Halloween was a day filled with breaking news—specifically news about the Sitzer/Burnett verdict

New York Times writer Debra Kamin, who also wrote the famous National Association of Realtors exposé in late August, wrote a piece on the verdict that received about 1182 comments before comments were closed. 

Fast forward two days to BAM’s breaking news livestream on Thursday, and Byron Lazine covered another piece of breaking news—Bob Goldberg stepping down as NAR CEO. Jason Haber, founder of the NAR Accountability Project, called in to discuss Goldberg’s early retirement and the appointment of Nykia Wright as interim CEO. 

Around the 16:45 mark in the broadcast, Jason Haber pointed out that the New York Times article on the Sitzer/Burnett verdict is the publication’s most commented-on article of the 24-hour time period (October 31), with almost 1,200 comments. 

The most commented-on NYT post on Halloween 2023

This article received more comments than the day’s post on the Israeli-Gaza war and more than any of the day’s posts on Trump and President Biden. By comparison, Kamin’s more recent (November 2) article on the early retirement of Bob Goldberg has 56 comments so far, and comments on the exposé capped out at 351 before being closed. 

Unfortunately, most of those comments were negative toward NAR and toward real estate agents in general. 

If you look at the New York Times story… it was the number-one-commented story in that 24-hour period in the New York Times—more than the Israeli-Gaza war…That article hit a nerve. And the problem with the comments is they’re almost all negative—trashing Realtors, trashing our industry, and that’s the problem that you’ve wisely pointed out… There needs to be a new awareness campaign now more than ever about how important it is what we do, how hard we work…what reality is like for us. I think that education campaign has to happen to help turn around public perception of our industry.

Jason Haber

Compass agent and founder of the NAR Accountability Project

Byron then asked Jason if he believed, in light of those NYT comments, that it made sense for NAR to appoint Nykia Wright as the interim CEO. 

Her experience of leading Chicago Sun-Times for the last five years as their CEO—her media experience—is that why she makes sense now to come in and clean up the image of the National Association of Realtors?

Byron Lazine

Jason ventured a guess that NAR wanted to go “outside the box” with someone who has roots in Chicago—which is important to them because the organization is located there—and someone who can present new (and more positive) messaging about the industry to the public. And Nykia Wright has the background and experience to wield that kind of influence. 

They’re broken as a culture, which needs to be fixed, but also how the public perceives them is so bad. And that negatively affects our business and what we do for a living… If you look at those Times comments, they’re scary. And hopefully, someone like this can help change public perception about our industry.

Jason Haber

Compass agent and founder of the NAR Accountability Project

The industry’s reputation is damaged

Skim through the comment section of the NYT post, and you’ll see plenty of comments venting either frustration or resentment toward real estate agents. Some even imply that Realtors are at the heart of everything going wrong in the U.S. economy. It’s safe to say that the industry at large has a damaged reputation.

Most are either determined never to use an agent again, after one negative experience, or determined to never use an agent at all because they’d rather save money by doing all the work of buying or selling a home themselves. 

Here are a few comments to get the overall gist. If you’re curious, feel free to skim some more

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Some comments were more favorable to agents—or at least neutral

Not all commenters were in a hurry to sling mud at real estate agents or the real estate industry in general. Some took a more neutral approach, with at least one pointing out that it seemed more likely NAR would win the case—if not for the incompetence of their legal team. 

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At least one of the commenters was a real estate agent who hinted at the real issue behind negative client experiences—as well as what leads to better ones. 

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Is it too late to change people’s minds about real estate agents?

The short answer is “No–for some.”

For many people out there, all it will take is an experience—their own or someone else’s—with a real estate agent who makes it a priority to be exceptional at what they do. This agent— 

  • Knows the market inside and out and educates the client every step of the way
  • Goes above and beyond to market their home (for sellers)
  • Goes above and beyond to find the best home at an affordable price (for buyers)
  • Uses their skill and knowledge to negotiate the best possible deal for their client
  • Communicates with the client as they work toward the best possible outcome for them 

That said, some people will always have a negative perception of real estate agents because a negative experience is what they expect. 

Maybe they base this perception on one personal experience that soured them against real estate agents. Or maybe they’re drawing from an experience someone else shared with them. 

Some are less likely to give any real estate agent a chance—or a second one—to show them how different their experience can be when a dedicated professional is working for them. 

So, what can you do? 

Start by reading Byron Lazine’s 11-point plan on how to move forward in the aftermath of the Sitzer/Burnett class action lawsuit. And sign up for BAMx (if you haven’t yet) to watch the masterclass Byron hosted last week, along with courses, livestreams, and masterminds with vetted industry professionals. (Note: The price for BAMx is going up on December 1st—sign up today to stay grandfathered in at the original price!) 

Also, be sure to tune in Monday through Friday for the Hot Sheet to educate yourself and stay up to date with developments in the housing market and overall economy. If you find yourself answering questions with “I don’t know the answer, but I know where to get it” more often than with a helpful, fact-based answer, this daily podcast will change that. 

Make the Knowledge Brokers Podcast—BAM’s weekly in-depth review of all things impacting the housing market—a Friday must-watch (or must-listen if you prefer catching it on Spotify, etc.). 

Finally, don’t expect public opinion to make a 180 overnight. Those determined to cling to negative assumptions about real estate agents will still be among the first to leave harsh comments. Not everyone is open to having their perception changed. 

So, do what you can with the people you meet and the clients you have. Give the latter every reason to brag to whoever will listen about how hard you worked for them, how you consistently went above and beyond for them, and how grateful they are that they called your number. 

This is the reality facing agents in a post-class-action world. Average agents will do nothing to change the negative opinions shared in the NYT comment section. 

No one is taking the trouble to comment, “My agent was solidly okay,” or “My agent did the bare minimum, and I’m grateful to them.” 

If you’re reading this, you have no intention of being an average agent (let alone the stuff of nightmares). So, keep learning, keep growing, and keep showing your clients the extreme value of working with you.