In opening comments at the spring general membership meeting of member-brokers (held virtually), Northwest Multiple Listing Service President and CEO Tom Hurdelbrink noted the date coincided with the one-year anniversary of Governor Inslee’s first stay-home directives to curb the spread of COVID-19. Those mandates led to a series of frequently changing restrictions affecting open houses and broker interactions with buyers and sellers.
The MLS president also introduced the recently installed officers. This year’s leaders include Chairman Randy Fischer from Coldwell Banker 360 Team in Oak Harbor; Vice Chair Stuart Heath from Bellmark Real Estate in Bellevue; Treasurer Chris Millsap from RE/MAX Advantage in Chelan; and Secretary Jeff Pust from Van Dorm Realty, Inc. in Olympia.
In other updates, Hurdelbrink highlighted the biennial member satisfaction survey and the expansion of the NWMLS coverage area.
Brokers were urged to participate in the member satisfaction survey, which yields feedback on existing services and helps gauge interest in new products and services. “It’s good to know where we are staying strong, and where we need to improve,” he remarked. Results will be reported later in the year.
Earlier this year, Northwest MLS announced the expansion of its coverage area as a result of a decision by the Walla Walla Association of Realtors® to merge with NWMLS. With the addition of those 24 offices and 150+ licensees – whose members work primarily in Walla Walla, Columbia, and Umatilla (Ore.) counties — the MLS expands its service area to 26 counties across the state.
To continue with updates on systems and services, NWMLS Business Analyst Devin Bacon discussed the addition of Walla Walla Realtor listings in Matrix, as well as the addition of a “State” field, primarily to accommodate the listings in Oregon’s Umatilla County. With the recent additions and changes, Bacon demonstrated how members can search in up to eight counties simultaneously. (Tax and property information is now available in the Matrix Public Records search and in the Realist tax database for every county in Oregon and Washington.)
Bacon also reminded brokers of the availability of classes, trainings, and custom workshops on a variety of topics such as Realist Property Records or Farming in Realist and Matrix. As part of his remarks, Bacon highlighted important Best Practices for ShowingTime, which are discussed in more detail in an hourlong webinar.
Noteworthy statistics Bacon presented included a graphic showing impressive year-over-year changes in ShowingTime confirmed appointments.
Other updates and demonstrations covered “MyNWMLS” office features, Down Payment Connect, and a reminder that 69.5% of current NWMLS listings are eligible for down payment programs. “It’s a good tool for increasing leads,” Bacon suggested.
Justin Haag, general counsel at NWMLS, provided a synopsis of recent forms revisions and additions, along with an explanation of the process, which includes coordination with Washington Realtors and industry attorneys. “Lots of eyeballs are on the forms before they are published,” he remarked.
Forms that underwent substantive revisions included Purchase and Sale Agreements, Financing Addendum, Inspection Addendum, and Escalation Addendum. (Several other forms were revised to include minor clarifications and updates to outdated vernacular.)
Among recently added forms were an Inspection Waiver Addendum, an Escalation Addendum Notice, and Lease/Rental Notice.
As part of the process, and in an effort to familiarize members with the changes before the implementation date, Haag conducted virtual training classes, reaching more than 4,500 brokers. He reminded the audiences at the spring meetings of Legal Bulletin 219, published in early February, that summarizes the latest revisions.
Continuing the discussion on legal updates, Haag was joined by Chris Osborn from Stoel Rives, LLP, and the longtime outside legal counsel to NWMLS. Their discussion covered best practices pertaining to offer review dates, evolving COVID-19 restrictions, recent industry acquisitions, the recent NAR/DOJ settlement, pending class action lawsuits around the country, and other concerns.
In the final legal update, Haag and Osborn reminded brokers about issues pertaining to copyright, the do-not-call registry, and fair housing. When hiring third party photographers, brokers should always use a very broad license agreement – similar to the agreements published by NWMLS. “It’s low-hanging fruit to eliminate that risk of copyright infringement claims by using the correct license,” Osborn emphasized. Brokers also need to be vigilant in checking the do-not-call registry which includes robo-calls and robo-texts.
Compliance with fair housing protections is also essential. NWMLS recently inserted a fair housing provision into its listing agreements to ensure sellers are aware of applicable laws prohibiting discrimination “based on sex, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, creed, color, national origin, citizenship or immigration status, families with children status, honorably discharged veteran or military status, the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability, or the use of a support or service animal by a person with a disability.”
To close the member meetings on a lighter note. Hurdelbrink conducted instant polls on topics ranging from preferences on virtual versus in-person meetings, when listing inventory might improve, whether NWMLS should remove the optional map/grid field from input/search options (an overwhelming percentage said yes), and whether the Mariners will make the playoffs this year.