How CAR’s latest ad campaign distorts its ideology
This article covers the recent California Association of Realtors® (CAR) advertising campaign, an optimistic campaign that is difficult to reconcile with its long history of domineering and monopoly tendencies.
Spread the word
In recent months, the California Association of Realtors® (CAR) has stepped up its reach into the larger California real estate industry.
The countryside, which includes a TV spot and marketing initiatives on various social media platforms and podcasts, showcases the CAR brand as ‘Proud California’, as well as the ethical standard allegedly unique to their brand.
While there is nothing wrong about an association that collects millions of dollars in dues each year trying to make itself understood by the general public, what is it? is harmful is the way in which the CAR presents itself in a false light and presents its ideology.
For starters, CAR’s claim that it, as a wing of a national association, is uniquely “Californian” is a bit rich, especially given its reliance on education in the United States. out of state – not to mention the lack of a California-specific ethical code of conduct. .
Although the CAR – or rather their nationwide manifestation, the National Association of Real Estate Agents® (NAR) – has a code of ethics, it is a generic document which, although useful, is only enforceable by and within the organization itself. In addition, this code does not offer any protection to consumers beyond those that already exist in California real estate law.
The bigger problem is that while individual real estate agents are obligated by their members to abide by CAR’s code of ethics, the union itself has no such obligation – and fewer qualms.
Starve the competition
CAR’s list of shady behavior is long – and well-trodden – but it’s worth revisiting how the association has actively harmed the California real estate industry.
The CAR’s problems stem in large part from its monopoly ambitions. Although many California real estate agents consider the cost of a CAR membership to outweigh its benefits, the union has hundreds of thousands of members. The high number of members does not indicate the effectiveness of the organization as a union, but the culture of necessity it was built around itself.
Look no further than Multiple Listing Services (MLS). An invaluable tool for any broker’s or salesperson’s business, a surprising number of agents still believe that CAR membership is required to place ads in their local MLS. It doesn’t, but the myth has persisted long after he should have died, and so much the better for CAR, when this misinformation keeps its members coming back for more.
Real estate forms also present an area where CAR has not only cornered the market, but crushed it. While California was once home to a thriving market for independently published real estate forms, including those produced by first tuesday – CAR’s inclusion of so-called “free” forms as a benefit of membership has stifled all competition and established their generic forms as the de facto standard.
Editor’s Note – Forms published by Real Estate Publications, Inc. (RPI) are legal and 100% free to download for anyone – no membership of any kind is required, no conditions attached.
Air the CAR laundry – dirty forms
That no monopoly goes unnoticed
CAR’s attitude towards MLS access and real estate forms put the association in hot water.
As early as the 1970s, sales agents struggled to evade local associations of real estate agents® (AORs) who believed that only AOR members were entitled to MLS access. As a result, the California Supreme Court ruled that restricting access to MLS was a violation of the Sherman Antitrust Law. [Marin County Board of Realtors® v. Palsson (1976) 16 C3rd 920]
In addition, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and the NAR ran into MLS restrictions as recently as 2020 – also citing Sherman offenses. While the NAR has agreed to change its practices, including allowing a greater degree of transparency, history does not provide a kind lens for looking at how the association will handle this practice in the future.
When it comes to the forms market, CAR tightened its grip so much that in 2016 it was the subject of additional antitrust allegations from PDFfiller, a Central African company targeted to host professional association forms on its platform. PDFfiller rightly pointed out that CAR’s hold on the market was almost absolute and that the union’s territorial behavior only served to dangerously stifle all competition.
As often as CAR has been accused of monopolistic feelings, it rarely changed its behavior in any meaningful way.
All this to say that when CAR launches California pride claims and professes higher ethical standards, the organization turns a blind eye to its own actions. It’s hard to read this campaign as anything other than a push to attract more agents to the herd.
The truth is that the members of the association are not more or less ethical or Californian by dint of being Realtors®. It is not only fallacious to claim otherwise, but it is also damaging for the many independent real estate licensees in California who choose to work outside the reach of CAR’s hungry gravitational pull. Ultimately, when CAR tells you this is the pinnacle of ethical conduct, remember: its track record speaks for itself.