What Makes Us 'Essential'

NAR President Vince Malta says that seeing how members have adapted to the crisis has reinforced his confidence about the industry's future.
NAR president Vince Malta at his office

© Vince Malta

HOME SWEET OFFICE: While acknowledging that “Zoom fatigue” is real, NAR President Vince Malta says his working relationships have been enhanced with virtual tools.

Vince, how have you been doing?

We’ve been fortunate. Home has never been more important. I bike and walk to de-stress. I talk with my neighbors more than I ever have. It’s a time to show great patience with people. They’ll always remember what you do and don’t do right now. In terms of business, I’m finding ways to work around limitations and create the most positive experience for our customers and clients. I’ve also had to step up my technical game. I got an Ethernet line at home so my video wouldn’t freeze. My internet connection means more to me than ever.

What has heartened you most about how members are managing through this time?

I’m thrilled by how members are adapting by using virtual tools. When you have a meeting with a client, virtual technology is a win-win because it creates conveniences like never before. It’s not replacing, but rather enhancing our relationships. Still, we have to be careful about “Zoom fatigue.” On a large scale, we learned what’s possible by holding the REALTORS® Legislative Meetings virtually, and we were wowed!

Tell us more about the first-ever virtual meetings.

Registrations for the virtual version were more than triple our normal attendance, and people continued to register after the event to watch the recorded sessions. We weren’t constrained by hotel space or travel logistics. Going forward, the virtual format—even a hybrid version—expands our reach, enabling more members to participate. That means more ideas, engagement, and voices on Capitol Hill.

Have members conveyed a greater sense of mission about their work?

Yes. We always knew our work was driven by the American dream of homeownership. But I’ve gained a new appreciation for the word “essential.” In one case, I had to find housing for a nurse. He worked in the emergency room and couldn’t go home. So I rented him an apartment. If someone hadn’t deemed my work essential, how would he have found a place to live? I’m also working out agreements with people who lost their jobs. If I can make accommodations, I’m going to do it. It all comes back to people rather than transactions.

How will the business change in the long run?

A lot has already been said about how COVID-19 will change our business. As I write this, I’m just as focused on the changes we need to make to address racial injustice and build safe, inclusive communities. The senseless death of George Floyd has crystalized this simple truth: Our neighbors where we live and work must feel safe and free from discrimination. As REALTORS®, when it comes to equal housing opportunity, let’s lead the way.