help@borntogive.com

Advocacy

Louisiana REALTORS® Defeat a Proposed Tax on Services

The Louisiana REALTORS® weren’t exactly surprised when the state legislature recently started talking about implementing a tax on services to help close a major budget deficit.  “It’s something that comes up every couple of years,” says Kim Callaway, the REALTORS®’ Director of Legal and Governmental Affairs, who cites the economy and chronic structural budget problems as the chief reasons for the threat, which has always been defeated, but which her organization can’t afford to ignore.

“A tax on services would not just effect our members, as service providers,” Callaway points out, “it would have a huge impact on consumers paying for the services of home inspectors, termite inspectors, attorneys, mortgage brokers, and so on.  It would significantly increase the cost of getting in to a new home or business property, and we have a mandate to protect these consumers as best we can.”

While some of the REALTORS®’ legislative contacts assured them that the tax proposal wouldn’t pass, and that they were just reviewing all their options, the REALTORS® weren’t taking any chances. “It was happening fast, and we had to act, just in case it grew legs,” recalls Callaway. “The bill was filed on a Friday, the session started on Monday, and the House Ways and Means Committee heard the bill on Tuesday. Up at the National Association of REALTORS®, thank goodness, the REALTOR® Party team was able to spin on a dime.” She had seen the emails about the new Advocacy Everywhere program, and knew that was what the Louisiana REALTORS® needed, pronto. “We contacted them as soon as the issue came up, and asked, ‘How do we do this? We need it to happen now!’ ”

While Callaway and her team were on the ground in Baton Rouge engaged in essential lobbying at the statehouse, the Advocacy Everywhere professionals at NAR were setting up text mobile alerts and email Calls for Action to REALTOR® constituents of the Louisiana House Ways and Means Committee members. REALTOR® recipients responded at a click-through rate of 38%, and the bill was killed in committee. “We like to think that the number would have been even higher,” notes Callaway, “but it all happened so fast. We’re just grateful for those of our members who had a chance to respond, and did so.”

The legislators have still not been able to reach a consensus on how to resolve the budget deficit, and Callaway anticipates that they’ll have to hold another special session to address the matter prior to the start of the coming fiscal year. While the REALTORS® aren’t actively supporting any other revenue-generating solutions, she says, they’re not opposing any, either. Meanwhile, thanks to their vigilance, and to the REALTOR® Party, issues important to the real estate industry are being protected.

To learn more about how the Louisiana REALTORS® are using REALTOR® Party resources to protect its members and prospective home and commercial property buyers in their state, contact Kim Callaway, Director of Legal and Governmental Affairs, at 225-923-2210.

Read more

Illinois REALTORS® Use Broker Involvement Program to Meet REALTOR® Party Mobile Alert Text Goals

When the Illinois REALTORS® identified the President’s Cup as a goal for 2017, manager of Grassroots and Political Programs Neil Malone knew it would be a steep challenge. The trophy, presented annually to state associations that accomplish four significant advocacy goals and meet five additional RPAC goals, is an especially ambitious reach for larger states, he notes.  “It’s a pretty hefty list, and some of those percentage goals are really big numbers.  Even though we’re not actually competing against our fellow state associations, we’re always competing with ourselves.  So we’ve made a concerted effort to do our best—with some help from the REALTOR® Party.”  

One of the President’s Cup goals is using the REALTOR® Party’s Broker Involvement Program for a state Call for Action.  Illinois, the state with the largest number of brokers and the forth-largest number of agents enrolled in the Broker Involvement Program, understood its power; they had had great success in the past when they used it for voter registration efforts. “We’ve learned that when members get an email from their broker, they’re going to open it, and what’s more, they’ll typically respond,” says Malone. So he and his team decided to kill two birds with one stone:  they would use the Broker Involvement Program to stimulate an increase in the number of REALTOR® Party Mobile Alert subscribers, another goal of the President’s Cup.

“The national association made it super-easy for us,” reports Malone, explaining that, in addition to sending out the Call for Action, NAR’s Online Advocacy team bounced ideas about messaging back and forth with the Illinois REALTORS®.  They tested two: one was an informational, big picture message, and the other was tighter, more concise, and asked directly for help; the latter was overwhelmingly more effective. “That test spoke to how well-informed our members are,” says Malone, adding, “they don’t need much baseline information, and they’re ready to respond when asked!”

When Illinois’ latest State Broker Call for Action was launched, respond they did.  Nearly 500 new subscribers signed up for the REALTOR® Party Mobile Alerts texting program, pushing the state goal over the top at 105%.

Malone is quick to credit others with the success:  “Our REALTORS® and our leadership have seen the value of this program, and are committed to it.”  The culture of the state association is completely supportive of the REALTOR® advocacy goals, as well, he says:  “Gary Clayton, our CEO, and Greg St. Aubin, our Senior Vice President of Governmental Affairs, have always made it clear that advocacy is a real priority.  They’ve put together a great team and given us the tools we need to be successful.”  One such tool is the Illinois REALTORS®‘ State Legislative Contact program, modeled on NAR’s Federal Political Coordinator system, which matches a REALTOR® with each of Illinois’ 118 representatives and 59 state senators. Another organizational advantage is that all of the local government affairs staff in Illinois field offices are employees of the state association.  “I’m in touch with them on a daily basis,” says Malone. “With an organization this size, sometimes progress feels like turning an oil tanker, so it’s good that we’re a tight ship.”   

Another recent Call for Action to which Illinois REALTOR® members responded at a rate of over 22%, making their voices heard regarding the National Flood Insurance Program, checked yet another box for the President’s Cup.  “One of our local associations got a response rate of more than 40%,” says Malone, with pride.  “We’re doing well, but that’s where I’d like to get them all!”

To learn more about how Illinois REALTORS® are using REALTOR® Party tools to meet and exceed their advocacy goals, contact Neil Malone, Manager of Grassroots and Political Programs, at 217-529-2600.

Read more

Tennessee REALTORS® Score One of Highest Call for Action Response Rates

Put a “Chief Engagement Officer” together with a good plan, a strong team and 25,000 REALTORSâ in The Volunteer State of Tennessee and what do you get?  For starters, you get one of the highest response rates in the shortest amount of time on the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®’ latest flood insurance Call for Action.

“It’s amazing what you can do when you put a good plan to work,” says Tennessee REALTORS® President Brian Copeland.  “Last December, I worked with my volunteer leaders and our amazing staff, to put together a full strategic plan, including a detailed advocacy outline with benchmarks to be met throughout the year,” explains Copeland, who breezily lives up to his title of Chief Engagement Officer for Village Real Estate Services in Nashville.

Of course, one of those benchmarks was to get at least 20 percent of his members to respond to every NAR Call for Action.  They did just that.  In the three weeks that it was active, nearly 27 percent of Tennessee REALTORS® responded, asking Congress to reform and extend the National Flood Insurance Program, which was due to expire at the end of September.  (Congress passed an extension of the program that was signed into law, September 8.)

“We hit the decks running,” adds Jennifer Farrar, Tennessee REALTORS® Governmental Affairs Director.  “I’ve only been the GAD here for seven months and I am so fortunate to be surrounded by such an energetic and ambitious team.  We all worked together at the state and local levels to make this happen.”

Farrar explains that Tennessee REALTORS® prepared to succeed by heavily promoting REALTOR® Party Mobile Alerts, which allows REALTORS® to receive text messages on their mobile phones about Calls for Action and respond to them on the spot.  “We had about 2,000 subscribers at the end of July.  By the time the Call for Action went live on August 22, we had almost 4,000.  This went a long way toward getting our members to engage, and engage fast,” she says.

Tennessee REALTORS® also made extensive use of social media, creating a state landing page for members to take action and share graphics on their Facebook and Twitter pages.  The association also ran ads on Facebook using special tracking tools, allowing them to see who and when members responded.

Copeland and Farrar both attribute much of the high response rate to their “Leader Boards,” where they showed each local association’s progress at the end of the day.  “It was like a Jerry Lewis Telethon, where our members got excited to see their progress at the end of each day,” Copeland says.

At 5:15 each evening, Copeland would send a text to each local association’s president and president-elect with two charts—one showing the overall Call for Action progress for each association and the other showing the one-day gains.  Then, at 5:30, these leader boards would be made public to the rest of the membership.

“This sparked even more REALTORS® to respond,” Copeland says.  “When REALTORSâ got home in the evening and saw where their association stood, it got them to take action.”

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and the devastation left in their paths, reminded Tennessee REALTORS® of the massive flooding across their own state seven years ago when nearly 14 inches of rain fell in 36 hours.  Across the state, more than 11,000 properties were damaged, 10,000 people were displaced, 400 businesses closed and 26 people died. 

In fact, Hagan Stone, past president of the Greater Nashville Association of REALTORS®, made a video, which was posted on the Tennessee REALTORS® website, describing how his own family’s home was damaged during that flood in May 2010.  The video urged REALTORS® to respond to the Call for Action; and consider donating to the REALTORS® Relief Foundation to help the people who lost homes from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

“Any connection to humanity inspires people to act, and here in the Volunteer State, that connection is strong,” Copeland adds.

Copeland “upped the ante” by using his personal Facebook page to make the connection between REALTORSâ helping others and REALTORS® advocating for policies to help future flooding victims.  He offered to donate $1 to the REALTOR® Relief Foundation for every screenshot of a completed Call for Action response members posted to him.  More than 300 REALTORS® took him up on the offer.

In the end, 15 of Tennessee’s 21 local associations had response rates of 20 percent or higher, three had 15 percent or higher and three had 10 percent or higher. 

Even the smaller local associations got involved in promoting the Call for Action.  In fact, the 230-member Bristol Tennessee/Virginia Association of REALTORS®, made a video getting its members to respond. 

Tennessee REALTORS®’ 27 percent response rate was the highest among large state associations.  See the state-by-state response rates.

“Our goal is to inspire and keep the momentum going here in Tennessee and to inspire other state associations to plan for strong participation in NAR’s advocacy efforts.  Never underestimate the power of a good plan,” he says.

For more information about Tennessee REALTORS® advocacy plan and Call for Action success, contact Jennifer Farrar, the Tennessee REALTORS® Governmental Affairs Director at (615) 321-1477 or (877) 321-1477.

Read more

Member & Consumer Mobilization

Build on your association’s grassroots power with these tools and resources designed to increase your members and consumer’s involvement in the political process.

 

Questions? Contact Jim MacGregor at 202-383-1188 or Erin Murphy at 202-383-1079.

Read more

Miami REALTORS® Kick off Year of Advocacy with Community Engagement Projects

Miami Association of REALTORS®, with more than 46,000 primary members, has to think BIG to deliver the most impact with the REALTOR® Party programs, explains Senior Vice President of Housing & Government Affairs Danielle Blake.  In order to use REALTOR® Party resources efficiently, the Miami Association, through member engagement and feedback, developed a list of projects designed to bring significant improvements to nearly every corner of greater Miami.

To build the bundle of projects, the Miami Association invited its membership to a brainstorming session; more than 200 members, many of them members of the NAR’s Young Professionals Network (YPN), attended and submitted ideas with gusto: “REALTORS® work and live in all our communities,” says Blake, “and they know what the needs are.”  Each final project was led by the REALTOR® who proposed it, and supported by a team of fellow REALTOR® volunteers and a REALTOR® Partner, typically an elected official.  The group came up with the following projects, among others:

  • In Miami Gardens, an incorporated city home to the Hard Rock Stadium where the Miami Dolphins play, REALTORS® kicked off the US-441 beautification project in anticipation of Super Bowl LIV in 2020: the mayor, city commissioners, residents and several REALTOR® members re-painted the façade of a prominent corner commercial building.
  • The REALTORS® have partnered with the Ludlam Trail, a former railroad track that is now a recreational path, in sponsoring community events from car shows to yoga classes to movie nights, all branded with the REALTOR® name and logo.
  • The REALTORS® are supporting the Underline, a large-scale project capitalizing on the unused space beneath the 10-mile elevated Metrorail between Miami and Coral Gables.  More than 100 members participated in a kick-off bike ride sponsored by a portion of the bundled grant.
  • Making use of both Housing Opportunity and Diversity Grants, the REALTORS® partnered with the local National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP) chapter in hosting a condo-financing conference attended by 350 real estate professionals and members of the public.  A white paper produced by the Miami Association of REALTORS®’ task force had influenced an FHA policy change, resulting in a significant increase of insurance compliances for condominium buildings.
  • Inspired by the REALTOR® Village, a shipping-container community in the Philippines, built in cooperation with NAR, the Miami REALTORS® are tackling the housing affordability crisis by developing a container house prototype in the City of South Miami.  The REALTORS® have navigated complex city zoning and setback requirements, partnered with the county to donate the land, and identified a local architect and contractor with container-home experience. With the enthusiastic support of an enlightened mayor, the tiny house is becoming a model reality.
  • Miami REALTORS® are passionate about giving back to people of all backgrounds and abilities.  With support from a grant, more than 40 Miami REALTORS® dressed up to serve dinner to more than 500 individuals in need at Chapman Partnership, a non-profit committed to empowering the homeless in Miami. The association is working to make the event an ongoing volunteer opportunity, and a number of REALTORS® who participated are working on future corporate events with Chapman Partnership. 

The REALTOR® Party grants have also helped to create a dog park, and sponsor multiple Better Block projects that have spurred citizens and elected officials to make lasting improvements. 

The great thing about the effort, says Blake, is that it succeeds on so many levels:  “We were finally able to use these wonderful REALTOR® Party programs on a substantial level.  We’re interacting with elected officials, who, in turn, are recognizing the input and expertise of the REALTORS®.  We’re engaging our membership, and our YPN, in particular.  We’re helping our communities, and we’re crafting housing policy!  None of these projects, nor any of this positive effect, would have happened,” she concludes, “without the support of the National Association of REALTORS®.” 

To learn more about how the Miami REALTORS® are using REALTOR® Party resources to improve their communities on multiple levels, contact Danielle Blake, Senior Vice President of Housing & Government Affairs, at 305-468-7015.

Read more

Delaware REALTORS® Use REALTOR® Party Mobile Alerts to Save Itemized Deductions

But with the recent loss of GM and Dupont jobs, and casino profits dwindling, the deficit on the state of Delaware’s $4 billion budget this past fiscal year was close to $400 million. Something had to be done to help fill the gap.  The Delaware Association of REALTORS® had managed to dissuade the legislature from pursuing a statewide property tax, and had received a strong indication from the Joint Finance Committee that it would not be looking to eliminate itemized deductions from the state tax code.  But then it did.  And the REALTORS® responded in force.

Maria Evans, Government Affairs Director of the 3,800-member association, explains that the bill, which threatened both mortgage interest and property tax deductions, was introduced just under the wire, and the association issued a Call for Action in short order. This was the first time that Evans, a veteran GAD, had used REALTOR® Party Mobile Alerts.  It couldn’t have been simpler, she says.  “It was easy for me to set up, and easy for our members to take action.  I drafted the text message to our members, and a basic form letter that could accommodate additional personal comments.  The REALTOR® Party team talked me through the set-up; I was working on this fairly late-night, and they were right there with me. We had to get it out ASAP.  With just a few clicks, constituents were voicing their opposition to the bill.”  The fact that the system is address-based means that legislators are only hearing from their own constituents, which has a much stronger impact on the receiving end, she notes.

What really amazed Evans is that the REALTOR® Party followed up with a finely targeted text message alert to those who had not yet responded, and then another, after a calculated amount of time.  Before the dust had cleared, more than 1,100 REALTORS® had taken action: a remarkable response rate of 31%, the highest, by far, for Delaware.  The click-through rate, according to the National Association of REALTORS, was an astonishing 87%—a national record, and far above the average state CFA click-through rate of about 15%.  The REALTORS® also reached out to the general public through the Consumer Advocacy Outreach Program, which generated a modest but helpful response.

“The volume of emails from our REALTOR® members was amazing!” says Evans. “We had a caucus across the aisle, and needed just one more vote, and we got it.  The emails to legislators also allowed us to hold on to the votes we had.  There is no doubt in my mind that it was our initiative, with the help of the REALTOR® Party, that carried the vote.”  The Speaker of the House had no doubts either, as Evans and the President and General Counsel of the Delaware REALTORS® learned when he called them in to his office.  “He was livid that the state had been forced into an unprecedented extraordinary session, and placed the blame squarely on the REALTORS®.  For my part,” reports Evans, “I was happy to accept that credit!”

The REALTORS®‘ success in defending the mortgage interest and property tax deductions came at a cost, however: in the three-day extraordinary session, the legislators hiked the transfer tax by 1%, a whopping 33% increase. Evans got right to work, and is hopeful that in January, it will be amended to exempt first-time home buyers and possibly primary dwellings, as well.  “We need to make sure the legislators understand that not all prospective buyers are investing in beach houses,” she says.  “This is going to hurt kids living in their parents’ basements, and working people scraping their pennies together for a first home.”

To learn more about how the Delaware REALTORS® are using REALTOR® Party tools to protect property rights by engaging members in the legislative process, contact Government Affairs Director Maria Evans at 302-734-4444.

Read more

Mississippi becomes 4th State to Create Tax Benefits for First-Time Homebuyer Savings

“It’s nice for Mississippi to be a positive example for other states to emulate!” laughs Clarke Wise, Governmental Affairs Director of the Mississippi REALTORS®. He’s referring to the fact that his state is among the first few in the nation to enact legislation establishing a First-Time Home Buyer Savings Account program, thanks to extensive support from the Mississippi REALTORS® and the National Association of REALTORS®.

Individuals in Mississippi can now create monetary savings accounts for down payments or other expenses related to the purchase of a first home, and will be able to deduct $2,500 from state adjusted gross income annually; couples filing jointly can deduct up to $5,000. Interest earned on the account is also exempt from state income tax and there is no cap on the amount that can be saved.

The Mississippi REALTORS® had been behind this legislation for years. Governor Phil Bryant was behind it, too. But, as Wise explains, the state had experienced a few years of low revenue collections, and when legislators see a tax cut, they’re inclined to say ‘no.’ What they needed to see was hard research showing what the effect of the proposed savings account policy would be.  “NAR is a wealth of resources!” says Wise. “We reached out to all our local associations for home sales data from the past five years and turned it over to NAR’s Campaign Services team.  They made it the basis of a 52-page report that indicated a clear economic benefit for the state of Mississippi, amounting to 379 new homes constructed to meet demand and an estimated additional $1,830 spent by new homebuyers in their communities, annually.” He was amazed by the depth of detail in the report, which drilled down to reveal how those additional expenditures would benefit various sectors as new homeowners bought housekeeping supplies, furnishings, new pet supplies, etc.

David Griffith, Mississippi REALTORS®‘ 2017 President, notes that it was NAR’s research that got his association’s foot in the door, so to speak. “Normally, a representative or senator will begin to gloss-over at the words ‘first-time-homebuyer,’ but these economic projections really got their attention and enabled Clarke to go deeper, and explain how this policy would actually raise property values and tax revenue, and create more stable and prosperous communities in the long run.  The report allowed us to game-change.”

NAR also provided campaign services, bill drafting, economic research and a timely Call for Action to help the Mississippi REALTORS® make its case among the legislators. Wise credits the Mississippi REALTORS® with giving him the freedom to get out of the office and personally visit over two dozen legislators in their home districts over the summer to start getting them on board. He also spent time on coalition and consensus building: the Home Builders, Manufactured Housing, and Bankers Associations were all strong partners.

The bill passed unanimously in the House of Representatives and by a vote of 51-to-one in the Senate. Governor Bryant signed it into law with warm thanks to everyone who worked so hard to make it happen.

“Getting key people on board in advance of the session, back during the summer, gave us a great kick-start,” notes Griffith. The other big advantage, he says, was the powerful network of grassroots and issues mobilization volunteers among local REALTOR® organizations across the state. “All those hard-working committee members and their contacts really got the message out.  Those relationships will continue to be important as we progress to the next step, which is to educate the public about this great new benefit to homebuyers.”

That public awareness campaign is already in development. Local boards have been calling, says Wise, looking to equip their members to help get clients started. But before charging ahead, the Mississippi REALTORS® paused to give thanks to the representatives and senators who supported the First-Time Homebuyer Savings Account legislation. “Legislators always hear from people who have a complaint, or who want something. When this bill was passed, we made sure they all heard a great big ‘Thank you!’ from 6,000 REALTORS®,” says Wise. 

To learn more about how Mississippi REALTORS® led the way for a savings program to help future homebuyers in their state, contact MAR Governmental Affairs Director Clarke R. Wise at 601-932-5241 ext. 28 or MAR 2017 President David Griffith.

Clarke Wise, Governmental Affairs Director of the Mississippi REALTORS® [3rd from right] and 2017 Mississippi REALTORS® President David Griffith, [5th from left], both quoted in story.

Read more

FPCs Represent REALTOR® Interests at Local, State and National Level

The South Dakota Association of REALTORS® (SDAR) recently held its 50th Annual Legislative Chili Feast, a celebration attended every year by about 90% of South Dakota’s state and national legislators, as well as the Lieutenant Governor. Longtime REALTOR® Tom Murphy was there, too, serving chili and oyster stew to the honored guests. “It’s a great opportunity for us to say ‘thanks’ and keep connected to our representatives,” says the past President of SDAR. 

He should know: Murphy is also a veteran Federal Political Coordinator (FPC), one of the dedicated 535 REALTORS® assigned by their state association to work with a member of Congress, providing information and analysis on issues that are important to the industry and to property owners.  “An important part of NAR’s strong lobbying efforts is the role of our FPCs as individual activists. FPCs are chosen because of the organic existing relationships they have with their legislators. Like Murphy, many of our FPCs know their legislator personally, sometimes as their REALTOR or as in Murphy’s case, from childhood. While REALTORS® are naturally real estate experts, FPCs are also active parts of the member of Congress’ constituent base and deeply rooted in the communities in which they live. This gives them a unique point of view and opportunity to become a trusted advisor, if they don’t already have that preexisting relationship,” said Victoria Givens, who oversees the FPC Program as NAR’s REALTOR® Mobilization Programs manager.

Murphy has worked with Democrats and Republicans; he’s testified before Congress; and in the past year, he’s been working closely with his current ‘assignment,’ Senator Mike Rounds of South Dakota, “cleaning up” a list of federal regulations that could be addressed by the new Congress. The list was submitted to the senator by the National Association of REALTORS®, but here’s the twist: NAR had not initiated the process; the senator had asked Tom Murphy, a childhood friend, how he could help improve the landscape for REALTORS® and property owners at the senate level.   

Karl Eckhart, a Senior Political Representative at NAR, says that while having a close personal tie to the senator is clearly beneficial for NAR’s goals, he sees Murphy as a natural advocate for REALTOR® issues, regardless of the connection. “Tom has been president of his state association, served on committees at the national level, and is a great believer in RPAC.  He’s someone who gives a lot back to NAR and the REALTOR® Party.”  Eckhart also notes that other FPCs who don’t have existing relationships with their members of Congress have succeeded in strengthening bonds by virtue of their unique attributes as REALTORS®. “In terms of constituent services, who better than a REALTOR® to find the best locations for a town hall meeting in any given town?” he asks, by way of example. “Being a helpful resource is a first step toward becoming a trusted ally.”

Daniel Blair, one of NAR’s Senior Legislative Representatives, notes that there’s a certain efficiency when a member of Congress can reach out directly to his or her FPC for information, rather than going through staff.  “In this case, through our FPC, we’ve provided the senator with a comprehensive list of regulations affecting REALTORS®, the implementation of which gives us  some cause for concern. They range from website compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act and clean air emissions to banking issues and the protection of the sage grouse.  Tom and Senator Rounds have been working on this list for months now. We’re seeing real legislative effort as a result of the FPC program.”

Murphy is the first to admit that his close relationship with the senator is an unusual advantage.  “We played kickball together on the same piece of asphalt back in Catholic grade school. When Mike became governor, then went on to become senator, that sense of connectedness remained and gives us a real comfort level. We can trust each other.” That said, Murphy has served as an FPC for about 20 years now, and hasn’t played kickball with any of his previous legislators. “For both Mike and me, it’s a nice situation we’ve got right now,” he concedes, “but I’ve found that it’s perfectly possible—and a whole lot more usual—to build a productive working relationship with a member of Congress from scratch.”

As a seasoned veteran of Capitol Hill, Murphy is happy to share key tips with new FPCs who are looking to forge this kind of bond.  First and foremost, he says, take the time to get to know the legislator’s staff in DC. “These are bright kids living four-deep in two-bedroom apartments because they can’t afford otherwise, but the reality is, you have to deal with them, and if they don’t like you, you’ll never get access.”  Next, pay attention to what Murphy calls ‘the grocery list.’ “NAR does a great job of regulating its calls to action and prioritizing what it wants us to talk about on The Hill. But there’s still no way a senator is going to sign on to everything, so having a strategy and knowing your issues is essential.” Murphy adds that it’s easy for him to approach a legislator when he frames his position as protecting the rights of those who own real estate, and widening the opportunity to enjoy it. “When I tell them that an issue affects ALL property owners, they’re smart enough to see that I’m talking about their constituents. That makes them pay attention.”

Murphy reports that the last thing he does when he’s leaving a meeting on the Hill is ask, “Is there anything I can do for you?”  He might be asked if the REALTORS® can get behind a certain piece of legislation. “I can’t necessarily go promising the support of NAR,” says Murphy, “but I might feel comfortable committing my state association, and that counts for something.” 

Giving back to one’s industry as a volunteer lobbyist runs in Murphy’s family: his wife, a physician, serves in a similar role for the American Medical Association. They’ve found that, no matter the issue, building a successful relationship with a legislator requires the same approach.  Murphy reiterates, “You’ve got to get to know the staff. You’ve got to understand the priorities on your organization’s ‘grocery list.’ Remember to offer your help. And if you present an issue as it affects a broad range of constituents, it’s going to be pretty hard for your representative to say ‘no.’”

To learn more about how Federal Political Coordinators help to get important REALTOR® issues in front of their legislators or to be part of the FPC’s contact team, contact Victoria Givens at vgivens@realtors.org or 202-383-1021.

Read more

Texas REALTORS® Take Advocacy to Another Level Using Social Media

Headquartered across the street from the Texas Capitol and just around the corner from the Governor’s Mansion, the Texas Association of REALTORS® has never been shy about political advocacy. In recent years, it has also eagerly harnessed the power of social media to communicate with its 114,000 members. Combining its political prowess and social media savvy, in mid-December TAR upped its advocacy game by offering a preview of the state’s upcoming legislative session on Facebook Live.   

The half-hour preview and Q&A event was hosted by TAR’s Director of Legislative Affairs Daniel Gonzalez, whose depth of knowledge and engaging demeanor make him a natural spokesperson. Opening with a brief overview of his department’s work at TAR, he reminded members that the association’s legislative agenda is not driven by staff, but by REALTOR® volunteers from across the state who serve on TAR’s Public Policy Committee. Assuring viewers that TAR will read every single word of the six-to-seven thousand bills filed during the course of the session, he noted that it would be tracking roughly one third of them, including many that aren’t about real estate or private property rights, but which have a big-picture, long-term bearing on the industry.

In addition to letting viewers know what their legislators will be tackling in the session that began in January, Gonzalez took the opportunity to direct their attention to the latest issue of Texas REALTOR® magazine, and to hiddenpropertytax.com, an educational site that TAR has launched to clarify a complex legislative issue now in play in Texas.  He also urged members to participate in the annual REALTOR® Day at the Texas Capitol this spring. With ten minutes to go, he fielded questions from the live audience on topics ranging from title insurance rates to homeowner associations.  

Brandon Alderete, TAR’s Director of Political Affairs, points out that the association is right at home with webcast technology. “We’ve been delivering CE course content to our 77 local associations via online video for several years now,” he notes. “The live feed is the exciting innovation here, allowing us to interact directly with so many members who are already right there, following us on Facebook.” Nearly 1,500 viewers tuned in to the live and recorded sessions over the first 24 hours, and the post was also shared by dozens of individual Texas REALTORS® and local associations. TAR had promoted the event with organic and paid social media, through email newsletters and via text message through the REALTOR® Party Mobile Alert system just before the webcast began, generating more than 500 click-throughs.

“Whatever we can do to enhance communication with members, we’ll pursue it,” says Gonzalez.  “Facebook Live is a fairly new phenomenon, but we thought it would be worth a shot,” he adds, noting that based on the enthusiastic feedback, his department will continue to share legislative issues with the membership via live webcasts.  “Our members really responded, and seem to want more. That’s the way we like ’em: engaged and asking questions!”

To see firsthand how the Texas Association of REALTORS® is keeping its members connected to legislative issues affecting their industry and their communities, see https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10155514734234298&id=89617004297. To learn more, contact Brandon C. Alderete, Director of Political Affairs, at 512-370-2124.

Read more

Illinois REALTORS® Take Consumer Advocacy to the Next Level

The National Association of REALTORS® knows that the key to being a true force multiplier where public policy affecting private property rights is concerned is engaging its grassroots consumer base.  In 2012, it launched the Consumer Advocacy Outreach Program to do just that.    

The first goal of the Consumer Advocacy Program was to raise awareness of REALTOR® issues. After nearly two years of consistent messaging through targeted emails and web banner advertising, NAR issued its first-ever consumer Call For Action, focused on the Mortgage Interest Deduction in 2014. The response over the next year included nearly 900,000 consumer signatures on a petition to protect tax benefits of home ownership, exceeding expectations by a whopping 75%. That translates into real political clout: the kind that U.S. Representatives noticed when, during the May 2016 REALTOR® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo in Washington, D.C., NAR’s Federal Political Coordinators took to Capitol Hill and presented them with the petition signatures of constituents in their own districts. 

Phase Two of the Consumer Advocacy Program saw the launch of HomeOwnershipMatters.Realtor, a consumer-facing website designed for advocacy outreach on public policy issues related to homeownership. When NAR made its Consumer Advocacy Database of 7.5 million names available to state associations, Illinois REALTORS® was the first to capitalize on the rich new resource, amounting to nearly 250,000 names of engaged Illinois consumers.

Jon Broadbooks, Illinois REALTORS®’ Director of Communications, credits the leadership of his Chief Executive Officer, Gary Clayton, whose long-term vision has created a culture of forward momentum.  In 2014, Illinois REALTORS® followed NAR’s consumer engagement lead by creating a program at the state level called Real Property Alliance, which uses the NAR database to drive Illinois consumers to www.realpropertyalliance.org.  “As a private foundation, Real Property Alliance has the flexibility and responsiveness of an internet start-up, but with a mission of consumer education,” explains Broadbooks. It enjoys a symbiotic partnership with NAR, he notes, sharing information and consumer email addresses; it also functions as a partner of Illinois’ local associations, supporting them with consumer education campaigns. 

These can be critical when an issue at stake is especially complex or difficult to understand.  The Real Property Alliance has been able to play a role in supporting local campaigns that have successfully overturned Home Rule, for example, a local governance status that would adversely affect private property rights. “Using the data from the Consumer Advocacy Database, we’ve been able to drill down and engage in highly targeted social media campaigns, reaching voters we know are paying attention,” says Broadbooks.  “We’re a state association capitalizing on information from the national association, but we’re able to see real success on a micro-level.  We’re receiving messages from those names provided by the Consumer Advocacy Database responding to our outreach on local issues, saying things like, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if the firemen and police and teachers who serve our community could afford to live in it?’” he reports.  “It’s a qualitative measure, but it’s of real value to know that we’re reaching thoughtful, engaged homeowners.  Homeowners who vote.”

To learn more about how REALTORS® at the state and local level are using NAR’s advocacy tools to strengthen their own consumer advocacy programs, contact Jon Broadbooks, Illinois REALTORS®’ Director of Communications, at jbroadbooks@illinoisrealtors.org or 217-529-2600.

Read more