Every year, it seems, the Connecticut legislature, running on a deficit, seeks revenue in a transfer tax, or a conveyance tax, or some kind of fee that would add to the cost of buying a home or commercial property. And every year, the Connecticut Association of REALTORS® fights it, in the interests of property owners and aspiring property-owners alike.
Early in the most recent legislative session, the Governor stated that he wouldn’t be signing any new tax bills, and a proposal for a state-wide property tax was defeated. The REALTORS® thought they were in the clear, explains 2021 Association President Carol Christiansen. Fortunately, they didn’t let their guard down: later in the session, a section cropped up in an Open Space bill that sought to establish another conveyance tax, which it called a ‘fee.’ While it would not have been mandated, it sought to allow any municipality in Connecticut to impose a significant percentage tax on both commercial and residential sales, tiered according to the selling price, to be paid by either the buyer or the seller. “Commercial real estate was already hurting – we were trying to fill empty storefronts all over the state,” says Christiansen; “On the residential side, properties selling for $150K, at which point the fee would come into play, would be the most entry-level fixer-upper homes in many communities here. These buyers do not have extra cash to spend on additional closing costs, and this requirement would really hurt them in a competitive market. These are people we want to help get into homes of their own, not the other way around.”
Adding to the challenge was the fact that the fee was proposed as a municipal funding mechanism in response to a recent Climate Change and Coastal Resiliency Report, an environmental cause no legislator wants to appear to be opposing. The REALTORS®’ opposition strategy maintained that the issue was the already high cost of homebuying, and that buyers and sellers of real estate should not be solely responsible for funding a program that benefits an entire municipality.
An Issues Mobilization Grant from the REALTOR® Party helped the Connecticut REALTORS® build opposition to the proposed fee through targeted ads on social media and in online political magazines. Bright red billboards posted on major thoroughfares throughout the state urged motorists to call on legislators to “STOP a new sales tax on homes!” and an Advocacy Everywhere Call For Action netted the highest response in the association’s history: more than 11K emails sent to legislators, urging them not to approve the proposed fee. The effort was promoted by CTR-tv, the association’s in-house television station, on its weekly “5 IN 5” feature, which covers five key topics in five minutes. When it was clear that the message had worked, new billboards went up: bright green signs replaced the red ones, thanking legislators for voting down the fee.
Christiansen says that members have become increasingly aware of the importance of their role as advocates for property rights. “We see it in the robust responses to our CFAs, and also in this year’s record levels of RPAC investment,” she reports. She credits the hard work of the association in communicating with members, as well as the benefits delivered by the National Association during the pandemic. “Our members are paying attention, and appreciate the value of advocacy!”
To learn more about how the Connecticut Association of REALTORS® advocates for industry issues and fair, equitable communities, contact 2021 President Carol Christiansen at 860.460.6808; or Political Advocacy Director Mike Smith at email@example.com or 860.756.0770.