By JIM SMITH, Realtor
A couple weeks ago, I wrote about the importance of using a Realtor — that is, a member of a Realtor association — instead of a real estate agent who is not a Realtor.
In researching that story, I was shocked to discover exactly how many agents have quit their Realtor association, primarily to save the $500 in annual dues. According to Metrolist, which is Denver’s MLS, over 20% of MLS members are non-Realtors, and that number is growing every year.
Three metro area Realtor associations merged a couple years ago to fight the problem of growing expense and shrinking membership. The new organization is called the Denver Metro Association of Realtors. The other metro area Realtor associations are the South Metro Denver Realtor Association, the Aurora Association of Realtors, the Douglas-Elbert Realtor Association, the Boulder Area Realtor Association and the Mountain Metro Association of Realtors.
By joining any of these local Realtor associations, an agent also becomes a member of the Colorado Association of Realtors (CAR), and the National Association of Realtors (NAR), which in turn are losing members at a fast pace, making one wonder whether NAR, CAR and the local associations are ultimately going to disappear.
Consider what we would lose if there were no Realtor associations. First, recognize that real estate is essentially a lonely business. There are a few “teams” out there, but for the most part every agent is a sole practitioner. We set our own hours, work primarily at home, and have little opportunity to mingle with and learn from others in the same industry — that is, except for the Realtor associations, which provide marketing sessions, conventions, continuing education classes and trade shows, not to mention email newsletters, blogs, calls to action, and the highly informative Realtor magazine.
Being an associate at one of the franchise firms like Coldwell Banker or Keller Williams does provide that important mentoring and co-learning and even direct training, but a growing percentage (over 25% by my estimate) are lone eagles or independent brokers.
CAR and NAR provide essential lobbying service at the state legislature and the U.S. Congress. Legislators would be at a loss when evaluating real estate legislation if it didn’t have our paid lobbyists bringing our perspective to their deliberations. These lobbyists don’t just protect the interests of practicing real estate agents (both Realtors and non-Realtors), they also protect the interests of homeowners and would-be home buyers.
Ours is not a simple business to understand. Without the input of our lobbyists, law-makers might abolish VA and FHA loans, which enable the purchase of homes with zero to 3.5% down payment respectively. They might abolish the mortgage interest deduction, which contributes so much to making home ownership affordable — a recognized and worthy public policy.
As I wrote two weeks ago, we real estate professionals need to support our trade association — not only for our good, but for yours, too.