WASHINGTON — The National Association of Realtors’ board of directors today approved stricter “core standards” for associations that could fuel mergers across the country by expanding the list of programs and services that even the smallest associations must provide to members.

At a meeting capping NAR’s midyear conference, the board of directors also allocated up to $20 million to help small associations meet the new core standards, and facilitate mergers of those that cannot.

The stricter core standards are intended to “raise the bar” for Realtor associations by ensuring that every association is capable of enforcing the Realtor Code of Ethics, playing a political advocacy role, conducting outreach to consumers, maintaining fiscal responsibility, and operating a website promoting member programs, products and services.

The move seems to have the support of many NAR members.

“I think pretty much everybody is in favor of this,” said Shad Bogany, a NAR director and the immediate past chairman of the Texas Association of Realtors. “To have a strong organization you just have to have standards.”

Some have raised concerns that many local associations won’t have the resources to meet the new requirements, potentially forcing them to merge with other associations, morph into chapters or councils of larger associations, or dissolve.

Opposition to mergers often centers around members’ desires that their association have a local presence and serve as their voice on local issues. Association executives or board members may worry that they will lose their jobs or have less influence if their association is absorbed in a merger.

The number of Realtor associations has already declined about 30 percent from a 1985 peak of 2,026, as NAR membership declines and associations seek economies of scale in delivering services to members.

David Phillips, CEO of the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors, has estimated that implementation of the new core standards could reduce the number of Realtor associations from 1,400 today to about 1,000 within 10 years.

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