Real estate agents are seeking alternatives to the National Association of Realtors following sexual harassment allegations against former president Kenny Parcell. Parcell, along with the organization’s longtime head of Human Resources, and chief executive Bob Goldberg, have already stepped down. Coupled with a major lawsuit and the looming threat of bankruptcy, real estate companies and agents are distancing themselves from the N.A.R.

A New York Times investigation written by Debra Kamin and published this past August revealed the extent of Parcell’s inappropriate behavior and a culture of fear within the N.A.R. Twenty-nine employees and former leaders spoke to Kamin to confirm Parcell’s pattern of sexual harassment, discrimination, and retribution. After numerous complaints, little changed within the organization. Women began to come forward and share their stories after Janelle Brevard, a former employee who had a relationship with Parcell, sued the group for racial and sexual discrimination and harassment. Sixteen of the twenty-nine women Kamin interviewed specifically named Parcell as the perpetrator of sexual harassment or the abusive culture within the N.A.R.

While Parcell continues to insist that these allegations are false, he resigned as N.A.R. president just two days after the piece was published. Bob Goldberg, the longtime chief executive, was interviewed for Kamin’s article and commented that there was no culture of abuse within the organization. However, he retired more than a year early; two weeks before the N.A.R.’s annual convention in November. Donna Glad, who had served as head of human resources for over forty years, retired one week later.

Amidst the already troubling negative publicity, the organization is additionally grappling with legal issues surrounding its policy mandating that a listing agent must pay a commission fee to the buyer’s agent during a home sale transaction. This fee is almost always transferred to the home’s seller. Three Missouri home sellers recently won a federal lawsuit stating that the N.A.R. had operated a price-fixing conspiracy around agent commissions. The organization has been ordered to pay reparations of at least $1.8 billion. 

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Top leaders within the group have said that this is a temporary setback, but major real estate companies are taking measures to distance themselves from the N.A.R. Re/Max and Coldwell Banker, two of the nation’s largest brokerages, have announced that they will no longer require their agents to be members of the N.A.R. Redfin will require agents in certain markets to renounce their N.A.R. memberships entirely.

The National Association of Realtors has dominated the American housing industry for more than a century. The group has 1.5 million dues-paying members, making it the largest professional organization in the country. The powerful non-profit boasts over $1 billion in assets and controls and restricts access to the private databases used to list homes called Multiple Listing Services. The term “realtor” has been trademarked by the group, so that only N.A.R. members can refer to themselves as realtors. The N.A.R. also has strong political influence, raising more than $80 million for both Democratic and Republican candidates in the 2022 election cycle alone.