Vince Malta recognized a long time ago that there’s great strength in numbers. As a third-generation REALTOR® and CEO and broker of Malta & Co., Inc. in San Francisco, he saw firsthand that when like-minded people come together for a common cause, they can move mountains.
“Associations create advocacy and allow us to have a voice in what’s going on in our industry,” he explains.
Now, as Malta steps in as 2020 president of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), he brings his rich experience and intense passion to help guide the industry he’s loved for 43 years. Find out what’s at the top of the agenda for Malta and the leadership team in this exclusive interview.
Maria Patterson: Vince, I wanted to begin with your background. I see that you have a law degree, so I’m curious to know if you always intended to follow your family’s path into real estate. Vince Malta: No, I did not. I recognized that real estate is not an easy business. To be successful, it takes many hours, and you have to work beyond the 9-to-5 regimen, so I thought I’d see if there was anything out there I liked more. I got a law degree, which provided opportunities and opened doors, but I kept coming back to real estate. I had grown up in real estate—I would clean properties, collect rent and do the things a property manager would do. Ultimately, my love was real estate. I tried to do something else, but if it’s in you, it’s in you. This is now my 43rd year in the business.
MP: I’m sure your law degree has come in handy, though… VM: When you learn the law, what you really learn is a way of thinking and looking at things. You realize that there are two sides to every situation. This has helped me in negotiating and running a real estate business.
MP: What is it about real estate that you love the most? VM: The relationships. I so appreciate the people you meet along this journey—it’s like no other business. I’ve been so blessed to be a member of this association and to have made so many relationships. But the key is our relationship with clients. That is what will ultimately lead to our success. Technology is not going to supplant our role. It’s going to enhance our role if we utilize it properly to nurture relationships and help ensure that the customer has a one-on-one experience.
MP: So you don’t find the new tech models a threat to REALTORS® then? VM: Rather than dreading it, I’m excited about the opportunity created by the new models out there. I’m of the belief that the role we play is so essential that we can’t be replaced, and the new models give us a chance to prove that. People will pick it apart and take pieces of it, but ultimately, what we provide in the real estate experience, as I’m standing here, is not replaceable.
MP: So, Vince, you have a long history of being very involved at the association level, starting with the California Association of REALTORS® (C.A.R.). Why is it important to have this level of involvement, and how did you balance this with running a brokerage? VM: It’s all about convincing people around you that it’s necessary to be involved, and then making sure you have a support team so that you can do both effectively. We’re a small, independent brokerage—a family business—so we’re like a majority of brokers. I realized the importance of organized real estate and getting together with colleagues so you’re not living in a vacuum. For smaller independent firms, the association was absolutely essential for staying up to date. Also, some things we can’t accomplish on an individual level, but we can achieve them through an association of like-minded people working for the same objective. Associations create advocacy and allow us to have a voice in what’s going on in our industry.
MP: What are your thoughts upon assuming the role of NAR president for 2020? What are you most excited about? VM: I’m excited to be working with a great team of professionals. I’m trying to deemphasize my role as president and focus more on being a member of the team that would like to help facilitate change and provide some level of vision. And not just my own vision—I want to go out and seek the opinions of the like-minded and not like-minded. The greatest obstacle is not the change itself, it’s the implementation…the politics. The only way to effectuate change is to get everyone on board and create win-win scenarios. As a leader, I’m looking forward to facilitating change.
MP: Will you be continuing the team approach to the presidency? VM: Elizabeth (Mendenhall), John (Smaby), Charlie (Oppler) and I are not looking at the presidency as one term. We are showing members that we’re a leadership team that works together. We’re not working in one-year increments. We’re working to change the organization and structure. We need to start moving at the speed of business, not the speed of an association. I couldn’t care less about my legacy. I just want to get the job done and keep it going for future leadership. We have to keep moving it forward.
MP: So what are the main objectives for your tenure as president? VM: First of all, we need to emphasize the REALTORS®’ role as the best source of property information for consumers by equipping them with tools like RPR® and realtor.com®, and making sure that consumers are armed with the correct information. With emerging models like iBuyers and $8 billion-plus worth of venture capital money coming into the industry, we have to make sure consumers are going in with their eyes open. We are working with realtor.com to make sure our value proposition is expressed to consumers as other models are emerging. We have to enhance our value and provide tools and products to help them succeed. Our Commitment to Excellence program is a good example of that. It’s voluntary, but it’s a great program members can embrace to shore up their weaknesses and help the consumer more.
We also need to collaborate with diverse industry groups and make a positive impact on housing equality and affordability. We can’t be torn apart by a fragmented Congress and political groups. Affordability means so many different things, and the solutions are very complex. We are also driving community development by working closely with our commercial members. We need to collaborate more to engage the community and create jobs, because jobs and housing are linked.
MP: And what are the biggest issues confronting consumers? VM: First of all, choices. They don’t know which direction to go in, which information is valid or what to rely on. They’re armed with more information than ever and they need someone to help them make sense of it and interpret the data so they can move forward. They have to make sure they’re working with the most accurate data and working with a real estate professional in their corner.
The second is affordability. There needs to be ways to create more affordable opportunities for people. Third, consumers are confused about which way to go. Interest rates are low, but the economy is cooling, so they’re wondering if they should save money and sit it out. They don’t have a crystal ball, but generally, it’s driven right now by lack of inventory. The consumer has limited choices.
MP: And what advice do you have for REALTORS® trying to navigate change and uncertainty? VM: While I’m not sure what tomorrow will bring, I am certain that REALTORS® will do what we’ve always done: make the necessary changes and mindshifts to remain successful. We’ve been adapting for years and will continue to adapt.