The National Association of Realtors logo and silhouettes of business people and office buildings
Illustration by Lanette Behiry/Real Estate News

NAR called ‘arrogant’ as it makes national news again 

A Wall Street Journal story portrays the National Association of Realtors as inflexible in the face of legal challenges to the industry’s commission structure.

February 16, 2024
3 minutes

Key points:

  • Both The Journal and The New York Times have published critical assessments of NAR in recent months.
  • RE/MAX Chairman Dave Liniger described senior NAR officers as “like a solid wall” determined to do things their way.
  • Consumers would benefit from changes to NAR policies, The Journal said, because they could potentially pay lower agent commissions.

A new story from the Wall Street Journal describes the National Association of Realtors as an organization in crisis and out of touch with its members.

It's another example of scrutiny from the nation's largest and most influential news outlets, and it adds insult to injury by portraying NAR's woes as potentially good news for consumers, who could end up paying less for homes if the association loses its court fight over agent commissions. NAR has frequently positioned itself as a pro-consumer organization.

"There has been consistently an arrogant attitude of (NAR) senior officers," RE/MAX chairman Dave Liniger told the Wall Street Journal. "It just seemed to me that it was just like a solid wall of, 'It's our way, and we're going to keep it that way, and we don't care.'"

NAR has also faced scrutiny from The New York Times, whose investigation last summer described a "culture of fear" at the organization and leveled sexual harassment allegations against NAR president Kenny Parcell, who later stepped down. His departure touched off a wave of turmoil that has continued into this year.

Friday's story in the Wall Street Journal included NAR's response in the form of a written statement from interim CEO Nykia Wright.

"NAR is at the forefront of issues affecting the lives of millions of people," she said. "We have a profound obligation when navigating complex litigation that has the potential to affect not just our industry but the entire American economy. While some are focused on the past, we are looking to the future."

NAR portrayed as inflexible, bloated

The Journal gave NAR credit for "repeatedly fending off lawsuits and Justice Department inquiries about industry practices." But it also implied that this success has made NAR unwilling to change rules around buyers' agent compensation despite the urging of top industry executives.

It specifically highlighted a February 2022 email from Anywhere's head of industry relations, Caitlin McCrory, to an NAR staffer. "Questions about why the mandate exists are posing unnecessary complications while providing little to no discernible benefit," McCrory wrote.

The Journal had previously taken aim at NAR last fall, calling it a cartel in an editorial. Friday's story had a similar tone, characterizing changes to NAR as a win for homebuyers. U.S. commissions are some of the highest in the world, the Journal wrote, and consumer advocates say changes to NAR's rules would make homes more affordable by lowering commissions.

But those changes could reduce the number of agents and shrink NAR and its lobbying power, the Journal said. The story also acknowledged that the Journal's parent company, News Corp, operates under license from NAR.

Already, NAR is seeing notable defections and drops in its membership numbers. And settlements reached by Anywhere and RE/MAX in the commissions lawsuits include provisions that eliminate NAR membership requirements.

Brian Boero, CEO of 1000watt, a real estate-focused creative agency, called NAR a "massive hulking institution that lives on lots of teeny members' payments. It's like a whale that is sustained on krill, and this gave it a certain institutional durability."

"It got big, it got flabby, it got arrogant and it got complacent."

Get the latest real estate news delivered to your inbox.