WASHINGTON, D.C. — Leaders of the National Association of Realtors, now the largest trade association in the country, elected new officers and set budget policy during a board of directors meeting Saturday.


In a rare contested election for a top leadership position, Patricia Kaplan of Portland, Ore., completed a petition process to challenge Patricia Vredevoogd of Grand Rapids, Mich., who received the nomination for the position of 2005 first vice president. Directors, in a vote at the meeting, elected Vredevoogd. The position typically serves as a step on the stairway to the association’s top rank of president. Al Mansell of Salt Lake City, Utah, will serve as 2005 president.


The election results were announced at the conclusion of the association’s weeklong midyear conference.


Also at the board meeting, Realtor.com President Allan Dalton talked about the challenge of changing the Web site that Homestore operates for the NAR to become more effective in responding to consumers.


“There really, truly is a period of correction that needs to take place,” Dalton said.


While the Web site is drawing millions of visitors and about one of every six consumers using the Web site e-mails a Realtor, the responsiveness to these consumer queries has been poor and must be improved, Dalton argued. About 50 percent of basic consumer inquiries, some of which are a prospect’s first effort to kick off a relationship with a Realtor, “are ignored,” he said.


Just as a surgeon would not be expected to interrupt a procedure to reply to e-mail messages and answer telephone calls, a Realtor also “cannot be doing two things at once,” he said. But the challenge is to find a way “to make sure the first contact with a Realtor lives up to the essence of a Realtor,” he said.


Photos and plenty of them are another top priority for people who search online home listings, Dalton said. However, he added, too few Realtors are posting photos online.


While the more than 1 million Realtors in the nation likely have more than 1 million ideas about how to fix the system, millions of consumers may have only one idea as to how Realtors should best serve them, he added.


“(Change) must come from the industry,” Dalton said.


Also during the association meeting, directors elected to continue a special assessment to pay for an ongoing major advertising campaign. The assessment, which now stands at $20 per member in addition to the $64 NAR membership fee,  will increase to $25 per member in 2007. The advertising budget for the association’s public awareness program, now about $20 million, will increase to $25 million in 2005, then continue at that level through at least 2007.


A 43-page report with recommendations on Realtor association MLS policies was released to NAR directors at the meeting. The recommendations in this consolidated report of the association’s MLS Policy Review Work Group and the MLS Issues Work Group are open for comment and are expected to lead to the formal adoption of new MLS policies at the association’s annual convention in November.


The recommendations provide a proposal for a new set of “Fourteen Points,” originally adopted in 1971, that establish rules for board and association MLSs. The recommendations also provide that Realtor MLSs can choose to make statistical reports, sold information and other reports derived from the MLS available to Realtors who do not participate in the MLS but are engaged in real estate-related services.


Other recommendations in the report deal with MLS reciprocal agreements, specified compensation on listings filed with a board MLS and MLS indoctrination requirements, among other topics.


Send tips or a letter to the editor to glenn@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 137.

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