NAR, RPR, Upstream and the Rest
The internet has been blowing up with stories about the above efforts. REAL Trends wants to weigh in.
By Steve Murray, President
Last month brought a flurry of articles about the challenges and miscues of the National Association of Realtors® (NAR), Realtors Property Resource (RPR) and Upstream, the effort by leading brokerage firms, together with NAR and RPR, to build a national warehouse of real property data that would be under the control of brokerage firms.
Much of the commentary was not flattering. It has been said that NAR wasted hundreds of millions of its members’ monies; that RPR is so little used by a majority of the membership that it should be shut down; that RPR uses outside contractors for much of its coding; and that Upstream has wandered far from its original intentions and that it may never reach its goal of data independence for the brokerage firms of the country.
Is it True?
We can’t say how much of this commentary is factual, although we agree that, in so far as NAR told the membership that RPR would become self-funding, and it appears that that objective will never be attained, a review may be in order.
We ask a simpler question. How many times has NAR attempted a technological breakthrough for the purposes of protecting the membership from the predators it sees around each corner—and almost every time failed to achieve that goal? Certainly, RIN and Realtor.com did not protect the membership from Zillow and others (although they did beat off Microsoft HomeAdvisor). RPR has not stopped numerous firms such as Boomtown, SmartZip and others from providing data-driven marketing tools. The free online forms and transaction management has not stopped SkySlope, Instinet and dotloop from gaining traction with thousands of brokers and agents.
Do You Need Protecting?
What is it about the Realtor organization that keeps them thinking they can protect the membership from innovators? Why does the leadership think that brokers and agents need protecting? The industry has been invaded by huge Wall Street firms, large insurance companies, retailers, credit unions, discount brokerage, different commission model realty firms and more for the past 20, 30 and 40 years. NAR spent millions of dollars and thousands of hours fighting to keep commercial banks out of brokerage. That hasn’t stopped Wall Street from financing competitive new entrants like RedFin, Compass, Purple Bricks or Open Door from entering the business. Compared to these vigorous new competitors, commercial banks appear tame.
Yet, the number of members continues to rise, and this year will likely see the second highest level of commission revenues in history. Why does the Realtor leadership think the members need protection?
From our view, RPR and all the rest are manifestations of a deep-seated fear of those from outside the industry. Until that view is banished from the thinking of the Realtor leadership, it will jump from one investment to another, always perceiving some new imagined threat to the membership. This fear-based view is what really needs to change.