The Real Deal New York

REBNY to hike dues 20% for commercial brokers and property owners

Sources say decision came from the top down
By E.B. Solomont and Rich Bockmann | December 07, 2018 05:54PM

John Banks (Credit: Larry Ford)

UPDATE, Dec. 10, 11:30 a.m.: The Real Estate Board of New York will raise dues on commercial brokers and property owners by 20 percent next year, sources told The Real Deal.

REBNY’s executive committee voted in mid-November to increase dues on its commercial-brokerage and owners-and-builders divisions starting in 2019, according to a record of the meeting. Sources told TRD that the trade group informed members of the dues-increases Friday.

A spokesperson for REBNY pointed out that the group has not raised dues on commercial brokers in the past four years.

“During this time, we have made every effort to rein-in expenses and institute operating efficiencies; we will continue to do so,” the spokesperson said. “However, for REBNY to continue to provide our members with the highest level of professional services and to meet our financial obligations we have no choice but to increase membership dues for 2019.”

It wasn’t clear to what end the board decided to increase dues on commercial members, but the powerful industry group generally raises fees every few years. REBNY last raised dues effective for the year 2015, and before that had made increases in 2012 and 2008.

Last year, REBNY increased dues on residential brokers with the specific purpose of raising $1 million to invest in upgrading its Residential Listing System. The RLS launched a syndicated listing feed last year, amid tension between agents and StreetEasy after the Zillow subsidiary introduced a slew of fees.

But that increase came only after REBNY’s Residential Brokerage Board of Directors voted to approve the dues increase. This time around, sources told TRD that the Commercial Brokerage Board of Directors did not get a chance to weigh in on the fee hike.

Commercial brokers make up around 25 percent of REBNY’s roughly 17,000 members.

According to the new dues schedule, dues for Broker A members — defined as a principal, member of a partnership or officer of a corporation — are rising $220 to $1,320. Dues for salespeople will go from $400 to $480.

Owner A members, whose property is assessed at $1 million or more, will see rates go up based on the value of their holdings. For those who own real estate worth $1 million to $2 million, dues will be $2,760, up from $2,300. Those with properties assessed between $25 million and $40 million will now pay $22,800, up from $19,000.

REBNY collected dues totaling $9.75 million in 2016, according to its most recently available tax filings. That was up from $8.48 million in 2014.

Rising dues have in the past been a source of contention. Residential brokers, for example, have long argued that REBNY prioritizes the needs property owners and the commercial side of the business at their expense, and many questioned if they were getting what they paid for when the group raised dues on residential brokers.

In October, tempers flared at a meeting between top brokerage heads and REBNY president John Banks. Douglas Elliman chairman Howard Lorber reportedly said he’d had enough and stormed out of the room. He later accused REBNY of prioritizing commercial interests rather than issues pertaining to residential members — even though residential members contribute a disproportionate amount of dues.

And the National Association of Realtors earlier this year faced resistance from members when it proposed a 2.5 percent dues increase, which it ultimately approved.