It was bound to happen sooner or later. And it’s no surprise Debra Kamin is covering the story today in the New York Times

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) may soon see its members flocking to an alternative organization for real estate agents. 

The names behind that organization are Mauricio Umansky, celebrity real estate agent and founder of The Agency, and Jason Haber, founder of the NAR Accountability Project

Considering Haber was among the first to notice how little industry leaders reacted to last year’s NYT exposé of sexual harassment allegations against NAR leadership, it’s not surprising he would step up to create an alternative organization for real estate professionals (he even recently hinted it was coming). This one aims to do away with NAR’s baggage and its disappointing performance on behalf of its members. 

And with a well-known and multi-talented co-founder like Umansky, this new organization is bound to get national attention. 

In fact, with the help of the Times and Debra Kamin, it already has. 

So, what do we know so far?

Trade Up: The American Real Estate Association

First of all, it has a name: the American Real Estate Association, with the acronym AREA. And its tagline says exactly what the organization wants agents to do: “Trade Up.”

The home page gives you an idea of the “why” behind this new organization, without directly referencing NAR: 

Welcome to AREA
Advocating. Innovating, Educating.
Isn’t it time you traded up?

Below that is a contact form inviting real estate professionals to connect and join the email list to be notified with updates on AREA’s progress. 

Of course, it can’t call itself a Realtor organization since NAR owns the trademark to that term. But those interested in joining AREA probably won’t miss hearing, “So, you’re a real-a-tor…” 

Umansky and Haber are expected to announce their plan for AREA at Inman Connect New York on Wednesday (January 24, 2024). 

What AREA will do for real estate agents

As Umansky stated, AREA members will have access to a nationwide database of home listings as an alternative to NAR-affiliated MLSs

The new national database, which is called the National Listing Service, is built from the technology Umansky acquired for his own private home listing service. 

The new platform is now live with limited listings at theNLS.com

A centralized database with access to the full scope of listings across the country is better for everyone in the industry, and someone just had to do it.

Mauricio Umansky

Founder of The Agency

AREA will also allow its members to set their own commission rates. It will not require cooperative compensation or any financial cooperation between buyer and seller agents. 

In other words, no one will have grounds to say AREA is conspiring with real estate companies (or vice-versa) to fix or inflate commission rates. 

What makes it different from NAR?

Other than AREA’s newness and its lack of lawsuits and public scandals, what makes AREA a different kind of organization for real estate agents? 

For one, as an organization, AREA will not have a president and vice president. Haber emphasized that, rather than trying to replace NAR as another trade association with a hierarchy of leadership, his goal as well as Umansky’s is to create something new. 

N.A.R. was too big to fail, until it failed. People want something different. We’re setting ourselves up for failure if we try to replicate the N.A.R. model.

Jason Haber

Founder of the NAR Accountability Project

Both Haber and Umansky acknowledge that many of the particulars of their new organization still need to be sorted out, including where the headquarters will be located (Florida and Texas are in the running). As of now, they’re funding AREA with their own money but they hope to raise from $50 million to $100 million from investors. 

Another big difference? They don’t plan to charge anything for membership for at least another six months. When they do, they estimate membership will cost between $400 and $500 a year, which is roughly half of what agents currently pay for membership with NAR and their state and local Realtor organizations. 

Stay tuned for more information as it develops.