Data Fields to Lure More Buyers
MLSs eye tools to supplement property data with extras
Beyond square footage and curb appeal, financing holds considerable sway with home buyers looking to make a purchase. In today’s market, buyers are particularly interested in which federal, state, or community housing assistance programs they qualify for, as well as which special bank financing programs are available to them.
Yet, navigating the growing array of available assistance programs—from affordable fixed-rate mortgages to community-based anti-foreclosure subsidies to federal workforce housing grants—is time-consuming and difficult. Then there are the complex eligibility requirements.
Recognizing the extent to which financing can make or break a sale, several MLSs have partnered with a new service that matches home buyers and properties with financial assistance programs.
The service, called Down Payment Re-source (DPR), offered by three-year-old -Atlanta-based company Workforce Resource, is licensed directly to Multiple Listing Services and REALTOR® associations, among others. Workforce Resource’s subscriber list includes Midwest Real Estate Data (MRED), Northern Nevada Regional MLS, My Florida Regional MLS, NorthstarMLS, and Empire Access MLS, which combine to cover more than 90,000 REALTORS® and 824 homeownership programs administered by 128 housing finance agencies.
At MRED, the DPR application scans MLS inventories nightly, tagging with an icon properties eligible for assistance programs. The program also determines whether buyers may qualify for assistance programs based on a brief questionnaire they or their REALTOR® fill out.
NorthstarMLS President John Mosely says the DPR’s “value proposition is that it helps put commission income into the pockets of agents from deals that might otherwise never have happened because the buyer couldn’t make the financing work.”
National, state, and local housing finance resource providers input and maintain their own data in the DPR matrix at no charge. Currently, Workforce Resource partners with the National Association of Local Housing Finance Agencies, among others. The number of assistance programs listed in any one area depends on the participation of local housing resource agencies.
The Tucson Association of REALTORS® integrated DPR into its MLS in May and absorbed the expense as a subscriber benefit. “The cost of the program is negotiated individually, and we offer it free to members,” says Philip B. Tedesco, RCE, CAE, CEO of the Tucson Association of REALTORS®. “We feel that the DPR program is the most comprehensive we have seen.”
Dawn of MLS “Public Service Apps”
In addition to direct financing, energy efficiency and transportation costs are also tipping points for home buyers in determining the affordability of home ownership. With that in mind, MLSs are now offering data on both.
MRED soon will install in its systems the Walk Score application, which evaluates the walkability of a neighborhood. According to Walk Score, “Our vision is for every property listing to read: Beds: 3 Baths: 2 Walk Score: 84. We want to make it easy for people to evaluate walkability and transportation when choosing where to live.” MRED is also working with a local organization to compile energy usage ratings and transportation costs for home ownership throughout the region. “These kinds of things are important because, although not related directly to the cost to purchase a home, they do relate directly to the cost of maintaining and the affordability of a home,” says Bergeron.
Bergeron coined the term “public service applications” to describe the array of new services MLSs are now offering that provide subscribers and consumers with additional data beyond basic property descriptions.
Other public service applications in the works for MRED, according to Bergeron, include expanded “green” property descriptions and member ratings.
NAR Brokers $7.5M Patent License Opportunity
The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® is moving forward with a negotiated licensing opportunity on behalf of the real estate industry with CIVIX-DDI, LLC, the owner of technology patents at issue in several lawsuits against MLSs in the past few years.
Although the patent claims by CIVIX on location-based Internet search techniques are broad, several of its lawsuits have ended in settlements. NAR and Move Inc. settled with CIVIX in 2009 over the operation of REALTOR.com. More recently, Maryland-based Metropolitan Regional Information Services Inc. settled its lawsuit by entering into a licensing agreement with CIVIX in 2011. CIVIX has already settled infringement litigation it brought against Microsoft and Expedia.
At NAR’s midyear meetings, NAR General Counsel Laurie Janik and industry consultant Ann Bailey presented how the licensing opportunity could resolve all potential outstanding and future claims by CIVIX against REALTOR® -associations, MLSs, and MLS system vendors, as well as brokers and agents.
For the resolution to be completely effective, NAR will need to raise $7.5 million from MLSs. The funds will be used to obtain licenses under the CIVIX patents, which would enable holders to avoid claims of patent infringement. Under the terms of the agreement, all MLSs and associations may be licensed to use the CIVIX patents in perpetuity for a one-time fee of $9.06 per paying subscriber. However, a strict payment schedule applies. NAR raised the initial $2.5 million from MLSs by June 15, making the licenses of those MLSs who paid the fee effective and permanent. The agreement calls for NAR to raise an additional $2.5 million from MLSs by July 17, and if that goal is met, the final payment of $2.5 million is due Aug. 15.
Specific details on the proposed resolution, a recorded podcast discussion, a Q&A, and instructions for payment, plus more resources to assist MLSs in making a decision to participate in the settlement, are posted on www.nar.realtor.
Illinois Value of Membership Videos Win National Award
A series of YouTube videos created by the Illinois Association of REALTORS® to promote its services, resources, and tools for REALTORS®, won an EXCEL Award of excellence in June from Association Media & Publishing, formerly known as the Society of National Association Publications. View the videos at YouTube.
Associations Respond with Tornado Aid
The REALTORS® Relief Foundation continues to raise funds to provide financial assistance to organizations in the Midwest and Southern United States, helping households impacted by the springtime tornadoes.
“Your donation to the REALTORS® Relief Foundation will directly help those who have lost so much,” said NAR President Ron Phipps in a letter to members in May. “We are gearing up to send disaster assistance to Missouri, even as we continue our goal of helping those in the southeastern states who have endured the unimaginable.”
Joyce Thomas, the 2011 president of the Missouri Association of REALTORS®, reports that one REALTOR® died as a result of the May tornado that ripped
through that state, and several members are still missing. In addition, 20 members and two REALTOR® association staff members have lost their homes.
Several state and local REALTOR® associations have also set up their own relief funds. If you would like to make a donation to a specific community, local foundations are listed on the REALTORS® Relief Foundation site.
This year the REALTORS® Relief Foundation is celebrating 10 years of raising funds to aid victims of domestic and international disasters. From the 9/11 attacks, to Hurricane Katrina, to earthquakes in Haiti and Japan, and wildfires in California, the foundation has enabled REALTORS® to contribute to rebuilding communities and helping people keep their homes after tragedy strikes. n
For more information and to donate, visit the REALTORS® Relief Foundation.
Association Sponsors Smart Phone Safety App for Members
The Iowa Association of REALTORS® has partnered with a safety company to implement the Moby app, which enables REALTORS® to display their exact location to coworkers, regularly check in, and send an alert if they are in trouble. Some Iowa REALTORS® are using technology to help stay safe, following the murder of Ashley Okland in a West Des Moines model home.
“We want our members to have every advantage possible when out of the office doing their best to serve their clients and communities,” said Dave Bert, CEO of the Iowa Association of REALTORS® in a news release. “We have launched new safety programs, including self-defense classes, kicking off a state wide safety tour with the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®’ safety guru, Andrew Wooten, and encouraging members to look at new tools such as smart phone apps like Moby to enhance their existing safety plans.”
Wooten’s safety videos, along with other member safety tips and information, are available at the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® online REALTOR® Safety guide.
Increasingly sophisticated location-based smart phone apps (for a subscription fee or for free), featuring a panic mode to facilitate rapid response, are available from a surging number of providers, such as MyForce, iDefendMe, and Safety Switch. Other location apps, designed mainly for social networking, include Glympse, Foursquare, Google’s Latitude, Facebook’s Places, Banjo, Sonar, and one of the latest startups, Life360.
Chicago Area Associations Plan Merger
The Mainstreet Organization of REALTORS® (MORe) and the REALTOR® Association of Northwest Chicagoland (RANWC) announced merger plans in May, pending member approval. At nearly 16,000 members, the merger of these two groups would create the largest association in Illinois, and the fourth largest in the country. In essence, MORe would absorb RANWC, with MORe CEO Pam Krieter as its head and RANWC CEO Peggy Kayser as chief programs director.
The merger is expected to produce cost savings and economies of scale, enabling the merged association to fend off a dues increase and keep its six locations open. “Our combined strength will offer our members a more unified voice in the suburban media, stronger community outreach through our charitable foundations, convenience and security of one lockbox system, streamlined professional standards processes, and increased capability for live video conferencing of classes and events at MORe and RANWC facilities,” explains Christine Chase, 2011 MORe President.
Both associations’ members are already served by a regional multiple listing service, Midwest Real Estate Data.
NAR REALTOR Benefits® Partner Provides REALTOR® to Client Communication Solutions
Ifbyphone, a voice-based marketing automation platform, is the latest NAR REALTOR Benefits® Program Partner, offering two products to NAR members—Ifbyphone for REALTORS® and Ifbyphone for REALTORS® Plus. This industry-leading suite of voice communications services provides call tracking, dynamic inbound call forwarding, outbound call automation, and virtual call center solutions that heighten customer connection on any phone, in any place, and at any time.
Member E&O Insurance Partner
NAR now offers REALTORS® access to an Errors and Omissions (E&O) insurance program through the newest REALTOR Benefits® Program partner, Victor O. Schinnerer & Co., Inc. Coverage can protect real estate professionals from potential liability throughout their careers. Offered by top-rated insurance carrier CNA (Continental Casualty), the E&O program is available to brokers and individual agents in a broad range of real estate specialties. To learn more, call 301-961-9800 or visit www.schinnerer.com/NAR.
52 Association Programs Promote Affordable Housing
In just two years, the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® awarded nearly $5 million in grants to state REALTOR® associations to fund affordable housing opportunities for working families.
Launched by NAR in 2009, the Ira Gribin Workforce Housing Grants were intended to stimulate REALTORS®’ efforts to address the growing need for affordable workforce housing and help position REALTORS® as leaders on this issue. By the time the program ended in December 2010, 52 REALTOR® associations had received grants.
The most popular association project type was community outreach, which included a range of activities from legislative advocacy to public awareness. Financial assistance was another common project type that most typically involved a financial award, such as down payment or closing cost assistance for home buyers.
AEs Share What “REALTOR® Family” Really Means
Despite differing opinions in challenging times, we’re still a family. I remind myself of this often, as I hear from members about dues increases and housing market woes.
The word “family” means something different to everyone. Whether it’s by blood, marriage, or simply a shared history, most people agree that family is the most important thing in life. As a busy association executive, sometimes I see my REALTOR® family more than my own family, which certainly makes the life/work balancing act difficult. But spending all that time with my REALTOR® family isn’t for naught, because REALTORS® have proven time and time again that they are a very supportive and comforting group of people.
From NAR’s REALTORS® Relief Foundation, celebrating 10 years of helping members and families in need, to local associations setting up benevolent funds and relief foundations, our members have demonstrated that they truly do care about one another and us.
Our job can be tough at times, especially when we’re juggling our duties at the association with personal matters like illness, a loved one’s passing, or financial strife. Although it’s easy to get bogged down in the minutiae and occasional pettiness of day-to-day office life, it’s important to take a step back and realize that we really do work with an extraordinary group of people.
I’ve heard from dozens of AEs who are grateful for the often-unexpected level of support given by their REALTOR® family during times of need. Here are some of their stories.
Support. “As you know I lost my beautiful, wonderful wife, Valerie, suddenly and unexpectedly on Jan. 4. As the word of Valerie’s untimely passing spreads, I continue to receive cards and messages of support from across the state and the country: from members of the RCE family, from the NAR staff, from the leadership of the California AOR, and more. Valerie’s memorial service was attended by PFAR officers, directors, members, and staff; my peers and leadership from neighboring AORs; and senior staff from the California Association of REALTORS®. I cannot imagine making this horrendous journey without the prayers and support of the REALTOR® family. Although I have lost my soulmate and love of my life, I have gained a new understanding about what it means to be a member of the REALTOR® family.” Shared by Terry Murphy, RCE, CEO, Pasadena-Foothills Association of REALTORS®, Calif.
Empathy. “The moment where I felt the strongest presence of the REALTOR® family was a time where I attended a funeral of a REALTOR® in another state, who was also the younger brother of a fellow state AE. REALTORS® throughout the board did an ‘honor guard’ where they lined the street from where the casket arrived, all the way into the church, and the local association executive officer, with her swollen eyes, was at the head of the honor guard. I had the biggest sense that day, and ever since, that our relationship with each other as part of this REALTOR® family is something way more than just professional.” Shared by Cindy Butts, RCE, CAE, CEO, Maine Association of REALTORS®
Consideration. “Last year, I was facing a major surgery and a four- to six-week recuperation period. Being in a one-person association office, I had serious concerns about who was going to be able to assume my duties on a temporary basis, and on such short notice, because I didn’t have time to train anyone. On top of that, my husband had been laid off from his job for the winter months. How were we going to afford this? I only had two weeks of vacation time to use and no sick time. I discussed my concerns with my board of directors. Their solution? Let my husband come into the office for me (he is the office manager for a construction company, so he knows the ropes) and they would continue to pay me my regular salary through my entire recuperation period. My husband would bring home any questions and paperwork that needed my immediate attention. Otherwise, he would handle all the day-to-day business.
“It worked like a charm. I was able to heal quicker because I had no stress associated with who was trying to run the office and how much of a mess I would have to straighten out when I got back. Plus, I didn’t have to worry about how we were going to stay current with the bills with only my husband’s unemployment check. It seems that our members often get a bad reputation. Not enough good things are publicized.” Shared by Kathy Henderson, e-PRO, AE, Carbon County Association of REALTORS®, Pa.
Comfort. “I lost my husband very suddenly in June of 2003. He was a REALTOR® and very active in our community. My REALTORS® were some of the first people to come to my house or call to give me support. After the funeral, they put on a huge potluck dinner at my house for everyone. They also donated money for funeral expenses in addition to asking brokers for donations to help with my expenses. I am very thankful that I work with such wonderful, caring people!” Shared by Jeannette Biddle, EO, Yakima Assoc. of REALTORS®, Wash.
Understanding. “On Sept. 18, 2001 (just shy of her third birthday), my daughter was diagnosed with leukemia. Her treatment included two years of chemo, with six months of that on an irregular schedule. I would get a month schedule in advance as to what the treatment for that month would be. My association was very giving and understanding during this trying time in our lives. They took up money and allowed me to take off (with pay) anytime necessary. Briana is now 12 and is still in remission.” Shared by Margie Harper, EVP, Heart of Kentucky Association of REALTORS®
Generosity. “We started a benevolent fund several years ago called REALTORS® Helping REALTORS®. The funds for this are by voluntary donations billed with our annual dues statements. We have nearly $4,000 in the account, which isn’t a lot of money, but we have been able to help several of our members who have had dire medical conditions.” Shared by Martha Taylor, EVP, Baldwin County Association of REALTORS®, Ala.
Compasion. During my husband’s six-month illness and hospitalizations, my directors kept telling me to take as much time as I needed, because my husband came first. That meant so much to me, because I am the only employee at the office. When my husband passed away two years ago, the state association EVP and two other employees, as well as the other Maine AEs from all over the state, came to his celebration of life service. I was so overwhelmed when they walked in together. I will complete 24 years here as the AE, and have always thought of the membership as ‘my REALTOR® fam-ily.’”
Shared by Beverleé C. Beers, EVP, Hancock-Washington Board of REALTORS®, Maine
Thank you to those who shared their heartwarming stories with us. This article was inspired by Carolyn Arnold, AE, Permian-Basin Board of REALTORS®, Texas, and is dedicated in loving memory to her mother, Jackie Barnett.
Visit the guide to establishing a member relief fund here.
NAR Launches New Leadership Training Program
In May, the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® introduced the REALTOR® Leadership Program (RLP), a three-part interactive course teaching the skills and knowledge necessary to lead local and state REALTOR® associations. The program consists of an initial online course and two three-hour, interactive live presentation classes.
“The program is designed to be an in-depth leadership training program for associations that have volunteer leaders who want a practical immersion for what it takes to be a high-level association leader,” says Laurie Oken, NAR’s manager of leadership development.
The RLP is, in fact, a customized version of the Ontario Real Estate Association’s successful leadership program. NAR has trained facilitators, including association executives, past NAR presidents, and industry consultants.
The online course (cost: $39) covers association structures, volunteer responsibilities and roles, trends facing the association, meeting management, and more. The live classes (courses 200 and 300) cover more in-depth topics, including strategic planning, risk management, conflict resolution, and governance models, along with communication plans and value statements.
Local and state associations can also host the live courses for their prospective leaders for an annual $500 licensing fee per course. The live courses are offered at the Midyear Legislative Meetings & Expo in May, the Leadership Summit in August, and the REALTORS® Conference & Expo in November for $100 per attendee. Additional courses will be developed as the program continues.
NAR Alters Association Outreach Services
Based on current financial challenges, NAR has, reevaluated all of its programs and services and is no longer providing employees to deliver the services in its Association Outreach program. While NAR explores alternative delivery methods, requests for services, such as strategic planning and leadership training assistance, are being referred to Alice Martin, who previously provided these programs as an NAR employee. Martin will be offering these types of services as an independent contractor. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com, 312-799-0945.
Al Unser retires after 36 years
Al J. Unser, CAE, CEO of the Greater Tulsa Asso-ciation of REALTORS®, retired in June after 20 years with the association. Unser joined GTAR in 1991, after having served as chief executive officer with four other REALTOR® associations since 1975. In 2004, Unser was inducted into the Dr. Almon R. (Bud) Smith, RCE, AE Leadership Society, which recognizes association executives who have shown themselves to be leading contributors to the industry and the profession. Mike Cotrill, GTAR’s chief operating officer, succeeded Unser as CEO.
Irene Vogel, Las Vegas AE for 30 years, to retire
After serving for more than three decades, Irene Vogel is retiring as CEO of the Greater Las Vegas Association on Dec. 31, 2011. She will remain a consultant to her successor for an additional six months. In 2007 Vogel was named the Terry McDermott Community Service Award recipient from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® in recognition of her many contributions to the local community.
ALSO RETIRING THIS YEAR: Pat Connors after 31 years with the Kent Association, R.I.; Bill Gerst, RCE, after 33 years with the Minneapolis Area Association; Keith Holm, RCE, CAE, after 30 years with the St. Paul Area Association, Minn.; Bob Peirce, RCE, after 17 years with the Scottsdale Area Associations, Ariz.
Congratulations, 5th Graduating Class of the University of Chicago Strategies in Nonprofit Management Certificate
Julie Alert, Elkhart County Board of REALTORS®, Ind.
Steven Anaya, REALTORS® Association of New Mexico
Steven Bois, Rockford Area Association of REALTORS®, Ill.
Cynthia B. Butts, RCE, CAE, Maine Association of REALTORS®
Michele Caprio, RCE, Greater Providence Board of REALTORS®
Sheila Dodson, Coastal Assoc. of REALTORS®, Md.
Marc Gould, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®
Tara Lightner, Raleigh Regional Association of REALTORS®, N.C.
David McClintock, Three Rivers Association of REALTORS®, Ill.
Janice McCrary, RCE, Greater Albuquerque Assoc. of REALTORS®
Terry Penza, RCE, CAE, North Shore-Barrington Assoc. of REALTORS®, Ill.
Brandy Purcell, RCE, Northern Black Hills Assoc. of REALTORS®, S.D.
Laura Rubinfeld, RCE, Eastern Bergen County Board of REALTORS®, N.J.
Diane Ruggiero, RCE, CAE, Kansas City Regional Assoc. of REALTORS®
Dorothy Sperber, RCE, Flagler County Assoc. of REALTORS®, Fla.
Ann Marie Uhlman, Cape May County Assoc. of REALTORS®, N.J.
Linda Vernon, RCE, Bakersfield Association of REALTORS®, Calif.
2011 AE Leadership Society Inductees
The six association professionals below were inducted into the Dr. Almon R. (Bud) Smith, RCE, AE Leadership Society. This honor is bestowed on professionals in the REALTOR® family who are leading contributors to the industry and the profession.
• Mark Allen, RCE, Minneapolis Area Association of REALTORS®, Minn.
• Krystal Allen, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION
• Mary Cano, RCE, North Central Jersey Association of REALTORS®, N.J.
• Rebecca Grossman, RCE, Virginia Peninsula Association of REALTORS®, Va.
• Elaine Hangis, Lexington-Bluegrass Association of REALTORS®, Ky.
• Renee Holland, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION
Meet the New RCEs
These seven REALTOR® association executives earned their RCE (Realtor® association Certified Executive) designation after an extensive course of study and exam in May. RCE is the only professional designation designed specifically for Realtor® association executives. It exemplifies goal-oriented AEs with drive, experience, and commitment to professional growth. Candidates earn the designation by accumulating points through an experience- and education-based application form and a comprehensive written exam. For more on the RCE designation, visit nar.realtor/RCE.
Kelley Craig, RCE, Greater Portland Board of REALTORS®, Maine
Richard D’Ascoli, RCE, Pacific Southwest Assoc. of REALTORS®, Calif.
Jan Dean, RCE, Pinellas Suncoast Association of REALTORS®, Fla.
Theresa Hatton, RCE, Greenwich Association of REALTORS®, Conn.
Chere LaRose Senne, RCE, National Association of REALTORS®
Steve Morgan, RCE, Colorado Association of REALTORS®
Heather Tenney, RCE, Coastal Carolina Assoc. of REALTORS®, S.C.
Rep. Cantor Addresses Virginia REALTORS®
The Richmond Association of REALTORS®, Va., hosted a housing forum in March with special guest speaker U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) (pictured above center with REALTORS®), who is also a real estate lawyer and developer. “Of all industries that have been affected by the downturn in the economy, yours is one that has been, and is still, at the center of the storm,” he said. “I salute you for your tenacity and resilience.”
Small, Intimate Gatherings Contribute to RPAC Success
Leaders at the two Washington, D.C., area associations‚ Greater Capital Area Association of -Realtors® (GCAAR) and Washington, D.C., Association of Realtors®—have found that a personal approach to RPAC fundraising is the key to success.
“Because we are in the nation’s capital, the issues that affect our industry really hit close to home,” says 2011 GCAAR President Adrian Hunnings. “At one recent fundraising dinner, all 10 of the potential new RPAC investors who attended the event contributed. We have found that our members like the smaller gatherings, which allow them to get more in-depth information on our legislative initatives in a private setting.” Most dinners are targeted toward top producers, managers, and friends of board -members—all association members.
The association presents what’s going on in public policy at the federal, state, and local levels, focusing on the things that most affect the -attendees’ wallets and bottom line, says WDCAR CEO Ed Krauze. “Fear of loss of income is usually one of our best-selling mechanisms.”
“For the price of a nice dinner, we are getting our money back three-fold, sometimes more in major investors and increased RPAC participation,” says GCAAR CEO Mike Moran. Plans are in the works for an RPAC happy hour later this year.