Today was the annual meeting of the Westchester-Putnam Association of Realtors (WPAR), and it was not your typical annual meeting. Elections were held for both the Association and the Empire Access MLS, and Yours Truly was confirmed for a 3rd term as MLS Vice President. Among my duties in the past few months was to be on the committee to discuss the proposed merger of the WPAR, Rockland County Board, and Orange County Association (OCAR) to form the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors (HGAR). Today, by an overwhelming margin, our membership approved the merger.
There was a tiny burp of skepticism by a small few in the discussion phase prior to the vote, and the incendiary questions asked by those few did belie a rather stark lack of knowledge about the initiative. In a room of perhaps 1,000, I counted about 4 dissenting votes, however, and that was that. The consensus will be on the right side of history. Board mergers are a growing trend due to the economy and contracting membership, but the upside is far beyond mere cost measures.
The new, larger association will actually save money by having more bargaining power for services as we go forward, such as our next MLS provider contract, VOW and IDX services, and whatever other value added things we can procure for membership such as lockbox services and maybe insurance (I can hope).
The new, larger association will have a stronger voice in Albany and Washington, as state and US representatives in our midst will have more than a single county constituent trade organization voting bloc. Our NYSAR delegation will be larger and stronger as well.
The new larger association will eventually have a consolidated Multiple Listing Service, which will save overhead for those companies that conduct business on both ides of the river.
The new larger association will be good for consumers. Local Realtor associations are the voice of homeowners and their interests. We fight against onerous transfer taxes charged at closing. We are fighting to preserve the mortgage interest deduction. We fight to keep affordable housing mortgages available in the face of reactionary politicians who propose ever harder downpayment and underwriting requirements. Whether you wish to buy or want to sell, that is huge.
I truly believe that if both rank and file members and consumers really knew how hard the association works to preserve their interests, public perception of our industry would undergo a renaissance overnight.