The National Legislative Meetings were a whirlwind of activity for local leaders in Washington DC last week. The Board sent 2 leaders, VP Sarah Fleury and Past President Church Davis, while the MLS sent VP Peter West and Past President Mark Harris. This year, the presidents had personal conflicts and could not attend. Also there was CEO Sandy Carroll. Debbie Dwyer, Barbara Osborne and Anne Meczywor all elected to attend based on positions held at MAR/NAR. (photos at the end of the full story!)
Day 1, we dove into MLS Data Best Practices and hearing about how we can enhance and refine the services we offer and embrace technology to save our broker’s money. We also started a three day immersion into hearing first hand accounts about the impact our Fair Housing and celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Fair Housing Act. We also discussed our Legislative Agenda for our meetings on Capitol Hill tomorrow. The day wrapped with NAR’s 360, a look at the association. Working hard for our members!!
Day 2 kept us busy, meeting at Senator Markey’s office, hearing from HUD Secretary Ben Carson, fighting to obtain access to group/association health insurance plans for our members, flood insurance, net neutrality and fair taxation, among a host of other reforms to our real estate industry. We also attended an MLS roundtable, Senator Warren’s legislative meeting, and RPAC awards ceremony. The Berkshire County Board of REALTORS received both the NAR Triple Crown and President’s Club Awards for our engagement in issues mobilization!
Day 3, leadership learned about the economic forecast from Lawrence Yun, attended hill visits in the rain and more MLS issues … topics include MLS of Choice Waiver, Net Neutrality, DMCA, Realtor.com, Unauthorized Use of Listing Data, Collaboration with other MLSs, and Engaging the Managing Broker in the MLS Conversation.
While the local leadership headed home, NAR directors remained to vote on critical issues….
NAR Board OKs Stepped-up Ethics Enforcement, Dues Increase
We were so proud of Berkshire REALTOR Debbie Dwyer, as NAR Chair of the Professional Standards Committee for NAR, for her presentation to the NAR Board of Directors at its meeting in Washington May 19. They approved the committee’s proposal that takes a major step toward increasing professionalism in real estate by giving associations new teeth for enforcing Code of Ethics violations, and it also positioned REALTORS® for the future by adopting the association’s first dues increase in eight years.
Under changes to Sections 23(j) and (n) of the NAR Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual, local associations that choose to adopt the policy can publicize the names of members and the nature of their violations after a second violation of the Code of Ethics. They can also release a photograph of the member as part of that public disclosure.
“This is a huge shift that members have been asking for,” said Colin Mullane, broker-owner of Full Circle Real Estate in Ashland, Ore. Mullane is an NAR regional vice president. “Up to this point we’ve been reluctant to point the finger at people who really violate the Code of Ethics. Now there are real consequences if you’re a repeat offender.”
The stepped-up enforcement option is based on a pilot program of the California Association of REALTORS®.
In another big change, to Standard of Practice 1-7, a listing broker or agent is required to respond in writing that an offer was submitted to the seller if the cooperating broker who submitted the offer so requests. The listing broker or agent must respond in the affirmative unless the seller has provided written notification waiving the obligation to have the offer presented.
“There’s been real frustration by a lot of brokers, especially in busy markets, that they’re not sure if their offers were even looked at,” said Mullane. “That kind of thing breaks down the spirit of cooperation. This is a way to restore that.”
Another change, to Section 13(d) of the Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual, clarifies the rights and role of REALTOR® principals in an ethics hearing.
“We have heard from members about strengthening professionalism, and today we took an important step forward,” said NAR President Elizabeth Mendenhall. “The changes will bring invaluable benefit to consumers and allow Realtors® to serve them to the best of our abilities.”
S.M.A.R.T. Budget approved
In a major move to keep REALTORS® positioned for success into the future while ensuring NAR no longer needs to use reserves to cover expenses, the board approved a budget that sets national association dues at $150 per year per member beginning in 2019.
That’s a $30 dues increase. Seventeen dollars of the increase is for REALTOR® Party advocacy programming. The remaining $13 will fund programs such as the new Commitment to Excellence professionalism initiative, the popular forms and transaction management benefit, and upkeep of the association’s buildings.
The new package of measures, called the S.M.A.R.T. Initiatives (for Strategic Measures Advancing REALTORS® to Tomorrow), was approved by NAR’s Budget Review Committee in March and association leaders have been getting member feedback on them since then.
The NAR budget underwent a comprehensive review after Bob Goldberg became CEO of the association last August. The spending plan for 2019-2021 reflects more than $2 million in annual savings, achieved by reducing association staff, cutting global travel, and making across-the-board cuts.
NAR is also realizing savings from a decision Goldberg made earlier this year to end the Advanced Multi-List Platform (AMP), formed in 2015 by NAR’s wholly owned Realtors Property Resource® (RPR®) subsidiary to provide customized back-end technology services for small- to mid-size multiple listing services. The elimination of the program saves NAR $1.7 million in 2018 and, along with other reductions at RPR®, will save $5.25 million in 2019.
A key element of the financial blueprint involves replenishing NAR’s reserves, which have fallen 45 percent since 2015. In recent years, NAR used savings to fund activities such as a popular forms and transaction management platform benefit and for creation of Upstream, an innovative data management platform for brokers.
The increase also funds needed upgrades and repairs to the association’s Washington and Chicago office buildings. In addition, the board voted to establish a reserve fund to cover maintenance costs for the buildings in the future.
The board made two updates to MLS policies:
- Created no-cost waiver option of commercial information exchange (CIE) fees, dues, and charges for licensees affiliated with a broker, provided the licensee subscribes to at least one MLS or CIE. The changes parallel revisions in MLS policy adopted last year for multiple listing services.
- Established a process within MLS rules for resolving complaints alleging unauthorized use of listing content by other participants.
Federal policy positions
To advance NAR’s efforts in Washington, the board adopted a number of tax and finance policy positions. Among them:
- Index caps on state and local tax deductions for inflation. The major tax reform law enacted last year places a $10,000 cap on the amount of state and local tax deductions households can itemize on their return. Without indexing the cap for inflation, taxpayers will effectively see tax increases each year as inflation erodes the value of the deductions.
- Eliminate the marriage penalty in the state and local tax deduction cap. The $10,000 limit doesn’t differentiate between single taxpayers and married couples filing a joint return.
- Provide tax relief to student debt holders and employers who assist with their employees’ student loan debt burdens. In addition, NAR supports policies that provide tax relief to those borrowers with forgiven student debt.
- Provide compliance relief to smaller community banks and credit unions so they can continue to offer safe and affordable mortgage credit to consumers.
The board approved $340,000 to the California Association of REALTORS® to help with a copyright fight against the unauthorized use of the association’s real estate transaction forms.
Fair Housing 50-year anniversary
The board heard a report that the NAR Diversity Committee passed a resolution commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Fair Housing Act and acknowledging that NAR policy over the years has evolved from promoting exclusion and opposing fair housing to leading efforts to expand fair housing rights and inclusion in the association’s membership.
Chief lobbyist to retire
The board recognized the service of NAR Chief Lobbyist Jerry Giovaniello, who is retiring at the end of 2018. Giovaniello is a 37-year veteran of NAR, the last 17 as chief lobbyist.
Tech summit announced
CEO Bob Goldberg shared with the board plans to host a technology summit this summer to bring technologist, real estate experts, and capital providers together on behalf of real estate. “We need to bring disrupters and innovators to the table,” said Goldberg. “We need to get capital into this industry to help our members.” The Innovation opportunity and investment, or IOI Conference, is August 28-30 in San Francisco.
Distinguished Service Award
It was announced that Peyton Norville, Birmingham, Ala., and JoAnne Poole, GRI, CRS, PMN, Baltimore, Md., will be the recipients of the Distinguished Service Award in November at the 2018 REALTORS® Conference & Expo in Boston.
Meritorious Service Award
The board recognized Sharon Keating of Jefferson City, Mo., and Larry Edward of Jackson, Miss., as this year’s federal political coordinators (FPCs) receiving the Meritorious Service Award. FPCs are NAR members who serve as liaisons to their senator or representative in Congress.
REALTORS® Political Action Committee
The board heard that RPAC met more than half of its $34.5 million fundraising goal for 2018 during the first four months of the year, and that the percentage of members who are RPAC contributors has risen to 28 percent, up from 25 percent a year ago.