Potential Alternative to NAR Holds First ‘Listening Tour’ Event; More Planned

The American Real Estate Association (formerly but no longer using the acronym AREA) conceived in January as a potential alternative to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), held its first event virtually, a “listening tour,” where they heard from agents across the country about their hopes and concerns for the industry. 

One of the main issues raised was the oversaturation of agents in the market, leading to a call for higher standards and fewer agents. In an exclusive interview with RISMedia, American Real Estate Association Co-Founder Jason Haber discussed the future of the new association, including plans to build a team, raise funds and establish a governance structure. They hope to have full-time staff and policy positions in place by next year. More listening events are planned.

Last year, Haber—an associate real estate broker currently with Compass in New York—was vocal in his disapproval of NAR, starting the NAR Accountability Project following the resignation of former NAR President Kenny Parcell. He founded the American Real Estate Association with Mauricio Umansky, a celebrity agent in Los Angeles.

In an email exchange with RISMedia, NAR did not voice a strong opinion either way when it first responded to the American Real Estate Association’s launch in January.

Michael Catarevas: The American Real Estate Association had its first event. What was it, and how did it go?

Jason Haber: We had our first event, our first listening tour. It’s important as we create an inclusive culture and community that we crowdsource ideas, and the concept behind this was to demonstrate how we’re going to be responsive to the community. And really, Mauricio and I shut up and we opened it up to the floor and we heard from agents from Honolulu to the Hamptons, and they shared with us their hopes, their aspirations, and what they’d like to see changed in the industry. We had an hour-long conversation. We had several hundred agents, and there was a lot of energy and enthusiasm. It was really infectious, and we thought it was awesome.

MC: When was it?

JH: Two weeks ago.

MC: How did you find people to contact them to take part?

JH: A few thousand people have already signed up on our website, so we sent an email to them.

MC: And you and Mauricio were answering questions basically?

JH: Yes.

MC: What did you find that people wanted to discuss most?

JH: One thing that’s very interesting is that they are tired of there being so many agents, and that more and more is actually bad for the industry. We heard this time and time again, and it is one of the reasons we’ve been out there talking about raising standards, reducing the amount of agents who are out there and elevating the profession. 

I don’t think we win as an industry just because there’s more of us. In 1978, the average agent did about 12 deals a year without the internet, cellphones and social media. They just had fax machines. Now the average agent does under eight deals a year. Why? With all the efficiencies today, agents are less productive. There were 400,000 agents in the late 1970s, and today there are 1.5-plus million members of NAR. So there are a lot of agents, and we should look to the American Medical Association, the American Bar Association and the thresholds of what it takes to be a professional and what the requirements should be. If we elevate the industry, it’ll raise the respect from the buyer and seller communities. I think it is better for the agent’s reputation and it would show that we’re moving in a new direction.

MC: Is that a galvanizing topic for a new organization to undertake? 

JH: No, that’s a different question. We were there just to be responsive and listen to folks. It was not for us to dictate. We were just listening to people. 

MC: I understand when you start something like the American Real Estate Association there’s an incredible energy to it and people are responding. You’ve gotten a lot of media coverage. Then suddenly there’s a lot of details to work out. It’s not your full-time job. So what’s the plan going forward now?

JH: We just launched an application, and we’ve gotten a lot of applications for people. We’ve opened it up for whoever is interested in our advisory committee to join a specific committee that we’ll be creating. There are board seats, advisory seats, consultants, etc., and we wanted to get a sense of how many people out there want to not just be a member, but be really active. And we’ve gotten a lot. I haven’t gone through all of them yet.

MC: Is Mauricio as involved now as he was from the start?

JH: Yes, of course. 

MC: Can you say what’s going on with the financing? Where is it coming from? 

JH: We’ll be raising the money. We’ve had a lot of meetings with very well-known venture funds and private equity groups. We’re not ready to sit down and go over terms yet because I want to get the governance structure set first. There’s a ton of interest. We’re looking for the right partners, and we’re going to have the luxury of options there.

MC: This being March, where would you hope the organization is by this time next year?

JH: I hope we have the full-time staff policy positions we’re advocating for. I think that’s most important, that we’re out there looking at specific policies and we’re making a difference, and agents feel valued and heard, and if they’re getting value from being with us, they’re being heard. And then we’re taking massive action on behalf of them, and we’re having success with that action.

MC: I recall you said that you were getting educational programs underway…

JH: We’re working on that, too. That will take time to get right. We’re not going to get it rushed, we’re going to get it right, which are two different things. So we’re going to build up a whole platform.

MC: Regarding the state of the market, does that have any impact on what you’re trying to do? With NAR and all the lawsuits, is that something you take into consideration as you’re trying to build your organization?

JH: We try to keep our heads down and just focus internally on what we will do and let everything else take care of itself. We’re not anti-NAR in any way. We wish them the very best. We hope they make it through this and succeed and thrive, and if we can help push them, make them better, that would be amazing. We’re focused on all the things we have to get done.

MC: Anything else you’d like our readers to know?

JH: No, I think that pretty much sums it up.

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