Another WA real estate brokerage leaves controversial Realtor group

A group of Seattle-area real estate offices will cut ties with the National Association of Realtors, marking another departure from the industry’s largest trade group after a flurry of controversy and legal troubles.  

Coldwell Banker Danforth, which operates offices in Northgate, Everett, Bellevue, Burien and Federal Way, announced over the weekend that it will not renew its affiliation with the National Association of Realtors in 2024.

The decision follows a legal settlement Coldwell Banker parent company Anywhere Real Estate reached in October, in which Anywhere agreed to not require its brokerages and franchises to belong to NAR. Anywhere reached the settlement to resolve an antitrust lawsuit that also named NAR. NAR lost that case in October.

The settlement opened the door for Coldwell Banker brokerages to cut ties with NAR. At Coldwell Banker Danforth, owner Dave Danforth surveyed his brokers and found two-thirds of them didn’t see enough value in NAR membership to justify the roughly $700 yearly cost per agent. Some also took issue with NAR’s spending on political campaigns, Danforth said. Membership includes national, state and local Realtor groups, which provide agent training and lobby politicians. Real estate agents must be NAR members to call themselves Realtors.

NAR requires that if a brokerage is affiliated with NAR, all brokers are members and if not, no brokers are members, Danforth said. He’s calling on NAR to change that rule. 

“Every brokerage has to choose if they’re going to be all in or all out. To me that’s just wrong,” he said. 

Danforth personally supports NAR’s work and would opt to remain a member, he said. But brokers “deserve to be able to decide what organizations they belong to because they’re the ones paying the bill,” Danforth said. 

The National Association of Realtors said in a statement Monday that “brokerages are independent entities that make their own business decisions, and they decide whether they want to join a local REALTOR® Association to receive the benefits of membership.” The association did not comment on what Danforth described as its “all in or all out” rule.

Nathan Gorton, CEO of the state affiliate Washington Realtors, said that “while we never like to a lose a valued member,” the organization “is proud of our 25,000 members across this state who work hard every day to make the process of buying a home as easy and as consumer-friendly as possible.” 

Barring a change in NAR rules, Coldwell Banker Danforth’s decision means that come Jan. 1, none of the brokerage’s 325 agents will be members of local or national Realtor groups. Danforth said brokers have other sources of training and education, and the shift won’t result in any changes for their clients.

Controversy shook NAR this year, when the association lost a major antitrust lawsuit and several women accused the organization’s former president of sexual harassment. That sparked a debate in the real estate industry about whether agents and brokerages should remain members. 

Some argue the benefits, including training and lobbying, outweigh the concerns. Seattle-based Zillow and Windermere, the largest residential brokerage in the Seattle area, opted to stay members of NAR. Others, including Seattle-based Redfin, criticized NAR’s commission policies and left the organization.

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