How can the National Association of REALTORS® strengthen and clarify the value of membership so current and prospective members remain committed stewards of the REALTOR® brand? That was the question posed to NAR’s Leading Edge Advisory Board on Thursday during the REALTORS® Conference & Expo in Boston.
Of those on the 79-person committee who were present at the meeting, many suggested better targeting association communications to members’ interests. The volume of messages from NAR on different topics can cause confusion, they said, and it may be a better strategy to focus on the top three issues that are relevant to every member. Board members came up with a variety of other ways NAR could underline its value proposition to members.
- Increased communication about the tax incentives of homeownership. Early versions of last year’s tax reform legislation would have decimated key homeownership tax breaks, and NAR successfully worked to save many of them in the final law. Still, it was the first time in nearly a century that they were on the chopping block, which could send the message to consumers that homeownership is no longer important. NAR may need to more purposefully convey in its advocacy messaging to members that if homeownership loses importance to the consumer, the industry will become less relevant.
- Earlier messaging to new members. The committee pointed out that in the pre-licensing phase, prospective members don’t receive information about NAR or the benefits of membership. However, pre-licensing courses are run by state commissions—not industry organizations—which makes it difficult for NAR to infiltrate. Instead, NAR could increase its presence and impact on new member orientations in each state.
- Better education about the differentiating factors of a REALTOR®. Consumers still are unaware of the difference between a REALTOR® and a generic real estate agent. That may be in part because members don’t have sufficient guidance on how to explain the difference to their clients. One way to solve this issue is to carve out one thing that distinguishes REALTORS®, such as their commitment to a Code of Ethics, and drive that message home.
- Focus on the benefits that are only available to members. Different forms of real estate education can be obtained anywhere—and, oftentimes, for free. NAR may need to focus on communicating about items members can’t get anywhere else, such as an association health plan. (NAR continues to explore an AHP option amid a legally uncertain environment.)
- Add more value to technological offerings. In addition to supporting new technology, NAR could add value for the member by providing more talking points about how the technology benefits the consumer during a transaction. Simply making technology more accessible does not help members inspire more loyalty from their clients.