Congratulations, Realtors. Your dues are going up.
That means Realtors’ national dues will increase from the current level of $80 to $120 starting next year. Well, sort of. Realtors now pay $115 in national dues thanks to a $35 assessment for the NAR’s Public Awareness Campaign that has been renewed and funded at varying levels in three-year cycles since it was put in place in 1998. That assessment is up for review again in 2014, meaning national dues have increased — in real dollars — from $115 to $155 starting in 2012.
Factor in local and state associations dues that Realtors must pay to be members of the NAR and you’re talking about some real money after awhile. Here in the Natural State, for example, dues to the Arkansas Realtors Association (ARA) were raised from $100 to $160 starting this year, meaning those Realtors who paid state and NAR dues of $215 in 2010 and $275 this year are looking at $315 in 2012 — an increase of 46.51 percent in dues in two years during a time when housing markets are still in full recovery mode. And that’s not taking into consideration any increase in local dues.
NAR President Ron Phipps released a celebratory statement about this morning’s vote on the increase:
“Earlier today, the NAR Board of Directors voted in favor of the Realtor Party Political Survival Initiative and agreed to fund it through a dedicated dues increase of $40 per member, beginning in 2012. The initiative will allow NAR to provide millions of dollars in additional support to state and local boards, which are facing a cadre of policy proposals that would restrict private property rights and drain home owners’ pocketbooks.
“As the only organization speaking on behalf of America’s home owners, NAR must remain strong and influential at all levels of government. During the past week, we have heard from dozens of industry and government leaders about the broad challenges facing our markets and the growing desire on the part of federal, state and local governments to implement policies that would hurt home owners and the economy. In passing this initiative, Realtors send a clear message that we are ready and willing to protect the home owners and communities we serve.
“On behalf of the entire organization, we thank the directors for their feedback and guidance, as we refined this initiative, and we are grateful to all Realtors who engage in an informed debate prior to this vote.”
Interestingly enough, Phipps’ comments don’t address one fact that’s come to light over these past few months — the majority of Realtors hate the increase (the smile-until-it-hurts article from the NAR’s PR wing barely mentions that fact, either). There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence backing up that sentiment, such as the fit the folks over at The Bloodhound Blog are throwing or even negative comments on an NAR site explaining why the organization has deemed the increase necessary.
Ah, but there’s more than just anecdotal evidence floating around out there. Agent Genius reported in April it had taken a poll showing that 66 percent of the respondents found the notion of a dues increase very upsetting and that 32 percent of the respondents were only members of the NAR because they have to be to access the multiple listings service (MLS). Meanwhile, 29 percent said they’d prefer to only have to pay local associations in order to access the MLS while a mere 16 percent of the respondents said they are NAR members because they believe the organization’s political advocacy is important.
Want more? A RealTown poll issued this month found that 82.3 percent of the respondents were against the increase, while another 72.2 percent voted against an alternative plan to eliminate the aforementioned Public Awareness Campaign and use the $35 to pay for the political initiative.
Why did the NAR push for the dues increase? We explained that in this March article, but here’s a brief recap couldn’t hurt. The U.S. Supreme Court, in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, eliminated the requirements that corporations and groups like the NAR can only use “hard dollars” to fund political campaigns. Now lobbyists can fling “soft dollars” at candidates, meaning the NAR can tap dues dollars directly to use for political purposes as they see fit. Of course, corporations can also play the “soft money” game thanks to the aforementioned ruling.
The mandatory dues increase, then, will put around $40 million a year at the NAR’s disposal. It’s worth mentioning that two-thirds of the money raised through the initiative will go directly to state associations. In Arkansas, that means an additional $192,024 a year to the ARA for political purposes if the state retains current membership levels of an estimated 7,200 Realtors.
It’s also worth mentioning the OpenSecrets.org reported that the NAR spent over $6 million on federal political campaigns last year — 61 percent of the recipients were Democrats and almost all of them were incumbents. Those were all hard dollars raised through the Realtors Political Action Committee (RPAC). There’s no indication that the NAR won’t stop raising money for RPAC and the same goes for the Arkansas Realtors Political Action Committee (ARPAC).
Benton resident. Rogue journalist. Recovering attorney. Email = Ethan@FirstArkansasNews.net.