Working with the Planning Department of the largest county in its Northern Virginia operating area, Greater Piedmont REALTORS® commissioned a State and Local Growth poll from the REALTOR® Party that helped to quantify local attitudes toward housing growth. The resulting data will help decision-makers in their long-term planning, and the project strengthened the REALTORS®’ role as community partners.
In the Commonwealth of Virginia, local jurisdictions are required to review their comprehensive plans every five years. Fauquier County, a semi-rural but fast-growing region in the Washington metropolitan area, will soon be engaged in the process, and Greater Piedmont REALTORS®, the local voice of real estate, is sure to have a seat at the table. When the association learned about the polling services offered by the REALTOR® Party, it stepped up to get hard data on the housing needs and quality-of-life preferences of county residents. The information it provided to county planners strengthened its position as a housing expert and resourceful partner.
Terrie Owens, 2022 President of Greater Piedmont REALTORS®, explains that her Public Policy Committee, led by Chair Wendy Johnson, recommended that the board apply for one of the REALTOR® Party polls, which are conducted by American Strategies, a highly respected national firm led by Joe Goode. “We are so thankful that NAR made it possible for us to demonstrate to our local government and to the public that we’re not just sellers of real estate, we’re an organization that understands and cares about the housing in our communities. Without this polling program, the expense would’ve been exorbitant, and we simply couldn’t have done it.”
Debbie Werling, the association’s Executive Officer, brought Fauquier County’s Chief of Planning into the process, and together with a number of REALTOR® members over the course of several Zoom meetings, they collaborated on how the poll would be crafted. “We asked the County, ‘What’s important for you to know? What is it you want to ascertain about local attitudes and priorities?’” she recalls. “That’s how the questions were formulated, so the county officials were getting exactly what they needed. She adds that the expertise, responsiveness, insight, and guidance they received from American Strategies was tremendous. “They were super amazing to work with, and really refined what we were trying to achieve.”
The poll reflects the responses of 400 county residents over the age of 18, from a wide demographic range, and the results were revealed in a whopping 40-page report. “We were blown away by the volume of information and incredible detail!” says Owens. “When the County asked us to present the results to a meeting of the Planning Commission,” she continues, “we realized that Joe Goode would be the best person to do so, because of his expertise and familiarity with the material. We’re lucky that he happens to be local: not only did he graciously agree, he showed up in person to deliver the hour-long presentation, including questions from the Commissioners and the public. To reach as many people as possible, it was also live-streamed and recorded, so he really gave us great added value, on top of the report itself.” Meanwhile, Werling recognized that the average county resident or REALTOR® member was not going to sit down and read the full report, so she asked the firm to distill it down to a few easy-to-read infographics that were distributed to her full membership and the local media, which gave the project good coverage.
Werling notes that the poll results were not surprising and tended to validate the authorities’ assumptions with quantitative data. “The good news is that 85% of respondents characterize quality of life in the county as very high, which is helpful to REALTORS® selling homes here. On the other hand, although 65% believe that affordable housing is a problem, they are not keen on the solutions that would help to solve it, which confirms some of our challenges.” The County expressed sincere gratitude to the REALTORS® for the poll and will be using it to inform future planning efforts. “It says a lot that the Planning Commission devoted an hour of one of its meetings to the report, and that the REALTORS® were asked to present it,” says Werling.
John Stirrup, the REALTORS®’ Legislative Consultant, notes that entire process was seamless and user-friendly. “The application required thought, but not heavy lifting. And collaborating with the county on its goals for the poll was a valuable exercise that helped us to understand their position and needs and made us a valuable ally for the Planning Department: a real win.” According to Werling, the other counties in the Greater Piedmont region are now requesting similar polls to help with their own comprehensive plans. “There’s a limit to how often we can request these from the REALTOR® Party, but we certainly are planning to come back for more!”
To learn more about how Greater Piedmont REALTORS® is helping Fauquier County to assess and plan for its housing needs, contact Executive Officer Debbie Werling at firstname.lastname@example.org or 540.222.4728.