As NAR’s annual Midyear Meetings are underway this week in Washington, DC, we took a look in the Archives to find out what happened at the Midyear Meetings half a century ago. In 1963, the meetings were held in Chicago in June, where attendees were updated on the progress of the National Association’s first major national advertising campaign.
NAR had engaged in national ad campaigns before, notably in conjunction with the federal government’s “Own Your Own Home” initiative in 1919 and another targeting local newspapers in the early 1930s. This campaign, though, was much more closely orchestrated than earlier efforts, seeking to put the REALTOR® trademark before as many public eyes as possible.
Full-page ads appeared in publications such as U.S. News & World Report, Look, and Newsweek, all emphasizing the benefits of home ownership and using REALTORS® as professionals in the real estate transaction. Thousands of REALTORS and local associations subscribed to the promotional campaign for $25. In return they received advertising kits that tied in with the campaign. In many of the magazines the names of REALTORS® in that locality were printed on a page adjacent to the ad.
REALTORS® of fifty years ago loved the national publicity. Richard Powelson from Aurora, IL, wrote: “We received a call to list a home yesterday strictly because of this ad…the REALTORS® have gone a long way in helping to educate the public.” A REALTOR® from Cape Cod sold a home to a prospect who called him because his name was listed in an ad in Look magazine. Mrs. Win B. Brush of Liberty, MO, said “Soon after the ad came out in Look, I had a call from a large manufacturing corporation asking for my service in an appraisal, and they had obtained my name from the Look ad.”
Kenneth S. Keyes, president of the National Association in 1957, was also a great admirer of the program. “I consider the nationwide advertising campaign one of the greatest things that NAREB has done to increase the prestige of REALTORS®.”
Despite the kudos, this was still relatively new territory for NAR. At the 1963 Midyear Meetings the association’s Board of Directors took a tentative view of the campaign, deciding to allow the program to continue on an experimental basis for another year. In 1964 the campaign was granted a longer tenure, continuing through the early 1970s. NAR’s efforts to promote the benefits of using a REALTOR® have come a long way since 1963, of course. Visit the Public Advocacy Campaign for a look at the latest national advertising efforts.
One hundred years have passed since a key document in the REALTOR® organization’s history first made its debut. Written in 1913, the Code of Ethics was seen as a declaration of the real estate industry’s principles and beliefs, a “golden thread” uniting those devoted to raising the standards of professionalism and service in real estate.
The Code is a living document that undergoes regular revision to keep it updated and relevant as the real estate industry evolves, so today’s Code of Ethics looks much different from the one that was adopted in 1913. Even so, REALTORS® are often surprised to see that the words “Under all is the land,” the familiar opening of the Code’s preamble, are nowhere to be found in the original version.
So where did the preamble come from, and who wrote it?
The Code of Ethics was over a decade old before the preamble was introduced. In 1924, the National Association’s committee assigned with revising and modernizing the Code decided that the rules should have an introduction, and prepared two versions of a preamble for consideration.
The first version, written by A. S. Adams, a REALTOR® from Atlanta, GA, took the form of a straightforward personal pledge: “I, a member of the National Association of Real Estate Boards, accept as the primary requirement for engaging in the Real Estate Business that my first duty is to the public whom I propose to serve, and the protection of whose interests must always be my first consideration….”
Adams’ preamble was not nearly as poetic and visionary as the second version presented before the committee. Written by the committee’s chairman, a prominent REALTOR® and Presbyterian minister from Tacoma, WA, named Arthur H. Barnhisel, this preamble took a different tack, “setting forth the social responsibility of the association and of the local real estate boards who make up its membership.”
With its inspirational portrayal of the nation’s land and the REALTOR®’s role in ensuring its “highest use” and “widest distribution,” Barnhisel’s preamble easily won the committee’s vote. With little debate and only a few minor edits, the preamble was included along with several other revisions to the Code that were accepted by the National Association’s Board of Directors at its June 1924 meeting in Washington, DC.
As far as we’ve been able to find in the NAR Archives, Barnhisel never explained how he came up with his version of the preamble or revealed his sources of inspiration for the language. Among REALTORS®, though, the preamble quickly became the Code’s best-known feature and was proudly displayed on the walls and in the windows of real estate offices across the country. By 1943, NAR president Cyrus Crane Willmore declared in a speech before the association’s Board of Directors: “Property ownership is fundamental to our way of life. The first five words of our Code of Ethics should be impressed upon the minds of every man, woman and child in our country. They are, ‘Under all is the Land.’”
The Code of Ethics was revised again in 1955, and it included, among other changes, a rewritten preamble. The new preamble tried to preserve the ideals expressed in the original, using modernized language that was more in tune with the post-war 1950s.
REALTORS® were largely unhappy with the changes made to their beloved preamble, though, and in 1961 the National Association took steps to return it to its original form as written by Arthur H. Barnhisel. “A return to this wording is proposed because of its superior phrasing,” explained the report to the Board of Directors.
With the exception of those six years, the preamble remained exactly as Barnhisel wrote it for nearly seven decades. The preamble as we know it today took shape in 1994, when the first six Articles of the Code were incorporated into the preamble, adding paragraphs regarding the REALTOR®’s obligation to share their professional knowledge and stressing the importance of maintaining a spirit of cooperation with other real estate professionals.
Sunday, April 15, marks 100 years since the sinking of the RMS Titanic. Three REALTORS® were among the 1,500 people who were lost when the “unsinkable” ship struck an iceberg and sank in the North Atlantic.
The three men were all from Winnipeg, Manitoba — at the time nine Canadian real estate boards were part of the National Association of Real Estate Exchanges (now known as NAR). 64-year-old Mark Fortune was a former president and charter member of the Winnipeg Real Estate Exchange. He was returning from a European vacation with his wife, son, and two daughters. J. Hugo Ross and Thomson Beattie, both 36, were friends who had offices across the hall from each other in Winnipeg’s old Merchants Bank Building. Ross was also a former president of the Winnipeg Board, and Beattie was a business partner of the city’s mayor, R. D. Waugh. They had been traveling in Egypt and the Aegean Sea when Ross fell ill and they decided to return home early, booking passage on the Titanic.
According to the National Real Estate Journal, Fortune moved to Winnipeg in 1874 and entered the real estate business four years later. “Within the past ten years,” the Journal reported in May 1912, “he has been one of the most successful real estate operators in the city. Property which he had held for years became very valuable…he is said to have owned property in nearly all the principal blocks along Main Street and Portage Avenue.” Fortune served four terms on the Winnipeg City Council and was very active in Knox Presbyterian Church.
Ross had served as secretary of the Winnipeg Stock Exchange and attended the fourth NAR convention a year earlier, in Denver in 1911. Beattie took over management of the firm of Waugh and Beattie when his partner was elected mayor. “In many respects they resembled one another,” the Journal wrote of Ross and Beattie. “Both were typical opportunistic westerners, positive of the future of Winnipeg and western Canada.”
Fortune’s 19-year-old son Charles also perished in the disaster, while his mother and sisters were put off in lifeboats. A month later Beattie’s body was found with two others adrift in a collapsible life boat, and he was buried at sea.
At the national convention in Louisville two months later Fortune, Ross and Beattie were remembered in prayer by their fellow REALTORS®, who then voted for Winnipeg to host the 1913 convention.
Celebrating the Association Executives Committee’s 100th birthday
This weekend, REALTOR® association executives (AEs) from around the country will gather at the 2012 A.E. Institute for a few days of networking, professional development programs, and a chance to learn about key industry trends and issues.
As it happens, this year’s conference takes place in Louisville, KY, which makes it a particularly auspicious occasion: 100 years ago in the same city, REALTOR® AEs gathered together for the very first time.
Members of the National Association met in Louisville on June 20, 1912, for their fifth annual convention. At this convention, the local and state association secretaries (as AEs were called at the time) for the first time had been allowed two hours to themselves. Around thirty secretaries participated, with R. Bruce Douglas (executive secretary of the National Association from 1909-1911) serving as chairman. The group spent their first hour at the Hotel Watterson, dining on chicken broth, boiled halibut and vanilla ice cream and listening to presentations on topics that would be familiar to AEs today: how to attract new members, ways to get members to attend regular meetings, managing the MLS, and working with the media.
The secretaries spent their second hour together enjoying the Ohio River views aboard the steamboat Constitution. The group decided to create a formal organization for board secretaries, and even crafted a constitution while sailing on the Constitution. The stated purpose of the new Association of Secretaries of the National Association of Real Estate Exchanges was “to afford for its members better opportunity for mutual acquaintance and to hold an annual conference.” Dues were set at $1 per year.
Since that day in June 1912, the association executives’ group has been a constant and influential presence, strengthening ties between the local, state, and national REALTOR® associations. The organization formed in 1912 has gone through many changes over the years, becoming the Secretaries’ Division in 1923, then the Executive Officers Council in 1958, and finally the Association Executives Committee (AEC) in 1993.
In 1921, NAR president Irving B. Hiett dropped in for a visit at the Secretaries’ annual meeting. “I was rather surprised to find the things they discussed there,” Hiett later reported to NAR’s Executive Committee, “surprised at the interest they were taking in the things that are of value not only to their local boards but to the Association as a whole. I want to tell you that I think [the Secretaries’ group] is one of the most valuable assets we have.”
Here’s to a very happy 100th birthday for the AEC, and many more to come.
by Russell Carlson, Information Specialist
From the NAR Archives: Virginia Grant recognized the woman sitting in a large pink Cadillac in front of the trendy Lowenstein’s East Department store in early 1957. Grant had seen the woman’s photograph in the newspaper and recognized her. It was Elvis Presley’s mother.
The Memphis REALTOR® (and member of the Women’s Council of the National Association of Real Estate Boards) engaged in some friendly conversation with Mrs. Presley, and was able to confirm a rumor heard in Memphis real estate circles. The Presleys wanted to buy, perhaps “a few acres with a large house, not too far out of town.”
Grant suggested a property of thirteen acres on Highway 51 and mentioned it to the lady. The Presleys were pressed for time. That night they would be leaving for Hollywood to visit their son for a month. Mr. Presley was in Lowenstein’s purchasing luggage for the trip. “Would you give me your card and write the address and a bit of a description on the back, so I can tell Elvis when we get to Hollywood?” Grant was happy to do so.
A month later the phone rang in her office. “Hello Miss Grant, this is Presley. Wonder if it would be convenient to show me the property you told Mom and Dad about?” Miss Grant made the time to do so. A six figure price was eventually arranged by Virginia and another REALTOR® who worked for the owners of Graceland.
“But for the Grace of God,” she said in the September 1957 issue of the Women’s Council newsletter, What Women Realtors Are Doing, “I might never have been at Lowenstein’s East and met the lovely Mrs. Presley, in exactly the way in which I described to you.”
In 1922 REALTOR® A. W. Ross was standing next to a barbed wire fence along a dirt road in Los Angeles. In place of barley fields he saw opportunity. In less than twenty years that road running west from La Brea Avenue would be a segment of Wilshire Boulevard known as the Miracle Mile.
According to an article in the May 1938 issue of the National Real Estate Journal, Ross’ experience in designing and building subdivisions had taught him that people who can afford to move from lowlands to highlands. Looking at undeveloped land on higher ground nearby, he envisioned lovely homes with access to businesses along a boulevard that would replace his dusty road.
Ross first approached wealthy prospects, offering his road through the barley fields at $100 per front foot. He was laughed at, with one man telling him he should have his head examined.
Ross then tried the “common folks,” and sold the land as “the chance of your lifetime.” By 1930 most of the “common folks” had cashed in. “I had the satisfaction of seeing many a family in ordinary circumstances…step out of the picture with more money than such family ever expected to see in the world,” Ross recalled. “Thinking of that fact is today one of my greatest pleasures.”
In 1929 an affluent man who had laughed at Ross six years earlier paid him $600,000 each for properties Ross himself had bought for $6,500.
In the meantime “height limit” skyscrapers were constructed, beginning with the Wilshire Tower Building in 1927. The E. Clemm Wilson and Dominguez buildings would follow, but the trend was for smaller buildings with ample parking behind the businesses. By 1938 Ross’ $100 front foot was valued as high as $3,500.
“Regardless of the number of years a Realtor has practiced, he is always interested in the unusual sales experiences of other operators in his field…,” read the forward to Interesting Sales of Realtors. Published in November of 1944, it includes the fifty best stories from “many hundreds” submitted to three past presidents of the National Institute of Real Estate Brokers.
The collection includes a rich variety of first hand sales accounts. “Some reveal creative selling under what seemed insurmountable obstacles; some are spectacular; some simply good examples of sound thinking; and some can be classified as ‘Acts of Providence.’”
Realtor E. L. Scanlon from East Orange, N.J., used what he called “The Will Rogers System.” Named for the famous humorist who said, “All I know is what I read in the newspapers,” Scanlon summed up the system as “Read the newspapers intelligently…There’s a deal in every daily!”
Realtor Horace Browning of Washington, D.C., persuaded a man to sign a contract with the promise that the buyer would receive a present of a fountain pen exactly like the Realtor’s. The sale was made in the fall of 1929. Browning recalled, “After the crash, Mr. A thanked me for selling him the property because he had gotten out of the stock market when he signed the contract.”
“During the boom days of 1920,” Arthur W. Draper, Jr., recalled a property near Chicago’s South Shore Park. A large theater was to be opened on the land, but one delicatessen owner alone refused to sell. Finally four members of Draper’s company paid a visit to the deli, “Pockets bulging with $25,000 cash. After pulling down the blinds, we proceeded to spread $10, $20, and $50 bills on the counters, floors and along the walls until the delicatessen owner’s eyes popped out. This is one case where money talked and he couldn’t resist the offer.”
Axel Oellgard got a commission by playing Cupid in Scranton, Pennsylvania. “Mrs. Kay” had just moved to the area when she asked Realtor Oellgaard to help her find a small place in the country. He showed her a property “owned by an old retired soldier…he lived there alone.” Before leaving, Mrs. Kay left her Realtor on the front porch while she took another quick look at the kitchen and talked to the owner. Five minutes later they joined him on the porch and told him of their plans to marry. The house would not be sold after all, but they gave Oellgaard his full commission and a $20 bonus.
A. I. Bradley, Cleveland Realtor, knew a thing or two about finding clients. Pulled over for speeding, Bradley learned of the policeman’s house hunting difficulties. The next day the officer bought a house shown to him by his new Realtor.
In 1911 real estate professionals saw the benefits of organizing a local real estate board. In August of that year, Wycliffe A. Hill’s argument in favor of local real estate boards was published in the National Real Estate Journal.
As Executive Secretary of the Texas State Realty Association (a precursor to today’s Texas Association of REALTORS®), Hill argued that local Boards can inspire “a spirit of good fellowship among the different men…engaged in the same line of business…it will promote acquaintance and co-operation among its members, thereby facilitating the sale of real estate.”
Hill also saw the business advantages a local board can offer. “It provides a means for the distribution of information which is of interest to the real estate men, and an exchange of ideas which is beneficial.”
He also quoted the adage, “In union there is strength,” and, “it places the real estate men in a position to accomplish many things as an organization that they could not as individuals.” He said the real estate men in a city could be ”in a position to demand and obtain any necessary change…that is necessary for the development and upbuilding of the town and its real estate interests.”
Of course business ethics were of paramount importance. A local board “places a legitimate dealer on a higher plane…it forces the man who is crooked to either reform his methods or be branded as unreliable, and get out of the ranks.”
In the spring of 1940, 76 men and women gathered in Chicago’s Knickerbocker Hotel for four days of group discussions, reports, and professional commitment.
Past President Paul Stark (1937) of Madison, Wisconsin, gave an address on “Why a Real Estate Board?” Stark called for a rededication of board work and “an obligation, to community, state, and nation, now more profoundly than ever.”
National Association Librarian Carrie Maude Jones offered her help to any board “in setting up a real organization for ‘information please.’ She outlined a system that would catalogue information in the correspondence file as well as from books, pamphlets, magazines.”
Another speaker was Leonard Downie, business manager of the Chicago Board, on “Board Publicity and Advertising.” “Where members get talking about big things going on at board headquarters, you can’t keep it out of the papers,” he said. “And that’s the best medium of advertising available, at little or no cost too.”
A frequent comment heard in the Knickerbocker’s meeting rooms and corridors seventy years ago was, “Why haven’t we done something like this before?” Another was, “Let’s have something like this every year.”
In 1930 one of Chicago Real Estate Magazine‘s popular features was “The Realty Mart,” where real estate dealers and owners offered properties for sale or exchange with brokers. In the March 22 issue an advertisement for the “Mart” mentioned one of Chicago’s most infamous residents.
Under the headline “The Scarface Takes a Chance,” the copy read: “Reports indicate that Mr. Capone runs some risks with his business and existence. Not so with REALTY MART advertisers. They pay only for those ads which produce results. Phone yours to Franklin 9741.”
The ad did not run again.
A year later Alphonse “Al” Capone was indicted for income tax evasion and violations of the Volstead Act. Found guilty on tax evasion charges, in 1932 he went to prison where he remained until 1939.
The April 12 issue of Chicago Real Estate Magazine” included a message of hope for Chicago and its gangland notoriety. In a speech broadcast to the Chicago Better Business Bureau, Charles G. Dawes, U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom, railed against ”the organization of a few contemptible un-American gangsters.” Dawes predicted, “This generation of our citizens…will be remembered…as one which in its bare hands seized the venemous serpent of organized crime and choked it to death.”