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AE-on-the-Street Report from 2011 AEI

April 1, 2011

If you attended the AE Institute in Dallas earlier this year, you learned plenty about today’s challenges in the industry, along with some solutions from AEs and others. I took the opportunity to survey AEs I encountered in the halls, on the elevator, and seated next to me at lunch with one vital question:

What’s your main challenge today and what are you doing about it?

Here’s what they had to say:

“Our market is nearly 50 percent short sales and foreclosures. These sales are complicated and sometimes impossible to close. The association is offering as many education and informal sessions on short sales as we can, including the NAR certification, SFR, and attorney panels. Our attorney members and some other affiliate members are donating their time to share their expertise. We adjusted our statistical report to provide distressed-sale statistics separate from regular transactions. That helps both the public and members get a better picture of the marketplace.”
—Kathy Roberts, RCE, Sarasota Association of REALTORS®, Fla., 3,012 members (A)

“Members tell us it’s difficult to pay their dues and fees, plus stay in business. We’ve developed a payment plan and work one-on-one with members to give them options on how to pay their dues.”
—Kim King, RCE, Sedona Verde Valley Association of REALTORS®, Ariz., 507 members (B)

“Our challenge is the ‘life after MLS’ syndrome. We’re working hard to identify new sources of nondues revenue and have created several task forces to brainstorm. We’re evaluating our operations, benefits, and services, and our strategic plan is focused on providing valuable services without an MLS. Since we have extra space without our MLS operation, we plan to renovate the building into three townhomes to rent to like-minded businesses.”
—Kathleen A. Sweeten, RCE, Northwestern Vermont Board of REALTORS®, 450 members (C)

“Our challenge is to answer the question ‘What have you done for us lately?’ Members just don’t see the benefit, neither locally nor nationally. We plan to conduct a member survey to assess awareness and take steps to fix the disconnect. I’d like to create more leadership-member dialogue to improve member awareness. There is indeed value in becoming a REALTOR® member and behind the scenes, there are people that truly work hard with members’ best interest in mind.”
—Peggy Araullo Llagas, Guam Association of REALTORS®, 398 members (D)

“Our challenge is the drop in membership. The association raised dues for 2011 in spite of current economic challenges. For years, additional benefits were added without paying a lot of attention to the bottom line because member numbers increased each year. Ironically, when dues haven’t been raised for a while, the response isn’t, ‘We probably need to raise dues.’ Instead it’s usually, ‘But we haven’t raised dues for years!’ Studies show American productivity increases an average of 3 percent per year, but the cost of doing business also continues to increase. We’ve pulled in our belts at year’s end and avoided a red ending, and this year we’re in a much better financial position due to the increase.”
—Shane Johnson, Quad City Area REALTOR® Association, Iowa, 735 members (E)

“The Mainstreet Organization’s challenge, so familiar to many, is the economy. But in addition to members leaving the business for economic reasons, many are challenged by Illinois’ new license law that requires all licensees to be brokers and take a new test. The combination is tough and we’re evaluating how best to address it. We’re gathering testimonials from members about how easy it is to take the new exam, for example.”
—Pam Krieter, RCE, CIPS, Mainstreet Organization of REALTORS®, Ill., 10,420 members (F)

“Our challenge is helping members understand the importance of learning and using new technologies that will help them not just survive but thrive in their businesses. We’re offering a series of technical courses for members and using new technology ourselves to help get the message out to members.”
—Sheila J. Dodson, Coastal Association of REALTORS®, Md., 910 members (G)

“Our challenge is to help members understand the value that the association provides. We’ve launched a program of office visits by the AE, GAD, marketing staff, and board directors, who have a PowerPoint presentation and talking points ready to go. These tools provide three key value propositions: government advocacy, education, and professional standards. We’re also in the process of identifying our core customer, and if approved, this direction will help us to focus more directly on that customer with better messaging.”
—James E. Bindschadler, GRI, CRS, GREEN, RCE, REALTORS® Association of Metropolitan
Pittsburgh, 1,912 members (H)

“Our focus lately is elevating members’ image by undertaking efforts to promote the value of using a REALTOR®. This promotion in turn helps members see value in the association itself.”
—Toni Cockeram, RCE, e-PRO, Golden Isles Association of REALTORS®, Ga., 495 members (I)

“We’re facing member retention challenges and the budget problems that are a natural result. So we’re currently exploring avenues to retain former members along with attracting new ones. We’re considering providing 7.5 credits of continuing education at a low cost to our members and also collaborating with a nearby community college.”
—Ada Cole, Sullivan County Board of REALTORS®, N.Y., 226 members (J)

“Illinois’ new licensing law requiring all licensees to become brokers, along with a test to get the new license, has caused some disruption in our plans this year because now members need more education on the new requirements. We’re working hard to bring in the best instructors to make sure members learn. We also are working with large firms by giving them a discount when their agents take their classes at NSBAR.”
—Terry Penza, RCE, CAE, e-PRO, North Shore-Barrington Association of REALTORS®, Ill., 3,492 members (K)