Here at first tuesday we regularly poll our readers who may be members of the California Association of Realtors® (CAR) to find out whether they believe CAR services to be worth the expense of their annual dues.

Our readers overwhelmingly and consistently agree CAR member services are not worth the cost of membership.

While this trend remains unbucked, a growing number of readers have signaled they are, in fact, happy with the perks CAR offers its members — 28% of respondents find CAR services equal in value to the annual dues, up 8% from 2018, and far above 2017’s 10% of readers.

So what does CAR actually offer its members, and is it actually worth it?

The “free” illusion

Short answer: Not a whole lot that its members can’t get elsewhere.

Sure, it’s easy to see the appeal. CAR provides 45-hour renewal packages, forms through its zipForm® software, MLS access and real-estate-related webinars — among other amenities such as legal advice and industry connections — all included in the cost of membership.

But all this is disingenuous at best. CAR couches these services as being “free,” but considering the exorbitant member dues (which run up to $700 annually, depending on the local association), it’s hard to argue they are worth the price.

For starters, the continuing education courses CAR offers are generic at best, and downright sloppy at worst. In addition, real estate agents can find inexpensive, easy-to-navigate 45-hour courses in a multitude of places — including first tuesday.

As for forms, agents needn’t pay for them at all. RPI forms are comprehensive, simple, and free to use.

MLS access, the other big CAR membership myth, is available to any agent or broker who elects not to become a CAR member. While the belief that association membership is necessary for MLS access is not as prevalent as it once was, the misconception — which CAR has gone to no lengths to dispel — remains persistent and troubling.

The crux of the situation is this: while CAR does provide some unique perks — though not for “free,” as the association claims — the bulk of its services are available elsewhere, often truly for free or at a much lower price. Therefore, we at first tuesday believe — and the majority of our readers agree — the price of admission is not worth the show.