Senior attorney, Institute for Justice, Arlington, Va.
Why: Stood against the economic development tide to limit eminent domain.
Long before the landmark 2005 property rights case, Kelo vs. City of New London, for which she represented the home owners, Dana Berliner has focused tirelessly on the fight against what she sees as governmental abuse of its eminent domain powers. Property rights advocates don’t universally applaud her aggressiveness. But they do agree that Berliner, author of the 2003 Public Power, Private Gain: A Five-Year State-by-State Report Examining the Abuse of Eminent Domain, is an effective champion for the belief that property rights are inviolable. back to top
Chairman, board of governors of the U.S. Federal Reserve System, Washington, D.C.
Why: Rides herd on U.S. monetary policy and determines which direction interest rates will go.
Although it’s hard to imagine anyone wanting to follow the legendary Alan Greenspan, Ben Bernanke thus far has held his own. The former Princeton professor and former chairman of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers has generally followed the same route as his predecessor. Trying to balance the twin monsters of inflation and recession, Bernanke and his governors have called at least a temporary halt after 17 straight rate increases that have troubled real estate buyers. Bernanke’s career-long concerns about deflation may have contributed to his decision to stand pat, but he’s ready to act if he sees rising prices or a shrinking economy. back to top
Why: Provides informed analysis on the latest trends in real estate to some 500,000 consumers and practitioners each month.
Author of numerous best-selling books on real estate, an award-winning journalist, and an industry expert whose opinion is sought by CNN, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and the Associated Press, Blanche Evans has that rare ability to break down complex topics into understandable prose. As the editor of an independent online real estate news service, which she says reaches the industry’s influencers, Evans is a staunch, often feisty, defender of organized real estate. She doesn’t pull any punches in poking holes in what she deems agenda-laden, spurious attacks by outsiders. back to top
Why: Brought location, location, location to the real estate Web space with interactive mapping software.
Both consumer- and agent-friendly, Pete Flint and Sami Inkinen’s not yet two-year-old Trulia raises the bar for real estate searches online. Mapping is only part of the appeal; the site also provides a spectrum of unbiased information from days on market and cost per square foot to housing comparables. Once the site interests consumers with an intuitive interface and clever graphics, it quickly shifts prospective customers to the site of the listing broker advertising the property. Flint and Inkinen emphasize that theirs is an advertising-based business model, which sees real estate practitioners as customers, not competitors. A recently announced partnership with GMAC Real Estate brings the already successful site into the big time. back to top
Founder and publisher, Inman News, Emeryville, Calif.
Why: Feeds the need to know of a nation obsessed with real estate.
A one-man cheering section for the convergence of real estate fundamentals and cutting-edge technologies, Brad Inman uses his journalistic instincts to search out the next new thing—and the next. Then he helps spread the word through more than 50,000 Web sites and 250 papers that syndicate Inman News. After seeing the possibilities of Internet lead generation as a founder of HomeGain, Inman’s latest enthusiasm is video marketing. With TurnHere Inc., his digital video production company, he’s convincing brokerages and high-end listing salespeople that a moving picture is worth several thousand words. back to top
Secretary, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Washington, D.C.
Why: Embraces an inclusionary process for RESPA reform that will ensure that both consumers and the real estate industry benefit.
When HUD embarked on a plan to modify the federal Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act in 2005, Secretary Alphonso Jackson did it in a way that NAR has long sought: openly and with all parties at the table. Although it’s unclear what the final proposal will look like, it appears the rules will offer the full transparency of finance cost NAR endorses. Many HUD secretaries have fallen on the field of RESPA reform; Jackson may just make it happen. back to top
Alvin H. Baum Professor in Economics, University of Chicago, Chicago
Why: Contends in his 2006 best-seller Freakonomics that real estate practitioners work harder for themselves than for their clients.
About the nicest thing Steven D. Levitt and coauthor Stephen J. Dubner, a New York City-based journalist, have to say about the real estate industry is that the Internet will soon push practitioners onto the endangered species list. Their study of the economic impacts of various social phenomena also asserts that real estate sales associates sell clients’ homes faster and at prices 3 percent lower than they get for their own properties. The Harvard University graduate has become the darling of the media and academia for his arcane links between social trends, such as drug dealing and abortion, and economic outcomes. They don’t call economics the soft science for nothing. back to top
Chairman and CEO, Countrywide Financial Corp., Calabasas, Calif.
Why: Taps technology to fund the home ownership dreams of millions of Americans.
Countrywide launched the first online loan origination system in 1997 and has since pioneered systems and technologies that facilitate loan processing and reduced costs. Today, the nation’s largest mortgage lender with a loan portfolio that exceeds $1 trillion has earned a spot in the Fortune 500. The company is a leading lender to minorities and has initiated the $1 Trillion We House America Challenge campaign, to fund $1 trillion in home loans to minorities by 2010. A past president of the Mortgage Bankers Association, Mozilo was named one of the 30 most respected CEOs in the world by Barron’s in 2005. back to top
Why: Raised questions about real estate’s competitiveness that are still reverberating.
As head of the House Financial Services Committee, Michael Oxley has taken on the role of self-styled muckraker for real estate—launching investigations into the competitiveness of organized real estate. He’s also been a key impediment to NAR’s efforts to keep banks out of real estate by refusing to allow a floor vote on a bill prohibiting large national banks’ involvement in real estate brokerage and management—despite its 259 House sponsors. Oxley’s influence dissipates in January 2007, when he retires after serving 12 terms and the banks in real estate bill may finally get a hearing. But the anticompetitive furor he started has taken hold with both the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission. back to top
Why: Recognizes that banks in real estate are bad for the consumer and stands tough on that controversial issue.
Chair of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, Richard Shelby has been a strong ally in NAR’s effort to keep banking conglomerates out of real estate. In 2001 he cosponsored the Community Choice in Real Estate bill, which seeks to permanently prohibit banks from engaging in real estate sales or management. An advocate of small government, Shelby also helped pass the American Dream Downpayment Act, which provided $400 million to assist low-income first-time home buyers. That’s just one reason he was named 2003 Legislator of the Year by the Institute for Real Estate Management and the CCIM Institute. back to top
Stanley B. Resor Professor of Economics, Yale University, New Haven, Conn.
Why: Got big media coverage equating rising real estate prices with the tech bubble, but we haven’t heard the pop yet.
Robert Shiller scored instant media celebrity when his 2000 book, Irrational Exuberance, predicted the tech bubble’s explosion just weeks before the fact. Four years later, when he tried to apply the same principles to the real estate boom, he found out that all investments don’t behave alike. Shiller contended that rising home prices weren’t based in the fundamentals of population growth and supply and demand; they were bubbles, destined to pop. To the contrary, NAR economists predicted that market slowdowns would largely be gradual—a trend that’s playing out today. Shiller’s failed bubble scenario demonstrates that sometimes even smart guys get it wrong. back to top
Why: Built both an online real estate business and a philanthropic legacy on his belief in the power of community.
When he founded eNeighborhoods Inc. in 1997, Stu Siegel based his electronic compiler of community information on a simple premise—people care about what happens around them. Today, the first and still the largest community-based marketing site is connecting some 400,000 practitioners to owners and renters with innovations in lead generation software and personalized CMAs. Siegel’s focus on community and connection is also evident in his many philanthropic activities. The company was the founding sponsor of REALTOR® Magazine’s Good Neighbor Award program and remains its largest single supporter. back to top
Why: Charged NAR with anticompetitive behavior in a lawsuit against the association’s policies on the display of property listings on the Internet.
The Department of Justice has shaken up residential real estate by throwing the weight of the U.S. government behind its challenge to NAR rules that allow real estate brokers to control how the property listings their agents secure are displayed on competitors’ Web sites. The department filed an antitrust lawsuit against NAR in October 2005, despite the association’s decision to narrow the scope of a contentious provision of its Internet listing display policy that had allowed brokers to “opt out” of having their company’s listings displayed on Web. Although NAR will vigorously defend the MLS as a vehicle for broker-to-broker cooperation and the ability of listing brokers to control how their listings are used on the Internet, the multiyear battle is far from decided. back to top
Why: Embraces the Internet as a source of real estate knowledge, sparking a sea change in business models.
Some 60 million Americans have used the Internet to guide them through major life decisions in the past two years, according to a 2005 Pew Research survey, and that includes buying and selling a home. This paradigm shift has spawned Internet-based real estate brokerages like Foxtons and instantaneous mini-CMAs from new companies like Zillow. Yet, far from being the threat some practitioners feared, the Internet is just a faster enabler of what’s still a relationship business. back to top