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Charles McMillan steps into NAR presidency during uncertain real estate era

RISMEDIA, Nov. 13, 2008-Becoming the 2009 NAR president is all part of a logical progression for 20-year real estate veteran Charles McMillan, a man who believes that, “Serving others is the rent we pay for the room we have here on Earth.” And this month, McMillan-the director of Realty Relations and broker of record for Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, Dallas-Fort Worth-will start serving his industry at a whole new level. Assuming NAR’s leadership role during a time when the housing market stands center stage in the nation’s economic drama, McMillan is challenged more than most presidents, perhaps. But with that challenge comes great excitement, enthusiasm and dedication because, for McMillan, it’s all about bettering the lives of Realtors® and their clients.

Maria Patterson: Please briefly describe your history in the real estate business.

Charles McMillan: I discovered real estate about 25 years ago with no thought of becoming a broker. I was just interested in investing. So I took some classes to be able to make an informed decision and met a lot of people in the process of getting their real estate license. Real estate people tend to bond with each other…so I ended up taking more classes and, in addition, obtained a real estate salesperson license.

I began as an agent in residential real estate and later got interested in commercial real estate. I was involved in an office that did leasing and some commercial sales. By that time, I had begun a training regimen and moved to another firm to take over as sales manager and training manager.

Five years later, I took the broker’s exam and got a broker’s license. I opened up my own investment, commercial and property management firm. Eventually, in my training role, I was hired by a number of peer firms and wound up affiliating with a local, large, residential firm in a training and policy role. From that role, and through several acquisitions, I came to the role that I have today in real estate.

MP: Has serving the industry on a local and national level always been important to you and why?

CM: I didn’t always know that it was important, but by being asked to volunteer and volunteering, I found out it was important. Giving back is important for everything we do. One of my favorite quotes is from Mohammed Ali: “Serving others is the rent we pay for the room we have here on Earth.” So whether we’re serving human kind and those less fortunate or giving back to an industry that gives so much to us, it’s important because it makes the industry better now and it makes it better for those who come after you-it encourages them to turn a page as well.

MP: How would you describe your feelings upon stepping into the NAR president’s role?

CM: It is difficult to describe, but I would say the dominant feelings would be elation, excitement. For example, I was up at 3:30 this morning sending an e-mail to our current NAR president-I just have all this nervous energy! I am awake and ready for this challenge. Since I, and every REALTOR®, has a stake in the organization, I have often referred to our leadership roles as being like “running the family business.” When you feel that way, there is no way that one can operate as a typical dispassionate leader in similar organizations.

MP: What are some of your immediate goals as NAR president?

CM: One of the most immediate goals is dealing with the current crisis we have in the financial markets today. We’re in the process of working with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and getting some policy reform accomplished. It was perhaps a little too late and too drastic of a measure in having the Feds take over but it was inevitable. This was a watershed moment in housing history and we’re not sure where to go from here-it’s unclear. But we do know that it’s important for NAR to have a voice in the process and act as a regulatory entity that gives input as to what those two entities will look like as they emerge from this crisis. The secondary mortgage market must continue to thrive. We have to work hard to make sure that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, or whoever their successors are, have a vital mission in serving the secondary market. The future of homeowners in this country depends on it.

MP: What is NAR’s position on the recent government takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac?

CM: We think it was positive from an immediate perspective and we actually applauded the actions of the Fed, and of course, there was an immediate positive reverberation that went through markets around the world. The real challenge is what happens next.

MP: Are keeping interest rates low important?

CM: While lower interest rates are important, it really doesn’t matter if the interest rate is 1% if you can’t find anyone to loan you money. So we see a focus on lenders as extremely important, too.

MP: Will the country’s current economic issues take attention away from other issues at hand for the NAR membership?

CM: While this has presented itself as a crisis, there are still other issues. In the midst of all this, NAR still has a high interest in passing a health care bill. We intend to hit the ground running in January to make sure our members are not distracted from the health care issue. This issue is front and center in the debate-Realtors must have access to more affordable health care. We have our radar out for any number of issues that may come about. We will certainly continue to be open and aware.

MP: What do Realtors need most in order to survive and succeed in today’s marketplace?

CM: Mostly information and tools in a timely manner. As I’ve gone around and talked to people and kept up with the issues, one thing is obvious-this is not your grandmother’s or grandfather’s real estate market. This is not yesterday’s market. NAR has about 1.2 million members. About half of them have been in the industry less than five years. Many have not experienced this type of downturn. Information and education are most critical for them to survive and thrive in the current environment. NAR has a research department that provides wonderful resources to help members understand the national and local trends. We also provide the training and education to help them reach new markets and keep up with consumer demand. The real estate auction business has come more into vogue, for example-we offer online auction courses to help members become experts. We also now offer a Green Designation so that our members can become experts in all things green.

MP: How has the face of today’s Realtor changed and how is NAR meeting the changing needs of its membership?

CM: It has changed in a number of ways. One of those ways is that today’s Realtor is much more reflective of the consumers that we serve; we’re younger but not by much, and much more diverse than we’ve ever been before. This is good for our organization and great for our membership. Today, we look very closely and value young professionals and what they bring to the organization. Many of them are instituting changes in marketing that are just mind boggling. NAR created the Young Professionals Network to provide advice for newer Realtors and that advice is just invaluable.

MP: What do you foresee a year from now when the next NAR president is preparing for office?

CM: A year from now when the next person changes seats with me-because that’s all we’re really doing since we manage as a team-my desire and my prayer for this entire organization is that we have this economic crisis behind us and that we’re moving forward in a meaningful way. I hope that everyone will be as hyped as I was at 3:30 this morning.

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