The best estate agency group in the world - probably

It’s neither my job nor my intention to tell estate agents how to organise themselves, but I have the opportunity on a few occasions each year to make contact with an agents’ body which never, ever fails to impress - the US National Association of Realtors.

A lot of realtors left the industry during the US downturn which was much longer lasting and far deeper than Britain’s.

Even so the NAR - running since 1903 - claims around 1.1m members now in 1,400 local associations and 54 state and territory associations.

What impresses me most about the NAR is, inevitably, its usefulness for articles I write.

That’s neither here nor there to agents in Britain of course but it is a sign of how authoritative the NAR is - there is absolutely no body in this country which I can turn to in expectation of receiving the same industry-wide expertise.

For example, the NAR provides 220 local market reports with median prices, one-year trends, contrasts with all-US averages, local employment and demographic data and even specific foreclosure trends (the US is a big country but that still is a relatively fine grain of detail for use by vendors, buyers and the public, let alone the press).

The NAR also has a detailed training structure (often open to the public as well as to property professionals) with over 100 courses, many of them online, with a sophisticated online ‘webinar’ system to allow far-flung members to stay connected.

It also has a government affairs lobbying department - look at the NAR website to see how much effort it goes to, to inform its members and pursue their interests by advocating policy changes to help all aspects of the industry.

An example of how it works is that back in 2010 it organised 33,000 calls from realtors of members of the US Congress to oppose a measure limiting mortgage interest relief - at the time, something on the same scale as the debate over HIPs in Britain.

The NAR is media savvy, too - there are up to a million digital downloads each month of the NAR’s latest market survey and it produces a radio show, Real Estate Today, available for local radio stations in major cities. It has an impressive list of spokespeople who can appear on local and national TV too.

It also holds expos, conferences, technology summits, legal teach-ins - and these are just its public activities. Individual members have a vastly greater array of information, expertise and advocacy which they can access.

Of course grass tends to look greener from a distance and I’m sure NAR members may have many gripes about their organisation.

But its services seem impressive when you consider this year’s annual subscription for 2015 will be $120 plus $35 towards what it calls a Consumer Advertising Campaign.

From my standpoint, the NAR appears to help set the housing market agenda in that country, instead of simply reacting to it.

As a journalist - you may have different views as an agent or supplier to the industry - neither the NAEA nor the RICS nor any other British industry body does the same.

The NAR produces its own exhaustive price data instead of criticising other data; it provides substantial education for members instead of letting the real estate business be described as something ‘anyone can do’; and it makes a huge effort to be on good terms with the public and the media, instead of being at arms length.

Good estate agents in the UK and no doubt elsewhere do that good work all the time, but often do not get recognised by the outside world. What’s impressive about the NAR is that its professionalism means a lot of the US public know about it and believe it.

And perhaps that’s why estate agents in the US are more highly regarded than they seem in this country.

(This article first appeared on Estate Agent Today and Letting Agent Today)