Clint Skutchan and NAR President Kevin Sears on stage at the T3 Leadership Summit in Scottsdale, AZ, on April 23.
Clint Skutchan and NAR President Kevin Sears on stage at the T3 Leadership Summit in Scottsdale, AZ, on April 23. (Photo: Stephanie Reid-Simons)

NAR president to industry executives: ‘I’m sorry’ 

“We fought as hard as we could,” said Kevin Sears this week when speaking about the settlement, its impact, and the need to change the media narrative.

April 26, 2024
3 minutes

Key points:

  • Kevin Sears said they had to leave some brokers and non-Realtor MLSs out of the settlement in order to get the deal done.
  • Sears wants MLSs to focus on complying with the changes mandated by the settlement, and then tackle the broader questions about what’s next.
  • He expressed concern about how rule changes will hurt homebuyers, particularly minority groups and those making their first purchase.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The National Association of Realtors has faced its fair share of challenges over the past year and fought some major battles — so it's no wonder that Kevin Sears has embraced the role of "wartime president." 

One task of a wartime president is apologizing when something doesn't go right, and that is what Sears did this week in front of hundreds of real estate executives at the T3 Leadership Summit.

"Let me start by saying I'm sorry," Sears told the crowd when asked about the NAR settlement — a deal that excluded more than 90 of the largest brokerages as well as around 30 non-Realtor MLSs — during an onstage interview with T3 Sixty's Clint Skutchan on April 24. 

"We fought as hard as we could," Sears said. "But at the end of the day, we left some of our brokers out there."

Settlement was 'the most efficient way' to end the fight

Reflecting back on the decision to settle, Sears said he still believes NAR could have won the case on appeal, but the cost of continuing the fight — a likely bankruptcy for the organization — would have removed them from the copycat cases and left many of its members to fight that litigation alone.

"At the end of the day, when we looked at it we said, 'What is the most efficient way that we can draw a conclusion to the sell side commission suits?' And that was through this settlement," Sears said.

What's next for MLSs

Sears touched on a number of topics during the 30-minute interview, including how NAR and the industry can move forward now that the settlement has received preliminary approval. Skutchan, who leads the organized real estate consulting division at T3 Sixty, asked Sears what's next for MLSs.

First up, said Sears, is making sure MLSs satisfy the minimum requirements of the settlement, which includes removing the offer of compensation field from its listings. Once that's done, there can be a broader conversation about what the future holds — which should include how NAR is going to be involved, and what industry professionals want from their MLSs, Sears said.

"And then we need to partner with them and make sure we get there for the betterment of not only our members — their subscribers — but for the general public," Sears said.

Members should use local media to their advantage

Sears was critical of the national media's coverage of NAR and the industry in recent months. He said members can counter some of that influence by talking to their local media. Focusing on local outlets will have more impact, he believes, because real estate agents are often strongly connected to their communities.

"The national media is going to tell the story they want to tell. I'm not as concerned about them, but I am concerned about the local media," Sears said. "If we can have members on the street having conversations with the local media, that's where the rubber really meets the road."

Sears also talked about the importance of humanizing homebuyers and helping the public understand how upcoming rule changes could affect them. 

"I am concerned about the possible impact this is going to have on first-time homebuyers, first-generation homebuyers, homebuyers in the Black and Brown communities and veterans," Sears said.

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