As part of a wide-ranging set of recommendations to raise the bar on REALTOR® professionalism, the NAR Board of Directors at its Nov. 10 meeting in New Orleans approved the drafting of a proposed aspirational Code of Excellence to be brought to the board at a future meeting for approval. The goal is to raise the practice of real estate measurably through increased training in the competencies that consumers value. These competencies include the stewardship of property listing data, privacy and security of consumer information, advocacy of property rights, community involvement, and technology.
“This is the first step in a process for the continuing improvement of our profession,” said NAR President Steve Brown.
The provision was passed after extensive debate on the floor of the meeting. Related provisions were also passed. These include provisions that would do the following:
- Change the frequency of NAR’s Code of Ethics educational requirement from every four years to every two years, starting in 2016; add a biennial Code of Excellence education requirement; and mandate continual updating of the training.
- Help its members strive to be proficient in data content and have efficient access to the broadest range of data available.
- Develop an industry standard that would allow consumers to evaluate REALTORS® fairly and accurately.
RPAC fundraising revamp
The board also approved broad changes to the association’s fundraising program for the REALTORS® Political Action Committee (RPAC). The changes include replacing the long-standing fair-share contribution system with a needs-based funding goal. Starting in 2015, National RPAC Distribution Trustees will set a two-year election cycle goal for review and endorsement by the National RPAC Fundraising Trustees and then for submission to the NAR Leadership Team, Executive Committee, and Board of Directors. With the change, the 70-30 percentage split between the states and national association is eliminated with the exception of the Major Investor program.
The change also includes a single national RPAC fundraising goal for all associations, which can be reached with RPAC hard or soft dollar receipts. Hard dollar contributions go directly to candidates’ campaign efforts and are capped at $5,000 per election. Soft dollars go to efforts conducted separately from candidates’ campaigns and are unlimited.
The revamp also includes a program for soliciting funds from MLSs for use in independent expenditure (IE) campaigns, with half going to federal campaigns and half to state campaigns. IEs are election advocacy efforts that are required to be conducted independently of (i.e., not in coordination with) candidates’ campaigns.
Issue mobilization ‘skin in the game’ requirement
State and local associations will have to put up some of their own funds under a “skin in the game” policy to receive NAR issues mobilization grant funds. The amount depends on the size of the grant request. The contribution can include funds from coalition partners and can also come in the form of non-financial resources such as staff and volunteer hours.
The board also approved a change to the issues mobilization application form for local associations to require the state association to indicate its support or opposition to the application.
Help with state tax reform battles
Separately, the board approved $486,250 in grant funds to the North Carolina Association of REALTORS® to preempt tax reform efforts by the state and $294,500 to the Minnesota Association of REALTORS® to protect MID from tax reform efforts in that state
Unmanned aerial vehicle policy set
To help the association stay ahead of unmanned aerial vehicle, or drone, technology, the board adopted a policy statement in support of the safe and responsible use of the technology by members and to work in support of that as federal regulators write rules for the technology. In the meantime, the association will continue efforts to educate members that use of the technology for commercial purposes without a permit remains prohibited.
Continued monitoring of student debt
Student debt is an industry concern but the link between that debt and the ability to buy a home needs more research. The board set a policy that focuses on the continued monitoring of the issue along with support of legislative and regulatory efforts to promote education and disclosure requirements to help students.
GRI program updated
To help preserve the value of the Graduate, REALTOR® Institute (GRI) designation, the board approved changes to the program’s curriculum and process. Among other things, members can take no more than five years to complete the coursework, members can substitute exam and experience for no more than half a state’s course requirements, and the accreditation process will be based on an online audit rather than a peer review.
Legal assistance provided
The board approved $295,000 in legal assistance to help defray costs to associations, MLSs, and brokerages in four cases, each involving copyright or patent infringement actions.
California professional standards pilot extended
The board extended for another five years, until the end of 2019, a California Association of REALTORS® Code of Ethics enforcement pilot program. Under the program, a panel of CAR directors will review decisions in which suspension or termination is imposed to determine whether “lateral discipline” will be administered by other local REALTOR® associations to which the member belongs.
Professional standards processes improved
To make the enforcement of professional standards more efficient, the board approved changes to the Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual, Professional Standards Policy Statement, and other professional standards documents, that accomplish the following:
- Clarify the role of alternates in professional standards hearing panels
- Shorten time frames and clarify guidelines for ethics enforcement administration
- Establish a “fast track” administrative timeline for resolving ethics complaints
- Eliminate “rehearing” provisions
- Expand authorized use of “remote” testimony, and provide guidance on ensuring its confidentiality
- Limit the use of continuances of ethics hearings to certain specified instances
- Require persons primarily responsible for administration of professional standards processes to complete administrator training every four years
- Establish the responsibility of associations to offer ombudsman services to members, clients, and consumers, either directly or as part of a cooperative agreement
- Establish a citation system and schedule of fines for optional adoption by local and state associations
Online data competitiveness
The board approved changes to help ensure MLS data is as accurate and timely as possible and that MLS participants can continue to compete with other online sources of property information. Among other things, the changes:
- Increase the frequency of MLS data updates to no less than every 12 hours, down from every three days
- Enable MLS participants to display IDX information from all MLS IDX feeds where they hold participatory rights, allowing consumers to execute a single property search
- Permit the display of MLS sold data for IDX display where “sold” information is otherwise publicly accessible
Dues proration policy adjusted
The board tweaked its dues policy so that proration is allowed for a new member only when the member didn’t hold membership, either as a REALTOR® or REALTOR®-associate, in the prior calendar year.
The board heard a report on the acquisition of realtor.com® operator Move Inc. by global media company News Corp.
.REALTOR, .Realestate, RPR
It also heard reports on the success of the new .realtor™ top-level Internet domain, and NAR’s acquisition of the .realestate domain. Reports were also given on NAR’s property database company RPR, which has extensive data on 166 million parcels of property and has rolled out a mobile app, called RPR Mobile.
New Insurance Committee
The board created a 42-member Insurance Committee to monitor legislative and regulatory matters involving property/casualty, flood insurance, natural disaster, terrorism, and other insurance issues.
The board recognized this year’s two Distinguished Service Award (DSA) recipients, Mike Brodie of Plano, Texas, and James Helsel Jr., of Camp Hill, Pa. This year’s William R. Magel Award for outstanding association executives went to Bill Martin, CEO of the Michigan Association of REALTORS®.
After the meeting the NAR Delegate Body met to approve Constitutional changes to the way the association’s officers are elected. The changes set forth election procedures and replace the Nominating Committee with a Credentials and Campaign Rules Committee.
The Delegate Body also approved clarification that the date of service requirement for REALTOR® Emeritus Status starts in 2015.