The Realty Alliance CEO Craig Cheatham illuminates the frequently byzantine path many Realtors follow on their journey up the National Association of Realtors’s formidable org chart.

Sexual harassment allegations against disgraced former NAR President Kenny Parcell have put a spotlight on the volunteer leadership of the National Association of Realtors, drawing interest in how these positions get filled.

Below, I’ll run through the hypothetical of what it takes should you decide to join NAR leadership and explore how volunteers rise through the ranks.

So you want to be a top officer at NAR? Here’s how it works

Be advised that it is quite a process. And don’t clear the calendar to serve until late 2026.

Basic requirements for a candidate?

  • No personal bankruptcies — pending or discharged — or foreclosures within the past seven years
  • No currently delinquent tax filings or payments
  • A credit score of at least 650 (anything else means automatic disqualification)

Start by completing the “Application for NAR Elected Office” as well as the “Potential Candidate Campaign Team Disclosure Form.” Make sure to submit them in the spring, around a year and a half before you hope to take office.

The first form is for the following:

  • Documents required service within NAR’s governance structure within the past five years
  • Confirms mandatory active status of the Commitment to Excellence (C2EX) or other NAR-affiliated designation
  • Records completion of the “At Home with Diversity,” “Fairhaven” and “Implicit Bias” programs
  • Addresses potential legal and/or financial issues in the applicant’s past
  • Inquires about credit score
  • Questions the status of tax filings/payments
  • Asks for commitments to fulfill all the duties and responsibilities, to support the mission, priorities and core values and policies of the association
  • Prompts for disclosure of any social media posts that might “cause an embarrassment to or shed a negative light on NAR”

A Realtor’s state association must attest on the application that it supports the applicant’s candidacy, so what those in your backyard think of you really matters. It is too soon to begin campaigning at this point, but certain activities that might seem a bit like running for office may be allowed in this early stage as states and even regions may utilize a system for vetting candidates if the communication and selection processes stay within the state or region. States and regions are allowed to endorse more than one candidate at a time.

The second form simply lists those Realtors who officially are part of your campaign for office.

“Regional vice president” candidates have similar requirements to those described here.

Background checks and due diligence

Applicants should expect NAR to produce a criminal background report, a social media audit, a credit report with FICO score, financial report and legal analysis and share any number of these findings with a “Candidate Audit Work Group,” (CAWG) and in some cases also to a “Credentials Campaign Rules Committee” (CCRC).

Know that the review of your social media will take into account not just your posts, but also any comments or even “likes.” Any online activity supporting a viewpoint related to politics, religion or any other belief system can be brought before one or both of these groups and be grounds for disqualification.

If you’ve made it this far into the process, what’s next?

A 34-page “Campaign and Election Rules Manual” will guide you from here. It will remind you candidates must submit a report every quarter during the campaign, confirming they still meet all the criteria. The manual also sets forth the rules for how your campaign can be run and funded. Violate those rules and one’s candidacy may earn sanctions or be terminated.

Qualification review and hearing appeals

During the first part of each summer, the CAWG reviews the applications and forwards the list of those candidates who qualify to the CCRC, which hears any appeals from those who do not make the initial list.

As the CAWG reviews the informational reports on each candidate, the campaign lists several specific examples of potential “material issues” that might trip up an applicant, such as liens, overdue accounts, discriminatory speech or conduct, delinquent child support, regulatory violations, and more.

Do not miss that the CAWG will be reviewing the spreadsheet each candidate must complete, known as the “NAR Confidential Statement of Financial Position and Interests.” On this statement applicants supply the fair market value, amount of notes or lines of credit payable, estimates of residual equity and estimated annual income for entities in which the candidate has any interest, for personal residences, for other real property as well as all other financial assets.

As summer comes to a close, members of the NAR Board of Directors receive the official list of eligible candidates and successful applicants may begin their campaigns — including accepting approved endorsements and campaign contributions.

At the November convention and the following meetings in May, candidates can campaign in accordance with the manual and participate in “candidate forums” as part of the conference program. 

Election day

Election day finally arrives when the NAR Board of Directors convenes in May, around a year after the application was due. Directors vote for elected officers by secret ballot, utilizing a run-off if necessary, until one candidate per office receives a majority vote.

If you or the candidate you recruited wins, victors take office the day after the fall convention ends that year, usually around mid-November. 

Those who are serious about starting this journey should rely on the official documents NAR can provide, not this summary.

I expect every one of the detailed requirements, checks and disclosures to have a story behind it. And, with everything coming to light recently, I would be surprised to discover much resistance to any piece of this extensive vetting process. Maybe NAR members will call for even more checks to be added in the future.

But if you have the passion, experience and expertise to contribute to your association, do not be deterred by the intensity of the process or the timeline. Your industry and your peers need people like you.

Craig Cheatham is president and CEO of The Realty Alliance, a network of the largest residential real estate companies in North America. Previously he was COO of a state association of Realtors and CEO of the International Federation of Real Estate Licensing and Regulatory Agencies. 

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