How Consumers and Businesses Can Both Win

August 30, 2018

While much of the Innovation, Opportunity, and Investment Summit held in San Francisco this week focused around how new technology will drive change in the real estate industry in coming years, the National Association of REALTORS®—which hosted the event—also sought to bring in the regulatory perspective. In that effort, the association brought two prominent attorneys general to speak at its inaugural tech conference this week. Both emphasized the importance of a close relationship between the legal and real estate communities.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra addresses the crowd at iOi

© REALTOR® Magazine

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra

“I urge you to not only stay in touch with my office, but also with any number of folks who are trying to figure out what’s around the corner for this industry,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “My role is to work with you.”

His colleague, Washington, D.C., Attorney General Karl Racine, underscored this message and noted that because the new landscapes that many tech companies are working in often include legal gray areas, it makes sense to seek guidance from regulators before moving forward. “It’s sometimes smart to get to know the regulator,” he told attendees. He earned a hearty laugh from the crowd when he added, “State attorneys general are actually decent people.”

Racine told one story about how his office is currently assisting a top-producing agent in the D.C. area who had his identity and listing information stolen. “Our office is now helping that REALTOR® to get his data and reputation back,” Racine said, adding that the industry needs to do more to secure listing ad client data. “You’re collecting the personal information of consumers. There’s extraordinary risk in collecting that information and not protecting it.”

Washington, D.C., Attorney General Karl Racine addresses the crowd at iOi

© REALTOR® Magazine

Washington, D.C., Attorney General Karl Racine

While Racine was aware of the high amount of fraud attempts around transaction data—he said his area has seen four dozen such complaints in the last 30 days—he was shocked to learn at the iOi conference about how common it is for real estate professionals to be violently attacked in the field. “This is an incredibly important area… This is where I think your first conversations with your state attorneys general should perhaps happen,” he said. “I would urge everyone in the room to find a reason, a way to understand what your attorney general is doing around protecting information and also protecting your security.”

As an attorney general in a state where affordability is a chronic problem in many areas, Becerra was interested in learning how technology and the real estate industry can help keep homeownership in the grasp of everyday Americans. “It’s an interesting world and it’s moving faster than us,” he told attendees. “But we still have an obligation to make sure the American dream stays alive. ... How do we figure out what the next generation wants when it comes to real estate?”

Both speakers were appreciative that the conference sought to bring together such different groups to better understand the many ways technology, real estate, and the law will intersect in the coming years. “Your association is one of the most respected associations in the country and they’re respected because they take positions that are fundamentally pro-consumer and pro-business… Both the consumer and those in business can win,” Racine said. “That entrepreneurial spirit really pervades this particular conference.”