The key to leadership is listening to those with whom you serve. I think it’s important to have an open mind and to listen and to be thoughtful.
2022 will be a big year for Leslie Rouda Smith.
She will be the first NAR president from Texas since Charles McMillan in 2009. She and her vice presidents will lead the first majority-female Leadership Team in NAR history. She’s also the second NAR president in her family—following her father, 1991 President Harley E. Rouda Sr. —and the third second-generation president in NAR history.
It will be a year filled with gigantic projects, weeks of travel, countless meetings, and maybe even some dancing. She has the impossible task of representing more than 1.5 million REALTORS® and their diverse interests. Even filling committee appointments is massive: sifting through thousands of applications to find roughly 2,000 members for 90-plus committees. She has a feeling Texas will be well represented.
The 2016 Texas REALTORS® chairman will draw on her enthusiasm and inexhaustible energy. She brings a lifetime of real estate knowledge to the NAR presidency. She expects 2022 to fly by, just like each year in national leadership did before this as well as her years on the Texas REALTORS® Leadership Team prior to that. But viewed collectively, it will be enough time for her to work with other REALTOR® leaders to make a meaningful, long-lasting difference at the national level.
“Most everyone in America either owns a home, wants to own a home, or is impacted by the cost of owning a home. And since real estate makes up almost 20% of our GDP, it’s hard to comprehend how much our industry reverberates all over America. We have a big responsibility to put our members and our industry in a position to succeed. It’s humbling knowing what we do every day impacts the well-being of so many people with no connection to real estate at all,” Rouda Smith says.
The proud Texan discussed the issues she will be watching and how you can help your industry.
Harley E. Rouda Sr.
Leslie Rouda Smith grew up in Central Ohio, where her father, Harley E. Rouda Sr., founded HER, REALTORS®, a major independent brokerage.
A jack-of-all-trades, Rouda Sr.’s ventures included building, development, residential and commercial sales, mortgage and title companies, and home warranties. He even worked on his own blueprints despite a lack of formal training. Rouda Sr. exposed Rouda Smith to many aspects of real estate well before she was old enough to get her real estate license.
Rouda Sr. worked his way up through the Ohio Association of REALTORS® and became NAR president in 1991.
“If you talk with anybody who’s been around our business at the national level, they’ll tell you that my dad was the world’s greatest joke teller. He had that Rolodex of jokes in his head. It was phenomenal. He acted them out, whatever it took. He charmed people with his jokes. I am often asked if I have that same genetic makeup and I don’t. I’m a better storyteller. Jokes are not my thing. But I love a good joke.”
Rouda Sr. passed away in 2012. “My dad was always very forward thinking, so he’d expect me to be as well. Always looking at the big picture. He would always say to be kind. He was always very thoughtful.”
Challenges and Opportunities in 2022
Antitrust settlement: In 2020, NAR and the U.S. Department of Justice reached an antitrust settlement agreement regarding broker commissions and MLS rules. In July 2021, the DOJ decided to withdraw consent to the settlement. NAR has filed a petition to stop the withdrawal. “This is something that would weigh heavily on REALTORS® if we don’t defend ourselves,” Rouda Smith says. Visit nar.realtor and search “doj agreement” to learn more.
Evictions: NAR believes swift distribution of rental assistance is the best way to cover back and future rent payments and help America’s tenants and housing providers, according to Rouda Smith.
Housing affordability and the lack of inventory nationwide: Calling the situation “a blessing and a curse” for practitioners, Rouda Smith told the Texas REALTORS® Board of Directors in September about the critical need for housing and the call to build more. She also discussed incentives to transform unused commercial space into housing.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion: “I think we’ve come a long way, but we have a long way to go. The best way to see how far we have to go is by looking at America’s racial homeownership gap now. Looking at the last 15 years nationwide, Black homeownership rates have declined to the same level they were back in the 1960s. Clearly, we have work to do.” Rouda Smith supports alternate credit scoring models and other tools to help more people achieve homeownership.
Sustainability: “We need to find a way for the industry to advocate for national infrastructure policy that prioritizes viability, adaptability, resiliency, and resource efficiency,” she says. REALTORS® can learn more about NAR’s sustainability and resilience plans at nar.realtor/sustainability.
Other issues: Rouda Smith will work on preserving like-kind exchanges, opportunity zones, and the step-up basis in tax law. NAR continues to support real estate-friendly tax and regulatory environments.
How You Can Help
Get involved. “I think an important message to REALTORS® who feel passionately about helping the industry is to get involved with the association. Find your passion.” Rouda Smith urged REALTORS® to sign up for committees at the local, state, and national level. “The application process for 2023 will open early next year. Hopefully everyone will pay attention to nar.realtor/committees and consider serving.” Members should also get involved to learn all the things associations do for them and what goes on behind the scenes.
Learn about the larger issues affecting your industry. Rouda Smith’s father, Harley E. Rouda Sr., coined the phrase, If real estate is your profession, then politics is your business. Rouda Smith has wondered if REALTORS® knew about past and present ballot questions on homeownership issues such as homestead exemptions and property tax reform. “If sellers say they are interviewing other REALTORS® for the listing, suggest to them that they ask those REALTORS® what they think of real estate ballot questions in the next election. The odds are close to zero that those REALTORS® would know what the questions are because they’re not involved and not paying attention.”
Educate clients. “I once asked an audience, ‘How many of you use what you learn in these meetings for the benefit of your buyers and sellers?’ Not one hand went up. I’m just as guilty as they are. Use your knowledge and what you gain at these meetings to your benefit.”
Network. It isn’t just good business; it helps you become a better REALTOR®, she says.
A New Challenge
Rouda Smith will approach this role the way she has every other role in 35 years of volunteering.
“The key to leadership is listening to those with whom you serve,” Rouda Smith says. “I think it’s important to have an open mind and to listen and to be thoughtful. And just know that other people may not agree with you. And you may not agree with them. That is OK—it’s how you handle it. More people need to be that way.”
She enjoys watching people—perhaps more closely than people realize—to find admirable traits she could adopt or things to avoid. “You pay attention to what goes on around you and those who blaze the trail ahead of you to learn how to be the best leader you can be,” she adds.
Rouda Smith is grateful to the NAR staff, many of whom have been in their positions for years, if not decades. She relies on their years of experience as she makes decisions. She sees her role as air traffic controller. “You delegate because you can’t possibly do it all.”
“Leadership Team members do the best we can to solve problems and look at the practitioner’s perspective, because that is who we serve. We think about these things broadly and universally so that we can make the best decision that will benefit the most members.”
Meet Leslie Rouda Smith
Leslie Rouda Smith is a broker associate with Dave Perry-Miller Real Estate. She manages a seven-person team that includes her husband, Brian, and children, Kristin and Austin—who are third-generation REALTORS®.
“I love residential and farm & ranch properties. I love looking at houses and décor and floor plans and all that stuff, having grown up with it. Of course, I love the outdoors, so ranch and country properties are near and dear to my husband’s and my heart.”
She met her husband at an Ebby Halliday real estate training class in 1984. “Ebby used to joke that we were her top producers of all time—just a different type of production because we have two kids.”
Real estate is a constant in her and her family’s life. “You can imagine that that’s about all we talk about, it seems like,” she jokes. If they see an interesting property while on vacation, the whole family goes into practitioner mode, guessing how much that property may sell for in that market or imagining what it would be like to own it.
Family is Rouda Smith’s main motivation. “I love my family. We all love to do stuff together and we all like to work and be successful.”
The family spends a lot of time in their backyard stargazing and watching their four dogs play. “My batteries never run out. I’m always doing 10 things at once. I don’t sit still. I enjoy four-wheeling and jet-skiing. Jet-skiing is probably my favorite thing to do because I love the water and I love to work out.”
Rouda Smith enjoys dancing and once organized a flash mob performance to “Uptown Funk” during her time in Texas REALTORS® leadership.
She counts her energy and enthusiasm among her strengths. She has a good spirit about her, she would say. “I always say I am under construction every day, because I feel like we all can always be better.”