- NAR's next CEO says he has ideas for change, and Realtors and industry stakeholders are on standby to hear his concrete plans.
Since the National Association of Realtors named Bob Goldberg its next CEO, angst in the real estate industry has centered around one question: Will Goldberg be a change agent or stick to the status quo?
NAR and Goldberg himself say the former.
What are the soon-to-be CEO’s ideas for change? The 1.2 million-member trade group is keeping those close to the vest — for now, at least. NAR declined Inman’s request for an interview with Goldberg to learn more about his proposals for change.
“Bob would be happy to speak with Inman in the future about his vision and ideas for change, but he doesn’t feel now is the right time to do that: First, he’s not yet CEO, and second, he’d prefer to initially lay out his ideas and strategize plans for implementation with Realtor leaders and staff before sharing them publicly,” said NAR spokeswoman Sara Wiskerchen in an emailed statement.
“That being said, through the NAR CEO interview process, Bob was asked about his vision and plans for change, and he shared very specific ideas to move the association and the members forward, which ultimately led to his hire, and he looks forward to presenting those ideas and getting to work later this summer.
“His official start date is August 1. So you’ll be hearing those shortly.”
Goldberg said “his mission will be to drive industry change and embrace disruption” in a recent interview with NAR’s own RealtorMag.
“NAR was looking for a change agent, for someone to not only navigate where the industry is going now but to help us get through the changes and tumultuous times that are ahead of us,” he said.
“The selection committee concurred with the vision I was able to articulate about the changes we need to adopt as an organization to meet the growing challenges in the industry.
“I advanced numerous initiatives during the selection process that are very creative and different than what we’ve done before as an organization. At the center is the member value proposition and member engagement.”
NAR’s “wait and see” response may not be much of a comfort to those who had hoped for a change at the top, only to be disappointed when NAR chose a candidate that has been with the trade group for 22 years and some suspected was predetermined. NAR has denied the latter, emphasizing the rigor of the national executive search.
Regardless, Goldberg’s selection has inspired what appears to be a common sentiment: that Goldberg himself is highly qualified for the job and deserves the opportunity to show he is serious about changing the more than 100-year-old organization.
At the same time, some in the industry are calling for transparency from NAR — both in the process of choosing Goldberg and in the trade group’s future plans and goals.
Time will tell whether NAR and Goldberg deliver.
What industry executives have to say about Goldberg
Executives from the tech to the MLS to the brokerage world had positive things to say about Goldberg. This was especially true for those who had personally worked with him in the past.
“Bob and I worked together in a previous life. Eminently capable guy and a true collaborator. He will work hard to gain consensus yet will make the call and take responsibility for the outcomes. No blame. No excuses,” said David Charron, Bright MLS chief strategy officer, via email. He and Goldberg both worked at at PRC Realty Systems, which was a predecessor to CoreLogic’s MLS technology division.
“I suspect the final candidates were asked what each expected to accomplish in the first year. They must have liked Bob’s answer(s). Am certain we won’t have to wait beyond November to get some insight here.
“As managers, we are expected to continually review under performing or non-core assets, craft a remedial plan or jettison them. Bob understands this. He won’t try to swim in every lane.
“Advocacy and legislative reform are an acquired taste for Bob as he hasn’t (to my knowledge) had significant exposure to these areas. I suspect he will invest mightily in getting up to speed.”
Ryan O’Hara, CEO of Move Inc., said the company is “delighted” with Goldberg’s selection as CEO. Move operates realtor.com under an operating agreement with NAR subsidiary Realtors Information Network (RIN), which Goldberg heads up as president and CEO.
“His deep industry knowledge and diverse experience are the perfect fit for this very important role in our industry. We have enjoyed a very productive partnership together and look forward to working with him in the years ahead,” O’Hara said via email.
Former realtor.com senior exec and current Zillow Group senior exec Errol Samuelson also offered words of praise. “Bob is an excellent choice for CEO of NAR. I’ve known him for years, and he is a consummate industry professional, whose past private sector experience gives him excellent perspective as our industry evolves,” Samuelson said via email.
Samuelson’s boss and Zillow Group CEO Spencer Rascoff said the company “look[s] forward to working with him and NAR on a wide range of topics that affect our industry.”
Other execs touched on the need for innovation in the future.
“This is an exciting time to be a Realtor. Two concepts dominating current real estate conversations are growth and innovation,” said Cary Sylvester, vice president of industry development at Keller Williams, via email.
“KW embraces both and stands ready to work with Bob and his leadership team to address real estate’s top issues and write the industry’s next chapter. Working together, we will ensure the success of NAR and the profession for years to come.”
Jim Harrison, president and CEO of Silicon Valley-based MLSListings noted that the past two years have been “most challenging” for the MLS community and congratulated Goldberg on his “well made” selection.
“The MLS executive ranks are blessed indeed to have, at this unique moment in their history, an opportunity to work with an NAR CEO who has a seasoned understanding of both MLS operations and management,” Harrison said via email.
Harrison credited, in part, Goldberg’s past work with PRC for his confidence that “Bob will be committed to working in an innovative, creative and businesslike manner with the MLS community.”
“The future of the MLS lies in its ability to re-create itself around the emancipated MLS business model. Bob understands that moving forward MLS related decisions must be made on the basis of appropriate technologies, effective tools and the best business interests of the real estate industry,” Harrison said.
“If the MLS is to play a critical role in the future of the industry, casual volunteer involvements and industry politics cannot be part of the formula. The MLS of the future must be free to succeed in a world of engineers, vendors, roadmaps, software releases priorities, and the development of products that evolve based on customer requirements.”
What those on the ground have to say
Industry consultant Rob Hahn, who did not hide his wish that NAR hire a female CEO for the first time in its history, has penned extensive pieces on answers he’d like to get from NAR on, among other things, how Goldberg was chosen and why, after 22 years, Goldberg hadn’t previously effected the ideas for innovation that NAR said had impressed the selection committee.
Some among NAR’s membership ranks share similar frustrations.
“[In my humble opinion], they made a mistake. So many members over the few years have approached me about the Realtor association. There is such a level of distrust and replacing the CEO with someone from within is not going to do anything to restore the trust in the association,” wrote Illinois broker Andrea Geller in a Facebook thread.
Sunny Lake, a managing broker and the founder of the NAR Girl Boss 2017 Facebook page, wrote in a Facebook thread, “The thing that is most concerning to people I’ve heard from is that it feels like it was an inside job, so a huge waste of time and money. If Bob was going to be tapped, they should have just tapped him.
“There seems to be a lot of discontent regardless of what people think of Bob and his skill set. The membership wanted transparency and honesty from an organization they have lost faith in. This move shows a complete disconnect from restoring the faith and trust from members and the general public (who see the Realtor brand as a bit of a joke, and the norm instead of the differentiator).”
Others had hoped that after 11 NAR CEOs, all of them men, that the selection committee would choose a qualified woman for its 12th.
“I am sure [Goldberg] is a wonderful person and well qualified for the job. I am disappointed and at the same time I am disappointed in myself for being disappointed. I should know better. Long live the patriarchy,” wrote Minnesota broker and Inman contributor Teresa Boardman.
Ohio agent Rich Shearrow said he hoped Goldberg understood the need for “major modifications” at NAR and had several points of advice for him, including:
- BAN the phrase “we have been doing it this way for…” from any and all meetings and interactions.
- Today’s world is moving at light speed. Express direction and philosophy to your staff and empower them to make quick decisions and implement. If the board hasn’t provided that to you… make sure that is top priority on the next agenda. Management by committee is an albatross to progress.
- PLEASE have a high priority to change the marketing and positioning of the association. The current path is demeaning and counter-productive.
- Tech for tech’s sake is worthless. Be on the cutting edge of technology… not on the trailing end.
“Innovate. Execute. Innovate some more. Replicate success… which I hope you have need to replicate many times over, Mr. Goldberg!” he said.
Goldberg appears to be keenly aware that NAR members are looking for a leader who will keep with the times both technologically and politically after the long tenure of the current CEO, Dale Stinton.
“We’ll be focused on the challenges brokers face in their profitability with new business models emerging within the industry and from outside players,” Goldberg told RealtorMag.
“We’ll work with our members to focus on the growth of our Realtor Party. Our advocacy needs continue to change with how Washington works. We’ll meet with real and perceived industry disrupters to determine how we can all prosper with potential unity. We need to continually focus on how we stay on top of issues and have the best tools and strategies with members and consumers to protect property ownership.
“What’s critical to know is that the status quo will not work for us as a trade association. We must be open to changing and moving quickly and being proactive as opposed to reactive. We don’t have the luxury to rest on any laurels that we’ve been successful with in the past.”
Stinton has been with NAR for 36 years, nearly 12 of those as CEO. After August 1, Stinton will become CEO Emeritus until December 31 when his contract expires and then transition into full retirement, Wiskerchen said.