The National Association of Realtors (NAR), with 1.5 million members, is known for being the largest professional organization in the United States, and it is also, by far, the top-spending lobbying group in the entire country.
In 2020 and 2022, NAR outspent all other organizations in the country and maintained second place in lobbying expenditures for seven of the last ten years, trailing only the US Chamber of Commerce. Last year, NAR spent an astounding $81.7 million on lobbying, a stark contrast to the industry’s second-highest spender, the National Multifamily Housing Council, which allocated $6.8 million.
NAR’s extensive spending spans over a decade, holding the industry’s top position since 2006, as per data from OpenSecrets. They have also already spent over $23.5 million in the first half of 2023, nearly half of the industry’s total spending.
The association primarily focuses on advocating for federal policy initiatives that promote property ownership, buying, and selling, with housing being their most lobbied category in the last 25 years. Taxes, finance, insurance, and consumer product safety follow closely behind.
NAR takes its legislative influence seriously. It also takes its reputation in the industry just as seriously. The association owns the trademark to the word “Realtor,” which means that to be able to call themselves realtors, a vast majority of real estate agents in the US — almost 90% — pay the association’s membership dues.
However, this influence and reputation are in testy waters. NAR’s hold in the real estate industry may be slipping, and lobbying may not be as big a priority.
In August, allegations of widespread sexual harassment within the organization was exposed by a New York Times report. The controversy pointed to NAR President Kenny Parcell who denied the allegations but resigned shortly after the story was released.
Last week, NAR was hit with the groundbreaking $1.78 billion verdict in the Sitzer/Burnett buyer broker commission class action lawsuit which accused the association of conspiring to inflate commission rates and violating antitrust laws. The association has vowed to appeal the landmark verdict, which analysts say could reduce agent commissions by 30%.
Last week, CEO Bob Goldberg announced his sooner-than-expected departure. He will be replaced by former Chicago Sun-Times CEO Nykia Wright in the interim but this has not stopped questions about the organization’s leadership and direction.
Many of the country’s largest brokerages have since left the association, including Coldwell Banker, Century 21 Real Estate, Sotheby’s International Realty and Re/Max. The internet brokerage Redfin said that its departure from NAR was a long time coming.
NAR is having a very tough year, and many more real estate agents are growing disillusioned with its ability to represent their interests. Especially with a troubled market that sees no light yet at the end of the tunnel — home sales have hit new lows and mortgage purchase applications have dropped to their lowest level in almost 30 years.
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