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NAR Organizational Alignment - Core Standards FAQs

Published: June 2014
Last Update: December 24, 2014 
(Core Standards FAQ Supplement - Late December 2014)

These FAQs are provided to assist local and state REALTOR® association leaders and association executives in understanding the Organizational Alignment Core Standards program and how to comply with its requirements. Periodically, the FAQs will be enhanced and updated to address arising issues and questions. Readers are encouraged to utilize the most recent version of the FAQs.

1. General Information  |  2. Compliance Issues  |  3. Mergers  |  4. Strategic Plans  |  5. Advocacy  |  6. Professional Standards / Code of Ethics  |  7. Consumer Outreach  |  8. Unification Efforts and Supports of the REALTOR® Organization  |  9. Technology  |  10. Financial Solvency  |  11. State Association Funding

1. General Information

1.1. When do the Core Standards become effective?

The Core Standards became effective upon approval by the National Association of REALTORS® Board of Directors on May 17, 2014.

1.2. Do the Core Standards replace the Organizational Standards and the Organizational Standards Certification process?

Yes.

1.3. We are currently involved in certifying our compliance with the Organizational Standards. Should we continue that effort?

No. Because the Organizational Standards have been rescinded, there is no need to certify compliance with them.

1.4. When must local and state associations comply with the Core Standards?

Efforts to achieve compliance with the Core Standards should begin as soon as possible. The deadline for compliance is June 30, 2015.

1.5. What will the certification period be for subsequent years?

Certification will be an annual process to be met by June 30th each subsequent year.

1.6. What are the consequences for not meeting the Core Standards?

The consequence of not achieving compliance with the Core Standards is loss of charter status as a local or state association of REALTORS®.

1.7. If the state association does not confirm our local association’s compliance with the Core Standards by June 30, 2015 (or subsequent periods) is that determination subject to review by NAR? What is the process?

No association will lose its charter without first being given an opportunity to appear before a panel of at least three (3) members of the NAR Association Executives Committee to show cause why the association’s charter status should not be terminated. In such cases the recommendation of the panel will be reported to the NAR Board of Directors for final action.

1.8. Must the activities mandated by the Core Standards start after the May 17, 2014 adoption date? Will consumer outreach efforts, for example, initiated before May 17, 2014 satisfy the Core Standards?

As long as the activity continued after the May 17, 2014 adoption of the Core Standards, the fact that it was "initiated" before that date doesn't make it ineligible. (Added 8.7.14)

1.9. Will the NAR Board of Directors vote on whether associations' charter will be revoked?

The charter revocation process will begin automatically if an association's compliance with the Core Standards isn't confirmed by the state association. The NAR Board of Directors will become involved only if an association appeals the state association's conclusion that the local association had not met the Core Standards. In that case, the local association will have an opportunity to appear before a three (3) member panel of the NAR Association Executives Committee and show cause why the association's charter shouldn't be revoked. Following that, the panel's recommendation will be reported to the NAR Board of Directors for final action. If the Directors determine the charter should be revoked, the revocation will be effective immediately. (Added 8.7.14)

1.10 If our charter is revoked, how long do we have to dissolve the corporation? And what happens to the corporation's assets?

Revocation of an association's charter doesn't automatically result in the corporation being dissolved. The future of the corporation will be determined pursuant to the provisions of the articles of incorporation and the association's bylaws. The decision may be to wind up the affairs of the corporation and dissolve or, alternatively, to continue to function as a real estate association, though not as a member of NAR.

If the corporation is dissolved, the assets would be paid out pursuant to the relevant bylaw provision. Generally the bylaws of associations of REALTORS® (Article XVII in the NAR model association bylaws) provide that upon dissolution the assets will be paid to the state association or to another non-profit, tax exempt organization. (Added 8.7.14)

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2. Compliance Issues

2.1. What must we do to meet the Core Standards?

The Core Standards themselves spell out what's required of local and state associations to maintain their charters. In addition, an online compliance certification system (the "Compliance Tool") has been developed to facilitate tracking and reporting compliance. The system details the specific information required to demonstrate compliance. (Revised 9.26.14)

2.2. Will NAR develop an online compliance reporting/enforcement database?

Yes.  Please refer to the answer to question 2.1.

2.3. How does the reporting/enforcement database ("Compliance Tool") function?

The Compliance Tool provides simple, objective determiners for associations to confirm and/or demonstrate they've met the Core Standards requirements for the current cycle. (Revised 9.26.14)

2.3.1. I'm an association CEO. Can I delegate authority to another member of my staff to access the Compliance Tool and complete the certification form?

Yes. Follow this link and enter the requested information. Please note that a NRDS ID number is required for all secondary users. (Added 12.10.14)

2.3.2. Our inaugural and installation of officers is soon. Will our soon-to-be former president continue to have access to the Compliance Tool, and when will our new president-elect have access?

Two things need to happen to effect the changes. First, the association's officer information needs to be updated in NRDS. Once that happens, the next time an authorized user enters - and saves - information in the Compliance Tool, the updates will occur automatically. (Added 12.24.14)

2.4. What is the role of the state association in determining whether local associations meet the Core Standards?

Each year local associations will use the online compliance certification system to submit the required Core Standards information required to the state association for review and validation. Not later than June 30 each year, each state association, using the online compliance certification system, will provide NAR with the name of each local association meeting the requirements of the Core Standards program. Any association not reported as having complied will be subject to charter revocation.

2.4.1 What must the state association do to determine whether local associations’ policies and procedures conform to local, state and federal laws?

It is not contemplated that state associations will be responsible for ensuring that local associations’ policies and procedures do not violate all potentially applicable laws and regulations. The state association will need to verify that state and federal tax returns have been filed, and that any other required corporate filings have been made. (Added 7.3.14)

2.4.2. When will the state association be able to access the compliance certification forms submitted by local associations in the state?

State associations currently can view the certification forms of their local member associations. Automatic notices of submission and approval are being added to the Compliance Tool. It's anticipated these enhancements will be operational mid-to-late January, 2015. (Added 12.10.14)

2.4.3. I submitted my compliance information. Now I need to add additional information. Can I get it back to make changes?

Yes. You will need to contact the state association. They will need to log on, go to "View Core Standards forms", click on "Return to association", and include a comment in the "comment" field. (Added 12.10.14)

2.5. Will state associations need to develop reporting systems/software? Or is it anticipated that all state associations will use the NAR-provided database?

It’s anticipated all state associations will use the NAR database.

2.5.1. What "proof" will local associations need to provide their state association to demonstrate compliance?

Many of the compliance criteria simply request that examples be submitted using the compliance database. In cases where a state association needs additional information to make a knowledgeable compliance determination, additional information may be requested from the local association.

It's important to keep in mind throughout the process that trust - at all levels of the REALTOR® organization - is essential to successful implementation of this effort. The profession itself exists on trust. Clients and customers trust the REALTORS® they work with. REALTORS® need to - and do - trust each other. Associations rely on the word of their members. Members need to be able to rely on what their association tells them. The representations made via the compliance database will be attested to by each local association's elected president and president-elect (or equivalent officers) as well as by the association's chief staff. Except in the most unusual circumstances, their assurance that the information shared via the compliance database is truthful and accurate to the best of their knowledge should be sufficient "proof". (Added 8.7.14)

2.6. What options/alternatives are available to local associations that anticipate difficulty in meeting the Core Standards?

Given the goals of the Organizational Alignment/Core Standards program, some associations may determine that the needs of their members may be best served by merging with another association. Local identity, something understandably important to associations of any size, can be retained in large measure by establishing community-specific chapters or councils of local associations. The Association Merger Procedures are available at Realtor.org.

Shared services is another option/alternative for associations that anticipate difficulty meeting the Core Standards. State associations may want to consider conducting a shared services workshop for local associations that might benefit from using shared services. Information on Realtor.org includes workshop materials and facilitator resources. http://www.realtor.org/ae/manage-your-association/shared-services (Revised 9.26.14)

2.6.1 Question 2.6 (above) refers to "chapters or councils of local associations" as a possibility for associations that surrender their charter as part of a merger with another association(s). Is there an NAR chapter "model" for local associations to adopt?

No. While over the years a few associations have surrendered their charter to merge into another association, with the resulting association creating a community-based "chapter" that allowed the dissolved association to retain a local presence and a measure of local identity, these have been the exception rather than the rule. As a result, there is little experience to draw on. NAR and the state associations do not charter "chapters", nor is there any defined "chapter" structure within the REALTOR organization.

Simply put, chapters are sub-units of an existing, chartered local association of REALTORS®, with that association of REALTORS® being the only chartered (or recognized) entity. The structure, as well as the privileges and responsibilities (if any) of a local association's "chapter" would need to be determined locally (presumably as part of the merger discussions/negotiations) and should be spelled out with specificity in the "parent" association's bylaws or other governing documents.

In most cases, chapters are the residual effect of mergers of two or more associations that resulted in a larger "regional" association. Chapters can enable the former associations that surrendered their charters as part of a merger to retain some measure of identity/presence in their community, coupled with the efficiencies and economies of scale resulting from the merger. Use of the term REALTOR® in a chapter's name must be in connection with the parent organization (e.g. The _______ Chapter of the _______ Association of REALTORS®). (Added 8.7.14)

2.7 Is there an ongoing professional development requirement for associations ‘ chief paid staff member?

Yes, each year the association’s chief paid staff officer must complete at least six (6) hours of REALTOR® association professional development. Training meeting the requirement is available annually at the NAR Association Executives Institute. Similar programs are available in many states. Receipt of the RCE designation is also deemed to satisfy the requirement – but only for the year in which it is received by the chief paid staff member. (Added 7.3.14)

2.8 Must the professional development training required of associations' chief paid staff be "in-person" or will relevant on-line and "distance learning" programs satisfy the requirement?

While attendance at in-person educational programs like the NAR AE Institute and similar programs conducted by state associations is an optimum learning experience because of the opportunity to interact with peers face-to-face, it should also be considered that much of the educational offerings available to REALTORS® from NAR (including REALTOR® University) and its Institutes, Societies and Councils is delivered online. What's important here is that the program addresses management/administration of real estate associations. Where a question arises about the relevancy of programming offered in satisfaction of this requirement, the state association could require documentation or explanation of how the course related to real estate association management. Given the broad experience and skillsets required of association executives, it's anticipated this requirement will be construed liberally. (Added 8.7.14)

2.8.1. Are there professional development opportunities available through NAR?

Yes. You'll find a comprehensive list of programs and courses available through NAR in FAQ 8.3.2. (Added 12.10.14)

2.9 How will consistent application and enforcement of the Core Standards be assured from one state to another? How will the state associations be "policed"?

The simple answer is that it's anticipated that each state association will make consistent, objective, good faith efforts to evaluate the information provided by their local associations in determining compliance. Obviously, this requires significant trust between all levels of the REALTOR® family. (Added 8.7.14)

2.10 Can state associations require local associations to submit their compliance information prior to June, 30, 2015?

Yes. State associations can set their own deadlines for their local associations to submit information demonstrating compliance with the Core Standards. Additionally, while the deadline for local associations to submit compliance information using the compliance database is June 30, 2015, state associations will have an additional 30 days (until July 30) to certify their local associations' compliance status to NAR. (Added 8.7.14)

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3. Mergers

3.1. What financial and other resources are or will be available from NAR to facilitate mergers?

Grants at a minimum of $15,000 and a maximum of $25,000 are available to merged associations. Grant amount are calculated at $25 times the number of primary REALTOR® members in the newly-merged association but will not exceed $25,000. The merger grants will be available for two years because it's anticipated that in some cases merger discussions may not commence until after the associations have first attempted to meet the Core Standards; also because merger negotiations can take considerable time to complete.

Special Supplemental Note to FAQ 3.1 - October 29, 2014

In order to provide a greater level of support to the local association community as they consider mergers to better serve members and achieve compliance with the Core Standards, the NAR Finance Committee has expanded eligibility for merger grants as follows:

The initial merger grant process, as outlined above, will continue. Initial mergers will be funded at $25 per member in the resulting merged association, with the minimum grant remaining $15,000 and the maximum grant also remaining $25,000. As initially approved and published, only one grant of not more than $25,000 was available to any merged association; any subsequent additional merger activity involving that association was not eligible for a further merger grant.

Effective immediately, funding for subsequent or "second generation" merger grants are available at the same rate of $25 per member, up to a maximum of $25,000 for an additional merger, but will be computed only on any incremental gain in membership to the final merged organization. The calculation of such grants will not include members who were included in the calculation of another merger grant. These supplemental merger funds will be available through the end of merger grant period, June 30, 2016.

Example: If an association that has 2,000 primary REALTOR® members merges with an association with 500 primary REALTOR® members (the "first merger"), the resulting entity would be eligible for a grant of $25,000. If that newly-merged association is later involved in a subsequent merger under which the previously-merged 2,500 member association now merges with a different 500 member association, an additional grant of $12,500 (500 additional members times $25 = $12,500) will be available. The additional grant (based on the second merger) cannot include the first 2,500 members (the total as a result of the first merger) because they were previously included in an earlier grant calculation. Only the additional incremental primary REALTOR® members added as a result of the second merger can be considered in this next grant calculation.

A comprehensive NAR Merger Kit is available on Realtor.org. The white paper An Alternative to Merging is also available on Realtor.org. (Revised 10.29.14)

3.1.1. Our association previously merged with another association, resulting in the newly-merged association having eight hundred primary REALTOR® members. We requested - and received - an NAR merger grant of $20,000 (800 members times $25). We are now considering a merger with another association which, if consummated, will increase our membership to approximately nine hundred fifty primary REALTOR® members. Would we be eligible for a second merger grant, and if we would be, how would it be calculated?

You would be eligible for a second merger grant. It would be based on the one hundred fifty additional primary REALTOR® members gained through the second merger or $3,750. (Revised 10.29.14)

3.1.2. Our association has 250 members. We are in the process of completing a merger with another association that will result in the newly-merged association having 400 primary REALTOR® members. We realize the merger grant available from NAR would be greater than 400 members times $25 since the minimum grant amount is $15,000. Our question is if we later merge with still another association bringing the total of primary REALTOR® members to 500, would we then be eligible for a second merger grant of $15,000? If not, what amount would we be eligible for?

Under these circumstances, a second merger grant would be available. It would be calculated on the number of additional primary REALTOR® members gained through the second merger (100 additional primary REALTOR® members times $25 = $2,500). However, the calculation must exclude any of the 100 additional primary REALTOR® members gained if they were previously included in the calculation of different merger grant. (Revised 10.29.14)

3.1.3. Following up on question 3.1.2, what if we complete a third merger resulting in an association with 750 primary REALTOR® members. Would we then be eligible for another merger grant, and what would it be.

Yes, a second grant would be available. Because the initial grant was the minimum payable ($15,000) which is equivalent to 600 members times $25, the additional funds available as a result of the second merger would be $3,750 (150 members times $25) Members included in a previous merger grant calculation cannot be included in the calculation of the grant. (Revised 10.29.14)

3.1.4. We are a large association involved in merger discussions with several smaller associations. One of the mergers is about to be finalized. It will result in the newly-merged association having eleven hundred members. We realize the grant money from NAR is capped at $25,000. But if the pending merger is consummated and the newly-merged association later merges with still another association - resulting an association with twelve hundred and fifty primary REALTOR® members - are we eligible for another $25,000 merger grant?

The association would be eligible for a subsequent merger grant, but that grant would be calculated on the number of additional primary REALTOR® members gained (150 additional primary REALTOR® members times $25 = 3,750). But keep in mind that any of the 150 additional primary REALTOR® members gained who were already included in the calculation of another merger grant cannot be included in the calculation of a subsequent merger grant calculation. (Revised 10.29.14)

3.1.5. Our recently merged association (formerly Association A and Association B, now Association AB) is considering merging with Association XY. Until recently, Association XY was two associations - Association X and Association Y. They merged and the resulting association is Association XY.

Following the merger, Association AB had 1,500 members. We applied for and received an NAR merger grant of $25,000.

When Association X (300 members) and Association Y (200 members) merged, the resulting Association XY had a total of 500 primary REALTOR® members.

Our question is when Association AB merges with Association XY to create Association ABXY with 2,000 primary REALTOR® members, will the newly-merged association be eligible for another NAR merger grant? If it is, how will the amount be calculated?

Under these circumstances a third NAR merger grant is not available. While this merger brings an additional 500 primary REALTOR® members to the association now known as ABXY, the two earlier merger grants (to AB and to XY) were based on the size of the membership of the resulting associations (1,500 members of AB and 500 members of XY). Since the number of primary REALTOR® members in the new Association ABXY is not greater than the memberships of AB and XY at the time they each received merger grants, they are not eligible for an additional grant.

If the facts were different, the outcome could be different. If, for example, Association AB gained an additional 100 primary REALTOR® members after A and B merged, and now AB and XY merge, a merger grant could be made based on the 100 members who weren't included in the calculations of either the AB or the XY mergers. So an additional grant of $2,500 would be available (100 additional primary REALTOR® members times $25) (Added 10.29.14)

3.1.6. We are a small association in what some would call a “remote” area. There are no other associations close enough to make a merger practical or feasible. After careful consideration our leadership has concluded that we may not be able to meet the Core Standards and we may need to dissolve the corporation and relinquish our charter as a Member Board. While this isn’t a merger, per se, there will still be costs related to winding up the affairs of the association (e.g. cancelling our lease, staff severance, etc.). Is a “merger” grant from NAR a possibility under these circumstances?

Your situation was discussed by the NAR Finance Committee at the 2014 Annual Convention (REALTORS® Conference) where it was determined that applications for funds in circumstances such as yours will be considered by the Committee on a case by case basis. In such cases, the merger grant “minimum” of $15,000 would not be applicable, and any grant made would be based on the number of primary REALTOR® members in the “dissolving” association (i.e. $25 times the number of primary REALTOR® members). (Added 11.13.14)

3.1.7. Our small association explored the possibility of merging with a larger nearby association and our elected leaders have decided that relinquishing our charter and dissolving the corporation is preferable to expending the time, effort and money that considering, negotiating and implementing a merger would involve. We polled our membership and most of our current members indicated that, should that happen, they would likely become members of that other association. We realize that the territory currently assigned to us by NAR would revert to “unassigned” status, and that other associations could request that it be added to their existing jurisdiction.
While the costs of dissolving would be less than the costs of merging, there would still be some costs (e.g. terminating our MLS vendor contract, buying out our office lease, severance pay, etc.). Our question, though, is whether an NAR “merger grant” would be available if we dissolve our association rather than merge with the other association?

As noted in the answer to FAQ 3.1.6,  situations like you describe were discussed by the NAR Finance Committee and the Committee determined that applications for funds in circumstances such as yours will be considered on a case by case basis. The merger grant “minimum” of $15,000 will not apply, and any grant made would be based on the number of primary REALTOR® members in the “dissolving” association (i.e. $25 times the number of primary REALTOR® members). (Added 11.13.14)

3.2. What can we use the merger grant for?

Merger grants may be used to cover any costs incurred in bringing about a successful merger of two or more associations, such as severance packages for AEs, technology costs, legal fees, facilitator fees, travel expenses, and administrative costs.

3.3. Is there a directory of NAR-approved merger facilitators?

The directory of NAR-approved merger facilitators is available at REALTOR.org. (Revised 8.7.14)

3.4. (Deleted 12.8.14)

3.5. (Deleted 12.8.14)

3.6. How do we obtain financial assistance for mergers from NAR?

The merger grant program is administered by the NAR Finance Committee through the Finance Division. Grant applications are available on Realtor.org. (Revised 9.26.14)

3.7. If three (or more) local associations merge, can each request funding from NAR?

Merger grants will only be available to successfully merged associations, based on the number of primary REALTOR® members in the resulting merged association. Secondary members (i.e. those who hold their primary REALTOR® membership in another association) cannot be included in this calculation. (Revised 9.26.14)

3.8. How will the amount of financial assistance from NAR be determined?

Please see the answer to question 3.1.

3.9. Our association completed a merger with two other associations prior to the 2014 REALTOR® Party Conference and Trade Expo. Will “merger funding” be available to us? 

No. Please see the answer to question 3.1.

3.10. Can we retain our local identity/autonomy by becoming a chapter or council of a local association?

Yes. As discussed in the answer to question 2.6, a degree of local identity and presence can be maintained by establishing community-specific chapters or councils of local associations. Please also see Question 2.6.1 for further information on the relationship between local associations of REALTORS® and their chapters. (Revised 8.7.14)

3.11. Is there a difference between a chapter and a council?

For purposes of local associations of REALTORS®, the terms are synonymous.

3.12. Are chapters and/or councils chartered by NAR?

No. Only local and state associations of REALTORS® are chartered by NAR.

3.13. If we become a chapter of another local association can we retain our current name (e.g. “ABC Association of REALTORS®”)?

Technically, no. But essentially the same result can be achieved. When two (or more) associations of REALTORS® merge, there is only one resulting association. Let’s say the ABC association and the DEF association merge, and the resulting merged association calls itself the XYZ Association of REALTORS®. If the members of the association formerly known as the ABC Association of REALTORS® wanted to form a chapter, it could be known as the ABC Chapter of the XYZ Association of REALTORS®.

3.14. Can we contract now with someone to facilitate our merger?

If you contract with a facilitator now – or later – remember the facilitator grant will be disbursed by NAR only after approval of the merger by the membership of the merging associations, so you will want to make that clear in your agreement with the facilitator.

3.15. Does NAR set merger facilitators’ fees?

No. That is a matter of agreement between the associations considering merging - and the facilitator.

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4. Strategic Plans

4.1. Do the Core Standards require associations to have a strategic plan?

Yes.

4.2. What financial and other resources are available from NAR to facilitate development of strategic plans?

Grants at a minimum of $2,500 and a maximum of $5,000 are available to associations to develop a strategic plan, or to enhance an existing strategic plan. Grants are disbursed after the strategic plan has been completed, and submitted to and approved by NAR. Grants are based on the number of primary REALTOR® members at $10 per member with a minimum grant of $2,500 and a maximum grant of $5,000 regardless of association size. Secondary members (i.e. those who hold their primary REALTOR® membership in another association) cannot be included in this calculation. Grants are available for strategic plans created or enhanced between May 17, 2014 and June 30, 2015. (Revised 9.26.14)

4.3. What can we use the strategic planning grant for?

Strategic planning grants - which will be disbursed after a strategic plan has been completed, and has been submitted to and approved by NAR - can be used for any purpose the association deems appropriate including facilitator fees, meetings and facilities, administrative expenses, travel expenses, etc.

4.3.1 Must an NAR qualified facilitator be used for an association to be eligible for a strategic planning grant?

The primary purpose of the strategic planning grant program is to ensure associations have access to qualified facilitators. Consequently, associations with five hundred (500) or fewer members must use an NAR qualified facilitator to be eligible for a strategic planning grant. Associations with more than five hundred members do not have to use an NAR qualified facilitator to be eligible for a strategic planning grant. (Added 6.25.14)

4.3.2 What date is used for determining whether we must use an NAR-approved strategic planning facilitator to be eligible for an NAR grant? Is it the date we contract with the facilitator or the date we submit the strategic plan to NAR? Let me explain. We currently have 503 members and want to use a well-qualified local facilitator who has done outstanding work for other associations of REALTORS®. We're worried, though, that something unforeseen could happen between the time we contract with the facilitator and the time the finished strategic plan is submitted to NAR that would cause our membership to drop below 500 members.

The point at which eligibility for a grant requires using an NAR-approved facilitator is the date you contract with the facilitator. It's not intended that associations of your size would be kept on tenterhooks while they develop their strategic plans. The amount of the grant will be determined by your membership count at the point you submit the plan to NAR. So while the amount you anticipate receiving will be reduced if your membership drops, it may increase if your membership grows.

An association with more than 500 members when they began the strategic planning process not using an NAR-approved facilitator will not lose eligibility for a grant if their membership drops to 500 or fewer members while the plan is being developed. (Added 8.7.1)

4.4. Is there a directory of NAR-approved strategic planning facilitators?

The directory of NAR-approved strategic planning facilitators is available at REALTOR.org. (Revised 8.7.14)

4.5.  (Deleted 12.8.14)

4.6. (Deleted 9.26.14)

4.7. How do we obtain financial assistance for strategic planning from NAR?

The strategic planning grant program is administered by the NAR Finance Committee through the Finance Division. Strategic plans should by email to csgrantrequest@realtors.org. Once approved, the association's strategic plan should also be attached to the online compliance database ("Compliance Tool"). Grant applications are available on Realtor.org. (Revised 9.26.14)

4.8. How is the amount of financial assistance from NAR determined?

Please see the answer to question 4.1.

4.9. What must the strategic plan include to meet the Core Standards?

Strategic plans must satisfactorily address the Advocacy and Consumer Outreach components of the Core Standards to qualify. (Revised 7.3.14)

4.10. Can we contract now with someone to facilitate our strategic plan?

If you contract with a facilitator now – or later – remember the strategic planning grant will be disbursed by NAR only on successful completion of the strategic plan that’s approved by NAR, so you will want to make that clear in your agreement with the facilitator.

4.11. Does NAR set strategic planning facilitators’ fees?

No. That is a matter of agreement between the association and the facilitator.

4.12. Our association has strong, collegial relationship with the state association. However, we are also competitors when it comes to offering certain products, services and benefits to members. Our plans for new offerings are incorporated in our strategic plan or, in some cases in our business plan. We do not want to share that information with the state association or with other competitors. Do the Core Standards require us to make these plans available to the state association?

The short answer is no. Strategic and/or business plans will be reviewed at the national level only and will not be made available to the state association or to any other association in your state. (Revised 9.26.14)

4.13. We don't intend to apply for a strategic planning grant. How do we send our strategic plan to NAR for approval?

Even if a strategic planning grant isn't being requested, the plans should be sent to csgrantrequest@realtors.org. Once approved, the association's strategic plan should also be attached to the online compliance database ("Compliance Tool").

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5. Advocacy

5.1 Our local association has its own RPAC promotional material it annually distributes to the membership. Can we continue to use those materials, or do the Core Standards require use of materials provided by the state association or by NAR?

Local associations can comply by using any RPAC promotional materials they choose to educate the membership on the value of investing in RPAC. It is recommended that local material be reviewed by legal counsel to ensure it meets the state and federal PAC regulations. Most state associations and NAR make excellent promotional material for use by local associations.

5.2 Our local association has done advocacy activities in the past. When does this advocacy activity need to occur to satisfy the Core Standards for the initial 2014-15 cycle?

Advocacy activities that take place between adoption of the Core Standards (May 17, 2014) and June 30, 2015 will meet the requirement.

5.3 Each year, our association uses one of the REALTOR® Party programs. Will the use of REALTOR® Party Advocacy programs satisfy the Core Standards requirement?

Yes, REALTOR® Party programs and services qualify.

5.4 Our association develops and conducts our own advocacy programs. Do they satisfy the Core Standards requirements, or must we use REALTOR® Party programs?

The Core Standards require associations to demonstrate advocacy engagement. If the program or activity is advocacy-based, it will meet the requirement subject to the state association review and confirmation.

5.5. Am I required to include RPAC in my dues billing statement?

There are two options. You can:

  • Include RPAC in your association dues billing statement.
  • Write a check in the full amount of the NAR established RPAC goal from your local association’s account to the NAR PAF (Political Advocacy Fund). That check should be sent to your state association and not to NAR directly. Check with your state association to ensure legal compliance. 

5.5.1 What are the consequences of including only our local PAC on our members’ dues billing statements?

Failure to include RPAC contributions on members’ dues billings will result in the association having to write a check for the full amount of the NAR-established RPAC goal payable to the NAR PAF (Political Advocacy Fund). (Added 7.3.14)

5.5.2. What if my local association regularly meets its fundraising goal annually without doing dues billing? Must I still dues bill for RPAC or the PAF to comply with the Core Standards requirement?

Surpassing your fundraising goal, even if by a significant amount, does not relieve your association of its obligation to comply with the Core Standard requirement to include RPAC or the PAF in your dues billing statement or to send a check in the amount of the NAR-established RPAC fundraising goal. (Added 9.26.14)

5.5.3. Do we have to bill all members the same RPAC or PAF amount on their dues billing statements, or can we bill different types of members for different amounts (for example, $35 for agents and $75 for brokers)?

You may bill any amount for RPAC or the PAF on the dues billing statement as long as it is at least "in an amount adequate to meet any NAR established fundraising goals." (Added 9.26.14)

5.5.4. Do State Associations with at-large REALTOR® members need to request a voluntary RPAC or PAF contribution in the dues billing statements sent to such members?

Yes, a State Association that bills at-large members directly should include RPAC or PAF in their dues billing and the state will transmit the NAR portion accordingly. (Added 9.26.14)

5.5.5. If my Local Association elects to write a corporate check as opposed to implementing dues billing, is there a limit on the amount for which the corporate check can be written?

There is no legal limit on how much can be sent to NAR's Political Advocacy Fund (PAF). There may be a limit if the association elects to also make a contribution using association treasury funds to the State PAC where corporate contributions are permitted but limited in amount, and in some states associations may be prohibited from making contributions to the state PAC. Please check with your state association for more information about the available options. (Added 9.26.14)

5.5.6. If we choose to write a corporate check in lieu of dues billing, what date - and therefore what membership count - do we use to determine the amount? And, if our membership increases during the year, do we "owe" more money later since the membership went up?

The date used to set the states' National RPAC Fundraising Goals for the 2015-2016 Election Cycle is October 31, 2013 - which is the same date Local Associations should use when determining the amount of their corporate check. 

If your membership changes, the amount required via a corporate check will not change. (Revised 12.24.14)

5.5.7 If we write a corporate check that represents a contribution from each member, does that put our Association at 100% participation?

A corporate check from an association does not equate to 100% participation by its members. In order for a contribution to be counted towards RPAC participation, the national RPAC Trustees voted it must be a voluntary contribution made by the member. (Added 9.26.14)

5.5.8. What does it mean to include RPAC "above the line" or "below the line" in my dues billing statement?

Including RPAC "above the line" means the suggested RPAC investment amount is included in the total amount due, even though the RPAC investment is voluntary and non-payment does not affect the member's membership status. The statement should also indicate that the member may deduct the amount of the contribution from the "Total" due if he or she elects not to contribute. "Below the line" means the suggested RPAC investment amount is NOT included in total amount due to satisfy the member's dues requirements. Sometimes, a second "total" line may be added so the member can see the amount with and without the voluntary RPAC investment.

Don't forget to include an RPAC disclaimer on your dues billing. Below is the disclaimer required by the Federal Election Commission (FEC). Check with your state association as you must also include the required state disclaimer.

RPAC Disclaimer required by FEC

Contributions are not deductible for federal income tax purposes. Contributions to RPAC are voluntary and are used for political purposes. You may contribute more or less than the suggested amount. You may refuse to contribute without reprisal and the National Association of REALTORS or any of its state or local associations will not favor or disfavor any members because of the amount contributed. 70% of each contribution is used by your state PAC to support state and local political candidates. Until your state PAC reaches its RPAC goal, 30% is sent to National RPAC to support federal candidates and is charged against your limits under 2 U.S.C.441a. After the state RPAC reaches its RPAC goal it may elect to retain your entire contribution for use in supporting state and local candidates.

Sample RPAC dues billing statements below:

ABOVE THE LINE EXAMPLE
 
ABC Association of REALTORS®  
Local $XX
State $XX
National $XX
Public Awareness Campaign $XX
RPAC Investment (voluntary) $XX
(Deduct from total if not contributing)  


Total $XX


BELOW THE LINE EXAMPLE #1
 
ABC Association of REALTORS®  
Local $XX
State $XX
National $XX
Public Awareness Campaign $XX


Total $XX

RPAC Investment (voluntary)       $XX


BELOW THE LINE EXAMPLE #2
 
ABC Association of REALTORS®  
Local $XX
State $XX
National $XX
Public Awareness Campaign $XX


Subtotal $XX
   
RPAC Investment (voluntary) $XX
   


Total $XX

(Added 10.29.14)

5.5.9. Can contributions invested via dues billing that are mandatory assessments, where state law permits such assessments, count towards RPAC Participation?

Mandatory assessments imposed on members for funds to be provided to RPAC through the NAR PAF do not count towards RPAC Participation. To count towards RPAC Participation via NAR's recognition program, the investment must be voluntary. (Added 12.24.14)

5.6. What if I don’t reach my NAR-established RPAC goal through the member dues billing?

Your Association will be in compliance if you included the NAR-established RPAC goal in your dues billing, regardless of the amount collected.

5.7. I already sent my dues billing out for 2015.  Do I have to re-bill every member?

If you already sent out your full year dues billing and will not be sending another dues billing statement, you can comply by including it in future years’ dues billings. Minimally it must be included in all dues billings sent after June 30, 2015. However, if you have not sent your 2015 dues billings, and will be sending them after September 1, 2014, you are required to include the NAR-established RPAC goal in your 2015 dues billing statement.

5.8. We place Calls for Action on our MLS sign-in page. Does that demonstrate adequate proof of participation?

Yes. You need to demonstrate CFA promotion to your membership. To see your state and local association Call for Action response rate, go to http://www.realtoractioncenter.com/for-associations/cfa-report/.

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6.  Professional Standards/ Code of Ethics

6.1. What do the Core Standards require with respect to new and continuing member training?

The Core Standards require associations to provide new and continuing member Code of Ethics training as required by Professional Standards Policy Statements #47 and #48.

Professional Standards Policy Statement #47, New Member Orientation, provides:
Effective January 1, 2001, applicants for REALTOR® membership shall complete an orientation program on the Code of Ethics of not less than two (2) hours and thirty (30) minutes of instructional time. This requirement can be satisfied through instruction provided by the local Board or by another Board and can include classroom instruction, home study, correspondence study, or Internet-based instruction. Any orientation program must meet the learning objectives and minimum criteria established by the National Association of REALTORS® from time to time. REALTORS® who having completed such orientation shall not be required to complete further Code of Ethics orientation upon application for membership in another Board provided that REALTOR® membership has been continuous or that any break in membership is for one (1) year or less.

Professional Standards Policy Statement #48, REALTORS®ʼ Code of Ethics Training, provides:
Effective January 1, 2001 through December 31, 2004, and for successive four (4) year periods thereafter, REALTORS® are required to complete quadrennial ethics training of not less than two (2) hours and thirty (30) minutes of instructional time. REALTORS® completing such training during any four (4) year cycle shall not be required to complete additional ethics training in respect of this requirement as a requirement of membership in any other Board or Association.

A REALTOR® completing the new member Code of Ethics orientation during any four (4) year cycle shall not be required to complete additional ethics training in respect of this requirement until a new four (4) year cycle commences. 

Failure to complete the required periodic ethics training shall be considered a violation of a membership duty.

Failure to meet the requirement will result in suspension of membership for the first two months (January and February) of the year following the end of any four (4) year cycle or until the requirement is met, whichever occurs sooner. On March 1 of that year, the membership of a member who is still suspended as of that date will be automatically terminated.

Every Board and Association is required to provide access to necessary ethics training programs either locally, in conjunction with other Boards and Associations, or through other methods (including, but not limited to, home study, correspondence courses, or Internet-based instruction). Any training offered pursuant to this requirement must meet the learning objectives and minimum criteria established by the National Association of REALTORS® from time to time.

6.2. What options are available for local associations in enforcing the Code of Ethics and conducting dispute resolution?

Local associations have wide latitude in how they meet their enforcement obligations. Enforcement can be conducted by the association itself, associations can develop multi-association or regional enforcement mechanisms, and state associations can take on some or all enforcement duties.

6.2.1. Must every state and territorial association have a standing Professional Standards Committee?

Not necessarily. While enforcement of the Code of Ethics is commonly accomplished through associations’ Professional Standards Committees and Boards of Directors, the Organizational Alignment recommendations approved by the NAR Board of Directors recognized that most associations are already required to enter into cooperative enforcement agreements (please refer to Professional Standards Policy Statement #40 in the NAR Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual).  Following is taken from the actions of the NAR Board of Directors in May, 2014:

Every association will maintain a viable professional standards process to enforce the Code of Ethics and provide arbitration and mediation as member services. Associations must have a fully functioning professional standards committee with administrative capacity to conduct the program, or must administer professional standards enforcement through a multi-board (or regional) professional standards agreement with other associations or with the state association.

While cooperative enforcement agreements generally delegate some or all of a local association’s Code enforcement responsibility to a multi-board or regional process – or to the state association, there is no prohibition on state associations entering into an agreement under which some or all of the state association’s Code enforcement responsibilities are delegated to another association, or are administered pursuant to a regional or multi-board enforcement process. (Added 10.24.14)

6.3. Has NAR developed alternative "expedited" Code of Ethics enforcement procedures?

The original "expedited" procedures for enforcement of the Code of Ethics remain available at Section 20 (f-q) in the NAR Code of Ethics Arbitration Manual.

At the 2014 REALTORS® Conference & Expo (November 2014), the Professional Standards Committee recommended, and the Board of Directors approved, several new and enhanced enforcement tools. These include:

  • Clarification of the existing procedures (including timeframes)
  • An alternative "fast track" hearing process which can be adopted at associations' discretion
  • A model "citation" policy (including a schedule of fines for eligible citations) which can be adopted at associations' discretion
  • Increased use of "remote" testimony
  • Enhanced ombudsman procedures and mandatory provision of ombudsman services in 2016
  • Enhanced information about the appropriate use of "alternate" panel members
  • Restrictions on the availability of continuances

This information and materials will be included in the 2015 Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual. In the interim, specifics can be found in the Committee's meeting minutes on Realtor.org. (Revised 12.10.14)

6.4. Is “ombudsmen” an acceptable enforcement supplement?

Yes.

6.4.1. Is every association required to offer ombudsman services?

Beginning in 2016, every state and local association will be required to offer, either directly or as part of a cooperative enforcement agreement (consistent with Professional Standards Policy Statement #40, Cooperative Enforcement Agreements, ombudsman services to members, to members' clients, and to consumers. (Added 12.10.14)

6.5. What “ombudsmen” resources are available from NAR?

Boards and associations of REALTORS® are charged with the responsibility of receiving and resolving ethics complaints. This obligation is carried out by local, regional and state grievance committees and professional standards committees. Some complaints received by associations do not expressly allege violations of specific Articles of the Code of Ethics; others do not detail conduct related to the Code. Some complaints are actually transactional, technical, or procedural questions that can be readily responded to. Many complaints can be averted or easily dealt with through enhanced communications and initial problem-solving capacity. NAR has developed ombudsman procedures which may be adopted by associations, and which are available at REALTOR.org by searching on “Developing an Ombudsman Program."

6.6. Is a “citation system” an acceptable enforcement supplement?

Yes.

6.7. Is there an NAR model "citation system?"

Yes, a model citation system was recommended by the NAR Professional Standards Committee, and approved by the Board of Directors for inclusion in an online supplement to the 2015 Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual. (Revised 12.15.14)

6.8. Is “ethics mediation” an acceptable enforcement supplement?

Yes.

6.9. What “ethics mediation” resources are available from NAR?

Detailed procedures are available on REALTOR.org. Visit Ethics Mediation or search REALTOR.org for “ethics mediation.” 

6.10 Our Grievance Committee doesn't meet on a scheduled basis. Rather, when an ethics complaint or an arbitration request is filed, we select members from the Grievance Committee roster to review the complaint/request. Is this permissible under the Core Standards and applicable policy?

Yes. (added 8.7.14)

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7. Consumer Outreach

7.1. Are there examples of association consumer outreach initiatives?

Consumer Outreach Best Practices in three categories – Advocacy, Education, and Market Data – are available on REALTOR.org. These initiatives represent a wide variety of association staff and budget resources. Contact information for more details on any of these best practices is also included in this collection.  http://www.realtor.org/ae/manage-your-association/consumer-outreach-best...

7.2. Activities described as “Community Investment” (e.g. Housing Opportunity Grants, Smart Growth Grants, participation in a Habitat For Humanity Build, community fundraising events, etc.) in the Compliance Tool are organized and conducted by our association’s wholly-owned subsidiary Foundation. Do activities like these satisfy the Core Standards if they’re conducted by our REALTOR® Foundation?

Yes. (Added 10.24.14)

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8. Unification Efforts and Supports of the REALTOR® Organization

8.1. What does “have access to” legal counsel require?

At a minimum, every association will have access to a specific attorney or law firm that can provide legal guidance with respect to laws and regulations governing the operation of real estate associations and other matters that might create liability to the association. This could be met by having an attorney on the association’s staff, or through an arrangement with local legal counsel. If the state association offers legal services to its associations, that would meet the requirement as well.

8.2. How do local associations demonstrate that they have timely filed all legally required reports and documents?

The compliance certification tracking and reporting system will allow associations to attach copies of all required documents.

8.3. What training for local and state association chief staff satisfies the Core Standards requirements?

Training meeting the requirement includes offerings at the NAR Association Executives Institute, similar programs conducted regionally by one or more state associations, and other programming focused on real estate association management/administration issues. Also see Question 2.8. (Revised 8.7.14)

8.3.1. Does attendance at the annual NAR Leadership Summit count toward satisfaction of the Core Standards training requirement? The NAR Professional Standards Administrator training? Other programs conducted by NAR or by our state association?

Programming at events like the Association Executives Institute, the NAR Leadership Summit, the Professional Standards Administrator Seminar, the Advanced Professional Standards Education Seminar, that portion of the NAR Attorney Seminar open to AEs, and other similar programs conducted by NAR or by state associations that can be fairly characterized as “REALTOR® association professional development” will count toward satisfaction of the requirement. (Added 11.13.14)

8.3.2. What other professional development programs and courses are available from NAR?

Following are some of the course offerings available from NAR, together with suggested credit hours:

Staff and Volunteer Leadership Development Programs

  • Association Executives Institute (AEI) (6 hours)
  • REALTOR® Association Management (RAM) Self-Study Course (6 hours for the year of course completion)
  • Advanced REALTOR® Association Management (ARAM) Self-Study Course (6 hours for the year of course completion)
  • Professional Standards Self-Study Course (6 hours for the year of course completion)
  • REALTORS® Excelling in Association Leadership (REAL) Self-Study Course (3 hours for the year of course completion)
  • NAR Leadership Summit (3 hours)
  • REALTORS® Leadership Program (RLP) Leadership 100 (2 hours)
  • REALTORS® Leadership Program (RLP) Leadership 200 (3 hours)
  • REALTORS® Leadership Program (RLP) Leadership 300 (3 hours)
  • REALTOR® association Certified Executive (RCE) Designation (6 hours for the year the designation is awarded)
  • NAR New AE Orientation (6 hours)

Business Specialties Courses

Designations

  • ABR (Accredited Buyer's Representative) (6 hours)
  • Green 100: Real Estate for a Sustainable Future (6 hours)
  • Green 200: The Science of Green Building (6 hours)
  • Green 300: Greening Your Real Estate Business (6 hours)
  • SRES (Seniors Real Estate Specialist) (6 hours)

Certifications

  • BPOR (Broker Price Opinion Resource) (6 hours)
  • e-PRO Day 1 (6 hours) (Note: An AE-specific course is offered at AEI but staff can also take the regular version)
  • e-PRO Day 2 (6 hours)
  • MRP (Military Relocation Professional) (6 hours)
  • RSPS (Resort and Second Home Property Specialist) (6 hours)
  • SFR (Short Sales & Foreclosure Resource) (6 hours)

Other Courses

  • Generation Buy (6 hours)
  • New Home Construction and Buyer's Representation (6 hours)
  • Real Estate Marketing Reboot (6 hours)
  • REO: Responsibilities, Education and Opportunities for Real Estate Professionals (6 hours)
  • Successful Buyer Representation in Relocation (6 hours)
  • Enhance Your Brand and Protect Your Clients with Data Privacy & Security (3 hours)
  • Expanding Housing Opportunities (3 hours)
  • RPR: Real Time Data, Market Knowledge, Informed Customers (3 hours)
  • At Home With Diversity (6 hours)
  • NAR Attorney Seminar (morning session at the annual convention) (3 hours)
  • NAR Professional Standards Administrator Seminar (6 hours)
  • NAR Advanced Professional Standards Education Seminar (6 hours)
  • NAR Mediation/Mediator Training Seminar (6 hours)
  • REALTOR® Party Immersion Day Training (at AEI) (6 hours)

Graduate Certificate Program in Real Estate Association Management

  • REAM560 - Real Estate Association Management I - Leadership and Governance (6 hours)
  • REAM565 - Real Estate Association Management II - Association Financial Management (6 hours)
  • REAM570 - Program Development and Accountability in Real Estate Associations (6 hours)
  • REAM580 - Issues and Trends in Real Estate (6 hours)
  • RE520 - Real Estate Law (6 hours)
  • RE540 - Real Estate Finance and Investments (6 hours)

Global and Commercial Courses

Certified International Property Specialist Designation Courses

  • Global Real Estate: Local Markets (6 hours)
  • Global Real Estate: Transaction Tools (U.S. students) (6 hours)
  • The Business of U.S. Real Estate (Non-U.S. students) (6 hours)
  • Europe & International Real Estate (6 hours)
  • Asia/Pacific & International Real Estate (6 hours)
  • The Americas & International Real Estate (6 hours)
  • Global Programs for Associations (6 hours)

Commercial

  • Commercial Membership By Design (3 hours)
  • Discovering Commercial Real Estate (3 hours)

(Revised 12.24.14)

8.4. How do local associations demonstrate that they have promoted “to their members the importance of participating in NAR-conducted efforts to assess member understanding of the overall value provided by associations at all three levels of the Association?”

NAR will conduct annual surveys of local associations’ REALTOR® members to determine whether associations have heightened their members’ awareness of the REALTOR® organization’s value proposition.

8.5. Our state association does not have access to state licensing information. How do we satisfy the Core Standards requirement to provide local associations with lists of nonmember licensees?  Also, there is no reference in the online “Compliance Tool” to state associations providing state licensing information to local associations. Isn’t that an Organizational Alignment requirement?

The Core Standards require that “To ensure proper dues reporting and collection, every state association will provide to each local association a comparative list of non-member licensees to the state membership records, at least semi-annually.” That said, state associations can’t be required to share information that’s not available to them, which is the case in several states. In those cases, it’s anticipated those state associations would still make reasonable efforts to obtain that information for their local associations. This requirement is not reflected in the online Compliance Tool since it is applicable only to the state associations. (Revised and reinstated 10.7.14)

8.6 Can "shared services" be used to satisfy certain Core Standards (e.g. press releases) if the partner organization isn't another association of REALTORS® (for instance our local Chamber of Commerce)?

Yes, as long as the content itself meets the Core Standards requirement, the "partner" organization doesn't matter. (Added 8.7.14)

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9. Technology

9.1. What is required for a website to be considered “interactive?”

“Interactive website” is defined as one that permits users to move between websites and that can include active links.

9.2. Is there specific content/information that must be available on local and state association’s interactive websites?

Associations’ interactive websites must make access to professional standards and arbitration filing processes available, and must link to the websites of the other levels of the REALTOR® organization for promotion of member programs, products and services.

9.3. Will NAR provide funding to develop local and state association interactive websites?

The Organizational Alignment/Core Standards implementation effort does not include funding for development of local or state association websites.

9.4. Are there technology information resources available from NAR?

The REALTOR® Association Core Services Technology Guide is available on REALTOR.org.

9.2. Is there specific content/information that must be available on local and state association's interactive websites?

Associations' interactive websites (defined as including the ability to move between websites and to create active links) must give members and consumers access to professional standards and arbitration filing processes available, and must link to the websites of the other levels of the REALTOR® organization for promotion of member programs, products and services.

To assist associations in meeting this requirement, NAR's Member Policy staff has created a comprehensive compendium of information that includes the Code of Ethics, explanatory whitepapers (e.g. Before You File an Ethics Complaint, the Sanctioning Guidelines, and others), standard forms for filing and processing ethics complaints and arbitration requests, the Statements of Professional Standards Policy adopted by the NAR Board of Directors, as well as resources for professional standards administrators. These materials can be linked to from Realtor.org. (Revised 8.7.14)

9.5 How can our association prove it uses email to communicate with our members?

The assertion of the association President, President-elect and Association Executive that the association uses email to communicate with members should be satisfactory "proof." (added 8.7.14)

9.6 How do we prove to the state association that we have an interactive association website?

The website's URL should be sufficient to enable the state association to confirm your association has a qualifying interactive website. (Added 8.7.14)

9.7. Our MLS has a website accessible by our members and by consumers. It includes some information about our association as well. Does that satisfy the Core Standards requirement?

There is no prohibition on an association and its MLS sharing a website. But to satisfy the Core Standards it should be clear to consumers - and to members as well - that when they land on the website they have arrived at a destination that's the source of information about the association, its programs and the resources available to members and to consumers. (Added 9.26.14)

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10. Financial Solvency

10.1. What must local and state associations do to demonstrate fiscal integrity and financial solvency?

Each association must adopt financial policies to ensure the fiscal integrity of their financial operations. These financial policies might cover topics and subjects such as:

  • fraud awareness and prevention   
  • budgeting
  • dues collection
  • financial information disclosure
  • officer, member and staff travel
  • investing
  • reserve levels
  • payment policies
  • compliance reporting
  • compensation
  • revenue recognition
  • asset capitalization
  • financial reporting
  • conflicts of interest
  • whistleblower
  • document retention

10.1.1.a. How do I know which policies my Association must adopt to meet the standard?

As each state and local association engages with their auditors to address the Core Standards requirement for an audit, review or compilation, any accompanying review of internal controls will help associations identify gaps in their existing financial policies. Ideally, financial policies are established based on the business activities of the association. Many will be integral parts of the association's internal control structure. For example, an association where staff does not travel to state or national meetings or on other business may not need a staff travel policy. Associations' business activities and structure will drive the decision as to which policies are needed.

While the IRS suggests in Form 990 that every organization have conflict of interest, whistleblower and document retention policies , these are simply suggested best practices, and not NAR requirements.

Auditors are likely to encourage adoption of fraud prevention, budgeting, revenue recognition, investments, and payment policies as the cornerstones of good internal control practices.

Put simply, NAR does not mandate which policies associations must adopt because other factors including the recommendations and advice of auditors, tax professionals, legal counsel and others will help associations identify and adopt the financial policies necessary for their business practices.

Important reminder: Templates for these suggested policies are readily available online at realtor.org. (Added 12.24.14)

10.1.1.b. Are we required to share our state and/or federal tax returns with the state association or with NAR?

No. Documentation confirming that the required returns have been filed such as a letter from the association's CPA, accountant, tax preparer or the treasurer will satisfy the requirement. (Added 7.3.14) (Renumbered 12.24.14)

10.1.2.a. What is a Financial Information Disclosure policy?

A Financial Information Disclosure policy ideally will be developed by the association's Finance Committee and adopted by the association's Board of Directors. The policy spells out who will have authorized access to the association's financial information, particularly information deemed to be confidential.

For example, full financial statement packages, including balance sheets, income statements and budget reporting might be appropriately available to the association's elected officers, members of the Executive Committee and members of the Board of Directors since those individuals may have a legitimate need for a clear and accurate picture of the association's financial position. Specific, detailed information about revenues, expenses, investment holdings, cash positions, and other matters of financial operations might be necessary for members of the Finance Committee to fulfill their fiduciary responsibilities. Other members involved in association governance, but not involved in overall financial management decisions, might be given access to information that is directly related to their roles and responsibilities. Such information might include to PAC information, fundraising data, member recruitment/retention information, dues collection information, and similar focused information might be appropriate to share with such members. Members not involved in association leadership or governance might - as a matter of association policy - be afforded a high level of operating summary focusing on the oft-asked question of "where do my dues dollars go?"

The issue of who is entitled to the association's financial information - and what information they are eligible to receive should be determined in advance in the context of a clear, written Financial Information Disclosure policy. Such a policy, providing clarity and consistency in sharing financial information serves the best interests of associations and their members. (Added 12.24.14)

10.1.2.b. Our association commonly files for one or more extensions for filing our state and/or federal tax returns. What do we do if we haven't filed the current year's returns when it's time to demonstrate compliance with the Core Standards?

Documentation confirming filing of the most recent returns (see FAQ 10.1.1.b.) will satisfy the requirement. (Added 7.3.14) (Renumbered 12.24.14)

10.2. What financial reports are necessary to satisfy the Core Standards?

Each association must submit an auditor’s report on an audit, review or compilation. Definitions of these terms by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants are provided in questions 10.3-10.5.

10.2.1 How do we know if we are eligible to meet the Core Standards by obtaining a "CPA's Compilation Report?"

Only associations with gross revenues of less than $50,000 can satisfy the Core Standards using a "CPA's Compilation Report" (defined in Question 10.5 below). Please note, though, that state and national dues and assessments are not considered to be revenue for purposes of this measurement. (Added 8.7.14)

10.2.2 Are the revenues generated by our MLS included in the $50,000 cut-off for using a "CPA's Compilation Report" to satisfy the Core Standards?

If the MLS is operated as a committee of the association of REALTORS® (and not a separate corporation), then the MLS's revenues and expenses are part and parcel of the association's overall finances, and would be included in the association's financial review duties under the Core Standards.

If the MLS is separately incorporated, then it's revenues would not be counted as part of the association's revenues for purposes of the Core Standards. (added 8.7.14)

10.2.3 Our CPA wants to know if footnotes are required for a "CPA's Compilation Report" to satisfy the Core Standards.

No, the Core Standards do not require footnotes. (added 8.7.14)

10.2.4. For the first compliance cycle (ending June 30, 2015) in what tax year should the audit, review or compilation be for?

The audit, review or compilation should be for the most recent fiscal year available. In most cases that will be the association’s 2014 fiscal year. In some cases, though, associations wait until after “tax season” when the costs of preparing such reports may be less. For example, an association might conceivably have its 2014 audit performed in June or July of 2015. In those cases, the tax year for Core Standards reporting purposes would be fiscal 2013. The same will be true for future year reporting as well. (Revised 11.13.14)



10.2.5. Our association's gross revenues (excluding amounts received for state and national dues and assessments) are greater than $50,000. What type of financial reporting are we required to have?

Associations with revenues of more than $50,000 (excluding amounts received for state and national dues and assessments) must have a CPA's audit opinion or an Accountant's Review Report. (Added 9.26.14)

10.2.6. Our association hasn’t conducted audits, reviews or compilations in the past. To complicate matters, our 2014 approved budget doesn’t include funds to have the required reports prepared by a CPA for the current fiscal year. Is there a way we can comply with the Core Standards going forward without going into debt?

At the 2014 Annual Convention (REALTORS® Conference) the Finance Committee authorized staff to accept a signed CPA engagement letter committing the association to having the required reports performed in 2015 for the association’s 2014 fiscal year. That means for the second (and future) reporting cycles, the association will need to be able to confirm that their required audit, review, or compilation was conducted. (Added 11.13.14)

10.3. What is a “CPA’s audit opinion?”

Audited financial statements provide the user with the auditor's opinion that the financial statements are presented fairly, in all material respects, in conformity with the applicable financial reporting framework. In an audit, the auditor is required by auditing standards generally accepted in the United States of America (GAAS) to obtain an understanding of the entity's internal control and assess fraud risk. The auditor also is required to corroborate the amounts and disclosures included in the financial statements by obtaining audit evidence through inquiry, physical inspection, observation, third-party confirmations, examination, analytical procedures and other procedures.

The auditor issues a report that states the audit was conducted in accordance with GAAS, the financial statements are the responsibility of management, provides an opinion that the financial statements present fairly in all material respects the financial position of the company and the results of operations are in conformity with the applicable financial reporting framework (or issues a qualified opinion stating the financial statements are not in conformity with the applicable financial reporting framework; the auditor may also issue a disclaimer of opinion or an adverse opinion if appropriate).

10.4. What is an “Accountant’s review report?"

Reviewed financial statements provide the user with comfort that, based on the accountant's review, the accountant is not aware of any material modifications that should be made to the financial statements for the statements to be in conformity with the applicable financial reporting framework.

A review engagement involves the CPA performing procedures (primarily analytical procedures and inquiries) that will provide a reasonable basis for obtaining limited assurance that there are no material modifications that should be made to the financial statements for them to be in conformity with the applicable financial reporting framework.

In a review, the CPA designs and performs analytical procedures, inquiries and other procedures, as appropriate, based on the accountant's understanding of the industry, knowledge of the client, and awareness of the risk that he or she may unknowingly fail to modify the accountant's review report on financial statements that are materially misstated. A review does not contemplate obtaining an understanding of the entity's internal control; assessing fraud risk; testing accounting records; or other procedures ordinarily performed in an audit.

The CPA issues a report stating the review was performed in accordance with Statements on Standards for Accounting and Review Services; that management is responsible for the preparation and fair presentation of the financial statements in accordance with  the applicable financial reporting framework and for  designing, implementing and maintaining internal control relevant to the preparation and fair presentation of the financial statements; that a review includes primarily applying analytical procedures to management's financial data and making inquiries of management; that a review is substantially less in scope than an audit and that the CPA is not aware of any material modifications that should be made to the financial statements for them to be in conformity with  the  applicable financial reporting framework.

10.5. What is a “CPA’s compilation report?”

In a compilation engagement, the accountant assists management in presenting financial information in the form of financial statements without undertaking to obtain or provide any assurance that there are no material modifications that should be made to the financial statements.

In a compilation, the CPA must comply with the Statements on Standards for Accounting and Review Services (SSARSs), which require the accountant to have an understanding of the industry in which the client operates, obtain know ledge about the client, and read the financial statements and consider whether such financial statements appear appropriate in form and free from obvious material errors.

A compilation does not contemplate performing inquiry, analytical procedures, or other procedures ordinarily performed in a review; or obtaining an understanding of the entity's internal control; assessing fraud risk; or testing of accounting records; or other procedures ordinarily performed in an audit.

The CPA issues a report stating the compilation was performed in accordance with Statements on Standards for Accounting and Review Services; and that the accountant has not audited or reviewed the financial statements and accordingly does not express an opinion or provide any assurance about whether the financial statements are in accordance with the applicable financial reporting framework.

10.6. Will NAR provide financial assistance to associations that have not utilized such reporting in the past?

No. Fiscal integrity and financial reporting are corporate responsibilities of every association, regardless of size.

10.7. If our association is considering filing bankruptcy, who do we contact at NAR?

The Office of the General Counsel.

10.8. What is the consequence of filing for bankruptcy without informing NAR first?

Loss of charter status.

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11. State Association Funding

11.1. Are implementation grants available to state associations from NAR?

Yes.

11.2. How can these funds be used?

Grants can be used by state associations to assist their local associations in complying with the Core Standards.

11.3. What is the process for requesting funding?

State associations will develop and submit plans detailing how they intend to assist their local associations in complying with the mandatory core standards, the proposed steps to be taken, and the costs for each step. Plans will be submitted to the NAR Treasurer, in care of the CFO. 

Upon review of the plan, one half of the proposed funding will be paid, with the balance, up to the proposed maximum of $5 per REALTOR® member (and with a cap of $100,000 per state), on or about June 30, 2015. Providing half of the grant at the time of application will facilitate implementation and ease the financial burden on state associations.

The grant program will be administered by the NAR Finance Committee through the Finance Division. It’s anticipated that application information will be available in July.

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