NAR Board Approves MLS Policy Changes

November 6, 2017

The National Association of REALTORS® Board of Directors today voted to give agents more flexibility in MLS choice, expanded the criteria hearing panels should consider when local associations are vying for territorial rights, and many other considerations recommended by committees at the 2017 REALTORS® Conference & Expo.

One of the more contentious debates during the conference was over whether the association should adopt a Mandatory Waiver Policy, effectively offering what many have nicknamed “MLS of Choice.” After today’s vote, Multiple Listing Services will soon be compelled to offer waivers to agents who want to opt out of their services. That means where MLSs use a jurisdictional assessment option, they’ll no longer be allowed to compel participation by all agents of a real estate firm. Instead, such MLSs will be required to provide a nonuse waiver option to all licensees who pledge to not use the MLS’s services and can prove they are already affiliated with another MLS. The rule will go into effect on July 1, 2018. The rule also stipulates the use of the term "service area" in place of "jurisdiction" or "territory" to distinguish MLSs areas from association ones.

Other changes to MLS policies include giving brokers access to MLS sales data dating back to Jan. 1, 2012, rather than the current requirement of offering data going three years back. The board also voted to raise the minimum number of listings available to consumers searching an IDX feed or a VOW to 500 listings or 50 percent of the listings in an MLS database, whichever is less. Finally, the board voted to require MLSs to offer remote training and orientation options to participants. These changes go into effect Jan. 1.

In an effort to ensure REALTOR® advocacy resources are used efficiently, the board approved requiring state and local associations to spend REALTOR® Party funds and other resources provided by NAR in their specific territories, unless an association has a written agreement that allows it to engage in advocacy within another association's jurisdiction.

Advocacy also factored into a board vote on jurisdictional disputes. The board voted to update the criteria used by hearing panels to decide which association should have jurisdiction over a certain area. The new criteria puts a focus on advocacy and community outreach concerns. The decision was influenced by the heightened importance of advocacy issues in NAR’s Core Standards requirements.

The board eased rules on how candidates for NAR office can obtain endorsements and financial support, allowing more flexibility on endorsements coming from the candidate’s team and on when state and local associations can vet their members who are running for national office. The board reinforced restrictions on when and where campaign materials can be displayed and distributed.

The Code of Ethics got an update, too. The board voted to update the Standards of Practice to prohibit members from using misleading imagery in real estate marketing materials. As consumers increasingly rely on photos to assess properties, photos that have been excessively altered or distorted can harm the credibility of the real estate industry. The directors also adopted changes to ethics education to help REALTORS® better understand what training is required and to make it easier for associations to enforce these requirements.

In its continuing efforts to help the federal government identify use of U.S. real estate transactions to launder money from illicit activities, the board passed a policy that expresses support for requiring the disclosure of “beneficial owners” of shell companies when they’re formed and registered with their home states.

NAR’s board also approved a number of recommended expenditures:
●    NAR’s Insurance Committee believes it would be less expensive to pool flood insurance risk across the country, charge a nominal fee on each homeowner's insurance policy, and build up a national insurance reserve fund to pay for losses. In an effort to test that theory, the board approved $174,000 to fund an actuarial study on the impact of such a nationwide natural disaster insurance program.
●    In local funding, the board approved $16,666 for the Washington REALTORS® for a case involving underground culverts, $300,000 to the Texas Association of REALTORS® for a trademark infringement case, and $20,000 to the South Carolina Association of REALTORS® for an arbitration award challenge involving a procuring-cause case.

In his report to the board, NAR Treasurer Tom Riley said the association is in strong financial shape, noting that the current level of 1,292,000 members is 50,000 more than the association had anticipated. Riley also reported that NAR has seen strong interest in leasing the unoccupied floor in the association's building in Washington, D.C.

—REALTOR® Magazine