NAR can’t raise the bar – but your broker can

NAR is the face of real estate – a nice big target to blame when something needs to be fixed. But here it is really up to the real estate agents to raise their standards.

The number of real estate licensees continues to grow, and membership of the National Association of Realtors (NAR) is thriving with more than 1.5 million contributing members. So, get ready – we’ll hear more about “raising the bar” and screaming to get rid of all of these “low producing” agents and those who don’t do a good job.

When real estate is tight, we create “hazard” reports and fight each other over a piece of the ever-shrinking commission pie. Instead of focusing on the people and companies responsible for attracting and retaining marginalized agents, there are those who believe that NAR can – and do should – Raising membership standards.

Brokers and real estate companies are the only companies that can raise the bar, and some have. You have standards. They provide training, supervision and ongoing support. Others work with any licensee who can fog up a mirror and release them for profit. Behind every poor or marginal realtor is a marginal, greedy, or incompetent real estate agent.

We see that all the time. Just try to speak to a broker about when agents break a law or misbehave. Most brokers will defend their agents’ actions, especially if the agent is a high producer.

I remember the day I came to NAR. I got a license and joined one of the franchisees in my area. Then I was told that I had to join the NAR and that I would automatically become part of the local and regional associations. At the time, I wasn’t ready to participate in anything, but I had no other choice.

I realize that NAR had no choice – and neither did I. I will be a full member if I pay my dues and am not caught breaking rules. If I get kicked out, my broker license is still good and I could still stay in business.

I don’t think low production agents do a bad job representing buyers or sellers. You are a bigger threat to other agents than to the public. Some of the best agents I know aren’t top producers. They are experienced, competent and friendly and always put the needs of their customers first.

In fact, some of the top producers I know are dishonest. Some went to jail. Our culture favors people who make money and regards them as smarter, more hardworking, and even more professional than those who make less money.

The primary goal of a real estate company is to make money. The only way to make money is by having agents. The more agents the company has, the more money it can make.

The agents themselves don’t necessarily have to make a lot of money for the company to benefit. In fact, I’ve seen companies grow like crazy in terms of agent count, but the average revenue per agent keeps falling.

Real estate companies bring brokers in without paying them or offering services or even office space, and if those brokers make money, the company makes money too, and there is money to be made with brokers who don’t make sales.

E&O insurance is a profit center for companies that charge agents too much and thus force them to shop in the company shop. There are rents to be collected, technology fees, and anything else the agent wallet can pay for.

There are agents who do a great job and only need a few sales a year to make a living. Real Estate Agent Listed in AARP’s Top 10 Part-Time Jobs for Retirees. Indeed, real estate agents is one of the few professions where age doesn’t seem to be an obstacle to finding a job.

Profit is why this hypothetical bar is where it is and why it will stay there. The same system that gives us an internet provider, the medical-industrial complex and billionaires who can leave Earth in rockets while their workers live in mobile homes, brings us the real estate industry.

On my previous point, it is the real estate company’s job to set standards for real estate agents. If the standards in real estate companies were higher, NAR members would also be better and more professional.

Real estate licensees must work under a licensed broker. Licensed brokers are intended to oversee and are responsible for the actions of their licensed sellers. In fact, the agent’s customers are technically customers of the broker.

The only way a “bad agent” can work with clients is for a broker to allow that agent to operate under their license. It’s really up to real estate agents and companies to raise the bar.

NAR is the face of real estate – a nice big target to blame when something needs to be fixed.

So don’t waste time or words suggesting that NAR needs to raise standards for members. Talk to the real estate companies and ask them to raise their standards.

Teresa Boardman is the Broker and Agent / Owner of Boardman Realty in St. Paul. She is also the founder of

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