NAR REALTORS® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo – May 14-19, 2018
What do thousands of REALTORS® and their Association Executives do in D.C. for an entire week? I’ll give you an overview through the eyes of your 2018 President Becky Merwin and CEO Denise Schultz*. I will preface this by saying every REALTOR® should try to go at least once to experience it personally. Even with the two of us busy for five straight days, there are so many more opportunities to learn and grow. Each person can individually tailor this experience and leave enriched in different ways.
We thankfully had an uneventful journey, flying out of Milwaukee on Southwest Airlines, into Reagan International Airport and then a quick cab ride to our hotel. I include this because for the next 24 hours we had friends from around the country face travel challenges of all kinds, including sleeping in airports. If I provide one helpful tip: FLY DIRECT. Saving a little money on connecting flights, only to end up with challenges that negatively impact an important trip is not worth it in the long run.
Upon arrival, we check in to two places – first, our hotel which needs to be reserved months in advance, with so many attending the meetings; and then the convention registration, which is very well organized and helpful. A 52-page booklet and an accompanying mobile app provide thorough information on how to best schedule the week. In any given day there are meetings going on simultaneously in several buildings where we can learn, share, listen, speak and affect change. Meetings about the industry, about hot topics, about how government affects us and property issues, about how our associations are managed, and about how to be a more successful REALTOR® and/or leader.
Monday night Denise had an Advisory Board Meeting with other Realtor association Certified Executives from around the country and Becky settled in for the week of meetings, connecting with other volunteer REALTOR® leaders from Wisconsin and beyond. The more we travel to these national meetings, the more friends we make each time, and it’s one of the greatest benefits. It’s customary for everyone attending from Wisconsin to casually meet up in the bar of the headquarters hotel from 5-6 each evening, to compare experiences and catch up. This is an opportunity to network with others from around the state, including all the top leadership who are grateful to those who attend to represent Wisconsin. The networking is invaluable.
Tuesday meetings included a lot of information on NAR Finances and budgeting, briefings for the Hill visits on Wednesday, and one of our favorites: “Board Forums and Idea Exchange Session.” The forums are rooms divided by the size of associations/boards filled with association staff and volunteer leaders, sharing ideas on topics such as “Effective RPAC Fundraisers,” “Raising the Bar of REALTOR Professionalism,” “Proven Education Methods” and “Non-Dues Revenue for Small Associations.” Those willing to share their successes step up to a mic and answer questions from those with questions. Then the top issues/questions raised are taken to the top leadership of NAR as all size boards gather in one room to hear directly from them. It’s a wonderful opportunity to hear from people we otherwise may never have the opportunity to meet. Tuesday afternoon we packed into an overfilled room to hear a panel of expert brokers share their thoughts on Agent Education and Professionalism. One term that really got our attention in this forum was when Adorna Carroll said, “Let’s face it. We are all sharing commissions with DRIFTWOOD!” (That one makes you think. Who wants to be driftwood?) We liked Ron Phipps thought that “REALTORS® should complement one another – especially in front of our customers and clients!” The common sentiment of the panel was that the level of professionalism of every REALTOR® reflects on every other REALTOR® and Ron encourages, “Be the REALTOR® other REALTORS® want to have deals with.” (Are you?) Next up was “NAR 360” that everyone should experience at least once. Thousands of us gather in an enormous hall to hear updates from top NAR Leadership and be reminded why what we do is so important. The theme this year focused heavily on Fair Housing and the 50th anniversary of the Act. The video opens STRONGLY, in response to criticism of leadership leading into the meetings. Worth a watch when you have time: https://youtu.be/EmtGT5vU_TM
Wednesday was filled with more committee meetings and briefings, including a session with Dr. Ben Carson and a Missouri Congressman focusing on Fair Housing issues. While most of us traveled to Capitol Hill to meet with legislators on this day, there was no shortage of meetings, plus the trade expo for REALTORS® to shop and learn about hundreds of vendors and service providers to our industry, and tours of the NAR Building near the Hill. We had the honor of visiting our Congressman and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan in his office briefly before he was required to call the House to order at noon. As you can imagine, the security clearance process and preparations take longer than the actual visit. We thanked him for his service and reminded him about our priorities with Fair Housing, Flood Insurance and tax issues. Others attended meetings with the same messages to other legislators, throughout our state and every other state in the country. This is a very powerful day when hundreds of REALTORS® carry consistent messages to their Congressmen and Senators.
Thursday morning opened with the Residential Economic Issues and Trends Forum, featuring the brilliant Dr. Lawrence Yun, NAR’s Chief Economist. He obviously addressed the lack of available housing and his ideas about how we got here and where we are going. It’s impossible to recap the volumes of information he shares while showing detailed graphs and slides. If you are interested in economics: ATTEND A MEETING AND HEAR LAWRENCE YUN. There were committee meetings and presentations, tours and open houses all day. We took some time away from the conference to tour The White House on this rainy Thursday. It was a very special experience well justified after the hours in meeting rooms, and we enjoyed a long lunch talking about our ideas gathered, information shared, and how and what we bring back home to the Lakes Area to implement to better serve our members. Sometimes the “field trips” become the most productive time on these trips. It’s important to take time to process all you’ve heard and discuss real ways to implement it when you return.
Friday morning brought my personal favorite part of any NAR conference: Association Management Roundtables. Presidents and President-Elects go in one room, Association Executives in another. Tables are divided by the size of the organization, and then again by topic you’d like to discuss. 15-minute sessions allow you and your peers to share ideas on the given topic. At the medium-sized board tables (500-2,000 members) we can learn a lot about other boards, at the small-sized board tables (under 500 members) we can share a lot of ideas that help smaller associations. We each do a little of both to “pay it forward” on one side, while gathering helpful tips on the other. I always find myself smiling with pride as I hear the challenges that face other staff members and often find myself saying, “Our culture is just more positive than that,” or “I don’t have that problem. Our members get along and work cooperatively,” etc. (Thanks!) I leave every roundtable session with new friends, and we stay in touch online year-round, sharing ideas. The RCE Leadership Luncheon on Friday was very interesting, as we learned about how NAR’s PAC (Political Action Committee) is the most powerful in the nation! A sold-out luncheon of 500 people learned more about how PACs work and how respected ours is in Washington. “The DC-insiders (swamprats) know you, they respect you, and they fear you!” Geoff Ziebart, Executive Director of the National Association of Business Political Action Committees told us.
Friday afternoon features three sessions in 90 minutes, of which you can attend two for 45 minutes each. In one of the most moving sessions I’ve ever attended, an Afghanistan war veteran, born in an orphanage in Seoul, South Korea, sang the National Anthem and reminded me of why I love being an American. He was phenomenal and moved us all, reminding us to focus on our passion and achieve our goals. Honestly, neither other speaker had a chance of inspiring me after hearing Mark Lindquist – check him out online. Friday afternoon/evening is “Caucus time.” First everyone from Wisconsin (and each state) gathers with state leadership to recap the week’s events and major decisions to be made at Saturday morning’s Board of Directors meeting. Then, regions gather for each state to provide reports on the activities of their associations (i.e. membership status, RPAC results, major accomplishments.) For many, this ends the long week and they travel home. For others, the grand finale is the Board of Directors Meeting which includes approximately 800 people voting on critical issues. The major topics of the May 19 meeting included a $30 dues increase for 2019 national dues (approved) the election of Wisconsin’s John Flor as 2019-20 NAR Treasurer, and two updates to enforcement of the REALTOR® Code of Ethics.
There is SO MUCH INFORMATION beyond this brief recap. If you are not yet using “The Hub,” NAR’s communication platform, please take a minute now to look into it. (thehub.realtor) If there is one thing that has become increasingly obvious, it’s that NAR’s 2018 leadership team is committed to transparency and open dialog. If you don’t know what’s happening, you aren’t trying to. Please, contact us if you have questions, or feel inspired to add “Attend a National NAR meeting” to your bucket, wish, or to-do list. Let us help you OWN IT!
Next up: Boston, November 2-5.
Thanks for your ongoing support. It is truly our pleasure to serve you.
Denise Schultz and Becky Merwin
*Although we wrote this through our personal experiences, other LARA members were in D.C., including serving on leadership and other committees and representing us in many ways. We appreciate the time and service of Steve Beers, Brad Lois, Sue Miller and anyone we may have inadvertently missed mentioning.