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November has arrived, the World Series is done, NFL Football is halfway over, and the extended Holiday season is just around the corner.  Before you know it, Thanksgiving Day, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter solstice, Christmas and New Year’s will be upon us, affording each of us at least one tradition to celebrate. Even more so, this Season also provides us an opportunity to focus on our families, friends and even unmet community members; to reach outside ourselves and bring a bit of cheer into the lives of others.  And in doing so to change our own hearts; the lesson Charles Dickens brings to life in the timeless tale of Mr. Scrooge.  But before we get to enjoy any break near this year’s end, the agency still has a great deal of work to complete.  

This month we have four very important meetings on the calendar. On November 14, the Board annual workshop and on November 15 the Board quarterly meeting. The Commission will meet on November 18 for their annual workshop and on the 19 for their quarterly meeting. The annual workshop meetings will be focused on our upcoming 2020 biennial strategic planning process. The Board and the Commission members will also be receiving required refresher training to equip them to more effectively fulfill their obligations as volunteer policymakers.

So what does the future hold for the Commission and the Board?  Can we find meaningful responses to the daunting challenges our profession and the real property markets face?  Business models, transactions and communications technology continue to offer changes and advances, in a seemingly endless stream of new options available at lightning speeds.  Will we as a regulatory agency remain an effective protector of the legitimate expectations of Texas’ consumers, while also allowing adequate room for market innovation where risks are minimal?  This is the balance we are committed to achieving when considering any policy alternatives.  It has been an intrinsic part of the agency’s mission for our 70-year history.  (More on that soon.)

As the Commission and Board convene this month to consider what the future holds, and how to shape it where possible, let’s preview some of the tasks and challenges they are facing.  The search for the next Executive Director and Commissioner is well underway and interviews of qualified candidates will be conducted in the next few weeks.  A new Chair and several new members were appointed by Governor Abbott in 2019 on both the Commission and Board to help guide the agency as it makes decisions on how to focus its resources to best accomplish its mission during the next few years.  The agency also remains under Sunset reporting scrutiny.

Considering occupational licensing on a macro-level, we now face nationwide trends to allow, or even to require, increased reciprocity or recognition of licenses earned in other states.  We see the adoption of more “right to work” laws that can act to shift the burden from a state agency back onto the individual consumer to more directly educate and protect themselves from any risk of financial harm when hiring a realty-related service provider.  We observe with increasing frequency requirements to ignore prior unrelated or non-violent criminal law infractions when considering whether to grant or renew a license.  These winds blow strongly at the moment.

And here are just a few of the more pressing technologically-enabled developments in the market place that will also surely challenge our ability to respond quickly and effectively:

  • the proliferation of cash and cash-equivalent buyers shifts seller expectations, first-time buyer competitiveness, available financing structures and the roles of brokers and agents;
  • new home automation and energy use control technologies add new considerations to the valuation of real property and to the complexity of ownership and occupancy transfers;
  • increased use of geographic-based analytics offers new opportunities and challenges for discovery and disclosure, further complicating expectations as to adequate due diligence;
  • increased acceptance of limited or alternative analytical methods, automated valuation models are driven by complex algorithms, and hybrid appraisal products push the boundaries of what level of data validation should be required to develop a credible opinion of value;
  • and, the lack of federal accountability in the structure of the appraisal regulatory scheme under FIRREA and Dodd-Frank, and the unintended consequences that have resulted from the efforts to achieve a legislative consensus to remedy some of these known shortfalls.

To these developments, add other transformations in technology that directly affect the workplace and enable increased flexibility and efficiencies in the delivery of information and services:

  • web-enabled, device-agnostic software as a service platform, with storage of scaled and evolving programs and their associated data in secure environments with global access;
  • high-speed, high capacity, integrated voice, and data transmission networks with built-in security features that enable distributed interface to drive productivity from any location;
  • multi-channel communication nodes that update information in real-time across diverse social media and networking platforms, delivering near-immediate results when queried;
  • virtual and augmented reality, machine learning and artificial intelligence will enhance the user experience and deliver services in ways that we are only beginning to explore; and
  • driverless and other shared modes of transportation equipped with 5G+ connectivity will change the urban and inter-urban landscape in other ways that will profoundly affect our expectations about when and where work can be effectively accomplished and managed.

These are just some of the current major factors that will impact policy making at our agency and across governments at every level. In addition, there are more local and practical topics.

We recently sent out a survey to license holders of both the Commission and Board asking about areas of concern that you may have when thinking about market developments and also asking for feedback on matters that the agency handles well and also those areas where we need to improve. These survey results will also be topics of discussion among our policymakers at their next workshops to begin the development of the 2021-2025 Strategic Plan.  Stay tuned as you will have plenty of opportunities for additional input as this process moves forward.

We eagerly anticipate the opportunity to share the results of these workshops with you as the agency steadily moves ahead!  Aim high and keep climbing!