Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to note that NAR’s 2012 and 2013 operating budgets will both add to the association’s reserves.

WASHINGTON — The National Association of Realtors has approved changes to its model rule for MLSs that will allow brokers greater leeway to distribute shared listing data via mobile devices.

At its midyear meeting in Washington, D.C. Saturday, NAR’s board of directors also voted to keep the trade group’s annual dues at $120 in 2013, including a controversial $40-a-year increase introduced this year to fund political activities.

In updating NAR’s policy governing the display of Internet Data Exchange (IDX) listings — pools of listings for an entire market — the trade group sent a message to Realtor-affiliated MLSs that it expects them to allow brokers to distribute IDX listings via mobile devices.

Although brokers already have the freedom to publicize their own listings via mobile devices, some MLSs have maintained that IDX listings should be restricted to member’s websites, where MLSs can monitor them and enforce rules governing their display.

A NAR advisory committee that helps determine policies for multiple listing services nationwide last week recommended that MLSs allow members to distribute IDX listings via mobile devices, as long as they can demonstrate that they have "control" over those listings. MLS members distributing IDX listings via mobile devices must be able to "add, delete, modify and update information as required" by IDX policy.

NAR’s board of directors concurred, voting unanimously to amend NAR’s model MLS policy. Realtor-affiliated MLSs typically follow NAR’s lead in adopting rule changes.

The rule changes to allow brokers to distribute IDX listings via mobile devices passed only after four rounds of hearings by NAR’s Multiple Listing Issues and Policy Committee. So far, the committee has been unable to agree on rules that would govern the distribution of IDX listings on social media sites.

To help the committee address changes in technology, NAR’s board of directors has approved the creation of an MLS Technology and Emerging Issues Subcommittee. The new subcommittee will have 15 members, including MLS technology or administrative staff.

The $40 increase in Realtor annual member dues, from $80 to $120, to raise "soft money" for independent campaign expenditures, was renewed for 2013 by the board.

The dues increase — which NAR leaders said was sparked by the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United eliminating caps on independent expenditures — is earmarked for political advocacy at the local, state and federal level.

To raise awareness of issues the group is lobbying lawmakers on — including tax deductions for homeowners and regulations affecting mortgage lenders — NAR held a "Rally to Protect the American Dream" of home ownership Thursday, which the National Park Service estimated attracted a crowd of 13,600 Realtors to the Washington Monument.

"When we voted on the $40 increase a year ago," said Tom Salomone, director of Realtor party activities, "we voted to change the culture of our organization." That culture includes a new political advocacy group of NAR, which consults with state and local Realtor groups on strategy and funding for Realtor-friendly politicians at the federal, state and local level.

The NAR board of directors also approved a 2013 operating budget with projected expenses of $149.9 million and $154.5 million in revenue based on an anticipated 4 percent drop in membership, to 960,000. The 2013 budget will add an estimated $4.5 million to NAR’s reserves, up from a projected $3.4 million in 2012.

NAR membership grew from 700,000 in 1996 to a peak of 1.37 million in October 2006. Membership has been slipping ever since, falling below 1 million in January for the first time since early 2004.

Other NAR midyear news:

  • 2013 NAR leadership was introduced, including 2013 NAR president Gary Thomas.
  • NAR has purchased 437 Rush Street in Chicago, giving the organization a whole city block in the windy city from Michigan Avenue to Rush Street.
  • Realtors Federal Credit Union, established as a virtual credit union in 2008, will merge with the brick-and-mortar Northwest Federal Credit Union, a much larger institution with $2.1 billion in assets and 4,571 branch locations.

When Realtors FCU founding President and CEO Tom Glatt stepped down in 2010 — less than two years after launch — the credit union was serving less than 1 percent of NAR members and was operating at a loss.

According to filings submitted with the credit union’s regulator, the National Credit Union Administration, Realtors FCU posted a $1.98 million net loss in 2011, finishing the year with $77.9 million in assets. The credit union reported 7,312 members, and 1 million "potential members."

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