Delaware has the highest Realty Transfer Tax in the nation, and research showed the state REALTOR® association that many consumers don’t understand the impact it has on buying and selling property. A Consumer Advocacy Grant from the REALTOR® Party helped inform the public, the first step toward building an informed voter base in favor of lowering the tax and making homeownership more affordable.
The state of Delaware claims the dubious distinction of having the highest state-level Realty Transfer Tax in the nation. Not only does this price many would-be homebuyers out of the market, it also depresses the industry’s economic baseline and stunts broader economic development. Because the public only rarely encounters this tax – at closings – many residents had been unaware of its impact, so the Delaware Association of REALTORS® mounted an education campaign about the actual costs involved in buying and selling a home. By preparing consumers for the process, and by equipping the voting public to apply pressure on the state legislature to lower the Realty Transfer Tax, the effort will make home ownership more affordable and attainable for everyone. A Consumer Advocacy Grant from the REALTOR® Party has helped the cause.
Amanda Kelly Thompson, the association’s Director of Political and Legislative Affairs, explains that back in 2017, the Delaware legislature covered its budget deficit by raising the Realty Transfer Tax by 1%. “It was an eleventh-hour ploy, which the REALTORS® have been trying to reverse ever since. Meanwhile, the heightened closing costs brought about by the steep tax was derailing and delaying dreams of homeownership for Delaware consumers. Our research shows that it has disproportionately affected people of color, senior citizens, and young families, so this issue is a top priority for our association.” When she learned about the REALTOR® Party grant programs at an NAR training program, Thompson recognized that a Consumer Advocacy Grant could build an informed voter base to help convince the legislature to decrease the Realty Transfer Tax. The consumers reached by an education campaign would also gain a better understanding of the costs associated with the homebuying and selling process. It would be a win-win.
The Delaware Legislature meets from January to June 30th each year, and the campaign took place in late 2021, just prior to the 2022 legislative session. It began with an update of the DelawareTransferTax.com website, which the REALTORS® had developed earlier in their effort, and now adapted for the purposes of consumer advocacy. Two messages sent to all the email addresses in the state’s consumer campaign records, together with a series of targeted digital ads, directed the public to the informative site. Early in the session, a bill to lower the transfer tax was introduced and received strong bi-partisan support. Rallying the power of a freshly informed public, the REALTORS® put out several consumer Calls For Action, to which over 400 Delaware voters responded with messages to their representatives. “We really got through to the legislators that this is important!” says Thompson, who reports that the bill emerged from the House Administration Committee and will head to the House Appropriations committee before a vote by the full House of Representatives if time allows; regardless, she says, she and her team will double down and target legislators who have not yet signed on.
“From our prior research, we knew that the public wasn’t generally aware of the Realty Transfer Tax, so it’s evident from the CFA responses that our education campaign was effective. Not only were these consumers informed, but they were engaged and took action,” notes Thompson. “We couldn’t have made this kind of impact on public understanding without this support from the REALTOR® Party.”
The REALTOR Party’s grant programs, she says, are straight-forward and easy to navigate: “If you have any doubts or questions, the staff itself is such a great resource; they are incredible at guiding you through the process, and clearly want your association to succeed!”
To learn more about how the Delaware Association of REALTORS® is educating consumers about the actual costs of buying and selling a home, and working to drive those costs down, contact Amanda Kelly Thompson, Director, Political and Legislative Affairs, at email@example.com or 302.354.7106, or visit DelawareTransferTax.com.