The National Association of Realtors will raise membership dues in 2008 as part of an initiative that has a goal to raise $60 million to $100 million in the next three to five years for a variety of projects, including the creation of a technology corporation and a credit union.
The $16 annual dues increase approved by the association’s directors on Saturday would bring NAR membership dues to $80, a rate that would continue through at least 2010. Also, directors approved a continuing special assessment of $30 per year in 2008 to pay for the advertising related to the association’s public awareness campaign and an increase to $35 per year for that special assessment in 2009 and 2010.
Membership in the association, which reached a peak of 1.36 million last year, is projected to dip to 1.32 million this year and 1.17 million in 2008 before rising to 1.18 million in 2009 and 1.24 million in 2010.
Dale Stinton, the association’s CEO, said in a presentation to the group’s directors on Saturday that the fee increase will help establish a federally chartered credit union that will offer a variety of services to members, such as health savings accounts and retirement planning.
Directors received a report on the articles of incorporation for a planned new corporation that will “pursue the evaluation, investment and monitoring of technological opportunities focused on the real estate industry,” and “offer and provide financing and funding for the development of technology applications focused on the real estate industry.”
According to a fact sheet related to the association’s initiative, the association seeks to establish “a funding source for start-up or seed money for new technology companies or products serving the real estate industry. The association also plans to launch a new Web site “targeted to residential and commercial real estate consumers (to) build a long-term relationship on the entire life-cycle of owning a home,” as part of a consumer outreach effort.
Stinton said there is also a plan to build a “superfund,” valued at $25 million to $100 million, “that we would have as a war chest should Capitol Hill ever decide to attack our core values.”
Directors approved $559,046 in legal assistance to support several cases, including an additional contribution of $250,000 to support a lawsuit related to a mapping patent dispute. That amount brings the association’s total contribution to that case, Real Estate Alliance Ltd. v. Diane Sarkisian, to $1.08 million.
This lawsuit alleges that Sarkisian, a Realtor, and other participants of TREND MLS and Realtor.com have infringed a patent relating to an online map-search technology.
Directors also approved a maximum $175,000 contribution to support Realcomp II, a regional multiple listing service in Michigan that is the subject of a U.S. Federal Trade Commission antitrust lawsuit. And the association is paying $11,904 in legal costs related to U.S. Justice Department of Justice subpoenas for information from local real estate boards in Emporia, Kan., and Hays, Kan.
The Justice Department “identified the Emporia Board as having adopted and implemented the NAR (Virtual Office Web site) rules and claims that operation of the VOW rules in Emporia demonstrates that they are anticompetitive,” according to a report to NAR directors. Similarly, the Justice Department “asserts that the rules operate anticompetitively in Hays,” and the Hays board “was subpoenaed twice for documents and the executive officer required to give a deposition.”
The subpoenas relate to an ongoing Justice Department antitrust lawsuit against the National Association of Realtors over association-adopted policies governing the online display and sharing of property information.
Directors approved a change to model MLS rule and regulations that obligates listing brokers to promptly report status changes in properties to the MLS, and adopted a new standard of practice that obligates Realtors to use and display only those professional designations, certifications and credentials “to which they are legitimately entitled.”
In a contested election for the association’s president in 2009, Charles McMillan of Irving, Texas, topped Chris McElroy of Fort Collins, Colo., in a 511-280 vote.
In an earlier meeting at the association’s conference last week, members of an MLS Internet Issues Work Group presented a report with recommendations on a range of MLS issues. The group recommended that the association adopt rules “governing use of the term ‘MLS’ by participants and subscribers so it will be clear that consumers do not receive full direct access to all information in MLS databases when they use participant or subscriber Internet Web sites,” and “should develop a new ‘brand’ (including name and logo) that accurately describes those elements of MLS-provided content that consumers can access on participant or subscriber Internet Web sites, the report states.
Another new brand or “identifier” should also be developed to describe “that component of MLS that facilitates broker-to-broker cooperation and enables listing participants to make blanket, unilateral compensation offers to other participants,” the work group also recommended.
The report also recommends an amendment to the association’s “Standards of Conduct for MLS Participants” to provide that Realtor firms’ Web sites “shall disclose the firm’s name and state(s) of licensure in a reasonable and readily apparent manner” and that Realtors’ Web sites and non-member licensees’ Web sites affiliated with a Realtor firm “shall disclose the firm’s name and that Realtor’s or non-member licensee’s state(s) of licensure in a reasonable and readily apparent manner.”
The maximum fines that MLSs are authorized to impose for violations of rules and regulations should be raised to a maximum $15,000, the work group recommended, and NAR should develop and adopt model “MLS sanctioning guidelines.”
NAR will kick off its 100th anniversary celebration during the group’s annual conference and trade show, which will be held in November in Las Vegas — the association traces its roots back to a meeting of 120 men in Chicago in May 1908 who stated a goal to “unite the real estate men of America.”