On January 23, 2014, the Hamptons & North Fork Realtors Association (HANFRA) installed its new officers at a dinner held at the Southampton Social Club. Approximately 100 realtors were in attendance. Days later I interviewed Shawn Steinmuller, its newly inaugurated president at his Nest Seekers International real estate office in Westhampton Beach. Shawn is an Associated Broker in New York and a Broker in Florida.
An erroneous assumption among the public and even some in the real estate industry, assume that anyone who holds a real estate license and practices real estate is, by definition, a Realtor. However, that is not true. The term Realtor is a national trademark of the National Association of Realtors comprised of those who choose to join a local real estate board which makes them members of their respective state boards of realtors. HANFRA is one of those local boards.
Tell us Shawn, what you see as the major goal of HANFRA, with respect to its members and the real estate market in general.
SS: Realtors are professionals required to abide by a national code of Ethics, to take classes in the Code for initial membership and on a continuing basis. We start out with the purpose of wanting to protect property ownership rights of the average homeowner. The Code is put together by experienced professionals from all over the United States, and in fact, beyond, all working to benefit the consumer.
What is the current membership of HANFRA and what is the geographical area that you represent?
SS: We do business in the five East End Towns of Long Island with a membership just under five hundred.
What are the benefits of HANFRA to the industry and the public in general?
SS: I would say that the ethical behavior that is encouraged by the National Association of Realtors, the education and information available to them all serve the interests of the public as well as others engaged in the real estate industry.
As its newly inaugurated president, what are your goals for HANFRA?
SS: The first goal is to bring public recognition to who we are. In past years, we seemed to have failed in that attempt. We need to improve that from both a public relations and educational standpoint. We also need to improve our educational programs for our members.
How is the dues paid by members used to their benefit, other than education and dissemination of information?
SS: The interests of Realtors are represented before federal, state, and local bodies that regulate the real estate industry. All of the funds collected are used to promote the interests of the real estate practitioners. There are also ancillary benefits; discounts on products and programs we use to facilitate our business, all of which, when combined far outweigh the costs of membership.
Real estate is a highly competitive business, and must be, by law. The industry, since 1950, has been subject to Federal Antitrust Laws. At the same time, state laws and the National Association of Realtors require cooperation. How does a real estate board reconcile these seemingly apparent contradictions?
SS: I think it goes back to the basics of education, such as requirements under Article 12-A, the License Law in New York.
What is a benefit of membership in a real estate board to brokers on the local level other than those already mentioned?
SS: The potential for mediation and arbitration of disputes among realtors is one benefit rather, than having to go to the Department of State of through the courts. A lot of the work done on behalf of realtors is done behind the scenes and not appreciated by some of our members.
How do you intend to increase your membership?
SS: In a number of ways such as going from office to office telling real estate agents who we are, as well as sponsoring breakfasts and other out-reach efforts.
The Long Island Board of Realtors also has a Multiple Listing Service and a listing form that that most of its members use. The real estate brokers in the Hamptons and North Fork typically each use their own forms. Do you envision that changing anytime in the near future?
SS: There are brokers in our region who feel that their listing forms better serve their clients and do not see any reason to change that.
To be clear, those listing agreements must comply with Department of State Regulations and contract law.
SS: Yes, of course.
Real estate is a major industry on the East End. Do you have any plans to bring to your members and the public those who influence it, such as elected officials, building department, zoning, and land-use officials, to name several, as well as representatives of non-profits, such as the Peconic Land Trust?
SS: Yes. That is something we plan to do, even to the extent of sponsoring political debates among candidates for office. We think the public has a right to know where the candidates stand on issues that affect them. And we hope to promote that.