With home prices at an all-time high and headed beyond the reach of many aspiring buyers, the Carroll County REALTORS® (CCR) saw the attempt of its County Commissioners to increase the real estate recordation tax by 25% as a bridge too far. If passed, it would mean an added $1,100 to the closing costs for the sale of a median-priced home in Carroll County. The association turned to the REALTOR® Party for support in mounting a multi-layered opposition offensive.
Lisa May, Maryland REALTORS’® Director of Advocacy and Public Policy, stepped up to help with the campaign. “The timing was tight, but in way, it couldn’t have been better,” she says. The proposed tax increase was attached to the FY 2024 budget, and its public hearing was set for May 9th of this year.
CCR’s Legislative Committee Chair had presented the issue to the membership at an in-person meeting, and had put out a social media alert. The association also submitted an official letter of opposition to the Commissioners. Securing an Issues Mobilization Grant from the REALTOR Party, they then launched a member- and consumer-facing Call For Action that ran from May 2nd to May 9th, with a follow-up campaign urging likely Republican voters to email and place patch-through calls to their lawmakers, all of whom are Republican; four of the five Commissioners are brand new, and CCR had recently supported one of them with an Independent Expenditures campaign. The elected officials received the message loud and clear, reports May. “They asked, ‘Did you have to send so many emails?!’ But it was important to draw this line in the sand, especially when home prices are so high and rapidly increasing. We needed to make it clear that this was a bad idea for homebuyers and the local economy.”
Meanwhile, NAR’s RLM meetings in the nation’s capital were in full-swing, and May 9th was the day of the REALTOR® Block Party. “We provided a bus to transport local REALTORS® from the event in DC to the public budget hearing in Carroll County, all primed for legislative advocacy and ready to go!” says May. “It sure made an impression when they, together with other CCR REALTORS®, filed into the room in their REALTOR® t-shirts.” Several members brought clients to testify, putting a personal face on the challenge of buying a home in the current market in Carroll County.
Between the hearing and the budget vote, the REALTORS® kept the pressure on with an online ad campaign; in the end, an informal vote resulted in the recordation tax increase being removed from the budget. “It was a real squeaker: we won the issue by only one vote!” reports May. At that point, the REALTORS® pivoted deftly from their planned campaign to a big multi-media ‘Thank You” to the Board of Commissioners, putting up online ads, and texting members to contact their commissioners to thank them for making the right choice.
May encourages other associations to tap into the resources offered by the REALTOR® Party. Better yet, she advises, “Try to find ways to layer them on top of each other. The Independent Expenditure Campaign grant we used last year helped establish a relationship with one of the new Commissioners, making our direct advocacy more effective, on top of the Issues Mobilization campaign. The team at NAR is very responsive, and will hold your hand through the process. If you’re wondering, ‘How do I know how to do a patch-through call?’ the answer is that they do it for you, and they make you look really smart in the process!”
To learn more about how the REALTORS® are working to keep municipalities from over-taxing real estate, contact Lisa May, Maryland REALTORS®’ Director of Advocacy and Public Policy, at email@example.com or 571.228.7385; or Sharon Hiner, Association Executive of Carroll County REALTORS®, at firstname.lastname@example.org.