Membership in the local, state, and national REALTOR Associations is one of every REALTOR’s highest annual fees.
At the end of every year, all REALTORS must pay more than $500 (and rising) to be a member of this organization.
Many REALTORS begrudge this payment under the heading of WIIFM (What’s in it for me?)
That’s a LOT of jingle being paid every year . . . What are the real benefits that make this an “investment” Vs a “Junk fee”?
The most common response to this question centers around RPAC -REALTOR Political Action Committee
Here’s a definition of RPAC from the NAR Website.
“Since 1969, the REALTORS® Political Action Committee (RPAC)has promoted the election of pro-REALTOR® candidates across the United States. The purpose of RPAC is clear: REALTORS® raise and spend money to elect candidates who understand and support their interests. The money to accomplish this comes from voluntary contributions made by REALTORS®. These are not members’ dues; this is money given freely by REALTORS® in recognition of how important campaign fundraising is to the political process. RPAC doesn’t buy votes. RPAC enables REALTORS® to support candidates that support the issues that are important to their profession and livelihood.”
So . . . dues paid to the association do NOT fund RPAC, so that’s the wrong answer . . . What’s the RIGHT answer?
Straight off the top on my head, let’s begin by emphasizing the notion that “Real Estate Sales is a LOCAL profession” for most REALTORS.
Location – Location – Location
The Local associations provide training for continuing education (CE), Ethics and Professionalism, Annual Conferences, Forums to learn about local issues and opportunities, A place to connect with colleagues, and ownership in one of the best MLS systems in the country . . . Our State Association in TN provides Training and ALL of our forms as well as a very cool system “Transaction Desk” which provides a platform for every REALTOR member to essentially operate a paperless business.
All of those are great benefits. If the members were “on their own” to find and pay for all of these benefits, the costs in terms of time, energy, and money would be prohibitively more than the meager $500ish/year annual dues.
BUT . . .
I believe we still haven’t defined the MOST important “function” of our REALTOR associations which is our membership mandate that ALL members must agree to adopt the REALTOR Code of Ethics as a minimum standard for the professional services. This code of ethics holds all REALTORS to a higher standard of fiduciary service to ALL people including each other and the general public . . . a higher level of duty than required by State and National Statute.
For this to “work,” the REALTOR association has (at every level) a mechanism for enforcement of this code.
When a member of the general public or a REALTOR believe a REALTOR has misbehaved, there is a very clear path for filing a complaint to the local association Professional Standards Committees.
The associations have a “Grievance” process to determine if the complaint, on the surface, appears to valid. If deemed valid, the Grievance Committee forwards the complaint to the Arbitration Committee for Commission (money) matters or the Professional Standards Committee for ethical matters.
Some (most) REALTOR associations have trained Ombudsmen who are sometimes able to resolve disputes without need for a formal hearing at no cost . . . and/or trained Mediators at some cost (but WAY less than legal litigation).
I am writing this blog post because I received from REALTOR Tove Gunnarson this message:
Hope you are well.
We, three REALTORS, are on the Leadership Academy and we have Professional Standards as our presenting project we get to present in June.
We have met with Jamie Hoppe and she was very helpful and now we thought to just ask the three chairs the following questions:
I am currently the Chair of the Grievance Committee for Greater Nashville REALTORS
1. What is your reasoning or passion behind being involved on the professional standards committee?
Since becoming a REALTOR in 1993, I have always had an interest in preserving the “sanctity” of the fiduciary responsibilities of real estate sales Professionals. For this reason, I have served in some capacity on one of the 3 Professional Standards committees (I think) every year that I have been a REALTOR. Arbitration – Ethics – Grievance – Ombudsman. To some degree, I participate on these committees to keep myself sharp and aware as a Principal Broker. Additionally, I believe that enforcing our ethics and professionalism is a means of sustaining our livelihood . . . Our validity as we serve Home Buyers and Sellers and do so with smooth cooperation with other REALTORS. These committees give us REALTORS the opportunity to “police our own” and resolve disputes with members of the general public and other REALTORS without legal action.
2.What do you enjoy about this committee and the work you do?
I love the variety of perspectives that arise with every case. We usually receive the complaint in advance of our meeting and often think we understand the situation at first reading, but invariably we, as a group, go deeper together and think of new possibilities. We learn from each other, and we learn more about (new perspective) the REALTOR Code of Ethics and due process with every complaint. In the end, our work on the Grievance Committee is THE essential first step because it confirms or denies the necessity for the case to to be referred to Ethics or Arbitration Hearing. This is an important process that everyone on our committee honors. I guess what I like the most is the passion that the committee members bring to each meeting. These members clearly “get” the gravity of our responsibility and are very thorough in their inquiry to be certain that we make the best (right) decision as a group.
3. How does your committee process a complaint when it is received/what are the committees procedures?
The initial complaint often comes in the form of a phone call from the complainant to Greater Nashville REALTORS. Jamie Hoppe handles these calls and listens . . . and helps the complainant understand whether this is an Association or a TREC complaint. Assuming it’s an association complaint, Jamie first attempts resolution by offering an ombudsman informal mediation. Some of the complaints can be resolved by Ombudsman . . . Jamie advises them on how to file a formal complaint and can/does offer help on understanding code of ethics articles and relevance to the complaint. Once Jamie has an official complaint (in proper form), she calls a Committee Meeting. Because we (fortunately) do not have many cases, this committee only meets when there’s a formal complaint.
4. What advice would you give someone wanting to be involved on one of the professional standards committees?
Just do it! Request membership through the normal Greater Nashville REALTOR channels. I would recommend applying for all 3 of the committees and take whichever one happens. These are 3 years appointments, and every member gets the Code of Ethics training each year.
5. What are some of the biggest professional standards issues you see amongst members? Or What specific areas do you feel Realtor members are lacking in education on ethics?
On the arbitration side . . . Procuring cause and commission disputes that arise after agents change firms.
On the ethics side . . . so much of what I have seen through the years is failure to communicate effectively and inattention to the details.
I see very few “malicious” cases of agents doing bad things.
My perspective is that agents often go awry when they get “too busy” to do things right . . . and/or they are lacking the experience (newer agents) and do not have mentors or Brokers who have their backs.
Generally speaking – The largest/heaviest issue in our industry revolves around the definition of “Appropriate Broker Supervision” . . . Many of the newer business models provide for very little direct supervision. This is a “Span of Control” issue.
The good news is that I believe most of our REALTORS want to do the right thing . . . and most of the Principal Brokers also.
Please let me know if you have any follow-up Questions.
Hope this helps with your project.