NAR hits back following ‘external commentary’ critical of the group

NAR Interim CEO Nykia Wright sent a letter on Friday following a critical article in the Wall Street Journal, and in the wake of news the U.S. Department of Justice wants big changes in real estate.

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Amid a double whammy of bad news, some of which characterized the National Association of Realtors as experiencing a “crisis” and “hitting rock bottom,” the organization hit back on Friday with a letter arguing that “the real story” is “progress.”

Nykia Wright Photo

Nykia Wright

The letter, posted online and sent to NAR members via email, comes from Interim CEO Nykia Wright and is headlined “The Real Story.” Wright begins the letter by saying that both NAR and the broader industry face a “challenging moment,” before then offering criticism of those who would capitalize on such challenges.

“External commentary has seized on those challenges and purported to tell our story for us,” Wright continues. “The real story is this: NAR recognizes the challenges of the moment, and we are focused on moving our association and our industry forward.”

The letter does not point to any specific “external commentary,” but it was distributed the same day that the Wall Street Journal published a critical article that begins by saying NAR “appeared to hit rock bottom in October” after the verdict in the Sitzer | Burnett commission lawsuit. The article paints a picture of an organization in “crisis” — a word featured in the headline — and includes biting quotes from well-known industry figures.

RE/MAX Chairman Dave Liniger, for example, told the Journal that there “has been consistently an arrogant attitude of the senior officers” at NAR.

Brian Boero, CEO of 1000watt, said NAR “got big, it got flabby, it got arrogant and it got complacent.”

Though the Journal article mostly retreads known history about NAR and the current spate of commission lawsuits, the piece adds to a growing body of reportage on the trade organization’s most grueling year in recent memory.

Wright’s letter does not respond to the commentary in the Journal piece, instead touting among other things NAR’s lobbying efforts and “key initiatives to strengthen our organization and address cultural challenges.”

The letter further reveals that Sharon Millett and Vince Malta have joined NAR’s 2024 Leadership Team. Millett is an agent from Maine who served as president of NAR in 1999. Malta, an agent from California, was president of NAR in 2020.

At another point, Wright’s letter mentions antitrust litigation and notes that the “stakes are enormously high.”

The letter also comes in the wake of — but does not discuss — news that the U.S. Department of Justice wants to see seismic changes in the real estate industry. That news broke Thursday, when the agency told a judge to reject a settlement in a commission lawsuit known as Nosalek. Critically, and among other things, the DOJ called for separating sellers from offering compensation to buyers’ agents, a concept known as “decoupling.”

NAR is not a part of the Nosalek case, but is a defendant in other similar commission lawsuits such as Sitzer | Burnett and Moehrl. The DOJ’s views on the issue of agent compensation are therefore of huge consequence to the trade organization and to the outcomes of the many commission lawsuits taking place around the U.S. right now.

It remains to be seen just how aggressively the federal government might push for decoupling — which would represent a significant shift away from the present status quo — but the DOJ’s intervention in Nosalek bears out NAR President Kevin Sears’ assertion last week that the agency could ultimately be more disruptive than the commission suits themselves.

Wright avoids mentions of the DOJ in the letter, instead saying that “from the beginning, we have been willing to work with industry, government, and other stakeholders to improve our policies and ensure they are in the best interests of our members and the consumers they serve.”

She also ultimately strikes an optimistic tone, arguing that “the real story, then, is progress.”

“NAR will continue to evolve to better serve our members, our staff, and consumers across America,” Wright concludes, “and to lead our industry into the future.”

Email Jim Dalrymple II

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