New NAR President explains how working together brings out the best in others – RISMedia
NAR 2022 President Leslie Rouda Smith brings optimism and inspiring passion to new role
The end of 2021 marks a new beginning for the leadership of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR). This year, association veteran Leslie Rouda Smith, who is on track to lead the organization before even graduating from high school, takes the reins this year. Here, Rouda Smith tells us about her plans for the coming year.
Caysey Welton: Leslie, you’ve been in real estate for over 35 years. Tell us how you got started.
Leslie Rouda Smith: I often joke that I was conceived in real estate because my dad, 1991 NAR chairman Harley Rouda started his real estate company when my mom was pregnant with me. So I guess you could say I was born into the industry!
Dad’s business had many different divisions, and in high school and college I worked where he needed me, including on the relocation side making corporate calls.
In 1984 I moved to Texas where I joined Ebby Halliday Real Estate. I made more money in Ebby’s RELO department and more importantly I can count her, one of the first female brokers, as my mentor.
CW: What do you consider to be one of your biggest professional and personal victories as a real estate agent?
LRS: A great personal victory for me was also decisive for my professional growth. I was afraid to speak in public, and now I speak every week.
The turning point was when my father asked me to do the invocation at his inauguration. I thought I would have a heart attack because of his request. At the end, my older brother gave the invocation. I felt like I was letting my father down. I vowed to overcome my fear and looked for training, feedback, and new roles. Now, I always challenge my comfort zone. I consider myself “under construction” every day.
Professionally, I am proud to have launched the Texas REALTORS® Young Professionals Network (YPN), which started in 2016. YPN networks across the country are helping young real estate professionals develop their business acumen and their leadership skills.
I’m also proud of a Texas bill that I actively lobbied for in 2017, which included, among other things, an increase in our homestead exemption.
CW: How did your experience as an active volunteer with the association for more than a decade motivate you to become president?
LRS: In my generation, and in my household growing up, women were not always treated equally. Fortunately, I didn’t let such attitudes stop me. In my career, I have sometimes been the only woman in a management team.
Now I want to empower women and others who might not have had a voice. That’s why Team 22, as we call it, is so diverse.
CW: Given your deep understanding of the association, what do you hope to accomplish over the next year?
LRS: NAR is supported by an ambitious list of strategic priorities. We will continue to use the strength of the voice of real estate agents to advance our policy priorities, including private property rights, community development, housing inventory and affordability.
We will continue to expand housing options through policies and programs that help our members provide an equal opportunity for all homebuyers, empower more people to build wealth through home ownership. ownership and foster diversity, equity and inclusion in our communities and within the REALTOR® organization.
We will make our members the best source of information for consumers on the real estate transaction. And we’ll work to engage even more members, help meet their business needs in the face of new market realities, and educate our residential and business members about the incredibly vast benefits of NAR and the business resources available to them.
Our members will also often hear my three S’s: durability, safety and resilience. In fact, “sustainability” is a priority for the NAR for 2022. We must ensure that our national infrastructure meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs. As our code of ethics states, “under all is the earth”.
“Safety” is about helping our members protect themselves on the job, so that every real estate agent comes home safely every night.
And “strength” is not just about capitalizing on our strength in numbers, but also focusing on the strength of our mind and body. It is important to keep a clear and open mind, and to put the right gas in the tank to keep our engines running.
CW: You take on this role at an interesting time. The market is hot, but there is a lot of uncertainty about the economy. What do you think are the biggest challenges in the industry?
LRS: Certainly, the shortage of stocks. Strong residential demand has kept the housing market afloat during the pandemic, but it has also increased the need for more housing, which is severely under-built. This is fueling another big problem: the racial divide in housing. By supporting policies that allow more housing, more Americans from all walks of life can access the wealth-building benefits of homeownership.
Another factor that exacerbates the shortage of inventory is supply chain issues. These lead to long waits for materials. We must take this into account in the project schedule, especially with the onset of winter.
In addition, interest rates are expected to rise. NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun predicts the 30-year mortgage rate will average 3.6% in 2022, up from 3% in 2021, as the Federal Reserve begins to take action to contain the rising inflation.
CW: Do any of these challenges present new opportunities for your members?
LRS: Our members and our association have a unique opportunity to make a difference in reducing the racial wealth gap by helping to address housing discrimination and expand home ownership in underserved communities.
Our members also have the opportunity to better understand our increasingly diverse market and lobby for equitable policies at local, state and national levels. I encourage everyone to take three NAR Fair Housing training programs: Fairhaven, Implicit Bias and At Home With Diversity, all available at NAR.realtor/fair-housing.
Nationally, NAR is pushing for policies that support an equitable and accessible housing finance system. Many creditworthy Americans cannot get loan approval because credit scoring models do not take into account current household expenses. But these expenses can accurately predict a borrower’s ability to repay a loan, which is why we support an alternative and more comprehensive credit review.
We also ensure that state and local governments have the tools to respond to natural disasters and build a stronger and more sustainable physical infrastructure.
CW: As someone with your experience and institutional knowledge, do you expect 2022 to continue to stay hot?
LRS: It promises to be active. Dr Yun predicts that existing home sales will likely hit 5.99 million in 2022, down slightly from 6 million in 2021. And home prices will rise at a more moderate pace, which is good for buyers.
Supply will remain tight, but there will be a little more inventory in the market, around 90,000 additional housing starts in 2022, or 1.65 million compared to 1.56 million in 2021.
The rental market is also booming. But as rents go up and vacant homes go down, it puts additional pressure on people trying to save for their first home.
CW: Speaking of 2022, what got you excited for the year ahead in your new role?
LRS: Our management team! 2022 is a historic year for NAR, as it will be the first time that women will form the majority of the management team. The majority of our members are women, so it is time for our leadership to reflect our members.
I am a very energetic person; I am happy to uplift people. We’ve all been through a lot and I think part of my job is to inspire renewed energy.
I am also delighted to hear from our members. I want to better understand how to get more members to know about the amazing business resources NAR has available to them, including Realtors Property Resource® (narrpr.com). It provides access to detailed property information for 159 million residential and commercial properties.
Finally, I can’t wait to see a return to civility. We have two ears and one mouth for a reason: to listen more than we speak. Words matter; what you say could make or break your referral opportunity. Let’s work together to bring out the best in others.
For more information, please visit www.nar.realtor.
Caysey Welton is the Content Director of RISMedia. Send him your ideas for real estate news by email at [email protected].