Leaders Discuss Tech’s Advancing Role in Homeownership During NAR iOi Summit
While proptech usage advanced at warp speed during pandemic times in order to keep business running virtually, technological innovation has moved beyond streamlining the real estate transaction to advancing the cause of homeownership on a broad scale. And the National Association of REALTORSⓇ (NAR) is committed to leading the charge. As NAR CEO Bob Goldberg said, “We can’t just have a seat at the table. We have to be the one owning the table.”
Goldberg shared his comments during a panel discussion at this week’s Innovation, Opportunity, Investment (iOi) Summit in Dallas,Texas. He was joined by NAR 2021 President Charlie Oppler and NAR Reach Canada Managing Partner Lynette Keyowski during the “Leadership Live Q & A,” moderated by Heather Elias, CEO of Artisan Consulting.
A longtime advocate of technology, Goldberg is also president of NAR’s investment arm, Second Century Ventures (SCV), creators of the NAR REACH accelerator program for proptech companies. Over the course of his 25 years at NAR, he has advanced the position that the association should take a leadership role in technology.
“How does NAR leverage our $5 billion brand?” Goldberg asked during the conference session. “Should we acquiesce and allow third-party members to advance technology? We need to be fearless, not fearful. We’re always worried about being disintermediated, but the idea for all of us should be, how do we stay ahead of it? We have to be leaders in the proptech space.”
To that end, NAR has an equity investment in 150 different tech companies, according to Goldberg, who lauded NAR leadership for supporting investment in proptech. He added that currently more than 600,000 NAR members use one of the association’s Second Century Ventures products and services.
According to Oppler, 2020 and 2021 have served to reinforce the need for NAR to take a leadership role in technology for its members. “So many tools that we brought forward allowed our members to continue doing business seamlessly during the pandemic,” he said. “We thrived and we got through it, and we will continue to get through it.”
Goldberg emphasized that foresight was essential to delivering the proptech needed during the pandemic. A recent NAR survey, for example, revealed that eSignatures were the No. 1 most valuable tech tool for REALTORSⓇ during the pandemic.
“We put multiple seven figures into DocuSign before anyone knew what DocuSign was about,” said Goldberg. “Before the pandemic, we had invested in Notarize. People were surprised that a nonprofit trade association would be such a leader in the proptech space.”
That’s why programs like the iOi Summit and its Pitch Battle contest for new tech firms have become integral to NAR’s agenda, along with the new companies that are brought onboard each year through the REACH program. “This wouldn’t happen without the foresight of leadership to create the infrastructure around the globe,” she said. “It puts this organization and its affiliates in the power seat to not just navigate change, but to be the change.”
Keyowski also emphasized the power of prop tech to benefit the larger initiatives surrounding the advancement of homeownership. “A lot of new technologies are fundamental to homeownership. New innovation allows REALTORSⓇ to do what they really do well…put people in homes.”
“There are so many smart founders who are mission driven to help solve many of the same challenges we look to as an organization,” added Keyowski. “Everything accelerated during COVID and REALTORSⓇ now see technology in a different way. It’s not just about making my business better, it’s about making the community better.”
NAR is also relying on technology to help advance its goals surrounding Fair Housing and Diversity, said Oppler, an effort that has accelerated since the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act in 2018. NAR has rolled out implicit bias training, an At Home With DiversityⓇ certification and the new NAR Spire program where mentors and mentees work together to increase REALTORⓇ representation in underserved communities.
“We will continue to make sure that we’re doing all the things we can do to end discrimination and support Fair Housing,” said Oppler.
“We have a moral and ethical responsibility to be the drivers of Fair Housing in this country,” added Goldberg. “We have to be sure we provide the industry with the appropriate tools. How can we enable all these great tech tools and data to build a more fair system? We will continue to push innovative technology companies to come to us with better products and tools that will make this country a better place.”
Keyowski will also take up the mantle and scout out technology that makes the industry better. “We have the ability to open our aperture in terms of technology that can be really instrumental for our industry…those things that allow more REALTORS® to help more people gain access to housing.”
Maria Patterson is RISMedia’s executive editor. Email her your real estate news ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.