GATEWAY PERSPECTIVES: Pleasant, Unpleasant Surprises

Richard Haggerty | November 2019

At the Annual HGAR Members Day last month I was surprised by two unexpected recognitions. The first was an acknowledgment that I have been with HGAR (and its various predecessor organizations) for 35 years. The second was to receive, along with HGAR’s COO and my very good friend Ann Garti, the President’s Award from this year’s HGAR President Ron Garafalo. Ann and I cannot thank Ron enough for this special acknowledgment.

Having served the Realtor organization for more than three decades, I have witnessed amazing growth and I have also witnessed great successes in the industry that I love, as well as challenging times.

Whenever Realtor members are the subject of allegations of violating fair housing laws, those are moments of great concern and angst. From my perspective Realtors are tasked with the highest responsibility to ensure, to the best of their abilities, that buyers, sellers, landlords and tenants function in an environment that conforms to federal, state and local fair housing laws.

This past weekend a New York State news outlet published an extensive article detailing several years of real estate testing that exposed alleged discrimination and steering in the real estate community on Long Island. Click Here to Read the Article. I encourage all our Members to read it. While the article was not focused on areas that are part of HGAR’s jurisdiction, we cannot afford to live in glass houses, and I firmly believe we must constantly re-enforce our collective obligations under the fair housing laws as real estate professionals.

In my opinion, this obligation goes beyond the law and the Realtor Code of Ethics—this is a matter of a deep personal commitment that every Realtor must have to ensure that they are not the barrier to a buyer or tenant living wherever they wish to live. We are not matchmakers inserting our opinions as to where buyers or tenants should live. In the coming months HGAR will add additional classes and tools to our already extensive library of fair housing resources to aid broker owners, managers and agents to comply with fair housing obligations.

Earlier this month the leadership of HGAR attended the NAR conference in San Francisco. A new MLS policy called the ‘Clear Cooperation Policy” was approved by NAR which requires listing brokers who are participants in a multiple listing service to submit their listing to the MLS within one business day of marketing the property to the public. This policy, which is slated to take effect in May of 2020, passed with very broad support in the brokerage and MLS communities, though there were some voices of dissent who argued that sellers should have a choice on how to market their properties.

I believe this policy was in part the product to counter a growing trend from a limited segment of the brokerage community of encouraging sellers to allow listing brokers to attempt to market their properties within their own firms, or within “private” networks of brokers, as opposed to exposing the listings to the full market via the MLS. Personally, I have a difficult time understanding how this would ever be in the best interest of the client/seller. On a deeper level, I believe such practices also create a less transparent marketplace, a marketplace where, whether intended or not, fair housing abuses could be incubated.

I applaud NAR for passing the Clear Cooperation Policy, and I believe it reinforces the core tenet that cooperation is the foundation of the MLS, which benefits both the brokerage community and the consumer. At the end of the day benefiting all consumers–helping them achieve the American dream of home ownership, is our foundation as an industry.

Richard Haggerty