Realtor associations in Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach County announce merger

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The main Realtor associations in Palm Beach and Broward counties are merging, reflecting an industry-wide wave of consolidation.

The combined Realtors Association of the Palm Beaches and Greater Fort Lauderdale Realtors will have 25,000 members, making it the third-largest regional Realtor association in the country after organizations in Miami and Houston.

The merger will generate savings of a few hundred dollars a year for agents in Boca Raton, who often join both associations, said Dionna Hall, chief executive of the Realtors Association of the Palm Beaches.

“We saw an opportunity to cut down on that cost, and cut some of the red tape,” Hall said.

Ron Lennen, president of the Fort Lauderdale association, said the combination will create an organization with greater clout.

“It’ll give us a stronger political voice,” Lennen said. “We’ll have more power when we go to Tallahassee or Washington, D.C.”

The two associations have been in merger talks for more than a decade, Hall and Lennen said. The merger happened now in part because of a 2013 change to the structure of the multiple listing service for Palm Beach County, Hall said.

Lennen said the crucial strategy was involving just three people from each organization in negotiations.

“The key was having just a small group in the merger talks,” he said. “When you get too many people together, there are too many opinions or egos.”

Members of both organizations must approve the combination.

“We think this is such a big win for them that they will be more than happy to approve the merger,” Hall said.

Talk of a combination was renewed after the Miami Association of Realtors in 2015 expanded into Palm Beach County by buying Jupiter Tequesta Hobe Sound Association of Realtors. That move led to speculation that the Broward and Palm Beach associations might join forces to fend off the growing Miami group.

In March, the Miami group announced the opening of its third office in Broward County. And the Miami association has put out a flurry of press releases touting the Rock the Market event it hosted in Jupiter, also in March.

The Miami association and the Realtors Association of the Palm Beaches once were allies. They worked together on training events until the Miami association bought the Jupiter Tequesta Hobe Sound association in 2015, a deal that spurred a lawsuit and accusations of fraud by the Palm Beach group against the Miami association.

The expansion-minded Miami Association of Realtors has 46,000 members — more than many state associations of Realtors — and calls itself the nation’s largest local Realtor association. The Miami Association of Realtors reported $16 million in revenue in the year ended June 30, 2015, dwarfing the revenues of the Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach associations.

In 2011, the Realtor Association of Greater Fort Lauderdale filed suit in federal court against the Miami Association of Realtors, saying the Miami group aimed to poach its members.

In mailings and ads such, the Miami Association of Realtors marketed membership to Broward and Palm Beach County members of the Realtor Association of Greater Fort Lauderdale. But the Fort Lauderdale group says the Miami association exaggerated the cost savings from switching associations and has overstated the number of agents who have transferred affiliations.

Says the Realtor Association of Greater Fort Lauderdale in its suit: “MAR has caused loss and injury to RAGFL through an on-going campaign of false and deceptive advertising by which MAR has brazenly sought to divert and has diverted real-estate licensees from being members of RAGFL and injured the good will and reputation of RAGFL.”

And in 2015, the Palm Beaches association sued the Miami association for fraud.

 

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