Redfin is cutting ties with the National Association of Realtors, one month after The New York Times published an article detailing a yearslong pattern of allegations of sexual harassment, discrimination and retribution that the organization did not address.
The online brokerage, based in Seattle, said it was not yet able to fully extricate itself from the national realtors group, known as N.A.R., because of the group’s influence in the industry. But Redfin announced on Monday that, effective immediately, it would require many of its 1,800 brokers and real estate agents to cancel their memberships and cease paying dues, which often amount to hundreds of dollars per year for each member.
N.A.R. is a powerful nonprofit with 1.5. million members, making it the largest professional organization in the United States. It has more than $1 billion in assets and, in many home markets in the United States, controls access to the databases of home listings that agents rely on to buy and sell homes, as well as lockboxes and industry-standard contracts.
The organization also owns the trademark to the word “Realtor,” making a real estate agent’s ability to call themselves a Realtor and to buy and sell homes contingent upon the payment of membership dues in much of the country.
Even before the sexual harassment allegations against the organization came to light, N.A.R. faced rumblings of discontent within the industry. The organization is currently the subject of multiple lawsuits that claim its policies violate antitrust laws and inflate the fees that home sellers must pay to their buyers’ agents.
Glenn Kelman, Redfin’s chief executive, said he had been frustrated with N.A.R.’s refusal to consider changes to its policies on broker compensation for quite some time. In June, Redfin’s leadership team determined that Joe Rath, Redfin’s head of industry relations, would resign from N.A.R.’s board of directors. Redfin qualified for a seat on the 900-person board in 2022 based on its size and the scope of its influence.
Mantill Williams, a spokesman for N.A.R., said in an emailed statement that the organization respected Redfin’s decision. But he insisted that N.A.R.’s policies on agent compensation, as well as its requirements that many agents pay dues to access home listing databases, were “considered the best value in the world.”
“N.A.R. stands by its pro-consumer, pro-competitive guidance for affiliated local broker marketplaces that ensure equity, efficiency, transparency and market-driven pricing options for home buyers and sellers,” Mr. Williams said.
He declined to comment on the allegations of sexual harassment and their influence on Redfin’s decision.
N.A.R.’s grip on the housing industry is such that not all Redfin agents can be asked to cut ties just yet. In many major U.S. cities, including Houston, Las Vegas, Nashville and Phoenix, N.A.R. so thoroughly controls access to listing databases that, without it, Redfin explained in an email, “it’s impossible to be agent.”
Still, Redfin operates in more than 100 housing markets in the United States, and more than 52 million people per month use it to search and view home listings, according to its most recent financial report. In many markets, including Seattle, Boston and New York City, Redfin agents will no longer pay dues to N.A.R. — a move that will amount to a loss of about $1 million annually for N.A.R., Mr. Kelman said in an interview.
When Redfin joined N.A.R. in 2017, Mr. Kelman said, he had hoped Redfin could help influence the group’s policies from within. “But we began to feel that we couldn’t,” he said. In interviews with The Times this summer, several former leaders at N.A.R. described the organization as a tight-knit circle of allies that closes ranks when faced with criticism.
Mr. Kelman said that culture was problematic.
“There are so many progressive forces within N.A.R. who are yearning to take a stronger pro-consumer stance,” he said. “For the life of us, we can’t understand why N.A.R. is so beholden to a few members.” Mr. Kelman told The Times that he was not willing to predict if others would follow his lead, noting that the real estate industry is cautious. But Redfin, he said, has been looking to untangle its relationship with N.A.R. for many months.
In August, The Times published an article in which multiple women accused the organization’s former president, Kenny Parcell, of harassment and sexually inappropriate conduct. Mr. Parcell resigned 48 hours later.
Staffers within the organization and industry leaders outside it continue to call for greater reform. More than 29 employees and former leaders interviewed by The Times described a pattern of silencing whistle-blowers at N.A.R. — a pattern that is supported by a lawsuit and an internal memo obtained by The Times.
Shortly after the Times published its report, Jason Haber, a real estate agent with Compass, launched the N.A.R. Accountability Project, calling for an overhaul of the organization’s executive leadership. He also created a petition demanding the immediate resignation of Bob Goldberg, N.A.R.’s chief executive, which currently has more than 800 signatures.
“When the harassment issues came to light, that’s when it came to another level,” Mr. Kelman said.