Business Resources

Resources for your real estate business.
Commitment to Excellence:  Testing Your Knowledge

Commitment to Excellence: Testing Your Knowledge

by Pat Breme, RCE, CIPS

The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) created a program, the Commitment to Excellence, to raise the bar of professionalism in order for REALTORS® to serve clients better.

The end game is equipping members with tools to enrich their knowledge base, therefore holding themselves to a higher degree of accountability.

The initial activity is a series of quizzes to assess your knowledge on 10 topics. I decided to take the assessment and thought it would be fairly easy since I have spent over 25 years in the REALTOR® association world. Yes, I have working knowledge of the Code. Yes, I contribute to RPAC and understand what it does. Yes, I am not a licensee but I have working knowledge of the business of real estate. How did I do?

I finished Learning Topics, Code of Ethics, and Advocacy and fared pretty well. I am just getting into Areas of Practice which will be harder for me.

C2EX tests knowledge in 10 Areas

  • Advocacy
  • Areas of Practice
  • Client Service
  • Professional Reputation
  • Real Estate Law
  • Code of Ethic.
  • Article 10
  • Trust & Integrity
  • Technology
  • Safeguard Privacy

Miss a question, no problem

If you miss a question there is a follow-up Learning Plan that provides the correct information so the process is customized to your needs. The questions are not difficult but because they are multiple choice, there is always the possibility (fear) of a trick answer. You can stop and come back and the program tells you where you left off.

The process is not drudgery!

It is fun and the information is presented in a concise way. Completing all the Learning Topics and the Tasks will take some time but it is so well organized, stopping and resuming is not difficult. It is user friendly, the attitude is supportive. It is not a drudgery! It is a challenge but I found that I was motivated to see how much I knew.

NAR has been working on the Commitment to Excellence program since 2014 and I can see why. The integration is quite impressive! Companion to the Learning Topics are the Tasks which is a long list of activities that put knowledge into actions. Some of the Tasks are required to gain the endorsement, for example, responding to a call to action is required. Attending a fair housing conference is recommended but not required. The other major category is Surveys. To determine performance levels, you can provide client names, email addresses and send a selected a survey type, for example, a post-open house or post-closing survey. Under Engagements there are other activities and resources.

Attain the bragging rights, get the badge!

AT LEAST, take the assessment in each Learning Topic. You will be surprised at how much you know and at the same time, surprised at the items you misunderstand!  FAAR plans to peak interest by periodically posting various questions/answers in social media posts and in weekly Updates.

You could win…

Commit to checking out the process. Go to FAAR will do a drawing for a prize of those who achieved the badge in 2019. Brokers, issue a challenge to your agents! The effort is fun and it is an outstanding way to brush up on your knowledge whether you have been in the business one year or 20 years.

Bright MLS April YouTube Training Schedule

Bright MLS April YouTube Training Schedule

Did you know? We have training classes on Bright’s YouTube channel every week. Learn how to perform basic tasks, gain useful tips, and ask questions to a member from our Bright training team. In April, Bright Training Classes will move to Tuesdays and Thursdays. Join us anywhere you have Internet.

Join us for Tech Tip Tuesdays! Every Tuesday in April from 10:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

During this half hour session, we’ll cover the latest system enhancements and top technology tips for Bright subscribers. This session is geared toward agents and can be shared during office meetings.

Thursday Hour-Long Clinics! Every Thursday from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.

Thursday, April 4th: New Agent? (Part 2) 
Now that your account is set up, join us as we teach you more about Searching (Map & Results), Auto Email, Contacts, Printing, Public Records and more. If your account is not yet set up, see our first class here: “New Agent? Start Here!

Thursday, April 11th: Working with Buyers
Build a lifelong relationship when you use these tips and tricks for working with buyers. After this class you’ll have the tools for setting up contacts, auto email, estimated buyers closing costs, and collaborating through the portal.

Thursday, April 18th: Managing Your Listings (Part 2)
You’ve entered your first listing, now what? Join us as we explore hit counters, reverse prospecting, adjusting a price, changing a status, understanding DOM, and so much more. Need to add a listing? Head to our first listing class: Adding a Listing with Maximum Exposure.

Thursday, April 25th: Product Spotlight: Showingtime (Part 2)
This session we will show you how to customize feedback, pull reports, and manually enter listing appointments in Bright using ShowingTime. New to ShowingTime? Check out our first look here: ShowingTime Product Spotlight.

How do I join a YouTube training?

Registration is not required. To participate, visit Bright’s YouTube Channel here. If you want to ask the trainer questions during a clinic, you will need to create your own YouTube Channel. Click here to create your own channel. 

Please share your feedback on our YouTube training

How’d we do?  We would like to hear your feedback.  Submit a brief online survey on your experience here.
Have a question you’d like to submit for future YouTube trainings? Submit it here.

February Picks Up the Pace in Local Real Estate Market

While February statistics tracked fairly closely to 2018 numbers, pending sales indicate a warming in the local real estate market.  Total sold dollar volume increased 2.4% in February, coming in at $106.4 million compared to nearly $103.9 million in February of 2018.  The number of units sold increased year-over-year almost 2.6%, going from 348 last year to 357 this February.  Median sales price fell by close to 5%, declining from $287,750 in February of 2018 to $274,000 in February of 2019.     

Days on market, the time it takes from when a listing enters the market until it receives a ratified contract and is removed from active status on the multiple listing service, fell 8.5% with houses averaging 86 days on the market in February of 2019 compared to 94 days in February of 2018. 

Inventory posted the biggest story in the February real estate numbers.  Active listings were up nearly 19%, going from approximately 1,100 available properties in February of 2018 to nearly 1,400 for this year.  Overall, inventory gains have been so small that most buyers in the market wouldn’t notice, but having 200 more homes to choose from this February compared to last can make a difference.  In addition, February pending home sales portend a solid March with an over 47% year-over-year increase compared to last year.  In February of 2018, the market ended the month with 230 homes under contract compared to the 339 that are currently under contract. 

The commercial real estate market is also an integral part of our local economy.  “The commercial market is moving along nicely,” according to commercial Realtor® and FAAR Board Member Ben Keddie.  Most major commercial statistics show that the region is performing well and has been for a number of years.  Keddie continues, “What we are expecting in 2019 includes some of the marquee projects that have been in discussion for a few years finally making great progress including Liberty Place, the new baseball stadium, and hopefully a local Veterans Administration clinic.” 

Productivity Ideas for REALTORS®

Productivity Ideas for REALTORS®

  • Create a Mission/Vision Statement
  • WRITE out a Business Plan – This is a great one (
  • Create a Marketing Plan & Budget (for your business and your listings)
  • Create a Social Media Plan
  • Write (or update) your Bio
  • Take classes offered at your company & FAAR
  • Read The Millionaire Real Estate Agent, Fanatical Prospecting, and The Miracle Morning For Real Estate Agents
  • Create a FSBO prospecting plan (
  • Research expired prospecting techniques
  • Create/Update your SOI Database
  • Research and select a CRM (Referral Maker, Lion Desk, Top Producer)
  • Use MLS to research and select a Farm Area
  • Preview at least 3 houses each day to know the current local inventory
  • Offer to hold open houses for other agent’s listings (create a FB event, promote the open house, door know neighbors/send post cards)
  • Create (or update) your Listing Presentation
  • Create (or update) your Buyers and Sellers Packages
  • Learn how to use NAR Realtor Property Resource (AMAZING tool FREE with your NAR membership at
  • Set up a YouTube channel and create content rich real estate videos

#MemberMonday Meet Michael Gillies

The Fredericksburg Area Association of REALTORS® Member Spotlight feature allows members of the community to get to know each other before working with each other in a transaction. Each member answers a series of questions to reveal more about themselves as people.  It is FAAR’s hope that learning about an individual may spark connections that blossom via email, phone conversations or in-person meetings at events and classes.

Michael Gillies

Stafford, VA. I moved from Miami, FL when I was in middle school and was part of the 1st graduating class from Colonial Forge High.

Current Location
I attended UVA and lived for a brief time in Arlington & NW Washington DC but settled quickly in Stafford.

Team Leader with the Gillies Team at RE/MAX Real Estate Connections

Number of Years in the Industry
14 years. I have been licensed as an agent for 11 years. After graduating from UVA and before getting my real estate license I worked for a wholesale mortgage bank for 3 years.


Why do you love working in real estate?
Our Industry is all about growth and opportunity – not just for those of us fortunate enough to call real estate a career, but for the clients we serve and vendors that support our transactions. When a client buys or sells a home it’s often prompted by a new job, growing family, retirement, or simply doing life in a new location. We have the ability to take part in these pivotal moments and walk through them for a time with our clients as they seize their next opportunity. As agents we play a role in helping clients create personal wealth and make purposeful life decisions relating to their family’s future.

Favorite Work Story 
From happy tears at closing to making decade-long friends from a chance phone call on a listing there are hundreds of stories to tell. It’s no surprise that the ones that stick with you are because of the people. I went on a listing appointment at a beautiful home a little while back – one of those homes where not a thing was out of place and you could tell the owners were very proud of what they had done with the house. I told them a little bit about our team and presented our listing services as I typically do. With that done we had an in-depth conversation about their plans, goals and current position. After about 45 minutes of diving into their situation and needs I advised that listing their home probably wasn’t the best decision for them and we came up with a game plan that would help them achieve their goals. I felt great about the appointment and planned to follow up down the road. The next afternoon this amazing couple came into my office with about 12 dozen of the most amazing homemade cookies. They told me that going into our meeting they were headed toward a decision that scared them and that they ultimately would have regretted. He said that in my presentation he noticed that the word integrity wasn’t written anywhere. I told him I intentionally left it out – it’s a word that has become cliché and doesn’t carry a lot of water if you have to tell someone you have it. He grinned at me and said “Michael, I’m old school and believe that trust is something you earn, not something you can expect because you ask for it.” There may be a right time for them to sell – in the meantime he gave me a referral before he left my office. 🙂 

What are you most proud of in your career?
I’m very excited about our growth. Not just the growth itself, but the intentional manner in which we’re growing that focuses on serving our clients by supporting our agents and team members. As agents we’re forced to wear a great many hats. Marketer, processor…stager, scheduler…negotiator, pricing analyst…counselor, friend. All are entirely necessary but can pull us in a thousand different directions and ultimately may affect our ability to provide the core service our clients need and expect from us. Our philosophy is to create specialties within our organization that allow people to focus not only on what they are good at, but on what they love to do. If each critical part of the client experience is given intense focus by someone that is an expert and loves to do that work, we can provide a very high level of knowledge, service and support. Real estate done differently for the benefit of the client. A byproduct of this structure that I’m increasing proud of is the opportunity our team is able to shift from lead agent to team agents. Seeing incredibly talented agents grab hold of the opportunity for leads, staff support for listing, marketing and contract to close coordination, technology tools, training and collaboration (without the financial risk that comes with doing all of this on your own) is something I’m very proud of. Growing this opportunity will be my greatest focus going forward.

Do you have a special cause or volunteer your time? 
I have the great privilege of serving as the Secretary of the Board of Directors for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Fredericksburg. This amazing non-profit organization and its professional staff understand that there is incredible potential in every child, regardless of circumstance. Volunteer mentors, with the support of match advocates and support staff, defend that potential and empower children in our community. Our signature fundraiser, Bowl for Kids’ Sake, is right around the corner and fundraising efforts are in full swing. The event is held on the weekend of March 2nd and 3rd this year. It’s a great team-building event and the impact on the organization and our ability to serve children in our community is massive. Also, I chair the Big Brothers Big Sisters Golf Tournament at Fawn Lake Country Club. This year the event will be held on May 30th. We are actively seeking sponsors and teams – it’s a wonderful opportunity to play one of the finest private courses in our area. I also enjoy teaching elementary-age Sunday school at Mount Ararat Baptist Church with my wife, Kristel. Kristel taught elementary students for over 10 years in Stafford county so she does the heavy lifting but I’m an enthusiastic helper.

Fun Fact
I’m happier on the water than I am anywhere else in the world. I grew up fishing with my family in Miami, FL and in the Northern Florida Keys. The draw to the water has stayed with me and I don’t think it’s something I’ll ever shake. Around here I’m able to get my fix on the Potomac River. My wife, Kristel, and our kids Britton and Clara get out as much as we can (considering sports, dance classes and the scheduling fun that comes along with real estate). Now and then we make it back to The Keys for a family reunion/fishing trip. That’s when I’m in my ultimate happy place. So if you call me on a weekend and hear kids squealing and water splashing in the background, just know that I’m trying to treat that bug that bit me as a kid in South Florida. It’s not the ocean, but it’s a boat on the water and that’s a happy place too.

Examples of How the Qualified Business Income Deduction Affects Realtors®


Prepared by Evan Liddiard, Senior Policy Representative, Federal Taxation

Example 1:  Amy Agent is a single Realtor® who operates as a sole proprietor and independent contractor.  She received $100,000 in net commission income in 2018.  She has no capital gains or losses.  After claiming deductions not related to her business, including the standard deduction, Amy’s total taxable income for 2018 is $81,000.  Her qualified business income (QBI) is $100,000, which is her gross commissions less her business deductions.  Amy’s section 199A deduction for 2018 is equal to $16,200, which is the lesser of 20% of her QBI from her business as a real estate agent ($100,000 x 20% = $20,000) and 20% of Amy’s total taxable income for the year ($81,000 x 20% = $16,200). 

Example 2.  Assume the same facts as in Example 1 except Amy Agent also had taxable pension income of $20,000, making her taxable income for the year $101,000.  Her QBI is still $100,000.  Amy’s section 199A deduction for 2018 is now equal to $20,000, which is the lesser of 20% of her QBI from her business as a real estate agent ($100,000 x 20% = $20,000) and 20% of Amy’s total taxable income for the year ($101,000 x 20% = $20,200). 

Example 3.  Carla and Bob Broker are married and file a joint tax return.  Carla earns $50,000 in salary as an employee of Acme Corporation in 2018.  Bob owns 100% of the shares of Bob’s Brokerage, which is an S corporation that provides real estate services and contracts with several agents.  Bob’s Brokerage generates $100,000 in net income in 2018 after deducting Bob’s salary of $150,000.  Carla and Bob have no capital gains or losses.  After allowable deductions not related to the brokerage, Carla and Bob’s total taxable income is $270,000 ($50,000 salary for Carla + $100,000 net income from Bob’s Brokerage + $150,000 for Bob’s salary less $30,000 in deductions).  Carla’s and Bob’s salaries are not considered Qualified Business Income (QBI).  However, the net income from the S corporation is QBI.  Carla and Bob’s section 199A deduction is equal to $20,000, the lesser of 20% of Bob’s QBI from the business ($100,000 x 20% = $20,000) and 20% of Carla and Bob’s total taxable income for the year ($270,000 x 20% = $54,000).

When Congress was debating the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, it was not clear that personal services professionals like Amy and Bob would get much, if any, deduction for their business income.  NAR, along with other organizations who represent small businesses, encouraged Congress to make the deduction available to as many small businesses and proprietors as possible.  The result was that all sole proprietors and pass-through business owners below the taxable income thresholds of $157,500 for single filers and $315,000 for joint returns were made eligible for the deduction. 

Example 4.  Deborah is single and a high-producing Realtor® in an active market.  She is an independent contractor and sole proprietor of her business.  She received net commission income of $400,000 in 2018.  She has no employees, but owns business property consisting of her car and office equipment that originally cost $70,000.  After allowable deductions unrelated to her business, Deborah’s total taxable income for 2018 is $370,000.  Because her income exceeds the applicable threshold amount, Deborah’s section 199A deduction is subject to the W-2 wage and qualified property limitations.  Her business has no W-2 wages, so the QBI component of Deborah’s section 199A deduction is limited to the lesser of 20% of the business’s QBI or 2.5% of its original cost of qualified property.  20% of her $400,000 of QBI is $80,000, and 2.5% of her original cost of her qualified business property is $1,750 ($70,000 x 2.5%). 

Therefore, her section 199A deduction for 2018 is $1,750.

Example 5.  Assume the same facts as in Example 4 above, except that Deborah has an employee whom she pays wages of $50,000 in 2018.  Because her taxable income is above the threshold amount, Deborah’s section 199A deduction is subject to the W-2 wage and qualified property limitations.  20% of her QBI of $400,000 is $80,000.  The W-2 wage limitation equals 50% of Deborah’s employee’s wages of $50,000 or $25,000.  The original cost of qualified property limitation equals $14,250, the sum of 25% of the employee’s wages ($50,000) or $12,500 plus 2.5% of the original cost of qualified property ($1,750, as above) is $14,250.  The greater of the limitation amounts ($25,000 and $14,250) is $25,000.  Deborah’s 199A deduction is limited to the lesser of 20% of the QBI ($80,000) or the greater of the limitations ($25,000).  Thus, her deduction for 2018 is $25,000.

Note:  Had Deborah paid more wages or had a larger investment in business property (owning the business’s office building, for example), the section 199A deduction could be much larger.   

As enacted, the section 199A deduction provided that owners of certain businesses that provided personal services would be prohibited from claiming the deduction if their taxable income were over certain thresholds ($157,500 for single filers and $315,000 for joint returns).  One of the prohibited types of business was “brokerage service.”  Thus, it appeared that real estate agents and brokers would not be allowed to claim any section 199A deduction if their taxable income happened to exceed the threshold amounts.  However, NAR advocated with the U.S. Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service, urging them to not include real estate professionals in the “brokerage services” category.  The regulations, issued in January 2019, held that real estate brokers and agents would not be included in the prohibited category and thus would be eligible to claim the deduction no matter how high their incomes.  

Disclaimer:  These examples are for general information and education purposes only.  They are not offered as legal advice, legal opinion, or tax advice.  The U.S. Treasury Department requires us to inform you that these examples are not intended by NAR to be used, and cannot be used by any taxpayer, for the purpose of avoiding any penalties that may be imposed under the Internal Revenue Code.  Discussion in these examples relating to federal tax matters may not be used in promoting, marketing, or recommending any entity, investment plan, or arrangement to any taxpayer.  Readers of these examples are advised to seek advice from a competent tax professional.


FAAR Technology Committee’s Bright MLS Update with Vernon Jones, Regional Vice President

On 2-12-2019, the FAAR Technology Committee sat down with Vernon Jones, Regional Vice President, Bright MLS.
Here’s what we learned. 


Bright MLS does have the capability to make localized customizations for an entire association or certain geographic areas. Many agents’ issues stem from the number of customizations available. Vernon recommends agents really get familiar with the new listing statuses (a primary cause of confusion) and also hovering over unfamiliar buttons to read the help text that appears. 

Known issues list

Bright is currently working on a known issues list showing the prioritization of high-level concerns. Prioritization of issues is assessed based on the frequency reported and overall impact of the issue.


There is no cause for concern over Tom Phillips departure as CEO. Interim leader Brian Donellan is a great leader and has been with Bright since launch. Thanks to this, there is no learning curve for Brian and his leadership will get us through the transition. The search for a new CEO will begin next month.


Bright’s training platform has changed over the past couple weeks. Log in to to find the new training link where you can register for upcoming training. Bright’s Youtube clinics will continue throughout February

Reporting inaccuracies fast and anonymously

Use the accuracy bullseye to report information inaccuracies on a listing— if you click on the bullseye icon on the listing, that will open an email screen which will forward an email with the specific issue that you enter over to our Accuracy and Policy Department so they can investigate it anonymously on your behalf and get the issue resolved as quickly as possible.

Join the new Power of One Bright Facebook group

(  to engage in productive discussions —Think of this group as a two-way platform where Bright can share with you, and you with them. A central place for Bright subscribers to exchange tips and tricks, provide and receive help, and give constructive feedback to Bright. Bright has reached out to the other agent-led facebook groups to get their feedback, but this group is the best option for getting your issues resolved.

Customer Support

Calling is the best way to get in touch with support. Call wait times on the Bright customer support line have dropped drastically and is approaching the level of calls received prior to conversion. Bright hired 20 new support staff last month and is in process of beefing up customer support for the spring market. The chat support option at is sometimes unavailable (think of it like a bucket that closes when full), but reopens when available.  Bright is currently working through a large volume of email cases at the moment at so email submissions might take a little bit longer to resolve.

Agent submitted concerns

Bright MLS has utilized legal counsel to investigate the rental vouchers/subsidized housing reporting and whether it is possible to make that field mandatory as a local customization. In the meantime, agents must follow the instructions in the article at to make the listing appear in subsidized housing searches. 

Automatic scrubbing

Bright MLS recently turned on the automated feature that flags possible fair housing violations and has noticed some phrases/words getting flagged that shouldn’t be. They are working on fine tuning the feature to recognize the context and only flag inappropriate wording.


The Gallery Report has been added into Bright MLS.

Look forward to the return of agent prompts via email (e.g. your listing is expiring)

Technology Committee requested the addition of either an early AM email time or allowing agents to set their own— Bright is currently investigating.







Join us online for a Bright Update this Friday

Join us online for a Bright Update this Friday

On Friday, Feb. 15, FAAR and our neighboring Realtor® associations are hosting an online livestream Bright MLS meet-up. Hear from the incoming Bright MLS Interim CEO and members of the Bright MLS leadership team about their plans for moving the system forward.

When: Friday, Feb. 15, 1 – 3 p.m.

Who: Incoming Bright Interim CEO Brian Donnellan, Chief Technology Officer Frank Major, and Board Member David Howell will be joined by NVAR CEO Ryan Conrad and President Christine Richardson

What: High-level Q&A about how Bright MLS is working to:
• Improve customer support
• Strengthen the quality and timeliness of the data
• Listen, learn and adapt to the rapidly evolving marketplace
• Ensure that the Bright MLS staff at all levels is focused on the mission of improving your MLS experience.
Use this opportunity to have a constructive, respectful dialogue and discussion and to submit your questions about next steps for the Bright transition.

Advanced registration is required and is open to members of FAAR, NVAR, DAAR, PWAR, GPR and BRAR who are Bright MLS subscribers.

Where: Online livestream from a location of your choice

Changes to Dotloop Access to non-NVAR Members

Changes to Dotloop Access to non-NVAR Members

A change was implemented this week regarding access to NVAR forms through dotloop®. This security measure is intended to ensure that only Realtor® subscribers or their authorized designees have access to this proprietary professional resource.

Subscribers are now required to enter a valid NRDS ID. Because the authentication system only recognizes NVAR NRDS numbers, FAAR members or their administrative assistants who wish to access the forms will need to obtain an invitation code from dotloop® customer service.

Subscribers should click on “Add Association” in their account, then type in “NVAR Non-Members.” They will be prompted for the invitation code. Additional details are available here:

Dotloop® customer service can be reached at 1-888-dotloop (368-5667)

FAAR members can find their NRDS IDs by logging in at They system may prompt you to update your information with us, if so, please do, click save, and then click on “My Account.” Your NRDS number will be in the blue box. 

Social Media Boot Camp by Bright MLS

Social Media Boot Camp by Bright MLS



Ready to ramp up your social media marketing?

Join us for a free in-person event where you’ll learn how you can successfully use social media in your real estate business. 

Topics covered include:

  • Introduction to social media for the real estate professional
  • How to use top social media channels including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter (even YouTube Video Tours) to create clients for life
  • Why Content is King 
  • Internet and website marketing
  • How to get the most bang for your buck with social media marketing
  • Integrating social media into your website

Please note: Optional Bright MLS services will be discussed and offered for agents looking for assistance with social media marketing.

*Light refreshments will be served.

2 offerings on 2/22/19

10:00 am – 12:00 pm and 1:00 -3:00 pm

Registration Link:

Press Releases

February Picks Up the Pace in Local Real Estate Market

While February statistics tracked fairly closely to 2018 numbers, pending sales indicate a warming in the local real estate market.  Total sold dollar volume increased 2.4% in February, coming in at $106.4 million compared to nearly $103.9 million in...

January Ushers in a Sluggish Start to 2019 Real Estate Market

The 2019 real estate market kicked off with mixed results.  Total sold dollar volume fell 14.5% in January, coming in at $88.961 million compared to over $104 million in January of 2018.  The number of units sold decreased year-over-year over 13.7%, going...

2018 Local Housing Market Posts Modest Gains

The 2018 real estate market posted gains in total sold dollar volume and median price, but saw a slight reduction in units sold.  The year closed out with a total sold dollar volume of $1.925 billion which represents a 3.7% increase over the year-end...

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