Real estate associations in Idaho and across the country are scrambling to meet a new set of core standards established in May 2014 by the National Association of Realtors.
Associations that do not comply with the standards by June 30 face the revocation of their charters.
One small real estate association in Idaho has already agreed to relinquish its charter and a second may follow. In all, Idaho has 21 local real estate associations affiliated with NAR, said La Dawn Anderst, chief executive officer of the Idaho Association of Realtors.
Technology and consumer outreach are two of the six core standards putting local associations to the test, Anderst said. The other core standards involve advocacy, code of ethics, unification efforts and support of the Realtor organization, and financial solvency.
“It changes the landscape of Realtor associations, that’s for sure,” Aderst said. “We all now have to play by the same rules and standards.”
The national organization’s prior organizational standards largely let individual associations decide for themselves what programming to offer and how to interact with the community and even members. The new ones largely standardize how the nation’s Realtor associations operate and what services they provide members, Anderst said.
The standards in large part are a response to how the Internet and social media have changed the real estate landscape, not only in the way agents function but also bringing in competition in the form of third party aggregators like Trulia.com and Realtor.com. The NAR’s board passed them last year intending to improve the professionalism of Realtor associations across the country and their service to members, said Sara Wiskerchen, NAR’s managing director of media communications.
One key tenet is publicly promoting the value of using a Realtor and enhancing the image of Realtors through community events. NAR gave associations 15 months to achieve compliance.
The Greater Idaho Falls Association of Realtors for the first time in the past year sought media attention for its blood drives, Toys for Tots campaign and Salvation Army bell ringing.
“We never got newspaper time for it to toot our own horn,” said Jana Merkley, chief executive of the Idaho association. ”It’s good because it lets the community know that Realtors are involved in the community. You see a person do good in the community, you have more trust in them. It puts that image out there that they do care about the community. It’s not just about selling houses.”
The National Association of Realtors insisted that “every association must have an interactive website” and “must utilize an email and/or Internet-based means for member communication.”
The Greater Twin Falls Association of Realtors just started a Facebook page on March 24 and also just launched a new website in March after living with a “horrible” website that “wasn’t very functional. It was like 1995 Yahoo,” in the words of the association president, Nancy Glaesemann.
“We have more of a younger membership,” Glaesemann said. “They are liking the outreach of the association. People are saying ‘Now I can find things,’ ‘Now I can find information about classes,’ ‘Now I don’t have to call.’”
Twin Falls’ popular Rental Sheet of residential and commercial rental listings about a month ago moved from weekly emails to the website, where it can be updated as needed.
“We emailed it out every Monday. It was out of date a day later,” Glaesemann said.
Facebook has been a revelation for Glaesemann, who was shocked to see a “like” from North Dakota from a relative of a Twin Falls business owner mentioned in a post.
“We are having a blast with it,” Glaesemann said. “People are ‘liking’ it that I never heard of in my life.”
Large associations, such as the Ada County Association of Realtors, already complied with all the core standards, but new ACAR CEO Breanna Vanstrom acknowledged the association is stepping up documentation.
“One thing that sparked conversation among us is we’re not really good about telling the public what we’re doing,” Vanstrom said. “We have to make sure we’re getting the word out.”
Vanstrom, who started as ACAR chief on May 1, recently met with NAR in Washington, D.C.
“They want to make sure local agents have access to what the state and national organizations are doing,” Vanstrom said.
Idaho is an unusual state in that 92 percent of licensed real estate agents are Realtors – a professional designation conferred by the National Association of Realtors that requires agents to follow a code of ethics. Idaho has 7,609 actively licensed real estate agents and 6,950 of them are Realtors and members of the Idaho Association of Realtors, according to IAR and the Idaho Real Estate Commission. Both believe Idaho may have the highest percentage for Realtors.
The statewide Idaho Association of Realtors has to comply with the same core standards as the local association to remain in good standing with NAR. All 1,400 associations nationwide will be reevaluated every year.
The IAR met one of its consumer outreach requirements by putting on a fair housing class, attended by 95 Realtors, called “Destination Diversity” in Nampa. The course reviewed fair housing laws and tutored Realtors to take care in answering homebuyer questions such as “What kind of neighborhood is this?”
The core standards also require association staff to complete professional development each year.
The Coeur d’Alene Association of Realtors last year raised $30,000 from its 800 members to build a children’s park in a vacant lot. The core standards are uniting Realtors, who are independent contractors, not employees, said Raphael Barta, an associate broker at Century 21 RiverStone in Sandpoint.
“It made people come together,” Barta said. “The overall effect is to raise consciousness. Who we are, what we do. It’s not about buying and selling homes. It’s about building community.”