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My REALTOR® Party Initiative NAR Taps Wisconsin AE to Lead National Political Advocacy Effort

January 1, 2011

The My REALTOR® Party Initiative—introduced at the August NAR Leadership Summit in Chicago—includes programs, consultants, and grants to enable every REALTOR® association to design its own customized package of community involvement and political leadership programs.

Funded by a NAR Board of Directors vote in May out of the $40 dues increase, the initiative aims to enable REALTOR® associations to enhance their community involvement, help elect REALTOR® champions to public office at all levels of government, and promote issues that protect and improve REALTOR® public policy.

Bill Malkasian, who was president of the Wisconsin REALTORS® Association for more than 30 years, will lead the implementation campaign with state and local associations as the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®’ vice president of political strategic planning.

“My job is to get everyone on the three levels of the organization to talk to each other and think strategically [about community leadership and political involvement],” says Malkasian. “The goal is to increase the political competency of all associations.”

For associations of all sizes, the My REALTOR® Party Initiative is an opportunity to launch or relaunch programs that will engage members in political action and issue advocacy. Malkasian and a cadre of consultants (mostly local and state government affairs directors) will help associations select the right type of program for their unique needs and goals.

“There’s no one-size-fits-all program,” says Malkasian. “Every area will do it differently. What works in Vermont may not work in California. Every local association has something to offer.”

Menu of 60+ advocacy tools

Seasoned GADs and politically active AEs will recognize most of the more than 60 tools, services, and funding sources for associations in the My REALTOR® Party Initiative. The programs aren’t all new, but their funding is larger, notes Malkasian. “Unfortunately, what many members believe,” says Malkasian, “is that all the money is going to NAR to do more lobbying on the federal level, but in fact, the majority of this money is going to state and local [associations] that request the money for a specific program or service.”

State and local associations can choose from programs such as community involvement grants to launch anything from an affordable housing education program to a transportation development initiative. There are also programs to fund and develop issue or candidate campaigns, for example, to defeat a local tax or elect a member to public office. There are also a variety of RPAC fund-raising programs.

For associations where community involvement or issues advocacy is completely new, Malkasian suggests starting small. “Integrate one or a few of these programs into your annual strategic planning process, maybe just start with volunteer work first, build a brand, build a presence in the community,” he says. “The goal is to do something. Participate.”

What is new in the My REALTOR® Party Initiative is the program for independent expenditures (funds to advocate for the election or defeat of a particular candidate), along with the REALTOR® Candidate Training Academy (see p.23). All of the My REALTOR® Party Initiative programs, which are provided to associations at no cost, are listed at www.myrealtorparty.com.

Because 2012 election hype is already strong nationwide, members may wonder if this initiative is gearing up to focus on it. Malkasian, however, says My REALTOR® Party “is not an election cycle program, it’s a 24/7/365 program that will be balanced between election, regulation, and community leadership objectives.”

Today the real estate industry itself is challenged, notes Malkasian. Consumers question whether home ownership is still a good thing. “AEs have a responsibility to do strategic planning for what’s best for their members’ business. Issues advocacy, community involvement, and political participation is what’s ultimately good for members’ businesses.”

NAR Ad Campaign Shifts from Public Awareness to Public Advocacy

The National Association of REALTORS®’ Public Awareness Campaign, designed to educate homeowners on the difference between a REALTOR® and a real estate practitioner who is not a REALTOR®, has been transformed into the Public Advocacy Campaign, focused on educating members and consumers about issues that affect buying, selling, and owning real estate, such as access to affordable mortgage financing, tax incentives to home ownership, overly stringent credit requirements, and cumbersome short sales and foreclosures.

The first television commercial, “Future Generations,” began airing in September. The spot conveys the message that for the first time in generations, the American dream of home ownership is being threatened. It emphasizes NAR’s commitment to protecting home ownership for the country’s families and future generations.

Campaign spots will air on prime-time and late-night programs, as well as niche cable stations and top-tier national radio networks.

This new campaign includes ads that associations can use in their own markets to reinforce messages about the value of home ownership and of using a REALTOR®. Access the materials at REALTOR.org/advocacycampaign.

Arizona Shelves Statewide MLS Plan

After more than a year of research and planning, the Arizona Association of REALTORS® hoped to take its first step toward establishing a statewide multiple listing service this summer with the $4.75 million purchase of the state’s largest MLS, Tempe-based Arizona Regional Multiple Listing Service Inc. However, the SouthEast Valley Regional Association of REALTORS® surprised the state in September by voting not to sell its interest in ARMLS.

In its published business plan, the state association said the MLS venture would provide local associations with a different revenue flow that could offset most, if not all, loss of direct MLS income. A statewide MLS, according to the association, is better able to withstand competition from “outsiders” like Zillow and Trulia, it improves REALTORS®’ “curb appeal” to clients, and reduces the number of MLS fees that members pay.

Tom Farley, CEO of the Arizona Association of REALTORS®, had this to say of the turn of events: “While we may not cross the finish line, no one can say that we didn’t leave it all on the field.”

Members Giving Back in Central Ohio

More than 500 volunteers made the seventh annual REALTOR® Care Day a success, contributing time, sweat, and more than $40,000 to 32 beautification and rehab projects throughout central Ohio. Coordinated by the Columbus Board of REALTORS®, REALTOR® Care Day is an annual event that enables local members, affiliates, family, and friends to volunteer their time to show their communities that REALTORS® care.

For more information, visit www.columbusrealtors.com/RCD.

Dues Talk: AEs Explain the “How” and “Why” of the Dues Increase and Political Initiative

“From the very beginning, I decided to take the bull by the horns,” says Karen Becker, AE of the SouthEast Minnesota Association of REALTORS® about explaining the dues-increase funding of the REALTOR® Party Initiative (RPI) to her members.

Becker used several avenues to relay the message—from sending out an e-mail newsletter to brokers, to including articles in her weekly publication, and arming her board of directors with talking points so that they could explain to inquiring members the importance of the dues increase. Additionally, she spoke at education sessions, membership meetings, networking events, and face-to-face broker visits. “I always start with the bad news (your dues are going up) and end with the good news (how this is going to be a benefit to your business) so I can leave the conversation on a positive note,” explains Becker.

Jean Beck, EVP Hilton Head Area Association of REALTORS®, says the meetings at brokers’ offices explaining the initiative were a personal touch that went a long way. Based on NAR’s Q&A of the initiative*, Beck’s in-office presentations highlighted the value of membership. “I focus on the importance of the professionalism, political advocacy, and education the association maintains,” she says. “Then I talk about the political issues at the national, state, and local level, and that the changes and challenges keep coming.”

Beck’s presentation also explains the changes the Citizens United Supreme Court case ushered in and how the association will work in tandem with the initiative. “I reiterate that every day, at all levels of membership, while you’re listing and selling property, we are advocating on issues that impact your business,” she says.

Advocacy and the Bottom Line

It is important that AEs provide three to five key outcomes that demonstrate how political advocacy helps each REALTOR® succeed, Beck advises. For example, she tells members that the REALTOR® organization’s political involvement safeguards members’ ability to do business, enhances the value of home ownership, and reduces the business liability risks of real estate professionals.

Although Beck invites questions at the end of each presentation, she rarely gets any, which was “not at all what I was expecting,” she reflects.

Likewise, Karen Becker says she expected a bigger reaction than she received, but feels her strategy of being upfront, speaking early and often about the increase, and simultaneously explaining the value members receive, has paid off.

“There was one broker who threatened to move to another association with lower dues over this increase,” recalls Becker. However, the broker changed her mind after Becker pointed to several community issues the association had championed. “The first thing I do is listen—actively. I needed to hear what she had to say and she needed to know that I cared. I believe once they see the value—and I’m talking real value, not fluff—they understand the ‘why’ behind the RPI.”

In general, AEs say the more information you provide, the less resistance you’ll encounter. Still, members may have questions.

Taking the opposite approach, Lisa Noon, CAE, RCE, CEO of the Oklahoma Association of REALTORS® says, “In my experience with dues increases, the less said is generally better. In other words, the more you try to explain the minute details of why there’s an increase, the more questions members have. That goes against my belief that transparency is always best, but in this regard, members often pay their dues routinely and don’t question the amount.”

That’s not to say that REALTORS® in Oklahoma have been kept in the dark about the dues increase and the RPI. Noon and her staff have participated in statewide, in-person presentations to explain the issue and gauge member reaction. Their approach, however, is focused on membership value and why additional funds make for a better association membership experience, rather than RPI detail. “Because we don’t sell widgets, we provide services,” says Noon, “it’s imperative that our members understand the value of those services. Our members have not been vocal in questioning their membership value. Perhaps it’s because we’ve provided the information to them without overwhelming them with too many details and explanations.”

Elizabeth Coffey, communications director at the Portland Metropolitan Association of REALTORS®, says her association hasn’t publicized RPI at all and doesn’t plan on it until
dues bills go out. The association is developing an online area that will address the difference between RPI and PAC, but to date, no other communications are planned.

Whether associations decide to get out ahead of the RPI and dues increase issue or take a slower approach, the general consensus is that membership value is the key to getting buy-in. n

* Information to help associations communicate RPI, the dues increase, and membership value are online at MyRealtorParty.com.

N.Y. Tax Cap Passes! REALTOR® Advocacy Fuels Victory

The highest-profile REALTOR® advocacy effort in the New York State Association of REALTORS®’ 106-year history resulted in a victory for property taxpayers in June.

With rising property taxes attacking the American dream of home ownership, the New York Association of REALTORS® launched the “Cap that Tax” campaign in April. Calling for the enactment of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s 2 percent property tax cap, the multifaceted campaign spurred New Yorkers and REALTORS® to action by asking them to encourage their legislators to vote for the cap.

Because residential property owners have no organized voice in the state capitol, the 51,000 members of the New York State Association of REALTORS® took up the cause and used every resource to make the cap a reality. Property tax relief has been a priority for NYSAR for many years, dating back to the first introduction of a tax cap proposal in 1994. But with a new governor in office who had campaigned on the issue of property tax relief, NYSAR’s leadership team, directors, and legislative committee leaders all recognized the unique opportunity to gain passage of the cap. The association’s board of directors approved the use of issues mobilization funds to support a multifaceted campaign along with financial support from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

As leadership and staff continuously lobbied on the issue, NYSAR began the first phase of its statewide campaign by launching television, radio, online, and print advertising to spread the message that it is time to “Cap that Tax.”

The advertising, developed with the assistance of an outside consultant, confirmed what most New Yorkers and REALTORS® already knew from first-hand experience: state property taxes are among the highest in the nation and have grown at twice the rate of inflation and salary growth. The message that 8 out of 10 New Yorkers supported the property tax cap rang loud and clear for legislators to hear.

New Yorkers were asked to visit TaxCapNY.com to learn more about the issue and write to their representatives in Albany to either thank them for supporting the tax cap or ask them to support it. Thousands of e-mails were sent and, ultimately, every member of the New York State Legislature received e-mails asking them to vote for the tax cap.

In addition to reaching out to the media covering Albany’s political scene, the group sent press releases and letters-to-the-editor following the advertising campaign. This resulted in numerous articles about the campaign and editorials supporting NYSAR’s position.

NYSAR also partnered with NAR by calling New York state home owners to give them the opportunity to speak directly with their legislators about the need for a property tax cap. Members received calls for action asking them to write their legislators, resulting in more than 300 REALTORS® conveying the “Cap that Tax” message personally during REALTOR® Lobby Day in late May, when NYSAR President Nick Gigante, participating in the governor’s press conference with legislative leaders, announced a tax cap deal had been reached.

In the late hours of the last day of New York’s legislative session on June 24, lawmakers passed a 2 percent property tax cap, taking the first step forward in reining in the state’s property tax burden. Governor Cuomo subsequently signed it into law.

—By Duncan R. MacKenzie, CEO, New York State Association of REALTORS®

Nevada REALTORS® Win Landmark Law Protecting Distressed Home Owners

The tough fight that the Nevada Association of REALTORS® won for a new law protecting distressed homeowners is now gaining national attention. This law (AB273) is intended to prevent banks from “double dipping” and going after home owners for mortgage payments once a settlement between the borrower and lender has been reached.

“Nevada may be the only place in the United States to beat the banks by passing a law that helps homeowners at their expense, and at the expense of the bill collectors to whom they sell deficiency judgments,” says NVAR President Mike Young.

The Nevada Legislature also took steps to protect home owners from having to pay the full amount owed after a foreclosure when the bank has already collected insurance payments on the loan. The new law states that the lender will not be allowed to collect from both the insurance company and the home owner. This protects home owners who were able to work with their lender to prevent their home from foreclosure, but were ultimately unable to save it.

The law also reduces the amount of time junior lien holders (typically banks) have to file for a deficiency from the current six years to six months. It will also cap the amount a third party can be awarded if they bought the right to the deficiency for pennies on the dollar. (Oftentimes a lender will sell the note during the short-sale process for less than what the borrower owes and then the agency that buys this note will try to go after the borrower for the full amount.)

“Although consumers are not relieved of their financial obligations in any way under this legislation,” says Young, “it does ensure that they will be able to deal with the issue promptly, and then be able to move on with their lives, instead of having to look over their shoulders for the next six years waiting for a debt collection company to stalk them in pursuit of the mortgage deficiency.”

Trio of Wins for REALTOR® Advocacy in Michigan

* Preemptive Strike on Private Transfer Fees

Legislation to prohibit Private Transfer Fees before they become a problem in Michigan passed the legislature this summer, supported by the Michigan Association of REALTORS®. These fees, which have sprung up in other states, allow a private party to collect a fee every time a property is sold in a development, similar to a transfer tax.

* Mich. Wins Pocket License Law

Because today’s tech-savvy home buyers and sellers are unlikely to ever set foot in a real estate broker’s office—favoring meetings at properties and communicating online—the Michigan state law no longer requires all real estate brokers to publicly display their paper license and those of their salespeople. The former law was out of step, says the Michigan Association of REALTORS®, which recently won passage of a modernization of the state’s occupational code, instituting pocket real estate license ID cards in place of wall licenses.

* Business Tax Ends in Mich.

The Michigan Association of REALTORS® supported much-needed structural tax reforms, along with the elimination of the Michigan Business Tax and its 22 percent surcharge. The new business tax structure puts Michigan on a level playing field with surrounding states in the commercial real estate arena.

Local Board Makeover Starts with Name Change, Dues Decrease

As part of what it calls a revisioning, the Fort Collins Board of REALTORS®, Colo., hopes to change its name to the Northern Colorado REALTOR® Association. The name change comes as part of the association’s effort to reassess its strategic focus in light of fiscal realities and rebrand the association to better serve its members, it says. The name change, however, has come under attack because there are other local REALTOR® associations in northern Colorado. The association’s directors announced in August that a “comprehensive fiscal assessment” had led to significant cost savings that would be passed along to members in the form of a local dues decrease of $55, offsetting state ($15) and national dues ($40) increases.

Michigan Launches First REALTOR® Appraiser Management Company

Taking an innovative approach to solving the home valuation problem, the Michigan Association of REALTORS® launched its own appraisal management company. In March, MAR purchased the Midwest Appraisal Management Group and relaunched it as a subsidiary of the association to address concerns regarding geographic competence of appraisers, rising costs to consumers, declining valuation independence, and the overall inaccurate appraisals that have been plaguing the industry since the mortgage crisis.

By solely using certified appraisers who are REALTOR® association members, possess a thorough knowledge of the local market, and have access to the relevant area’s MLS, Midwest Appraisal Management Group says REALTORS® and consumers can have confidence that more competent appraisal reports will be going to lenders. These standards will protect the dream of home ownership and the soundness of mortgage securities, the association says. For more, visit www.midwestamg.com.

Friendship Home Wins REALTOR® Grant

The Plymouth and South Shore Association of REALTORS®, Mass., presented a $2,000 housing and homeless assistance grant to the Friendship Home, which provides respite, support services, and other programs to individuals with developmental disabilities and their families within Massachusetts. The Plymouth associations nominated Friendship Home to receive the grant from the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS®’ Charitable Foundation.

AEs Get on the Bus

The NAR “Home Ownership Matters” bus visited the Greater Nashville Association of REALTORS® in July as seven area AEs gathered for their two-day annual “peer review” meeting. The bus has stopped at dozens of REALTOR® associations across the country, in addition to other locations, giving local association executives an opportunity to host events where they can speak out for home ownership.

NAR Hires Local Association to Produce Market Reports

The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® has chosen 10K Research and Marketing, a wholly owned and operated subsidiary of the Minneapolis Area Association of REALTORS®, to produce its local Economic and Market Watch reports. “We’re honored to have been chosen by NAR Research as their preferred partner in this transition,” said Jeff Allen, director of research for 10K Research and Marketing. “They will now have the time to better focus their efforts toward providing other valuable member services while we do what we do best—help MLSs and associations tell the story of their local markets.”

The quarterly reports, private labeled for multiple listing services, combine economic analysis with local sales data and forecasts. Reports include economic and housing forecasts (national, regional, and county), median price, rate of appreciation/depreciation, average days on market (by ZIP code), and more.

Wash. REALTORS® Award Elected Official

Politicians welcome all opportunities to issue positive press releases about themselves and tout awards they’ve won. But establishing the REALTOR® Legislative Champion award meant more to the Washington REALTORS® Association than publicity; it’s a way to thank elected officials that fought for real estate industry issues and home ownership.

In September, the association publicly recognized Sen. Kevin Ranker as the organization’s 2011 REALTOR® Legislative Champion for his role as the prime sponsor of legislation that rejected a federal department of revenue interpretation of tax statutes requiring offices to pay business and occupation tax on other real estate offices’ commission amounts; it meant taxing a portion of real estate commissions twice. Experts have estimated that the legislation will save the real estate industry millions of dollars over the next five years.

“Throughout the 2011 legislative session, Sen. Ranker was a forceful advocate for fair taxation and for protecting the real estate industry and the clients and homeowners we serve,” said Washington Realtors’ Vice President of Government Affairs George McGilliard when he presented the award.
Speaking at the award presentation ceremony at the Davenport Hotel, Spokane, Ranker told the crowd; “It is time we focus on the economy. It is not a partisan issue—I recognize that if our economy is going to recover, home sales must recover.”

N.Y. Associations Eye Merger

Three associations in New York are considering a merger that would create the second largest REALTOR® association in the state with more than 9,000 members, according to the Westchester County Business Journal. The Westchester Putnam Association, along with its neighbors to the west, the Orange County Association and the Rockland County Board expect to launch the merged association, prospectively named the Hudson Gateway Association of REALTOR® Inc., as early as January. The two large association-run MLSs, the Empire Access MLS and the Greater Hudson Valley MLS, would either combine services or form a new MLS, but either way, any change in MLS operations is a few years off, P. Gilbert Mercurio, CEO of Empire Access Multiple Listing Service, told the Journal.

REALTOR.com Launches International Listing Site

REALTOR.com® launched a global property listing site in October to build members’ business. The site aims to expand the exposure of United States property listings to international markets by offering home searches in 11 languages: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, German, Dutch, Russian, Japanese Korean and Chinese. Other enhanced features include currency and metric conversion. In addition to all U.S. for sale and rental listings currently on REALTOR.com®, the global site includes international property listings. NAR continues to work with its global partners to aggregate non-U.S. listings and in the coming months additional countries will be featured.

Purchases of domestic residential properties by people living outside the United States rose to $82 billion in the 12 months leading up to March 2011—up from $66 billion for the same 12-month period a year before, according to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. Learn more at the REALTORS® Conference & Expo, November 11–14 in Anaheim, Calif.

REALTORS® Federal Credit Union Offers SentriLock Loan Plans

REALTORS® Federal Credit Union now offers two financing options for associations that wish to purchase REALTOR® NXT Wireless lockboxes from SentriLock, which is majority-owned by the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. One loan option offers the flexibility to make advances whenever additional inventory is needed. The second loan option has a fixed interest rate and term. For more information visit the REALTORS® Federal Credit Union at Realtorsfcu.org/business/loans_and_credit/sentrilock_loans.html or call 866-295-6038.

RPR™ Unveils New Resources

Although the Realtors Property ResourceTM (RPR) enjoys data partnerships with more than 325 MLSs, representing more than half a million REALTORS®, the NAR subsidiary “has recently hit a wall of entrenched attitudes and business models,” said RPR CEO Dale Ross on the RPR blog in August. “In many markets, decisions on whether an MLS should license its data for use in the RPR application have been based upon potential revenue from competing companies. The short-term gain, while attractive, does nothing to address the real challenge facing us today, and the one that continues tomorrow.”

To help members, associations and MLSs better understand RPR’s value proposition, RPR recently redesigned its main member information site to include improved navigation for users, with dedicated sections for agents, brokers, MLSs, associations and commercial practitioners. The RPR blog also offers videos and downloadable marketing materials, as well as a training section where RPR users can sign up for live weekly training sessions and a variety of classes. For more, visit blog.narrpr.com.

RPR launched a new Web site called MyRPR.com, and an associated advertising and communication campaign. MyRPR enables users, MLSs, and associations to tell success stories by creating and uploading videos about how RPR helps in their everyday businesses.

Thank You, Retiring AEs

When Patricia (Pat) Connors began work at the Kent Washington Association of REALTORS®, Wash., in 1980 as the first paid staff member, she thought she was being hired as a secretary. She soon learned that she was actually the executive officer. The association has grown from 200 to nearly 1,500 today. Now, in addition to the association executive, the association staffs one full-time and two part-time employees. Connors is looking forward to retiring but says she will stay on the job until the search committee finds the right person. Connors has served on NAR’s AE committee and the AE Transition Work Group.

In a farewell YouTube video tribute, the members and staff of the Minneapolis Area Association of REALTORS® said “thank you” to Bill Gerst, RCE, CAE, for 33 years of service, most recently as the VP of public affairs. Gerst was responsible for the association’s local and regional governmental affairs program and coordinated strategic relationships with business and community organizations. He also worked closely with equal opportunity and cultural diversity issues. Prior to serving in this position, Gerst handled the association’s ethics and arbitration program, directed the education program, and oversaw day-to-day operational programs.

Even though Keith Holm, RCE, is retiring as CEO of the St. Paul Area Association of REALTORS®, Minn., after 30 years, associations across the country can still benefit from his expertise. As a facilitator of the national association’s REALTOR® Leadership Program, Holm shares his deep practical knowledge of leadership. He has served as the chair of the AE Committee and on numerous NAR committees and work groups, including: MLS, Member Policy, Finance, the Board of Directors, and the Executive Committee. Ron Covert replaced Holm as CEO in July. Tributes from dozens of colleagues, staff, and members are collected in a farewell video posted on YouTube: www.youtube.com/watch?v=a0uDrC8Qj6Q.

Scottsdale Area Association of REALTORS® CEO, Robert (Bob) W. Peirce, RCE, will retire at the end of 2011, after 17 years with the organization. Peirce has also served on the NAR board of directors. Rebecca F. Grossman, RCE, will succeed Peirce.

Retiring soon? Let us know: e-mail cschwaar@realtors.org.

AE Committee Celebrates Centennial

By Cindy Sampalis

It wasn’t long after the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® was founded that the management professionals hired to run the state and local chapters realized the need to form their own group to advance their professional goals and meet the diverse needs of their members. And so, the Association Executives Committee was born in 1912. Since that time, the AEC has been integral in shaping the REALTOR® association management profession.

This committee offers a full range of professional and leadership development programs for staff and volunteer leaders through the AE Institute Advisory Subcommittee, the RCE Certification Subcommittee, the Recommendations and Recognition Subcommittee, and the State EO Forum. The committee has provided an organized voice for association staff at the national level, but perhaps the greatest benefit—as noted by R. Bruce Douglas, secretary of the National Association of Real Estate Boards in 1912, at that first meeting—is its belief in the “importance of personal interaction among peers,” known today as networking. AEs across the country agree that the knowledge and ideas they gather from one another is priceless and worth more than anything they can learn from a course. What better way to experience that AE networking than to attend the annual AE Institute, the largest gathering of REALTOR® association executives? Join us March 16-20, 2012, in Louisville, Ky.—where the AEC was founded 100 years ago—to celebrate.

The AEC Mission:
To be a resource for REALTOR® associations at all levels by 1) ensuring that there is knowledge and understanding of issues and concerns between the association community and NAR committees and leadership; 2) providing a framework that ensures that staff and volunteer leaders have the professional development and management resources they need to provide optimal services to their members.