In the waning days of his tenure, Scott Brunner, longtime executive director of Mississippi Association of Realtors (MAR), was wrapping up loose ends when he hinted, “I can’t say yet who our new CEO will be, but I can tell you that we’re especially excited about this dynamic person and the leadership direction of the association moving forward.”
In the last five years, MAR’s membership had grown by nearly 1,000. The new leader would have big shoes to fill after Brunner moved to Richmond, Va., to lead the 30,000-member Virginia Association of Realtors.
On August 1, MAR named Angela Cain CEO of the state’s largest business association, representing 5,700 real estate professionals in Mississippi.
“(Angela) was our board of directors’ unanimous choice, and we’re confident she will take us to the next level,” said Nancy Lane, CCIM, broker/owner of Nancy Lane Commercial Realty in Jackson and president of MAR. “Her background, experience and personality make her just the right fit for our organization.”
A sixth generation Floridian from Fort Pierce, Cain earned a journalism/communications degree from the University of Florida. Most recently, she had served as director of global events for CoreNet Global, a 7,500-member international corporate real estate association based in Atlanta. There, she had led an event management and fundraising team that produced large-scale conventions and trade shows in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Asia and Australia, and built strategic alliances and partnerships with corporate end-users, economic developers and site selection consultants.
Since joining MAR two years ago, Cain has significantly increased non-dues revenue, launched a new member magazine and consumer real estate guide, and strengthened the brand of the Mississippi Realtor Institute, the association’s full-service real estate school.
Cain and her husband, economic developer Harry Gibbs, who works in the existing industry and business division of the Mississippi Development Authority, reside in Brandon.
The Mississippi Business Journal caught up with Cain during a hectic first month as the association’s new chief. While preparing for an imminent National Association of Realtors conference and an upcoming MAR convention, Cain graciously took time to answer a few questions that were on our business readers’ minds.
Mississippi Business Journal: What are the most pressing matters that you’ll be addressing at the state convention?
Angela Cain: The MAR state convention provides our members with an opportunity to get all of their required and elective continuing education (CE). We try to offer programming that helps Realtors in their businesses. Topics those sessions will address include: The Future of Real Estate Brokerage, Emerging Business Models, Technology Driven Business Models, Mastering E-Business, Customer Relationship Management, Branding to Capture the FSBO (for sale by owner) and Selling to Generation X. In addition, we’ll feature required CE courses on Mississippi License Law, Agency Law and Contract Law.
We’re also offering something new this year — a Rookie Realtor program — that includes two CE courses for those just breaking into the real estate business. With such an influx of new Realtors in Mississippi, we think it’s important to bring our newest members along through timely education.
MBJ: In Mississippi, how are Realtors working with bankers about the possibility of banks entering the real estate arena?
AC: Mississippi Realtors and bankers have enjoyed a great working relationship for many years. Bankers already play a critical role in a real estate transaction. We simply disagree on allowing them to increase that level of involvement by redefining real estate as a financial activity as opposed to a commercial one. This is something being pushed by the big banks, not local community banks in Mississippi.
And it’s an issue that we’re opposing at a federal level. If big banks are allowed to sell or manage real estate, there will be a negative impact on communities across America, leaving home buyers and sellers with fewer choices, higher loan fees and reduced customer service.
MBJ: What legislation will the Realtors be lobbying for in the 2006 legislative session?
AC: We have a very active member-driven Legislative & Regulatory Affairs Advocacy Group that analyzes, discusses and debates potential real estate and housing opportunity-related legislation. That group is exploring a variety of issues but has not yet announced an agenda for 2006.
MBJ: What stance is MAR taking about the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision ruling that local city governments may seize home and businesses for private development?
AC: Obviously, this is an issue we take very seriously. Realtors absolutely believe in protecting private property rights. However, we also believe in the value of good economic development and the positive effect it can have on improving the quality of life in our communities. I think it’s important to note that the Supreme Court’s decision only reaffirms New London, Conn.’s right to act based on what’s allowed in Connecticut law. It doesn’t set a federal standard. The decision leaves it up to individual states to establish the rules that cities must follow when exercising eminent domain powers. Some states have stricter standards than those reviewed by the Court in the Connecticut case. We are researching the issue, monitoring what other states are doing and partnering with the National Association of Realtors to find an agreeable solution.
MBJ: The House recently voted to allow Small Business Health Plans (SBHP), which would benefit the one-quarter of Realtors nationwide that have no health insurance coverage. What is the status of Realtors’ coverage in Mississippi, and would SBHPs benefit your members?
AC: More than 28% of the nation’s more than one million Realtors have no health insurance coverage from any source. And only 7% of real estate firms offer healthcare coverage for independent contractors, who are the largest segment of real estate agents. Our statistics in Mississippi mirror the national average. That’s why MAR supports federal legislation that would allow small businesses, including sole proprietor firms, to self-insure or to purchase health coverage through SBHPs or Association Health Plans (AHPs) offered by their professional or trade associations.
Allowing firms to unite in this way allows small business owners and employees to benefit from the same economies of scale enjoyed by larger companies and union insurance plans.
MBJ: The latest data shows that the housing market remains hot. Is there any sign of a slowdown? What are projections for Mississippi?
AC: We’ve been hearing for years now about an impending bubble waiting to burst, but it just hasn’t happened yet. According to our NAR chief economist David Lereah, there is no sign of a slowdown. He believes the lower-than-expected mortgage interest rates will push home sales to a fifth consecutive record in 2005. In Mississippi, total home sales were up 7.9% in the first quarter of this year. The median home sales price for single family homes in Jackson, for example, was up 15.6% in the first quarter of 2005 and was up 12.8% in the Biloxi/Gulfport area.
MBJ: MAR is launching a new consumer real estate guide this fall. What can you tell us about this new publication?
AC: It was a critical part of our association’s strategic plan in 2005 to show consumers the value of using a Realtor in a real estate transaction. Real Estate 4-1-1 will feature tips, tools and resources on home buying and selling in Mississippi. Consumers will be able to find a Realtor in their community, learn how to get their home ready for sale, improve their credit score, determine how much house they can afford, et cetera. Free copies will be available at various locations around the state in late October and an online version will be offered at www.msrealtors.org.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at firstname.lastname@example.org.