Proving Value with Associations

Lessons remembered—learn from leaders where tomorrow’s opportunities and threats lie.

By Steve Murray, publisher

“Just like brokerage firms and agents work incredibly hard to prove their value to each other and to consumers, so too, do Realtor® organizations, both to our members and the consumers,” said Jarrod Grasso, CEO of the 47,000+ member New Jersey Association of Realtors®. “This is not a new trend, but it seems to be intensifying over the past few years.”

Grasso grew up in New Jersey, son of a family who owned a three-generation appliance store in town. He attended Castleton State University in Vermont and, along the way, his involvement in student politics gave him the chance to meet then-Governor Howard Dean and then-Congressmen Bernie Sanders. After moving back to New Jersey, a chance meeting with a U.S. House member led to an internship. Eventually, he became a full-time staff member. Another chance meeting led him to become the Government Affairs Director for the New Jersey Association. After nine years in that position, he became the CEO, among the youngest to ever achieve that position.

“Among the challenges we notice and hear about in the brokerage business is the struggle with a wide variety of new business models and the pressure on profitability,” Grasso commented. “We also sense that there may be new regulations or legislation that could affect the independent contractor status, whether new safe harbor provisions or new taxation. We are watching this carefully at all levels.

I am also concerned about the levels of student loan debt and how that continues to negatively affect household formation and the ability of young families to buy their first home. Related to this, is the impact of rising mortgage rates. Some members think this could be positive in the short run but more negative in the longer term. There is great uncertainty in each of these areas.”

As to what keeps him up at night, Grasso said, “We are always going to be challenged to change and adapt. I look at what has happened to other industry associations, like the home builders and travel agents, and I worry that we will miss the shift, where we go from [membership] being a [professional] requirement to an option. What happens should we to lose a significant part of our membership who are low-end producers? Where would the funds come from to pay for the benefits that we provide now? Are there key things we should be working to head off? What will keep us valuable and relevant to our members?”

Grasso added that while challenges have always been present, it seems as if the range of them keeps growing and each has more importance than in the past. “We have to keep an open mind about what we will have to do as a Realtor organization to stay relevant. That is going to matter in the years ahead.”

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This article originally appeared in the October 2016 issue of the REAL Trends Newsletter and is reprinted with permission of REAL Trends Inc. Copyright 2016

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