The Ten: New face of NAR meets pivotal moment with confidence
On stages large and small, NAR President Tracy Kasper is making a compelling push to retake the Realtor narrative and highlight efforts to expand homeownership.
Editor's Note: In a historic year shaped by trials — of all kinds — a handful of people and themes have emerged as defining forces. Real Estate News has selected the top newsmakers of 2023 who have left a mark on the industry or shown perseverance in the face of epic challenges and opportunities. They are The Ten.
The National Association of Realtors has a clear goal for 2024: Reclaim the narrative about who Realtors are and what value they bring to clients.
It's a tall order given the organization's recent struggles — but one embraced by NAR President Tracy Kasper, who has been setting a new, more empathetic tone for the association since stepping into the leadership role four months ago.
Pushed into the spotlight
Kasper, who was in line to become NAR president in 2024, instead took on the role in late August in the midst of a scandal. Following allegations of sexual harassment, former NAR president Kenny Parcell resigned on Aug. 28, but the association also faced broader accusations of systemic harassment and a "culture of fear" within the organization.
The sudden scrutiny and criticism of NAR's culture put a national spotlight on the organization, and Kasper. As the new face of NAR, she quickly stepped up to tackle the issues. In her first public statement, immediately following Parcell's resignation, Kasper said she was "incredibly sorry for what's led us here" and vowed to "take the responsibility of rebuilding very seriously."
But the association's cultural issues haven't been the only challenge for the new president. Kasper has taken the helm at a time when a barrage of lawsuits and a stunning $1.8 billion verdict in the Sitzer/Burnett commissions case pose an existential threat to NAR.
The next moves by Kasper and the organization could have long-lasting impacts on the industry and directly affect the livelihood of buyer agents who rely on cooperative compensation to get paid.
Countering 'misinformation peddled in the courts'
In a series of year-end interviews and statements, including one posted on NAR's website on Dec. 19, Kasper said she shared members' frustration over the "misinformation peddled in the courts and the media" about Realtors — adding that the association intends to channel that frustration into action.
That action will include vigorously fighting the Oct. 31 Sitzer/Burnett verdict and the copycat lawsuits that followed — many of which have named NAR as a defendant or "creator of the conspiracy" to inflate commissions. The association must continue to fight, Kasper said, because homebuyers rely on what she referred to as "efficient, transparent and equitable marketplaces" during a keynote address at NAR NXT in November.
In her Dec. 19 video statement, Kasper added that NAR "will not let the Burnett verdict, nor the lawyers who stand to profit from it, imperil that dream [of homeownership] for buyers and sellers across America."
Kasper also hinted at enlisting the help of members to tell that story more broadly in 2024.
"Realtors work every day to serve and support our clients," Kasper said. "Your hard work… is already the best possible testament to the value that Realtors deliver to sellers and buyers across the country."
Changing the association's culture
While Kasper's recent messages have largely focused on the compensation lawsuits, she has also touched on the issue that prompted her early move into the presidency: the culture within NAR.
In the months since Parcell's resignation, NAR has instituted several new programs and procedures and brought in outside professionals, including an organizational expert, with the goal of more effectively handling employee and member complaints. Those programs are also intended to give the association feedback about what it needs to do to right the ship after years of alleged toxicity.
The moves "will help shape a more cohesive and collaborative organization and ultimately better position us to address the unique challenges and opportunities of this moment," Kasper said. "I believe we will emerge stronger than we have ever been."
Improving the organization's culture, Kasper added, will allow the organization to focus on telling Realtors' stories "more loudly and proudly in the weeks and months ahead."