Posts belonging to Category NAR

Legal Update: Emails Can Get You Into Trouble


It is a crime to tape record a conversation in Florida without the permission of the other person involved. It is not a crime to share an email that is sent with no expectation of privacy. But when the contents of the email may constitute a crime, that communication may put you in jail and get a million dollar judgment against you. 

This is the case with antitrust. Some people, even after decades of education and reformed practices in real estate, think there is a minimum commission for REALTORS® to charge. Some think that there is a “standard” split. Some think that the Board of REALTORS® or the MLS corporation suggests commission amounts or commission splits. Some think it is okay to call for a boycott of other real estate professionals. None of that is true. Any REALTOR® who promotes that picture is facing civil and criminal penalties. 

If you do not like the offer of compensation related to a listing, do not work it. Spend your efforts on tasks that will award you better, if that is your choice. 

But it is illegal for you to call for a boycott of that brokerage that offers you less than that which you somehow think is “standard.” There is no standard. 

There was a time when lawyers had a minimum fee schedule, for certain tasks. It was generally put out by the local Bar associations. That was illegal price fixing and stopped. 

Now there is news that some currency traders conspired to set the value of certain currency or matters related to that. If proven true and that it violated the antitrust laws, those individuals may be jailed and fined, and their companies may be fined and subject to a large judgment, which is automatically tripled. 

And when a REALTOR® emails or speaks antitrust comments, he or she puts at risk every other REALTOR®. The actions of one REALTOR®, when viewed as in concert with other REALTORS®, may get all of them sued, and the Board put in harm’s way. 

It is undisputed that the Tallahassee Board of REALTORS®, CATRS, Florida REALTORS® and NAR are intolerant of any hint at price fixing, split fixing, boycotting, or other conduct that might be anti-competitive and may be illegal under antitrust laws. 

So, repeat after me:

  • There is no standard commission.
  • There is no minimum commission.
  • There is no standard split of commission.
  • There is no boycotting because of compensation issues.
  • And every REALTOR® is free to work or not work on any listing, for the compensation offered. 

If you have any questions, visit NAR’s website for more details.

Joe R. Boyd
TBR Legal Counsel
Board Certified Real Estate Attorney
Boyd & DuRant, P.L.

NAR Board OKs Mandatory Core Association Standards


Editor’s Note: This is information taken from NAR Communications. The good news for the Tallahassee Board of REALTORS® is we meet or exceed all the Core Standards.

In a sweeping move to improve the professionalism of associations of REALTORS® across the country and the level of service they provide to members, the NAR Board of Directors passed a set of mandatory standards that touch on every aspect of association operations.

“This is an issue of professionalism in our industry,” said Andrea Bushnell, chair of the Organizational Alignment Presidential Advisory Group (PAG), which drafted the standards. “We want to ensure unity within—and the long-term viability of— the 100-year-old REALTOR® organization. All three levels of the organization must thrive together as a true and strong association, rather than acting as group of independent but federated organizations.”

Specifically, the country’s approximately 1,400 state, local, and territorial associations have to meet standards in six areas: 1) Code of Ethics education and enforcement; 2) advocacy; 3) consumer outreach; 4) organizational unification; 5) technology; and 6) financial solvency. Among other things, under the new standards, associations must:

  • Provide Code of Ethics training
  • Participate in Calls for Action
  • Make an effort to collect fair-share contributions to the REALTORS® Political Action Committee, or write a check to cover the fair share
  • Promote the value proposition of using a REALTOR®
  • Maintain a strategic or business plan
  • Maintain a website with links to other levels of the association
  • Meet minimum financial performance

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“In this corner, weighing 175 lbs. (don’t judge), from Coldwell Banker Hartung and Noblin… Jimmmmmmm Butlerrrrrrrrrr!” 

This is how I feel sometimes during a transaction. It may be difficult at times dealing with the agent on the other side of the transaction, but I know I must. While we’re all here to make a living, and do the best work we possibly can, we’re also here assisting people with a life-changing event. Sometimes it takes that one customer to remind us what an enormous responsibility we have as REALTORS®, and we really need to be mindful of that. We need to be respectful not only to our customers, but to one another. 

     Etiquette: the code of ethical behavior regarding professional practice or action among the members of a profession in their dealings with each other.
     Respect: proper acceptance or courtesy; acknowledgement.  

These concepts seem to be forgotten at times. The other agent isn’t out to get you, or to steal your customer, or purposely ignore your calls, or any number of other negative scenarios that can run through your head. If you’re working diligently to get a transaction to close, most likely the agent on the other side is working just as hard – remember that! I recently had a transaction where the listing agent told me, “You know, working with you is so easy.” Granted, there weren’t any inspection issues, and just some small WDO repairs, but still, the lines of communication were always left open throughout the transaction.

Communication and respect are key – just put yourself in the other agent’s scenario. Would you want calls returned? Would you want answers quickly? Would you want documents emailed to you in a timely fashion? These simple tasks help you gain the respect of your peers, which is invaluable in this profession. 

The National Association of REALTORS®’ Pathways to Professionalism begins with the Golden Rule: to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The importance of respect for the public, property, and peers is enumerated, and it concludes with the reminder that “[r]eal estate is a reputation business.” We live in a small community, and our actions are remembered, good or bad. So, let’s lose the gloves and treat one another with respect. 

Jim Butler
Coldwell Banker Hartung & Noblin

Legal Update: New NAR Legal Counsel


Katie Raynolds Johnson is the new general counsel for the National Association of REALTORS® in Chicago. This promises to be a seamless transition in the national headquarters and I know that all local board attorneys are glad that NAR selected an experienced attorney to lead the legal arm of NAR. She will have big shoes to fill, with the recent retirement of long-time general counsel, Laurie Janik.

In the mid-70s, when we first began representing the Tallahassee Board of REALTORS®, NAR had a distinguished and long-time outside counsel, Bill North. Bill had a deep appreciation for REALTORS® and for the challenges faced by the local associations of REALTORS®. In those days, big battles brewed of due-on-sale clauses and price fixing.

Bill introduced us to a young associate named Laurie Janik. She shared Bill’s respect for REALTORS® and she also saw the importance of communication with association executives. She saw that preventing problems was the best way to avoid problems, and immediately set her goal to involve local professional staff in a two-way dialogue of problems and cures at the local level. She recognized that REALTORS® want their valuable time devoted to their profession, not in rooting out problems at the association.

Laurie became general counsel at NAR as Bill retired and did a masterful job of preventing excessive litigation during the decades of her watch. NAR has one million members now and is the largest professional organization in the country. With that, REALTORS® and their associations have grown as targets of those wishing to litigate.

While the due-on-sale clause issues have passed, the antitrust threat continues. As MLSs have gone from mere services of the board into for-profit corporate subsidiaries of the board in some cases, the attacks on REALTORS® have centered on intellectual property rights. The real estate profession, and all its legal roles, has been challenged as it for the first time effectively crossed state lines by way of the Internet.

While open housing laws have evolved and continue to need enforcement, the areas of housing discrimination have turned to all-new fronts, dealing with children, handicap, age, ethnicity, and familial status. Laurie stood watch over all of this and was a polestar for local board attorneys to advise the associations and REALTORS®.

The professionalism at the local board grew also. There was a time when a vacant leadership position at a board would be filled by the most influential REALTOR®, wanting to transition to a salaried position. Those times have changed. With the encouragement of NAR, and Laurie in particular, boards have turned to professional staff trained in association management, a very unique field.

Now Laurie and NAR have passed the reins to Katie, and we local board attorneys are excited about her leadership. We meet every year in a private meeting of local board attorneys and all of the attorneys of NAR, for dialogue and to share with each other new issues on the horizon for associations. Katie has long been a participant in those meetings, having joined NAR in 2007, after a stint in private practice. Her mother and father were REALTORS®.

NAR continues with its top-flight legal team including Ralph Holmen, Finley Maxson, and others. NAR legal maintains a comprehensive risk-management guide and has available to REALTORS® a legal scan that tracks legal issues vital to members. Just as Florida REALTORS® have developed the Legal Hotline, and regularly support REALTORS®, local boards, association executives, and local board attorneys, NAR can be expected to continue its legal support for all REALTORS®.

Joe R. Boyd
TBR Legal Counsel
Board Certified Real Estate Attorney
Boyd & DuRant, P.L.

2013 NAR Board of Directors Meeting Recap


Board OKs Exploration of World-Class Headquarters
The NAR Board of Directors at its meeting in San Francisco [on Nov. 11, 2013] unanimously approved an ambitious project to be undertaken with a major partner that would turn the association’s headquarters into a world-class property that is intended to become the next destination building in the iconic Chicago skyline.

While details of the project remain to be worked out and the decision to carry out the development is not final, the board vote enables exploration to move forward. The property would replace NAR’s 50-year-old, class B+ property with a significant REALTOR®-branded, 1-2-million-square-foot Class A+ building and plaza that would include a 5-star hotel, condominiums, office space, and ground-level retail. Under preliminary plans subject to final agreement with the partner, REALTORS® would own a planned 180,000 square feet of the building plus a percentage of the overall project.

The Board took up a number of key matters at its meeting, which closed out the 2013 REALTORS® Conference & Expo. The conference attracted 22,500 members and guests for five days of education sessions, meetings, and the expo.

Eminent Domain
Among its main decisions, the Board adopted a policy position opposing the use of eminent domain by localities to take mortgages of home owners facing hardship so they can be modified. Under the policy statement, NAR says it understands the need to help struggling home owners, but taking mortgages hurts the availability and affordability of financing for borrowers because of the uncertainty it creates for lenders and investors.

In a related matter, the Board authorized the distribution of $485,000 in funds from NAR’s Issues Mobilization program to the West Contra Costa, Calif., Association of REALTORS® to help it fight the use of eminent domain to seize mortgages in Richmond, Calif.

Discrimination, disparate impact
The Delegate Body, approving a Board of Director’s action from earlier this year, added a policy opposing gender-identity discrimination to its statement of Fair Housing Policy.

In addition, the Board adopted a new policy on disparate impact. The new policy makes clear NAR’s support for Fair Housing but also takes the position that REALTORS® shouldn’t be penalized when practices with a legitimate business intent unintentionally have a disparate impact on a protected class. An example would be an owner’s policy to screen out drug criminals from a rental property. Under the policy, the burden should fall on organizations alleging disparate impact to show the owner had a discriminatory intent. Neither should the owner be required to make unreasonable and burdensome changes in practice to reduce the disparate impact if there was no discriminatory intent.

Membership issues

Emeritus status
On membership issues, the Board modified a policy change approved earlier this year that required one year of national service as a condition of becoming a REALTOR® Emeritus member. Under the modification, the Board is phasing in the requirement, allowing candidates for emeritus status to meet their requirement with a year of service on a state or local committee or other specified role. The modification is scheduled to sunset in five years, after which the one-year of service will have to be in a national role.

In several changes to the association’s dues, the Board created an exception to how dues are calculated for members who engage exclusively in mortgage loan origination, an exception that applies exclusively to California because of a unique licensing requirement there. The exception will be tracked and administered in similar fashion to referral licensees.

Separately, the Board approved dues amounts of $500 for the National Affiliate member category (which applies to members of affiliated organizations), $200 for the Academic Category, and $105 for the Institute Affiliate category, up from $75, with $35 each going to the national, state, and local levels.

Lockbox services
The Board amended Interpretation No. 32 of Article I, Section 2, of the NAR Bylaws to clarify that the cost of lockbox services, where it is a service of the local association, may, at the association’s discretion, be included in association dues.

Professional Standards
The Board took a number of actions to enhance the industry’s professional standards. 

To ensure practitioners are qualified and have access to the information needed to do broker price opinions (BPO) properly and to require disclosures when they’re doing them for others, the Board made changes to Standard of Practice 11-1, including requiring REALTORS® doing a BPO to be knowledgeable about the property type and area.

Ethics complaints
To ensure that only individuals and not companies, associations, or other entities can file ethics complaints, the Board clarified that “person” in the Code of Ethics means “natural person.”

Disciplinary actions
The Board amended Section 22(a), Decision of Hearing Panel, in the Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual to direct hearing panels to consider a respondent’s prior violations, among other things, when determining how to discipline a member.

To help advance the industry’s interests in the legal arena, the Board allocated $363,667.55 to help with legal costs in six cases, including Minnesota and Florida cases involving copyright infringement by website operators using MLS data without authorization, a trademark dispute in California, and an issue involving the duty to arbitrate in New York, among others.

Leadership Team

Treasurer status
The Board recommended, and the Delegate Body later approved, a constitutional amendment to limit the NAR treasurer to a single two-year term, although in cases of a vacancy, former treasurers can be appointed by the Board to step in. Separately, the Board approved changes to create parity between how past treasurers and other past national officers are treated. Among other things, past treasurers will be designated ex officio members of the Board of Directors.

Committee structures
Among a handful of changes to some NAR committee structures, the board renamed the Strategic Planning Committee the Strategic Thinking Advisory Committee and expanded its focus to include trends affecting real estate consumers.

Later in the meeting, the Board approved a three-year strategic plan presented to it by the Strategic Planning Committee. The plan emphasizes innovation and transformation in the way the association undertakes its planning. The plan was developed after a 15-month process called REThink, which sought input from members in sessions around the country and online.

Public policy

Property lot descriptions
In a public policy action, the Board adopted a policy on Interstate Land Sales Act disclosures to pave the way for NAR to support legislation preventing buyers from using a disclosure technicality to back out of condo purchases. Primarily in areas with once-hot condo markets, buyers who bought units before they were developed, when prices were high, have been getting out of contracts by charging developers with not fully describing lots in disclosure documents. The tactic penalizes developers, because full descriptions are typically not possible until after project completion. Legislation in Congress would address this by imposing the same reporting requirements on projects under construction that apply to projects already completed.

Board approval of Independent expenditures
To accommodate states that require the NAR Board of Directors to approve the use of funds before they can use independent expenditures for advocacy purposes, the Board granted blanket approval of the funds as long as the funds are used in accordance with the policies and procedures adopted by the REALTOR® Party Trustees for Campaign Services Committee as part of the NAR State and Local Independent Expenditure Program.

Contributions to the REALTORS® Political Action Committee this year reached $24,700,946, including $8,111,081 for national advocacy efforts. That’s 11 percent more than was raised last year, reported Michael Ford, RPAC Trustees Fundraising Committee chair. In all, 261,000 members invested in RPAC this year, including 4,718 major investors and 602 President’s Circle members.

REALTORS® Relief Foundation
The REALTORS® Relief Foundation generated more than $55,000 in proceeds from its first online auction, which attracted bids, both on-site and online, from 1,000 participants. Since 2001, the Foundation has distributed $22 million in assistance to REALTORS® and others hit by disasters.


Distinguished Service Award
The Board recognized the two 2013 Distinguished Service Award winners, Mary Frances Burleson of Dallas, Texas, and Marbury Little of Metarie, La.

Magel Award
Steve Harding, CEO of the Tennessee Association of REALTORS®, was named the 2013 recipient of the William R. Magel Award of Excellence.

Directors heard a report from® President Errol Samuelson on its success in boosting traffic since a special meeting this summer in which the Board gave increased flexibility to the website to feature more new-home, rental, and non-MLS listings. Among other things, the site now has some 250,000 rental listings and is on track to increase that to 450,000 early next year, making it the leader in rental listings among national listing aggregation sites.

The Board also heard a report on the success of NAR’s consumer advertising campaign, now in its 15th year. Just under 70 percent of consumers now recognize NAR as the sponsor of the campaign ads, the highest degree of recognition since the program started, and 92 percent say REALTORS® can help consumers find a home that’s right for them, another high.

And the Board heard about the new .REALTOR high-level domain that is slated to be available in early 2014. Over the course of the conference, some 12,000 members pre-registered to use the new domain in their business.

Copyright NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. Reprinted with permission. Find the original article online at REALTOR®.org.

President’s Message, November 2013


RPAC. Well, they did it! Congratulations to Mariela Santurri and Lucretia Thomas, co-chairmen for RPAC fundraising. The final numbers are in: we raised almost 200% of our monetary goal at $31,573 and we met our participation goal with 30.29% of TBR members contributing.

Gala. Again, special thanks to our sponsors, Social Committee volunteers, and staff who worked so hard on the Presidential Gala—it was a blast! With your help, we raised an impressive $5,200 for March of Dimes.

Habitat. Our Community Affairs Committee put on a great Family Fun Day fundraiser on Saturday, November 9. Thanks to our generous sponsors and volunteers, we’re still counting receipts to determine how much we’ve raised towards a Spring 2014 Habitat Build. It was a gorgeous day and several families from the community joined our TBR family to give back to Habitat and enjoy Tallahassee’s beautiful autumn weather.

NAR Conference & Expo. November is National conference month! Several of our members attended the conference in San Francisco last week, including Board leadership—Jeff Doxsee, Debbie Kirkland, and staff, Steven Louchheim. Jeff will report in the December Tallahassee REALTOR® eZine on what he heard from industry and technology experts, including NAR’s Lawrence Yun who spoke on economic issues and trends. Interesting short take: what buyers want most from REALTORS®, year after year, is to have their agent help them find the right home; it’s that simple.

Frank A. McClean
2013 TBR President
Community Property Management, Inc.

President’s Message, October 2013


Gala, for Good: March of Dimes
This year’s Gala is on October 18 at 7 p.m. at the FSU Alumni Center, and includes entertainment with Vegas Casino Nights and music from Low Flying Planes; dancing (including a competition for a great getaway—no dancing ability needed!); catering and cash bar provided by Andrew’s. Vacation giveaways, a chance to win an $800 diamond, and a party bucket raffle, too!

My wife Ann and I are fortunate to have three grown and healthy sons. Not everyone in our community is so lucky. Many parents face daily challenges with their children. The March of Dimes is such a worthwhile opportunity for our Association to be connected with that I couldn’t pass it up. Their mission: “help moms have full-term pregnancies and research the problems that threaten the health of babies.”

If you have ever been to a MOD walk or event and seen the determination of the children and families despite their challenges, how can you not be moved to help this organization meet their mission? That’s why I want to help raise $10,000 for MOD Big Bend Division and the health of our babies and our future. So please come to our Gala with open hearts, wallets, and pocketbooks to help me, help them!

NAR Conference & Expo
NAR’s largest event is just around the corner, November 8-11 in San Francisco. “Rise to New Heights” – it’s a great way to take care of your business through education and networking. Nearly 400 industry vendors, 100 education sessions, 22,000 members and guests, and unlimited networking included. Remember, it takes only one referral to pay for the REALTORS® Conference & Expo!

This just in! Our annual golf tournament held this past Thursday (Oct. 4) raised just under $7,000 for the REALTORS® Political Action Committee. Take a moment to thank our sponsors and congratulate our contest winners.

Congratulations to Wanda Carter, who won a $50 Whole Foods gift card. Wanda took a few moments to read about the REALTOR® trademark and take a brief quiz that was included in last month’s eZine; thanks to everyone who participated.

Frank A. McClean
2013 TBR President
Community Property Management, Inc.

REALTOR®: The Value of the Mark


Did you know that an independent marketing firm valued the REALTOR® trademark at $3 billion? Even in U.S. government terms, that’s a lot of money! In 1916, members of the then National Association of Real Estate Exchanges thought it was vitally important to distinguish real estate licensees that were practicing under a more stringent standard to protect the public (the Code of Ethics) from those who chose to continue to operate in, shall we say, a suspect manner of doing business.

As a member of the National Association of REALTORS® it is in your best interest to always and proactively protect the mark. Before you continue reading this, take this quiz and see how you do (enter to win a Whole Foods gift card; see details at the end of the article).

Okay, are you a REALTOR® trademark expert or could you use a little brushing up on what to do and what not to do? Have no fear! There is a pretty simple test that can help. Since “REALTOR®” means a member of the National Association of REALTORS®, just replace “REALTOR®” with “member” and see if it works. For example, your business card reads: Frank McClean, REALTOR®. You could also write “Frank McClean, member of NAR” and that is correct. Conversely, “your favorite REALTOR®” is a violation, an incorrect use of the trademark. In this example, the mark is used in conjunction with a descriptive word (“favorite”), and that is a violation. It is okay to use the term as part of your website domain name or email as long as it is used to identify you as a member of NAR; for example, or In both cases, you are identified as a member of NAR.

Remember, it is important not only to adhere to the rules of the trademark but to educate the public about the difference between a REALTOR® and just a licensee. Here are two common mistakes I hear every day:

  • REALTOR® license (there is no such thing)
  • Real-a-tor (only two syllables, please)

Luckily, NAR’s website has a tremendous amount of information on trademark and logo rules. After you’ve checked out the rules, retake the quiz. I am sure you’ll improve your score.

Enter our contest! Simply take the trademark quiz and email a screenshot of your results to for a chance to win a $50 Whole Foods gift certificate. This will be a random drawing of all entries regardless of score. Entries must be submitted via email by October 4, 2013 to be entered; only one entry per person.

Steven Louchheim, CAE, RCE
Executive Director

The Relevance of the Real Estate Association


This year I renewed my license for the start of year 11! Hard to believe that what seems like yesterday I left a career of 20 years and ventured into full self-employment. It was a big step for me as a single mother of two young girls. My story is not so different than that of so many people in our industry. I cannot imagine what my real estate world would look like without “The Association.” The gains both personal and professional I have made because of the participants in this support group I could have never re-created. Yet, for some we are on the brink of irrelevancy. How could that be? Why have we let it happen?

The profile of our associations has remained the same for many years. We serve as a member resource, providing education support; we merge support with a Multiple Listing Service that helps us communicate among ourselves and clarify compensation and terms of sales between seller and buyer; and we offer a means of networking with other industry professionals who desire to operate on a higher standard of practice. We, historically, have a limited number of members that take advantage of the services our membership dues provide. Across the state and nation, associations struggle to fill education classes with our own members, yet some members and brokers within associations, with the exception of registration or renewal, have never stepped foot in their board office, much less been involved in the support groups established for their members, and even less often advocate by donation to RPAC or in person for the very persons they serve, private property owners. Ever wonder why, or what you can do to be involved in the evolution of your association? Are you aware that despite a lack of involvement, your Board is still growing? So, why then is it irrelevant to most of its members?  These are the hard questions, friends.

What would your association look like to you? Again, where do you fit in that association? So, what if: your board addressed your financial success, bolstered your enthusiasm for your business, delivered tools and strategies that brought you value, monetary and motivation? What  if: your association inspired a sense of belonging that enabled you to provide an accelerated level of pride and confidence from early in your career, carrying forward to later years of investment? What other elements are important to you for your association to provide, or how should it represent you?

Associations serve a two-fold purpose: (1) they provide avenues for REALTORS® to prevail and to thrive in the marketplace of the transfer of real estate, and (2) they provide a safety net for consumers. That “security blanket” is our knowledge, expertise, and a personal connection and relationship. Ultimately, it is the REALTOR® that will revive the Association, for it is the REALTOR® who collaborates with consumers, with neighborhood organizations, politicians and community leaders, builders and developers—and it will be the REALTOR® determining the directions that will change the Association’s culture. New career specialties are arising, development of existing specialties are emerging stronger and changing with contemporary culture; our Association must rise to meet the needs of change. The status quo will stifle the success of your association, but is the status quo what you have grown to expect?

Three elements must be fully invested in the REALTOR® Association: leadership, staff, and you.  What’s your vision, what’s your challenge, who is accountable, who has the most to gain from a strong REALTOR® association? There’s a place for you at every table of discussion. There’s an avenue for you to express your needs, your vision, your challenges within this Board. Use your voice. Give your time. Share your talent. There is still time to be a part of the Race to Relevance in our local, state, and national associations.

Debbie Kirkland
Past President
Armor Realty of Tallahassee

Committee Report: Professional Development


Being a REALTOR® is very complicated…and ever-changing. Education and training is often put at the bottom of the To Do list, but with constant changes in our field, you might want to consider putting it back at the top. Take the time to learn and it will breathe new life into your role as a REALTOR® and could even make you more money.

Easy way to start? Get online and check out the classes TBR offers, go to the Tuesday Marketing meetings, attend a conference, buy a real estate book, or simply visit the NAR or Florida REALTORS® websites. If you spend 30 minutes on Facebook a day, commit to spending just 30 minutes a week on the newest ideas in real estate. Maybe you need some help with technology?  Call the TBR helpdesk at (850) 224-7713—it’s not just for MLS questions. Instead of a work lunch, take a TBR course together; you will have fun, learn, and get ideas that can make you money instead of costing you money. Take action to improve your value!  Wake up and commit to learning; you and your customers will be glad you did.

At a glance:

Danielle Galvin
1st Choice Real Estate Service
Member, Professional Development Committee