NAR must remain at the forefront of growth and innovation

by Charlie Oppler

This was the year that we proceeded slowly and cautiously to get our lives back to normal. When fans returned to stadiums, students returned to classrooms and tourists returned to flights, landmarks and hotel rooms.

Thanks to overwhelmingly safe and effective vaccines that showcase the very best of modern society and modern medicine, business as usual is returning in America — just in a different way than we were accustomed to before.

We’re grateful to have regained our sanity (mostly), our freedom to travel (domestically) and our ability to visit family (the ones we like, at least) without quarantining for weeks beforehand. Really, we’re happy to take for granted again the things we said we would never take for granted again. We are resilient, and we move on from disruption, displacement and devastation remarkably quickly — sometimes jarringly so.

In many ways, that resiliency has also defined our industry. As a whole, American real estate witnessed some of the most complex ramifications of this pandemic. Back in the spring of 2020, existing-home sales declined for three straight months — falling an unprecedented 17.8% between March and April — before annualized sales rates reached 14-year highs by August. That defied even the most optimistic of expectations at the onset of the pandemic.

Today, a sense of “normalcy” may have returned, but stability has not. Markets have fluctuated, infection numbers have yet to level out and the political discourse in this country still leaves much to be desired. Despite all of this, the National Association of Realtors® has been hard at work doing everything we can to promote American real estate, protect private property rights and support the tens of millions of consumers our members serve in every U.S. ZIP code.

NAR remains committed to the fight for diversity, equity and inclusion throughout real estate. We launched a mentoring pilot program — NAR Spire — this spring to match Realtors® with mentees from historically underserved communities. Programs like this help us to eliminate barriers that have denied opportunities for homeownership and kept people out of our industry.

Back in June of this year, NAR released groundbreaking scientific data that brought to light the extent of America’s housing inventory crisis. Two decades of underinvestment had created a shortage of roughly 6 million housing units, making it harder for basically every American to afford a home. With the report continuing to attract attention, NAR is on Capitol Hill helping lawmakers find new ways to incentivize development, ease supply chain constraints and ensure housing is part of a broad, national infrastructure strategy.

While the residential market has had its share of ups and downs, the ride has been even more turbulent for commercial real estate.

I was thrilled to welcome hundreds of commercial practitioners to New York City this September for NAR’s first-ever C5 Summit, which we hope to make the nation’s premier commercial property event. Although so much had seemingly gone awry in this sector over the previous 18 months, we gathered in the industry’s global epicenter not to ask what had happened, but instead to determine what would come next.

As an association, we’ve embraced the mindset that if we’re not changing the status quo, then we might become it. We believe NAR must remain at the forefront of growth and innovation in order to best position our members for success. Through valuable, high-yield programs like REACH and Second Century Ventures, we’ve been able to cultivate technological tools that helped propel our industry through the pandemic, from Notarize and BoxBrownie to DocuSign.

Finally, we’re encouraging our members to speak with their clients about Realtor® value every single day. They should tell their clients exactly what services they provide, explain what and how they get paid for those services, and illustrate how the MLS works. Our cooperation in the MLS benefits buyers and sellers alike, and that’s a point worth constantly reiterating to consumers.

I look at 2021 as an overwhelming success, both for the industry and for the association. But our broader organizational goals are not about 2021.

In 2022, or 2032, or 2042, we want to know that Realtors® have been able to capitalize on the work done today on their behalf, and on the behalf of consumers everywhere in America. But that is not possible if we don’t always have an eye fixed on the future.

Despite everything that has come our way over the past 12 months, I’m so grateful to our staff and extended leadership team for remaining focused on that critical goal. And I look forward to seeing that momentum carry into 2022.

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