BARRISTER'S BRIEFING: Coping with the New Changes

Brian Levine | February 2020

Brian Levine, HGAR In-House Counsel/Director of Legal Services & Professional Standards Administrator

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.
Socrates

I thought it would be a good idea to focus this month’s article on the subject of change. There’s a lot of change taking place in our industry. Tenant rights are being strengthened, and with it there are changes to the amounts a landlord can demand for security deposits and amounts that can be charged for background/credit checks.

Also, fair housing is changing and being bolstered. Continuing education is changing by increasing requirements and eventually it will become mandatory for all licensees. We have a new MLS beginning, with new status categories and fields. NAR has made changes to the biennial (now triennial) Code of Ethics training and created new clear cooperation rules which will soon be going into effect. However, as we all know, the greatest change came when the New York State Department of State suddenly, with no prior notice, announced that the way many agents conduct business and collect commissions in our region must immediately stop…yet, days later, we were informed that a filed lawsuit would stay this change. What’s the end result? We shall see. (See coverage of the commission collection issue).

All this change has left many reeling, frustrated, and confused (I know because my voicemail is full and my inbox is overflowing). What we all need to do is stop, take a step back, and look at the bigger picture. Take a minute and breathe. Robert Eliot once said, “Rule number one is, don’t sweat the small stuff. Rule number two is, it’s all small stuff.” We need to breathe, look at our industry, what we do, and take it all in. Yes, there has been a lot of change, but the reality is that all this change is small stuff. These changes that have come or are coming are small modifications of what we do on a bigger scale. Agents will still list houses, go to open houses, build our businesses, drive buyers around, negotiate on deals, work endless hours on weekends and late into the night and participate in activities with other Realtors and the public in an effort to raise their profile and commitment to excellence. All these changes do not change the core of what you do and, rest assured, all agents will continue to get paid for all the hard work they do. You are still Realtors; dedicated and committed to your clients and your business. You still care about people and what you do.

So, with all these rapid-fire changes, what do you do now? First, don’t get overwhelmed. As I said before, these are all small things. Each one is a singular issue, so you should treat them as small bumps, not insurmountable mountains. Address your first issue of change and look at it for what it is. It’s not changing your business in its entirety, it’s just a small change in how you operate. Keep it all in perspective.

Second, do your homework. Take each change and find out exactly what is it… and what it isn’t. Read everything out there about it. You have tremendous resources. HGAR publishes Real Estate In-Depth both online and it’s mailed to many of you. NYSAR and NAR both have publications online and hardbound. Check your inbox and the MLS for information, updates, advisories and announcements on a daily basis. Speak to your managers/brokers/owners. Attend office meetings and HGAR events. Additionally, there are trade meetings/events, podcasts, trade publications, and the newspapers. All of these are resources designed to get the right information to you.

Third, and probably most importantly, ask questions, listen, and take notes. If, after all your research, you have more questions, reach out to your manager/broker, a colleague, a board member, or the HGAR Member Success Team for guidance. If you still have questions, that’s okay. Ask them. Reach out to the NYSAR Legal Hotline or e-mail me. I am always available to answer your questions. Listen, take notes, and ask more questions.

“In times of stress, the best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts and to be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers.”
Fred Rogers

In closing, we need to take stock in the fact that our industry is changing at a breakneck speed. You are equipped to handle this change and you have tools and support from everyone around you to succeed. Keep your world in focus and maintain a keen focus on your goals. Change can be challenging, but change is a part of growing, evolving, maturing.

I leave you with two final quotes to ponder:

“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.”
Alan Watts

“You must welcome change as the rule but not as your ruler.”
Denis Waitley

Brian Levine
Brian S. Levine, Esq. is In-House Counsel/Director of Legal Services & Professional Standards Administrator for the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors.