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Gear Up for the Ethics Rush: Every Member Must Complete An Ethics Class Before 2013

May 14, 2012

The countdown is on. The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®’ ethics requirement gives members until Dec. 31, 2012, to take an approved ethics course. And given the average real estate practitioner’s notorious penchant for operating on a just-in-time basis, associations are doing everything they can to avoid holding eleventh-hour ethics courses for hundreds, or even thousands, of members in December.

Mary Ann Monteleone, vice president of professional development at the 19,350-member Long Island Board of REALTORS®, says she’s taken several steps to ensure members are aware of the deadline. For example, members who have not satisfied their ethics requirement see a red flashing message appear on their home screen every time they sign into the MLS.

Cindi Ferguson, e-PRO, director of professional development for the Wichita Area Association of REALTORS®, notified every member in January via e-mail about the requirement and has published a newsletter article on ethics every other month since last fall. “We are holding a course every other month and doing private courses for brokerages and franchises,” she says. Yet, with half the membership still to take the ethics course, Ferguson isn’t taking any chances and has already reserved the association’s entire conference center, which seats 108, for a last-minute December class.

Even when members know they have to complete the course, often further enticement is required to get them to act. Associations attract members with continuing education credits and early-bird course fee discounts, by scheduling brokerages to a particular month, or by promoting the fact that the price of ethics classes will increase every month until 2013.

Despite the best efforts of NAR and state and local associations, some members remain unaware that they must complete an approved ethics course by the end of 2012.

Often, AEs say, members who are grandfathered out of continuing education -courses think that exemption applies to the NAR ethics requirement, too. But, of course, the NAR ethics requirement applies to every person entitled to use the term REALTOR®. The only exception is for REALTORS® who have been granted the REALTOR® Emeritus by NAR.

Still, AEs report little objection to the ethics requirement, noting that most salespeople believe it is a good idea.

Ethics Delivery

Most boards have stepped up the number of ethics classes offered this year and also made ethics a part of their new-member orientation program. In fact, for some boards, the orientation is the primary vehicle for ethics education. Many boards include the required ethics training in other programs, such as broker training classes.
There’s no shortage of ways members can take the course, and some associations have added new opportunities to the menu. NAR’s online ethics course remains a popular option.

The Long Island board partnered with surrounding proprietary schools that agree to use the association’s approved ethics outline and an approved instructor to deliver ethics training at their schools, says Monteleone. “For a nominal fee, we will accept their rosters and enter compliance info into our system to transmit to NAR.”
Long Island has also authorized in-office ethics training if the office manager uses an approved LIBOR instructor to deliver the training. 

For some boards, the ethics classes themselves can be a tough sell. The courses are notoriously dull, sometimes preachy.

To make the mandatory training entertaining and informative, the Florida REALTORS® association produced a high-quality video with professional actors, says the association’s director of communications and public affairs, Lisa Walker. “The video, which meets the two-and-a-half-hour time requirement, is divided into 10 chapters. Each chapter ends with a quiz that tests members’ knowledge and understanding. Members are able to stop and start the DVD at any point and jump to different chapters,” she says.

Overall, AEs say, members recognize the industry benefit of the NAR ethics requirement. As one education director put it, “Our classes are well received in their own right, and the vast majority of members appreciate the need to understand our code. There is no lack of concern for our image and how to improve it.”

By stepping up course offerings in 2012 and making members aware of the variety of online and home-study alternatives available, AEs will reduce the chances of ending up with too many students for too few classes by the end of the year.

REALTOR AE, Spring 2012