REALTOR Associations: Some get it, and some don’t. Most REALTORS pay their fees mostly “because they have to” but don’t realize what they are getting for those dues and fees. What is the value of joining? Having been in the industry for over 25 years and having served as a REALTOR as my sole source of income for a few years prior to being asked to come to the Association side, I’ve seen the industry from many perspectives. I’ve also been in the position to serve on and lead numerous committees at Illinois REALTORS and the National Association of REALTORS. Does that make me biased? Maybe, but I prefer to think it means I better understand the value of these organizations.
Let me discuss just a few of the benefits of being a member of these organizations. Easily an entire article could be written on any of these, so I’ll just highlight each.
Industry advocacy: The National Association of REALTORS specializes in federal policy and legislation. Illinois REALTORS watches state government as it relates to real estate. The local associations monitor local government, including municipal, some school districts, township, county and other units of government, as necessary when it affects real estate. REALTOR associations build relationships with the politicians and the administrators ahead of issues so that if — dare we say “when” — an issue arises, we already have contacts to help address the concerns.
Industry promotion: The ‘Three-way Agreement,’ which is the partnership that exists between the local, state and national associations, is the envy of trade organizations. We all work together to help partner in promoting the value of our members, REALTORS, within and outside the industry. Who hasn’t seen or heard ads promoting “That’s Who We R”? That cost you $45 annually. Now, that’s a GREAT investment.
Private property rights: We build those relationships with politicians, so we have them before they are needed. At each level — national, state and local — issues come up that would affect either our REALTOR members directly, like gross receipt tax in Illinois, or real estate clients, like mandatory sewer inspections. REALTORS don’t have the time to watch those concerns on their own, and they certainly don’t have the time or energy to fight those fights. Together, your REALTOR associations do. Roughly speaking, in Illinois alone there are 5,000-6,000 bills drafted annually. About 10% of those directly impact real estate. Do you have time to monitor and advocate for 500-600 Bills? We’ve got you covered.
RPAC, the REALTORS Political Action Committee, is one of the most powerful lobbies is the U.S. Through your voluntary contributions (not your dues), NAR, Illinois REALTORS and your local associations have earned ‘access to and influence on’ legislators. This ties hand in hand with the conversation above about advocacy, but it also differs. Very briefly, it helps us support candidates for office who understand real estate. Or, as our government affairs people joke, ‘It protects you from those who you elect.’ Think of your contribution as an insurance policy protecting your industry. Give to RPAC.
Agent education: We lovingly call it ‘alphabet soup’ amongst ourselves. I’m talking about those designations and certifications so many have after their names. Heck, I have eight myself. Maybe they seem silly, but they are important. Each of those has been earned by attending some class or series of courses to better prepare an agent to help their clients. Agents may not put much thought into it, but those courses take a lot of time and energy to write, get approved, train the trainer, etc. Additionally, they each get updated periodically as needed. We could discuss CE ad nauseum. We could argue its merits, but since it is a state law, it is required, and your local associations provide valuable, timely courses not only to help you get the credits you need, but also to keep you sharp.
The extras: There’s so much more the REALTOR Associations do for you, but most provide additional, ancillary benefits, as well. One example for each: In NAR’s REALTOR Benefits®, “you’ll find a robust roster of vetted business partners who’ve created custom products and services and exclusive member pricing designed to empower you to grow and thrive in your business.” Illinois REALTORS provides designated managing brokers (IR members only) with a legal hotline. In our case, the Heartland REALTOR Organization provides its members with free CE, Tech Helpline assistance and Forewarn, a screening app to help protect real estate agents.
This is just a short article to help provide a little background on the vast value the associations provide. Of course, each local association offers its own package of services and value. Be sure to reach out to your local association to inquire about what they offer to assist you. There’s so much available that it’s hard for any member to utilize it all.
Jim Haisler is the chief executive officer of the Heartland REALTOR® Organization.