“Taxation without representation:” REBNY board member resigns, alleging leadership ignores agents

NYRAC co-founder Heather McDonough Domi calls to expand representation

Heather McDonough Domi (Compass)
Heather McDonough Domi (Compass)

She isn’t throwing tea in the Hudson River, but a board member has resigned from the city’s top real estate trade group over what she called “taxation without representation.”

In a fiery resignation letter viewed by The Real Deal, Heather McDonough Domi, a member of the Real Estate Board of New York’s Residential Brokerage Board of Directors, criticized the association for a lack of agent input at the top level, despite collecting membership dues from agents to float its budget.

“We’re paying their bills but we don’t have a say,” said McDonough Domi, a Compass agent who was one of the first two brokers elected to the board in 2019.

McDonough Domi called for equal representation between brokerage owners and executives and rank-and-file brokers, which she said more closely resembles other realtor association leadership groups.

The broker wrote that she started out with the belief she “could make a real difference for my fellow agents, many of whom communicated to me their seemingly endless frustration and skepticism with current powers supposedly advocating on their behalf.”

“With more frequency than not, I felt my voice as an agent was overlooked, disrespected, and disregarded,” McDonough Domi wrote.

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In an interview, McDonogh Domi said REBNY leadership is failing its brokers at a time of instability and uncertainty in the industry caused by national lawsuits seeking to alter the way brokers are compensated and changes in taxes and regulations, like New York City’s proposed pied-a-terre tax.

“Agents are boots on the ground — managers only know what they hear from agents, or rely on agent experience that was 10, 15, 20 years ago,” she said. “To have the agent there in the room gives you more of-the-moment data.”

A spokesperson for REBNY did not comment specifically on McDonough Domi’s resignation, but said in a statement the group “is proud to advocate for agents” in the city.

Among the group’s functions are “protecting commissions, delivering a consumer-facing listings platform, supplying real-time legal advice and providing a wide array of other services and resources that help agents do business,” a REBNY spokesperson said.

McDonough Domi said she submitted to REBNY her own research into realtor association board structures in over 20 markets. Among her findings, she claimed, were that brokers on average make up 54 percent of association boards, compared to brokerage owners and executives, who make up 46 percent.

The voting bloc of REBNY’s board is composed entirely of executives and owners. McDonough Domi and Sotheby’s International Realty broker Vannessa Kaufman are the board’s only two rank-and-file members and neither has voting rights. All other associations polled by McDonough Domi gave brokers voting rights.

She said she feels her time will be better spent working through the New York Residential Agent Continuum, a broker advocacy and support group she helped found in 2018.

REBNY, which has long been accused of favoring its commercial broker members, took a step forward in the residential space earlier this year when it partnered with CoStar-owned Homesnap for the long-awaited launch of Citysnap, an MLS website designed to compete with StreetEasy.

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