Commentary by John Featherston
Organized real estate is constantly being challenged. This is not new news—it's been happening for decades. However, the current crop of challengers to our industry are more powerful than ever before, carving inroads with technologies and efficiencies that resonate with today's increasingly savvy consumers.
Today's "disruptors"—as many in the industry commonly describe them—have spent an incredible amount of capital to integrate cutting-edge technology and advanced data and analytics into their offering in order to embrace the consumer's growing sophistication and thirst for relevant information. No matter the specifics of the various models, the agenda is basically the same: to insert their organizations in front of, or possibly in place of, a real estate professional.
While many disruptors claim they view the role of the real estate agent as extremely important, their models continue to challenge organized real estate, including the 1.2-plus million members of the National Association of REALTORS®. The traditional real estate process is often viewed by opportunists as an archaic, inefficient and costly process which is ripe for change and/or reorganization. Every challenger to our industry arrives with an agenda to capture our business by questioning the value proposition real estate professionals provide to the consumer. And in due course, many of these disruptors have forced our industry to change and adapt, which, in my opinion, has made us stronger and even more valuable to the consumer.
Over the past two decades, organized real estate has undergone a dramatic shift in the affiliation, ownership and management of real estate brokerage operations, as well as the adoption of and use of technology and communications. During his 12 years as CEO of NAR, Dale Stinton guided the industry through a constant influx of challengers seeking to sway the consumer toward alternative avenues to buy, sell and invest in real estate. But today, the challenges are greater than ever before, and that is why the need for the continued leadership of an innovative and experienced executive is critical. That's why, in my opinion, the selection of Bob Goldberg as NAR's next chief executive officer is absolutely the right choice.
As Dale approached retirement, there were many rumors and several names leaked regarding his possible successors—an impressive roster of accomplished individuals. But the stakes are high, and change for the sake of change would not have been the right move. Now, more than ever, we need someone who has demonstrated a burning passion for this business—whose heart has always been dedicated to the betterment of the industry and the membership of NAR. A person who represents the Code of Ethics when it refers to "the grave social responsibility and a patriotic duty to which REALTORS® should dedicate themselves," and the need "to eliminate practices which may damage the public or which might discredit or bring dishonor to the real estate profession." Without a doubt, that person is Bob.
Bob has been in the trenches, knows what we stand for, is committed to improvement and innovation, and not reluctant to affect change when and where change is needed. Just last week, he underscored this commitment to both protecting and advancing the industry as part of a panel discussion entitled "Shaping the Future of Real Estate" during NAR's Broker's Edge event in New York City. "It is NAR's responsibility on behalf of our members to lead our industry versus being led," he explained. "Moreover, we should not be fearful of the constant disrupters, but fearless in being in front of changes before they occur."
Throughout my nearly 40-year career of closely following the housing sector and the residential real estate industry, the common denominator has been the fact that the National Association of REALTORS® has always had the best interest of the real estate profession and homeownership in general as its focal point, and Bob embodies that. I have known Bob for 35 years and have seen him in action firsthand. I have had the opportunity to work directly with him on many initiatives and witness his dedication to this industry. Bob is a smart business person who has been in the trenches of the industry and repeatedly demonstrated his ability to manage change and adapt as necessary to produce results. Albert Einstein said, "In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity." As our industry continues to face challenges, Bob and his team will be the ones to turn them into opportunities—for REALTORS®, as well as for the consumers they serve.
In my humble opinion, the NAR Board of Directors has served its members extremely well in the selection of Bob Goldberg. Our future is in good hands.
John Featherston is founder, CEO and publisher of RISMedia.