By Maria Patterson
In an era in which many associations see a diminishing role, the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) is moving in the opposite direction. As it evolves, NAR continues to live by one overarching credo: advocacy.
That means being a positive force for its members—in business and technology as well as in the policy arena. The association’s advocacy efforts serve all sectors of the industry, beginning with real estate’s leading brokers. Today, NAR is strengthening its connection with these industry leaders in order to better serve all its members and, ultimately, the real estate consumer, says 2014 NAR President Steve Brown.
“What benefits one had better benefit all,” says Brown, co-owner of Irongate Inc., REALTORS®, in Dayton, Ohio, and a REALTOR® for more than 38 years. “If something we did in our advocacy efforts benefitted only some members, it would be very short-sighted. We need to be able to stand before all our members, and the consumer, and say that we are here working for their best interests.”
This type of broad thinking is reshaping NAR. Brown and his colleague, Chris Polychron, 2014 NAR president-elect, represent the face of NAR—an organization that’s driven to creating a positive environment for consumers while improving business for brokers and their agents.
“To be an effective advocate, we have to stay in-step with the way society is changing,” says Polychron, executive broker with 1st Choice Realty in Hot Springs, Ark., and a REALTOR® for 25 years.
Advocating for Brokers
Staying in-step starts with maintaining regular interaction with the industry’s leading brokers (see sidebar page 85). By clearly identifying their concerns with the laws and policies that regulate real estate, NAR can ensure those concerns become advocacy priorities.
“We regularly meet with the NAR Real Estate Services Group [25 of the industry’s leading brokers] and discuss their biggest challenges,” Brown says. “For these brokers, our advocacy efforts are what make the association such a vital partner.” Adds Polychron: “Advocacy is our largest expenditure and the amount invested increases every year.”
NAR’s advocacy efforts include daily tracking of legislative and regulatory proposals, providing expert testimony to Congressional committees, and meeting directly with lawmakers and federal agencies to promote the association’s position on key public policy issues affecting real estate.
According to Brown, NAR is focused on several critical issues that impact brokers, from credit and lending policies to privacy and data security concerns to commercial real estate.
Top of mind for brokers at the moment is the recently instituted 3 percent cap on points and fees, a component of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) Ability to Repay/Qualified Mortgage (QM) rule that went into effect in January of this year. The rule was created to protect consumers from risky loan products. But the 3 percent cap provision unfairly penalizes brokers involved in affiliated business arrangements, Brown says. For purposes of the cap, these brokers have to count many more items toward fees and points (items such as title insurance charges and escrow for homeowner’s insurance) than large, retail financial institutions do.