By Barry Zwahlen
Contra Costa Realtor Association
Are you thinking of buying or selling a home? Are you considering doing it on your own? Please think again. Buying or selling a home is one of the most important transactions you will encounter in your lifetime.
Who can help you? Many of you are familiar with the NAR (National Association of Realtors) radio and TV ads which promote the “Realtor” brand. Do you wonder what that is all about? Aren’t all real estate agents the same? They are not.
In California, over 500,000 individuals have a real estate license and legally can act as agents in a real estate transaction. However, only approximately 160,000 licensees can claim the “Realtor” designation. What is the difference between a licensee and a Realtor? Realtors are licensees who take their profession seriously. It is their livelihood. They become Realtors in order to practice their profession and serve their clients at the highest level.
All Realtors belong to a local, state and national Realtor association. The local association participates in a tripartite organization which is similar to government at the local, state and national levels. The Contra Costa Association of Realtors provides products, date, services and training to over 3,000 Realtors, helping them to serve their clients at the highest level. Realtors have most of their professional business needs met at the local association level.
Some issues transcend the local level and only can be addressed at a state level. In such instances, our local Realtors rely on the California Association of Realtors (CAR), and ultimately on the National Association of Realtors (NAR).
In the NAR commercials you may remember hearing that Realtors subscribe to a strict code of ethics, and that is correct. However, being a Realtor is much more that subscribing to a code of ethics. Realtors are called to service. We serve our clients. We serve our colleagues. We serve our communities.
Regarding our clients – we have a fiduciary responsibility. We put our client’s interests before our own. Regarding our colleagues – we regard other Realtors not as competitors but as business partners who can help us serve our clients better. Regarding our communities – owning a home is more than a financial investment. Home ownership facilitates that which we all long for, which is a sense of community. Realtors are ideally equipped to serve our communities.
Your local Realtor association is indispensable to the communities it serves because it fully equips Realtors to serve their clients at the highest level of professionalism. However, the real estate professional is changing rapidly. The internet and economic, demographic and cultural changes are changing buyer and seller demands and expectations. Realtors must adapt to those changing demands and expectations. In order to properly equip our Realtors to serve their clients well, Realtor associations must change and adapt also. One possible way for Realtor associations to adapt is through consolidation. Smaller associations may ultimately consolidate into larger regional associations.
Earlier this year, the Contra Costa Association of Realtors entered into discussions with the Bay East, our sister association in Alameda County, regarding a potential merger. After several months of discussion, the two associations decided the timing was not right for the consolidation. However, the potential benefits were obvious – better products and services for our Realtor members through synergy and best of breed integration.
The two associations have had a very close cooperative relationship in the past and that cooperation will continue. At some time in the future, perhaps a merger will occur. In any event, the Contra Costa Association of Realtors will continue to serve and equip its 3,000 Realtor members to meet their clients’ needs. Local buyers and sellers will be in very good hands.
Barry Zwahlen is 2010 president of The Contra Costa Association of Realtors. Zwahlen and his wife, Brenda, are brokers with J. Rockcliff Realtors.
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