends beyond commercial branding, and which can serve as a uniting force for a shared mission. The US-based MLS Domains Association and the Canadian Real Estate Association have filed a community based TLD, and have also filed a second application for a standard TLD, should the strict community-based requirements not be met.
Obviously, the TLD process, which has been publicly ignored by the real estate community outside of MLSs, is big news in the internet and online advertising worlds. For a perspective on what the Top Level Domain applications mean to the world of online business, read this article from C/NET News: “Here Comes the Greatest Internet Land Grab in History.”
Now obviously you aren’t going to want to read a list of all 1930 applicants, but here are the ones relevant to real estate:
Applied for HOME
HOME REGISTRY INC.
DotHome Inc. (http://www.radixregistry.com)
Go Daddy East, LLC (http://www.godaddy.com)
Charleston Road Registry Inc.
Lifestyle Domain Holdings, Inc.
Baxter Pike, LLC
DotHome / CGR E-Commerce Ltd http://dothome.net
Uniregistry, Corp. http://www.uniregistry.com
Merchant Law Group LLP
Dot Home LLC US
Top Level Domain Holdings Limited http://www.tldh.org
Applied for HOMES
Applied for REALESTATE
New North, LLC
Uniregistry, Corp. http://www.uniregistry.com
Top Level Domain Holdings Limited http://www.tldh.org
Applied for REALTOR
Real Estate Domains LLC
Applied for REALTY
Dash Bloom, LLC
Applied for MLS
CREA (2 applications—community, and commercial)
Afilias LTD IE/EUR
Applied for PROPERTIES
Big Pass, LLC
Applied for PROPERTY
Steel Goodbye, LLC
Uniregistry, Corp. http://www.uniregistry.com
Top Level Domain Holdings Limited http://www.tldh.org
NAR members received notice this week that their association has indeed made application for three top level domains. The press release states that “NAR, through Real Estate Domains LLC (RED), has filed with ICANN for the .REALTOR TLD. RED was created for the sole purpose of applying for and operating the .REALTOR TLD. NAR has also submitted applications for the .realestate and .home top level domains through a partnership of its wholly owned subsidiary, the REALTORS® Information Network (RIN) and DotHome, LLC.” (Press Release, 6/12/2012)
“NAR has also entered into an exclusive marketing partnership with The Canadian Real Estate
Association (CREA), the exclusive licensors of the REALTOR® mark in Canada. REALTOR®
members of CREA will also be able to use the domain, making .REALTOR truly North American
in scope.” (Press Release, 6/12/2012)
NAR has applied for three TLDs in partnership with CREA. The US MLS organization (MLS Domains Association) has joined with CREA to apply for one TLD but in two different categories.
And several requested real estate-related TLDs have contenders.
Multiple applications, by the way, aren’t unusual: several companies have announced intentions of filing for many domain names—Amazon has filed for 76 domains, and Afilias Limited (which has filed a competing request for the MLS domain), has filed 26 applications.
In the case of multiple qualified requests for names, the conflicts will be resolved either through partnerships, negotiations or bidding.
Government Computer News summarizes the process: ICANN plans to publish the names applied for on June 13, which it is calling "Reveal Day," on its icann.org website, which will initiate a number of processes. It will open a 60-day public comment period and a seven-month period to file formal objections to a requested name. An initial review of applicants and their requested names will begin in July. If there are no formal objections, no problems with the name are found in the initial evaluation, and the applicant has the operational, technical and financial capabilities to operate a gTLD registry, the new domain could be allocated in December or January.
How successful applicants will administer their domains will vary.
NARs plans for the REALTOR TLD: from the press release and Q and A on NAR’s website, one must assume that NAR plans to offer the TLDs to Realtor associations and their MLSs, the ISCs, and NAR approved licensees. NAR says, “This opportunity to use .REALTOR will be available to 500,000 members at no charge for one year.”
The press release continues, “Once approved, NAR plans to distribute additional information on how and when domains in the new extensions will be made available….Domains in the new extensions would be available for registration to REALTOR® members (agents and brokers); local and state REALTOR® associations; association multiple listing services; affiliated institutes, societies and councils; and other NAR-approved licensees.
“NAR is currently planning to provide the first 500,000 members who register with a complimentary 1st year subscription to one domain name. Members would be able to secure a .REALTOR domain using their name on a first come first served basis. Further details, including pricing for additional domains and other related products will be announced at a later date.”
If the .MLS domain is awarded to the CREA and the MLS Domains association, US MLSs who belong to the MLS Domains Association will be awarded their requested domain names. There are three points to note, however: (1) a small group of requested names will have to be adjusted to reflect the international nature of the .MLS gTLD, (2) the MLS Domains Association effort will cover broker-owned MLSs while the NAR domains will be limited to 'NAR-approved' organizations, and (3) the duplicate application from Afilias for the .MLS gTLD must be resolved. (Afilias is the second largest domain services provider in existence today and in June of this year announced that it will be applying for a total of 305 top level domains.)
It’s no secret that I’ve been an advocate of the MLS Domains Association from the beginning, and that I currently serve as its Vice President. To my mind, it doesn’t take much to see that a ‘dot MLS’ domain with usage limited to MLS operations only is one of the simplest and most effective ways to reach out to real estate industry professionals and to home buyers and sellers, and unite behind a branded product, the MLS. There are, of course, many schemes being proposed to capitalize on the MLS as a reliable data source, but having a recognized domain name that carries with it the reputation of integrity and completeness—there can be no better marketing tool.
MLS organizations that haven’t joined the MLS Domains Association and reserved their space in the new internet landscape should pay an immediate visit to the MLS Domains Association website and join its efforts!
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Monday, March 19, 2012
ar. 19, 2012 - Leadership Development: The Shooting at Fish Technique
A long time ago I was president of an organization that prided itself on diversity and on membership participation in all decisions. That sounds like a laudable goal: however, ‘diversity” and ‘agreement’ do not work well together even in the best of times. In this particular case my job as president was to steer the group to a decision about a new facility. At the end of my leadership term we were housed in a different building, but I was totally exhausted. I had no more energy to give.That was 20 years ago and while I’ve retained membership in the group, my profile has been lower than an earthworm’s. Until last week.
“Won’t you serve on the Leadership Development committee?” they asked. “All you have to do is find candidates who will run for the offices of president and treasurer.”
Why, I thought, would you have a nominating committee called ‘Leadership Development’? If the job of the committee was just to find unwitting volunteers, why the development component of the title? Intrigued, I went to the first meeting.
It was as I thought. A nominating committee by any other name is still a nominating committee. I’ve always hated them: committee members sit around pulling names out of a hat and then selecting candidates through the use of low level, uninformed gossip. “Well, she is certainly good about keeping minutes, even if she never says a word during the meeting. She’d be ok as President.”
“Yes, but I heard her husband has a broken leg. She might be very busy taking care of him and the children.”
“That’s true. Let’s think about somebody else.”
The second part of the Nominating Committee’s work is, of course, to strong arm the unfortunate candidate into accepting. “The Committee thinks you’re the perfect person for the job. You’ve never had a leadership role before, and it’s time you gave back. Besides, it’s only for one year.” (Common persuasive tactics, with heavy emphasis on guilt.)
In some organizations, the bylaws require two candidates for every open position. It was that way in our state Realtor association for years. The unspoken nominating committee dialogue went something like: “Well, we’ve got our candidate. Now we need to get somebody to run against him—somebody disposable, because that person probably won’t win, and will be so discouraged he’ll never be heard from again.”
So what’s the answer? In the case of the Leadership Development Committee on which I agreed to serve, the answer got a little complicated and the job became more than a candidate selection process limited to a single meeting (I am sure they are sorry they asked me to serve….). To my mind following actions are necessary to solve a leadership black hole in any organization:
1.Write clear and complete job descriptions for each office (elected and appointed). Specify the amount of time the successful candidate will be required to donate to the group.
2. Then describe the competencies the ideal candidate should have. If the job as president requires a public persona, then include that in the skill set needed for the job. (As an aside, the association for which I worked once considered a candidate who left every membership meeting with her pockets stuffed full of food—rolls, butter, anything moveable and edible. Not a desirable presidential image for a professional trade organization.)
3.Insist on a president-elect position with automatic succession. The president will assume the leadership role with a year of experience and understanding, and the board and staff will be familiar with the president’s style, values, and issues. Also, have a clear set of operational policies which transcend leadership change, and a strategic plan with which everyone is familiar.
4.Make sure candidates for leadership positions know the roles and expectations BEFORE they accept the position. I’ve known organizations that ask the candidate to sign a letter of understanding which articulates the expected duties and behaviors—a kind of pre-nup for elected leaders.
5.Create a climate of leadership management throughout the organization. This last item is extremely important and is most often neglected by organizations. Leadership skills are not delivered to a select few who stand on the mountaintops and receive stone tablets: leadership skills are teachable and applicable to all members at all levels of the organization. And these skills are not handed down in a half-day ‘leadership retreat’, either—they are the result of a consistent program of training and awareness within the organization.
Here are some ideas for establishing a leadership training program:
1.Have a budget for Leadership Development. The organization needs to put some financial resources into leadership sustainability. In one association, the Leadership Development budget includes not only education programs and a leadership retreat, but also travel to state and national meetings by elected officers. It’s important to call this item “Leadership Development”, by the way—that title indicates the priorities of the organization extend beyond martinis in the bar at the end of the day.
2.Set up a clear and consistent leadership training program for all members. Most organizations want members to represent them in the community at large as well as within the organization. They want members to help effect change, carry the association’s mission to the public, and enhance the group’s image. Leadership training not only brings a skillset to the internal leadership of the group, it gives members the training and confidence to become community leaders as well. Be the leadership hub for all of your members in their various roles.
3.Hold regular leadership trainings on how to run a meeting, how to read financial statements, how to use technology, how to manage volunteers. Many of these skills are common to all leadership roles—you may develop training partners such as the Chamber of Commerce, a local non-profit network, or the community college in your area.
4.Make it a practice to separate leadership training from group issues and politics. Many organizations hold leadership training sessions which are puffy presentations about membership benefits or current challenges within the group. That’s part of leadership training, of course, but only a small part. Groups are often held back because leaders don’t know how to place a Skype conference call, set up an email list, or use Google groups.
The take-away lesson is this: An organization will advance its mission by concentrating on two things—minimizing the changeover between one leader and another, and developing a membership base of skilled and confident leadershipcraftsmen.
Sure beats the heck out of the leadership development technique used by many nominating committees—called ‘shooting fish in a barrel.’
Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Mar. 7, 2012 - Seven Snowy Lessons in Association Management
Picture this: by Friday at 5 PM the snow is falling—huge, wet, sodden glops of it. It’s the kind of snow that happens in the spring when the weather is warming up, the ground has thawed, and folks see snowdrops budding at the corners of their yards. Then the temperature begins to drop and the sky responds with a half-frozen thunderstorm which quickly ices roads, clings to tree limbs, and coats power lines with thick, glistening coats of frozen white.
It might have been easy driving when people started home from work, but by the time they reached home they knew Northern Michigan was in for a long weekend.
By 10 PM the lights went off and the TV was silent. Early bedtime at my house, a night interrupted by the crack of tree limbs breaking under the weight of the snow and ice.
By morning, the house was cold and there was no coffee. The bagels were icy and the butter hard. The driveway was buried under a foot and a half of heavy, wet snow. Lucy the Wheaten Terrier didn’t get far from the house—she couldn’t even make the 25 yards to her favorite tree trunk.
It was a long weekend: the driveway wasn’t cleared for two days and the electricity wasn’t restored until a day after that. Time to do a lot of thinking, eat a lot of peanut butter, and quickly learn to sacrifice style for practicality. But the association manager in me never is quiet.
Well, I thought, before my cell phone dies, I’d better call the power company in case they don’t know I have no electricity. Using my handy dandy cell phone browser I went to the electric company website and found—ta da! The ‘Outage Emergency Line’ information is buried deep in pages of text about how responsive Cherryland Electric is in the case of an emergency. There’s the number! Down at the bottom of page 2!
Lesson 1: Prioritize your website design around what the user will want and need, and not about what you want to tell them. (Sorta reminded me of the websites I’ve visited that give all kinds of information about the organization’s Code of Ethics without telling the reader how to find a remedy for an immediate problem.)
Anyway, I found the number and called. Of course the line was busy. What good is one phone number to service 35,000 irate customers?
Lesson 2: Maintain adequate resources to provide effective services.
So I thought, “Well, this is the age of social media. I’ll visit the company Facebook page and Twitter sites.” Found those, despite a rapidly dying battery, only to read the messages from the 35,000 customers: “Please update your outage reports”, and “When can we expect heat, our house is very cold?”, and “My mother is on oxygen, please help.”
Lesson 3: Social Media means communication in real time. The new technologies are worthless if used incorrectly. If you host a social media application, keep it current.
Then my cell phone said, “No signal.” No heat, no lights, no phone, no internet, no driveway.
In the bottom of the storage closet I found a battery-operated radio and it still worked. But where the heck could I find news about the storm? Interestingly enough, nowhere. News, I found, is relegated to a only few minutes, and no station had the capacity to provide in-depth local information. I did find that there were several community shelters available if I needed them—and if I could get out of my driveway and/or phone for snowmobile rescue.
Lesson 4: Plan for a disaster, because one will someday happen. Have a central information point. Make sure that everyone knows where to go for information when it’s needed, especially in an emergency. Technology makes it possible to provide prompt information services…so make sure you incorporate communication programs into your regular operations.
And Lesson 5: Make sure your support services are what the consumer/member really needs. Shelters don’t do much good if I can’t get down my driveway (just as education and other opportunities in a trade association need to be relevant to the member’s business success).
My rescue procedures began after two days of isolation: at 5 AM Sunday morning I realized that I could see lights shining on my frozen front lawn. “Either the electricity is back on, or the moon is very bright,” I thought.
Not so! These were the headlamps of the snowplow stuck in my driveway as he tried to remove two days of heavy accumulation. Too little, too late, and foolishly applied in the early morning dark. He was joined by another snowplow and, some hours later by a front-end loader. Soon, they were all stuck in my driveway and I was still a prisoner.
Lesson 6: Apply solutions quickly, using adequate resources to get the job done. (I know, I know: this is especially difficult in an organization run by a committee. It’s always more comfortable for volunteers to have another meeting, a survey, or a vote and further study. “Everybody needs to be on the same page” Is the common excuse for inaction.)
And of course, the faulty execution of a solution leads to the inevitable:
Lesson 7: Maintain reserves. Emergency measures will always be more costly than anticipated. Take the case of my snowplow guy: his initial timing mistake lead to three vehicles embedded in my front lawn, increased expenses for him, and—I’m assuming—a similarly inflated invoice to me. Whether or not I protest his extra charges isn’t the point: somebody has to bear unexpected costs. It’s just good business to be prepared.
Well, this weather disaster all over now—the ice is melting; the lavender and yellow snowdrops have re-emerged; and my driveway is passable, even if it’s a soggy, rutted, muddy mess. I’ve stocked up again on batteries and peanut butter, because what we know in Northern Michigan is this: weather emergencies can yet happen.
It’s still early in March.
Sunday, January 15, 2012
Monday, December 19, 2011
Last week, Inman News released its annual list of 100 of the Most Influential Real Estate Leaders of 2011. This is a pretty prestigious list in the industry, as befits a significant real estate voice and commentary.
I think AEs should fully recognize and celebrate the names of our peers in Realtor association management who are on the list*:
- Mark Allen, CEO, Minneapolis Association of Realtors, and 10k Marketing
- Bob Bemis, CEO, ARMLS and MLS Domains Association
- Russ Bergeron, CEO, MRED, Ltd.
- Art Carter, CEO, CRMLS, Inc.
- Dave Charron, CEO and President, MRIS
- Merri Jo Cowen, CEO, MFRMLS and Chairperson of CMLS
- Bob Hale, President and CEO, HAR
- Rebecca Jensen, CEO and chair, UtahRealEstate.com MLS
That these names are included is important to all AEs: it means that the larger industry recognizes the importance of the work we do as association MLSs and the contributions those associations make to the industry. I know I can look at each one of these people and respect their individual contributions to the success of our members. They are, in the eyes of the world, some of the practitioners of Best Practices of real estate trade association management. As commentator Bill Fowler recently observed in his blog article “MLS in 2012”, “Creating something vital to REALTORS in MLS technology requires leadership in our organizations.”
Inman has recognized many of these leaders.
However, without detracting one bit from the applause due these individuals, I’d also like to kick the Inman group in their collective kneecaps. Why? Because the MLS isn’t the only area of successful performance by association execs: there are other areas of management leadership and influence besides MLS and its derivative products, the only criteria seems to Inman recognize. Other programs are equally influential in the world of organized real estate: let’s salute the AEs involved in the RAMCO development work and the successful implementation of some of the great Game Changer programs. Let’s look at a collection of stunning association professional education innovations, international real estate outreach programs, cooperative infrastructure efforts between associations to produce better services and efficiency, and some outstandingly innovative state association programs—all influential real estate accomplishments in 2011.
Perhaps Realtor AEs need to do a better job of recognizing our own innovators and leaders. How about an annual collection of best practices? An AE Innovator recognition program? Another Game Changer program?
And for the benefit of all, let’s make our judgments not only on the program or product, but also highlight answers to the following questions as key learning opportunities for all association managers:
- · How did you foster overall management focus on results?
- · How did you create a governance structure to move your organization forward?
- · What techniques did you use to back your programs with strong, accountable, transparent financial management?
- · How did you motivate and structure available human resources?
- · What communications program and technology did you employ?
- · How did you manage resource development and fundraising to support the project?
Congratulations to the Inman honorees. You’ve moved beyond IDX policy hysteria to develop practical programs for real estate professionals. My hope for real estate in 2012 is that AEs continue to recognize skillful leadership and expand our opportunities learn from each other.
*Note, I didn’t include the NAR or ISC staff—they are also well represented on the Inman list.
Saturday, December 10, 2011
ec. 10, 2011 - Making Lemonade: Building capacity in changing times
Well, this is interesting: the ever-optimistic NAR economist Lawrence Yun recently observed that 2012 won't see a robust recovery in the housing market. In fact, Yun says that as rents climb in the multi-family housing market and as the stigma of renting is disappearing, it will be the commercial real estate sector which will see the greatest increase in activity.
And noted economic commentator Barry Ritholtz states that the slow motion crash in housing will continue for another 5-10 years and predicts that the US are only in the 5th inning of a 9 inning game in which values may continue to drop. Additionally he says that"following a debt crisis, consumers spend a decade or more deleveraging, and tend to downgrade purchases that involve taking on more credit - like a mortgage."
What does this predicted trend indicate for real estate association managers? It's an uncomplicated answer: it simply means that our more aggressive members will go where the money is. And in turn, that means the association needs to provide those members with adequate support services to get them there.
Even the smallest real estate associations need to sit up and take note: if we are to remain relevant as trade organizations, we must understand that our membership no longer consists of 90% used home salespersons. In order to make a living in the real estate market, members need to respond to consumer trends-and according to the observations of Yun and Ritholtz, the markets are trending toward commercial real estate. That's where the action will be.
So how must real estate associations react? Most Realtors won't become full-fledged commercial specialists flashing their CCIM designations-a majority of US real estate market areas simply won't support many exclusively commercial specialists. What members will want to do is gain the skills and the tools to support an increase in their commercial activities, particularly in the rental property market for multi-family housing. And fortunately, there are some pretty robust existing programs that associations can use to build capacity to support these emerging member needs. Here are some suggestions for the association executive:
1. Encourage members to participate in a commercial overlay board. Many existing support services are already in place in these organizations-- you don't have to reinvent them and spend down your association resources. Becoming a secondary member in a commercial overlay board is a good answer for many Realtors who don't want to exclusively specialize but do want additional education and marketing networks.
2. Form a commercial marketing group in your own board. It could begin as an informal 'haves and wants' meeting over coffee and doughnuts. If the need is there, it will grow on its own-with the association acting the incubator.
3. Examine NAR's Commercial Services Accreditation program for local associations. While your association may not wish to pursue the actual accreditation (which may seem unnecessarily elaborate for your immediate purposes), this program does offer some very useful ideas on how to develop association support capacity in the commercial services area. Think about
a. A dedicated commercial page on your association website. It might feature member's commercial listings, statistics, and useful information about topics of interest-even some data from the local economic development organizations.
b. A website link to NAR's commercial home page, its commercial advocacy page, and the commercial education page. And don't forget NAR's commercial blog, "The Source.", as well as the Commercial Research department--members need easy access to this information.
4. Ask your commercial marketing group what kind of education programs its members need and develop an education series using local or regional experts-commercial developers, economic development corporation representatives, taxing authorities, and others. Again, remember that your target member market is probably not interested in becoming specialists in commercial real estate-but they do want information which will help them expand some specific skills in new areas. (There's a difference.)
a. Offering a regular (monthly?) commercial education program followed by an informal marketing session is one of the best ways to develop member awareness in the commercial area, assuming your association doesn't have the audience for anything more elaborate.
b. This activity might be one which could be shared with neighboring associations as well. Commercial real estate practitioners aren't always productively confined to geographical boundaries-a commercial program will possibly be more successful if your board can partner with other associations in this effort.
The take-away point here is that the changing real estate market is influencing member needs-and our associations must respond, even if only in a modest way. Most Realtors don't want the Commercial Member Golf Outing, or even a commercial ethics process or trade show (as the NAR Commercial Services certification application suggests). Reinventing the association model with the word "Commercial" attached to it is not what most of our members need or even care about-nor is that something that probably two-thirds of local Realtor associations have the resources to provide.
What members do want is practical, efficient access to the skills sets and useful information which the changing real estate marketplace is demanding. It's our job as AEs to start with what the member needs, and set about providing those tools.
(PS: How do you fund this stuff? Try charging the members to showcase their commercial listings on the association website, soliciting underwriting from developers of rental income properties, advertising sales, commercial affiliate member programs, to name a few ideas.…The opportunities are endless.)
Friday, November 4, 2011
Nov. 4, 2011 - Creating Communities: the Future of the Real Estate Association
Associations have a primary purpose: to create a community. In a real estate association, the primary purpose is to create a business community centered on the business of property ownership and transfers. It’s really that simple.
Let’s examine that word ‘community’. In many Realtor associations, the community is really quite limited: it consists of brokers and salespeople involved in the transfer of pre-existing homes. Oh, I know: lip service is often given to other groups—commercial specialists, appraisers, property managers, and a small number of affiliated business interests—but by and large the emphasis is on license-holding real estate practitioners. (Of course it goes without saying that the community is further limited by geographical restrictions, in many cases.)
Realtor associations build most of their programs and services around that limitation: licensed salesperson or broker, located in an assigned geography.
Frankly, there’s a problem here: in reality the real estate community is much more extensive and the desire to be a part of that business community much more far-reaching than the current operating definition would have us believe. In addition, our existing membership is becoming specialized in other areas besides used-home sales: members are finding business in the rental and rehab market and personal investments for themselves and their clients. They are becoming more conversant in online marketing techniques, technology tools, foreign transactions, and finance.
The real estate community is also expanding well beyond the current limits of license holders, with a second tier of bankers, mortgage companies, and title companies. As members expand their interests and activities, they are partnering with an array of business interests never before included in real estate circles—marketing specialists, technology experts, website designers, foreclosure experts, and economic and development analysts.
It’s easy to say “Not MY members—they just want to make sales. And, the Realtors I know don’t read, anyway.” That’s a familiar litany, of course. And of course, in many cases it’s true: statistics show that well over half of current members don’t make a living at real estate. They are dilettantes, retirees, and folks who also have a ‘real job’ and just want to make a little extra income on the side.
The caution here is in thinking that these are the sum total of members, that this is the real estate community our association must serve. If we as trade associations fall into that trap, we are contributing to the erosion of our industry as surely as if we ourselves were the lions coming over the hill (“We have seen the enemy, and they are…).
Certainly this class of member is real and currently accounts for over half of our association dues income. “Ah,” you say, “doesn’t that make the non-productive majority our association’s target market? They are a majority of the association members. If it weren’t for them we wouldn’t exist. So let’s continue producing remedial level education programs, keep our dues and costs low, and direct our collective energies and resources at servicing these members.
I think there’s another answer: if the members in your community by and large don’t make a sustainable income from real estate activity, enlarge the community. Think about it: if your association is to become ‘The Voice for Real Estate’, for whom would they speak? Professionally, your organization would speak for all your industry partners—builders, remodelers, community planners, environmentalists, financial partners, attorneys, estate planners, and property owners. These are some of the areas of the real estate business community who share an interest in the business climate relating to real property.
There are many opportunities to enlarge a reasonably small and circumscribed audience and build a powerful community voice. These doors don’t necessarily depend on an MLS presence, either—they open onto a larger world of business interests, shared knowledge, and valuable networks and coalitions. It’s here that the real estate organization will find its future direction, I believe. There’s not a lot of reason to waste much more effort in locking the barn door after the MLS horse has gone elsewhere, but there is much to be gained by thinking about the kind of community that can be built through a real estate organization which is inclusive rather than exclusive, and which involves using technology tools and other resources to transcend the current limited organizational structure.
It also means assuming that the target market for a real estate association is based on skilled practitioners with skill and commitment to the many facets of the real estate business.