In the days following the explosive New York Times article that detailed accusations of sexual harassment—and ultimately led to the resignation of National Association of REALTORS® president Kenny Parcell—industry professionals across the country are speaking out. 

While the industry’s top leaders have remained, for the most part, quiet about the news, agents and NAR employees are voicing their concerns. 

And not just about the sexual harassment allegations against Parcell. Workplace culture, leadership at large, intimidation tactics, downplaying or ignoring claims, and the organization’s spending habits are all issues that have been raised. Take a look at article comments and any social media posts covering the topic, and the consensus seems to be the same:

“We deserve betteR.”

Comments from the NY Times: 

Hundreds of comments on The Times article showcase why there appears to be so much distrust in the organization. 

One commenter, who identified themselves as “Lee,” shared their experience as an employee of NAR, which was in line with accusations from the article. 

Lee wrote of an experience with unwanted sexual behavior, along with how female staff worked together to alert each other of male leaders: 

NY-Times-comment-1

While these actions alone are enough to cause alarm, the alleged response from leadership is also being raised as an even bigger issue. 

It was widely known that elected officers were protected by the CEO (and HR and Chief Counsel), and complainers were labeled as troublemakers.

Lee

NY Times commenter

Lee also brought up another issue in the comment—one that the majority of industry professionals have at least wondered about when paying dues: How exactly is NAR spending money? With fiscal reports showing that NAR paid Havas Marketing Group over $46 million in 2021 (not to mention leadership salaries), it’s a valid question. 

Perhaps one day the unconscionable spending for the presidents’ pet projects, most of which held zero value for the average Realtor, will surface.  Another article for another day…..

Lee

NY Times commenter

Another commenter pointed out that all the settlements in the article, including $107,000 for Janelle Brevard in 2023, are paid with NAR member dues—calling attention to the budget deficit and the subsequent dues increase. Both happened while NAR leadership scrambled to protect a predator known for being petty and vindictive toward women who failed to flatter him. 

When people show you who they are, believe them. But who am I kidding? ‘That’s who we R.’

Nicole Benton

NY Times commenter

Commenters were not slow to point out the difference between the rank-and-file dues-paying Realtor and the extremelywell-paid NAR executives. 

1.5 million dues paying Realtors without access to healthcare and other human benefits through this huge billion dollar so-called nonprofit organization alone makes clear that the goal of helping Americans with their housing needs is far from their top priority.

LW

NY Times commenter

One of the most detailed comments on The Times article shed some light on Parcell’s character before he even became NAR president:

NY-Times-comment-2

A commenter identifying as “Associate Staffer” called for the resignation of not just Parcell but any senior staff enablers and NAR board members who were aware of his behavior and did nothing to stop it. Judging by several of the comments, removing the toxic influences at the heart of NAR might just require a gutting of the entire organization. 

Sadly they have lost all credibility. The culture is clearly irretrievably broken and they need to clean up the mess and start over with a new CEO, senior staff, and Board leaders with a moral compass, ethics, and a sense of appropriateness in an association.  NAR has lost their way.

Associate Staffer

NY Times commenter

If NAR’s doom is nigh (whether they pirouette off a cliff or take a more scenic route), it’s fair to ask what, if anything, could take its place—and who would steer that ship. At the outset, such an organization could set a better example with its company culture, its leadership, and its use of membership dues. 

But with unfettered growth come problems that can quickly spiral out of control. NAR is a prime example of that. But it’s not the first. 

Responses from Parcell & NAR

From the resignation statement by former president Kenny Parcell we can draw a few possible conclusions: 

  1. He believes himself to be an innocent victim in all this—and to be stepping down for the greater good (i.e., NAR’s reputation)
  2. He’s intent on denying any guilt (a tactic used with some success by other predators in leadership positions) and claiming innocence to defend his reputation and also, possibly, to protect NAR from accusations of complicity in the alleged abuse and discrimination. 

On Monday, CEO Bob Goldberg issued the following apology to NAR’s 350 full-time staff:

We are committed to taking real action toward rebuilding trust with staff and addressing the concerns we heard. We want to expressly acknowledge and express gratitude for you for coming forward to share your experiences. As an organization, we will seek to demonstrate the same courage you have all expressed.

Bob Goldberg

NAR CEO

NAR President-elect Tracy Kasper, who would have taken over the role in November, will begin her term immediately. She issued the following statement

Following Kenny Parcell’s decision to resign his position as president, I will be stepping into my presidency early.

First, let me say, I’m incredibly sorry for what’s led us here.

We recognize there is lots of concern, anger and disappointment, and we want to acknowledge the people who have come forward and shared their stories and those of you who have shared your perspective over the past few days.

We have taken everything we have heard to heart. Our commitment to our staff and our members is unwavering, and we will continue to enhance the way we foster a welcoming, safe and respectful workplace. We will work to ensure the relationship between staff and members acknowledges not only staff expertise but also their commitment to the association, in addition to the members. The Culture Presidential Advisory Group we announced is one step forward in that. Bob Goldberg and his team also will be working in parallel with staff on their own culture council. We are looking to make lasting and positive change and to do so as quickly as possible.

It is important to all of us at NAR that we take this moment to learn and focus on building a culture of comradery where we can do the good work we are all so passionate about. And, when an issue arises, that we all feel safe to say something.

This is a really hard time for our association. But I know this is an opportunity to really listen and grow together. As your president, I take the responsibility of rebuilding very seriously. Know I’m here for you, as is the entire leadership team, and we will get through this together.

Tracy Kasper

NAR President-Elect

The Change.org petition

Jason Haber, a Manhattan-based Compass agent, created the Change.org petition to “Demand the Immediate Resignation of Kenny Parcell, President of NAR.” 

After Parcell’s resignation was announced, Haber made it clear that there is more work to be done. 

(This) is the beginning. The toxic culture at the highest levels of NAR were present before he arrived and will remain after he departs. We will now shift our focus to bringing wholesale changes to NAR.

Jason Haber

Real estate agent, Compass

Jason Haber

Source: Change.org

Time will tell where the new NAR president’s loyalties lie and whether agents can expect any real changes—in the treatment of women and minority staffers as well as in NAR’s hemorrhaging of money for undisclosed or vaguely-categorized expenses. 

Here’s hoping The Culture Presidential Advisory Group isn’t another neatly-labeled black hole for NAR member dues. 

Sentiment toward NAR

Any discussion of sentiment toward NAR should include the following viewpoints:

  • Agents who are members of NAR—but have little or no respect for it
  • Agents who are not members of NAR (for reasons)
  • NAR leaders who were not complicit in the abuse or the enabling thereof

Leigh Brown, former NAR Vice President of Advocacy and North Carolina Realtor, is pushing for changes at the systemic level—specifically a “fully transparent committee selection process” and term limits to prevent one person from holding the same position year after year. 

It’s unclear whether she envisions those term limits applying to all executive-level positions at NAR. 

Along with this rallying cry for reform, however, Brown has encouraged Realtors to stick with NAR—going against a growing number of real estate agents expressing their intention of canceling their membership or withholding dues until NAR “adequately addresses the NYT allegations.”

Do not leave the organization, and do not stop paying dues. If they would read the Teddy Roosevelt speech, ‘The Man in the Arena,’ they would realize that you do not effect change from the sidelines. You effect change by being in the middle of the room, even when it’s uncomfortable. That’s one of the reasons I have continued in leadership, even when it’s uncomfortable—because somebody has to be in the room.

Leigh Brown

North Carolina Realtor & former NAR Vice President of Advocacy

Comments on the NYT article offer a glimpse into the perspectives of real estate professionals, including agents and those in leadership positions—both those affiliated with NAR and those on the outside looking in. 

Morbid curiosity and conspiracy theories aside, NAR is in the spotlight for good reason, and many in the industry will be watching for signs that leadership is finally and genuinely committed to effecting change for the better. Their choosing a woman to replace Parcell may have been part of a pre-emptive strategy to showcase NAR’s commitment to equality in their leadership representation. But it’s worth pointing out, here, that one of the NYT commenters mentioned above named two women in top leadership positions who knew of Parcell’s behavior and helped to cover it up. 

The problem goes beyond Mr. Parcell; it starts at the very top. Bob Goldberg, Donna Gland (HR) and Katie Johnson (GC) are all complicit in this, no matter how much they say they investigate every claim of sexual harassment, etc. The only thing they investigate is to find ways to bury the problems, in order to protect those at the top (Leadership Team, etc.).

Meriwether

NY Times commenter

At the moment, comments like, “We’ll get through this together” from the new president are more cringe-worthy than comforting. Because we don’t know, yet, whether the newly-minted president will have the influence and the inclination to actually set in motion the changes that need to be made. 

In the weeks and months ahead, there will likely be a wide range of opinions expressed on the changes people want to see in NAR, how long a term NAR executives should be allowed to serve, and whether NAR should even continue to exist. 

What we can agree on is that NAR members—and the real estate industry as a whole—deserve betteR.