An article in The New York Times broke the news on Tuesday: Mauricio Umansky and Jason Haber are teaming up to start the American Real Estate Association (AREA), a new trade association to rival the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

Not surprisingly, this was a topic of discussion on Wednesday morning at Inman Connect New York as two industry leaders sat down with Brad Inman during back-to-back sessions. During his discussions, Inman uncovered the leaders’ thoughts on advocacy within the real estate industry.

Umansky, founder of The Agency, was the first to sit down with Inman on stage. After showing some of his newly acquired dancing skills, Umansky spoke about why he and Haber are joining forces to start AREA—and why he believes the industry deserves a new association.

Of course, not all thought leaders in the industry agree. Immediately following Umansky’s session, Anywhere Real Estate CEO Ryan Schneider came on stage, telling Inman, 

“I actually disagree with your last guest….”

Here’s how it went down.

Mauricio Umanksy: “We need better advocacy.”

Brad-Inman-and-Mauricio-Umansky-at-ICNY

Brad Inman and Mauricio Umansky at Inman Connect New York

To kick off Wednesday morning at ICNY, Brad Inman spoke with Umansky about his time on Dancing with the Stars, issues within NAR, and his advice for agents in today’s market. 

When it came to the launch of AREA, Inman asked the question directly, “What are you doing starting a national trade group in real estate?

The reality is that it’s time to improve our industry…AREA is built by Realtors for Realtors, with the intention of leveling up, trading up, and building an association that’s taking care of us.

If this idea helps improve NAR and that’s where we all end up—I’m good with that too. But we, as Realtors, need better representation. We need better advocacy. We need better lobbying.

Mauricio Umansky

Founder and CEO, The Agency

Inman asked why not work to make changes within NAR rather than the massive undertaking of starting a new organization. 

Umansky pointed to the lack of communication from NAR—which his AREA partner has seen first hand. Haber, Compass agent and founder of the NAR Accountability Group, has sent about 70 letters to NAR leadership over the past several months. Not once did Haber get a response. 

And that doesn’t exactly paint a picture that NAR is interested in change.

Ryan Schneider: You can’t rely on trade groups to shape your destiny.

Brad-Inman-and-Ryan-Schneider-at-ICNY

Brad Inman and Ryan Schneider at Inman Connect New York

Immediately following Umansky on Wednesday morning was Anywhere CEO Ryan Schneider. During his conversation with Inman, Scheider spoke about Anywhere’s strategic settlements in industry commission lawsuits, highlighting the focus on protecting agents. He emphasized the importance of attitude and grit in today’s market and touched on portal wars and industry consolidation challenges. 

Schneider also shared his thoughts on what industry leaders should be doing to drive change within the industry—something he says has nothing to do with trade organizations. 

To be honest, I actually disagree with your last guest (Umansky) on this one topic…The opportunities to be influential in (Washington) D.C. are not about trade associations, they’re about leadership.

Ryan Schneider

CEO and President, Anywhere Real Estate

While speaking with Inman, Schneider stated that he knows of only three companies in the real estate industry with a full-time presence in D.C.: Anywhere, Zillow, and CoStar.

Where is everybody else?…If our agents and franchisees aren’t talking to their representatives in Congress, or they’re not talking to their state representatives, they’re missing an opportunity….You can’t rely on trade groups to shape your destiny….

There’s a really big opportunity for everybody in the industry to do more to take control of our destiny, because we’ve seen what the alternative is. Whether you do that on the public policy side or the litigation side, it needs to happen.

Ryan Schneider

CEO and President, Anywhere Real Estate

Looking to the Future

After the announcement of AREA, the road ahead for Umansky and Haber appears both promising and uncertain. While Umansky passionately articulated the need for better representation and advocacy within the industry, the challenges are palpable. The duo acknowledges there’s much work to be done, with details to be ironed out and funding to secure.

In a conversation with BAM, Haber spoke about why he and Umansky are taking on this endeavor right now.

We are in a period of massive industry-wide disruption…and in these moments of disruption are exactly when new organizations form and industries change. The timing just seems right for it now, because of everything that’s happening….Within this period of destruction, you also have opportunity for renewal and growth. And we see ourselves as part of that.

Jason Haber

Compass agent and co-founder of AREA

The NAR Accountability Project, initiated by Haber in response to allegations against NAR, will now shift its focus to building AREA into a robust trade association. For those who want to receive updates as AREA is being built, fill out the form to opt in to communication here

In contrast, Schneider’s call for industry professionals to take control of their destiny through direct engagement with policymakers introduces a different strategy. By urging agents and franchisees to directly communicate with representatives in Congress and state officials, he argues that agents and industry leaders hold the reins of their destinies.

No doubt, the industry will find out in the coming months and years what direction agents will choose, whether unity under a new association, more leaders focusing on advocacy, or perhaps something not yet discussed. Whatever the path, most agree—change is coming. Are you ready for it?