What Is Your REALTOR Membership Worth?

There’s news this week of a large (450+ Agents) brokerage in Columbia, SC dropping its REALTOR membership.  There are a couple of factors in the decision:

  • Many of the agents don’t see a value in belonging and are balking at paying their $400+ share of dues.
  • REALTOR policy on dues dictates that a Broker is responsible for the dues of his/her agents, and must make up the difference if agents don’t pay.

The firm’s owner points out that in the current climate, that policy could cost his company upwards of $100,000, so the solution is to simply drop out.

Columbia, SC is a special circumstance:  while most MLS’s are owned by REALTOR Associations (and thus, become a major benefit of belonging), the Columbia MLS is privately held.  The firm can drop their REALTOR membership and still belong to the MLS.

So, this bit of news begs a question:  If you take away the MLS, what is the value of your REALTOR membership?

There seem to be two sides to this coin.  The dark side says:

NAR and its affiliated State and Local Associations and Boards are tyrannical pseudo trade unions that, under the guise of protecting the public and upgrading the industry, fight tooth and nail to preserve the status quo.

But on the other side, in the light, I hear:

  • REALTOR educational opportunities are outstanding, so much so that I routinely tell people if they want to know how to list and sell real estate, go to their local Board.  We can teach you the Help-U-Sell way to approach nearly everything, the way that makes us different and special.  But if you just want ideas on how to show a house or call on a FSBO, that’s generic real estate and it can be learned at the Board.
  • REALTOR Associations are constantly upgrading the tools of our trade.  Advances in technology, driven mostly by MLSs — which are, again, mostly owned by REALTOR Associations — have moved us light years ahead of where we were just a few years ago.  And that not only benefits real estate professionals, it also benefits consumers who have very good tools now for accessing information and participating in the home search and sale process.
  • NAR and the State Associations are a powerful force for housing friendly legislation.  Their lobbying efforts have benefited everyone pursuing the American Dream of Home Ownership for decades.  Often it is the REALTOR voice on Capitol Hill that keeps sanity in the mix.  How important is this?  Right now, NAR lobbyists are fighting hard to preserved the mortgage interest rate deduction for homeowners.  Congress, in an effort to find more dollars for the deficit, is actually considering ending that great benefit of home ownership.  We’ve faced similar challenges through the years and I’m proud to say the REALTOR voice – the voice of reason – usually prevails.

It’s unfortunate, but this year I think REALTOR Associations across the country are suffering.  Membership is dropping and it’s not just that big firm in South Carolina I’m talking about.  The tough market has driven many from the business and often it’s the annual event of DUES that forces the decision to get out.

I also think REALTOR Associations have to examine the benefits package to members as well as their policy on dues.  I believe the days of the proprietary REALTOR-only MLS are numbered.  Consumers already have access to much of that information online.  So the MLS, while high on the list of benefits, can’t be the biggest reason agents and brokers pay their Board Dues.

What do you think?  Why do you pay your dues?  What’s the biggest benefit you see?

Foreclosure Sales and Discounts: 3rd Qtr

Realty Trac is out with foreclosure stats for 3rd quarter.  It is an ugly picture but one also full of opportunity.  Sales of foreclosed property were down from the previous quarter and from the same quarter last year but remain an enormous factor in many markets.  Here is a snapshot of the states with the largest numbers of foreclosure sales for July, August and September:

By the way, Realty Trac calculates the ‘discount’ by comparing the average sale price of foreclosures in the State with the average sale price of non-foreclosed properties.  It’s not a perfect method (kinda like comparing the juice of this pile of apples, oranges and lemons with the juice of this other pile of apples, oranges and lemons), but the result still indicates that sellers with equity in the top foreclosure states have monumental competition.  Still, if your house is worth $200,000 and you have to price it at $175,000 to sell so you can buy your dream home (which happens to be an REO) valued at $400,000 but priced at $300,000, I think you’re way ahead.  Where else can you give up $25,000 and gain $100,000?  No stock market I’ve ever heard of.

Even if you’re not trading up, it’s a wonderful time to refinance.  I just did it on a streamline process that required minimal paperwork and no income verification (something I thought was gone forever).  It did require an appraisal but I think the appraiser must have been tipsey that day because he gave me way more value than I expected. My timing was a little premature:  I got a 4.375% rate and a few weeks delay would have probably saved a a nano-point or two but it sure beats the 6.25% interest only loan I gave up! Really: ’tis the season to touch base with everyone you’ve ever sold a house to, so why not help them discover if a refi might be available to them?

AND, OH BY THE WAY:  As you are paying your REALTOR dues this year be sure to make your voluntary contribution to RPAC and/or your State political action fund.  Congress is seriously debating taking away the tax deduction homeowners receive for mortgage interest paid, a move that in my opinion would be horrendous for America.  I hate lobbiests as much as anyone else, but ours are wearing white hats and need your help.

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