Leadership Letter

A Clear Direction for Navigating Change in 2020

Fresh off Election Day, it was great to see nearly 20,000 people attending the 2019 REALTORS® Conference & Expo in San Francisco. With a new Leadership Team in place, we can’t think of a better place to get started on the hard work ahead of us. San Francisco is a city at the center of a technological revolution that is changing the way we live, work, and play. Our industry is no exception.

We are witnesses to a massive shift in the real estate field in today’s consumer-driven, on-demand economy. Of course, we already know this! We also know that change and opportunity walk hand-in-hand.

In the 1990s, technology companies were pouring millions into real estate while REALTORS® relied on printed listings with black-and-white photos. Today’s listings are in the cloud, and you can pull them up on your phone.

In the 2000s, when big banks threatened to create an anti-consumer, anti-competitive industry, REALTORS fought and won in 2009 when Congress passed a law preventing big banks from engaging in real estate brokerage.

Read and Download NAR’s 2020 Strategic Priorities

Of course we know how to manage change. Our business is change. You’ve changed the lives of the families you helped buy their first home, or the entrepreneur their first business. You’ve changed your communities through your generosity because REALTORS® reinvest in our neighborhoods. We know that giving enriches the giver as well as the recipient.

Times are changing—and opportunity is knocking. Now is the right time to focus on our industry and the communities we serve. From rent control and short-term rentals to housing supply and affordability, the issues facing our industry are unprecedented. By forging a new contract between NAR, REALTORS® , and our industry, I believe we can realized unprecedented success for ourselves as business owners, the communities where we work and live, and homeowners.

We invite you to review our 2020 priorities to get a better understanding of our strategic focus. You’ll be hearing a lot of the two specifically related to advocacy: Collaborating for positive impacts on housing equality and affordability and driving community development.

The changing times may change the way we do our work. But nothing can change one crucial element—the human element—that only REALTORS® can provide.

In the coming week, we’ll gather with state presidents, association executives, government affairs directors, and committee chairs and members at the REALTOR Party Training Conference in Austin, Texas, to further discuss the REALTOR® Party and advocacy objectives for success in 2020 during an intensive two days. We look forward to providing you an update and working together to inspire you to find your own story to tell and to help show the world “That’s Who We R.”

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Long-Awaited FHA Condo Rule Goes into Effect Oct. 15

On August 14, 2019, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released the long-awaited final rule on project approval for single-family condominiums insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). For many years, NAR urged HUD to finalize changes to the previous rule that would ease restrictions on FHA financing for condominiums, thus enabling more first-time buyers, older adults, and low to moderate-income families to achieve the dream of homeownership. We will continue to work with FHA and Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae to insure that people who wish to purchase a condominium have safe affordable access to mortgage credit. The final rule goes into effect on Oct. 15.

Due to technical difficulties, we were unable to take your questions live on this important issue, but watch the video below and type your questions in the comment section for NAR staff experts to answer.

Resources

Check out the resources below to assist you in understanding the FHA Condo Rules and in serving your clients.

 NAR’s Condominium Page

FHA Condominium Rule Assessment

HUD Condo Project Look Up

VA Condo Project Look Up

FHA Single Family Housing Policy Handbook – Condo Project Approval

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Safety & Disaster Preparedness Dominate September

As the end of summer nears, our advocacy efforts are back in full swing! This month we celebrate REALTOR® Safety Month and National Preparedness Month. Throughout September, we are reminded of how these play out in our advocacy outreach efforts.

REALTORS® face job-related risks every day — working alone, meeting with strangers in unfamiliar places, and sharing personal contact information. While independence is one of the perks of our industry, it can leave us open to vulnerabilities. While we designate September as REALTOR® Safety Month to raise awareness of safety issues, it’s important for real estate professionals to stay focused on safety year-round. That why, more than a decade ago, we launched the REALTOR® Safety Program. The program provides members with safety education, tips, and countless other resources and tools at no cost, including the NEW REALTOR® Safety Network. The program covers a range of topics, including cybersecurity and data privacy — two hot topics for advocacy. The aim: Help REALTORS® make it home safely to their family every night. Learn more at nar.realtor/Safety.

We’ve also partnered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for National Preparedness Month. When natural disasters like Hurricane Dorian strike, it’s essential that real estate professionals remain safe, but also to look out for their clients and their families so that they have the resources they need. This year’s theme: Be Prepared, Not Scared is an excellent reminder for us to ready ourselves and our clients for natural disasters, and help families in the wake of a tragedy by raising awareness about disaster risks and the simple, proactive steps everyone can take. Visit ready.gov/september for shareable content, graphics, and videos throughout the month. The resources also offered on NAR’s Disaster Preparedness Resources are a valuable asset that can help build a culture of preparedness and ready the nation for catastrophic disasters.

According to FEMA, just one inch of water can cause $25,000 of damage to your home. As floodwaters rise, so do the costs of repairing your home and replacing the things inside of it. Heavy rains or hurricanes that lead to flash flooding highlight the need for the National Flood Insurance Program. Learn more at realtorparty.realtor/nfip.

As with every natural disaster, we encourage you to make a donation to the REALTORS® Relief Foundation. Over the past 18 years, the foundation has collected and distributed more than $32 million in aid for some 80 disasters in 39 states and territories since it launched after the September 11 terrorist attacks. It’s helped more than 13,000 families. Every dollar goes directly to victims of disaster, and NAR covers 100% of administrative expenses. Donate today.

Resources

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July Brings Summer Fun and Advocacy

July is the time for baseball, summer fun, relaxation, and family vacations. But rest assured that we are continuing to work hard on your behalf! Here are a few hot topics of note:

Affordability & Supply

President Trump created a Housing Affordability Council, and recently signed an Executive Order that will eliminate barriers that limit access to affordable housing — namely zoning laws, environmental regulations, building codes and lengthy building permit processes. We anticipate there will be opportunities to provide information and input to this Council and will distribute information on an on-going basis as the work process of the Council is fleshed out.

Led by Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson, the Council will consist of members from eight Federal agencies. Members will engage with government leaders, elected officials, the private sector, and other stakeholders from across the country in the effort to identify and eliminate the “obstacles that impede the production of affordable homes.”

NAR was a Hall of Fame sponsor of the annual Congressional Baseball Game at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.

Association Health Plans

It’s more than a year since 12 attorney generals filed suit against the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), challenging the agency’s final rule which opened the door for small employers and self-employed individuals, including real estate professionals, to participate in Association Health Plans (AHPs). NAR is invested in efforts to pursue AHPs, and more than 200 state and local associations have agreed to support our latest work to secure affordable, high-quality health care options for members and their families. We joined in amicus brief in support of DOL’s rule through the Coalition to Protect and Promote Association Health Plans. In addition, we created the AHP Toolkit is a resource for Associations to use as they investigate and seek to implement an AHP in their area.

Flood Insurance

On February 20, 2019, five federal regulatory agencies published final regulations clarifying lender acceptance of private flood insurance. These rules went into effect on July 1. NAR has been working as part of a coalition to make it easier for lenders to accept private flood insurance, which often offers better coverage at lower cost than the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). We will continue working with Congress and the administration to clarify any remaining issues of continuous private flood insurance coverage and address these issues as part of NFIP reauthorization and reform legislation.

Housing Finance Reform

We are continuing to push for a resolution to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae conservatorship. NAR’s plan would retain the government guarantee and the 30-year fixed rate mortgage, and ensure the availability and affordability of mortgage credit for credit-worthy borrowers. We met with representatives from HUD and the Department of Treasury as well as the new FHFA Director about to discuss our Vision for Housing Finance Reform.

While we are busy working on your behalf, we ask you to be ready to take action at a moment’s notice on these or other important issues at the federal, state, and local levels of government. Sign up for the REALTOR® Party Mobile Alerts. Simply text the word REALTOR to 30644 or subscribe online before July 31 and you’ll be entered into a drawing to win a $250 Amazon gift card.

 

 

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Celebrating National Homeownership Month with Pride

June is National Homeownership and LGBT Pride Month. While we are recognizing the important relationship between homeownership and achieving the American Dream, and encouraging people around the country to learn more about homeownership opportunities and financial management plans.

June is also LGBT Pride Month. In 2009, more than a decade before the House of Representatives passed the Equality Act, NAR embraced the significance of the protections secured by the Fair Housing Act, and encouraged efforts to extend them by amending our Code of Ethics in 2009 to prohibit discriminations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

REALTORS® attending the 75th anniversary of the GI Bill event with Army Sgt. 1 st Class William Kopf

On June 5, we joined the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of  Housing and Urban Development to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the GI Bill along with the 24 millionth home loan backed by the VA loan program. The recipient was Army Sgt. 1 st Class William Kopf (pictured third from the left), an Active Guard Reserve Soldier who turned to his home loan benefit for the third time after service requirements necessitated a move from Utah to Northeastern Pennsylvania. REALTORS® Marilou Saar and Joni McKenna were in attendance Wednesday as the agents who helped make the 24 millionth transaction possible.

We are a key voice in promoting and educating consumers on homeownership. Through the HomeOwnershipMatters.realtor website, we offer an ideal platform for current and prospective homeowners to have their voice heard at the local, state, and national levels of government on core tax and property issues, joining REALTORS® in protecting homeownership now – and for generations to come. With proposed policy changes happening in communities across the country, it is more important than ever to stand-up for homeowner rights.

Be sure to visit Home Ownership Matters’ National Homeownership Month page for shareable videos, infographics, and other content throughout June.

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Homeownership Advocates: That’s Who We R

Hopefully by now you’ve seen our consumer ad campaign – That’s Who We R. The campaign has been a success that with the 2019 REALTORS® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo next week, we have tied our Hill Visit messages to Congress directly to the campaign – That’s Who We R – featuring both commercial and residential real estate. Why? Well with more than 100 new members serving in Congress, thousands of new Hill staffers, this is the perfect opportunity to reintroduce REALTORS® to the 116th Congress. REALTORS® will remind Congress of the value they bring to their communities, discussing the impact of real estate on the economy, consumers, and the vital role homeownership plays in building generational wealth for consumers.

We have an important story, namely:

  1. Who We Are and Why We Care
    REALTORS® adhere to the code of ethics, and 70% actively volunteer in their communities.
  1. How Real Estate Benefits Consumers and the Economy
    Real estate accounts for one-fifth of the gross domestic product, and commercial real estate supported 8.3 million American jobs in 2018.
  1. What We Care About
    NAR is following range of issues before Congress. For example, the National Flood Insurance Program needs to be extended by May 31, and Opportunity Zone tax incentives, which we are working to implement.

If you haven’t already, watch the recording of the yesterday’s town hall featuring Shannon McGahn, senior vice president of government affairs, and Tracy Kasper, vice president of advocacy.

For those of you attending next week’s meetings, be sure to check out the following events:

Federal Legislative & Political Forum: Behind-the-Scenes in Today’s Political Environment featuring Terry McAuliffe and Haley Barbour
Tuesday, May 14, 2019, 8:00–9:30 AM
Marriott Wardman Park, Marriott Ballroom, Lobby Level
Regulatory Issues Forum featuring Federal Housing Finance Agency Director Mark Calabria
Tuesday, May 14, 2019, 12:30 PM–2:00 PM
Marriott Wardman Park, Marriott Ballroom, Lobby Level
NAR 360
Tuesday, May 14, 2019, 4:00–5:00 PM
Marriott Wardman Park, Marriott Ballroom, Lobby Level
Federal Priority Issues Briefing
Wednesday, May 15, 2019, 7:30–8:30 AM
Marriott Wardman Park, Marriott Ballroom, Lobby Level

RPAC Awards Ceremony, RPAC Hall of Fame Induction, and 50th Anniversary White and Gold Celebration
(Be sure to wear white and gold)
Wednesday, May 15, 2019, 5:00–8:00 PM
Marriott Wardman Park, Marriott Ballroom, Lobby Level

 

And don’t forget to visit the NAR Booth #1707. Throughout the week, we’ll be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the REALTORS® Political Action Committee, culminating in the special sold out celebration at the National Building Museum.

If you are unable to attend follow along on social media using the hashtag #NARLegislative, and stay tuned to www.legislative.realtor for additional content.

We look forward to seeing you in Washington, D.C., and safe travels.

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April Highlights Fair Housing and Tax Day

April is Fair Housing Month. As stewards of the right to own, use, and transfer private property, REALTORS® understand that fair housing protects the real estate industry and our businesses. We depend on a free, open market that embraces equal opportunity. In short, fair housing makes us stronger. This year, we will commemorate this important and historic milestone by highlighting four key issue areas that will set the tone for the future of fair housing.

On March 13, 2019, Rep. David Cicillini (D-PA) introduced HR 5, the Equality Act, in the U.S. House of Representatives. The Equality Act would amend the Fair Housing Act to provide protections for LGBTQ people in key areas of life, such as housing, employment, credit, public accommodations, and voting rights, and is aligned to NAR’s Code of Ethics. As we monitor this bill through the legislative process, we will continue to express our support. If the bill passes, we will work to address our policy issues as any regulations implementing it are developed.

We’ll also continue to work with and support our multicultural partners — the National Association for Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP), the Asian Real Estate Association of America (AREAA), and the National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB) — to address immigration housing rights, improving language access to financial materials, and gaps in African-American homeownership.

Don’t forget there are only four days until Tax Day! This is the first filing season that the impact of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will be seen as you are preparing your tax returns. If you still haven’t filed, we encourage you to review What REALTORS® Need to Know About the New Tax Law. There you’ll find helpful videos and other resources available to you. And as always, consult a tax professional if you have more detailed questions.

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State Rent Control Issue Takes National Stage

NAR CEO Bob Goldberg & 2019 President John Smaby

NAR CEO Bob Goldberg & 2019 President John Smaby

Across the country, various state and local governments are currently considering – or debating – legislative rent control measures.

However, these efforts are misguided. They do nothing to address residential construction deterrents like imprudent local zoning measures and high land costs. What rent control policies really do is help create political battles between landlords and tenants without addressing the root of – and possible solutions to – America’s housing affordability problems.

In response, NAR is working to fight rent control and rent stabilization laws on both residential and commercial properties.

Last year, California voters rejected a statewide measure that would have overturned the Costa Hawkins Act, which establishes limits on local rent control laws. Costa Hawkins ensures that buildings first occupied after 1995 are not subject to rent control regulations. Further, the law provides an avenue for vacancy decontrol, which gives building owners an opportunity to rehab facilities and establish new, fair market rates with new tenants.

From Portland, Maine to Portland, Oregon, several jurisdictions have recently considered rent control regulations. Most states preempt local governments from adopting rent control measures in any form. In the states where rent control is permitted (California, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and the District of Columbia), local jurisdictions are able to regulate rental rates based off specific parameters written within the state law. The aforementioned Costa Hawkins Act in California is an example of this.

Over recent years, Hawaii, Michigan, Minnesota and Washington, among other states, have considered legislation repealing prohibitions of rent control, although, thus far, no prohibitions have been successfully repealed. The most significant concerns are in states whose legislatures revisit rent control laws year after year. California and New York, for example, see regular efforts to expand the reach of rent control to include just cause eviction requirements and/or landlord-tenant relocation fees.

Illinois and Oregon have also revisited legislation to repeal existing bans on rent control and have the political support to pass legislation this year.  Oregon will be the first state to enact a statewide rent control law that requires local governments to incorporate rent control regardless of whether or not a housing shortage exists. This is unique, however, as most states allow local governments to decide if rent control is necessary. In Illinois, lawmakers are considering repealing existing rent control prohibitions as well as creating a state regulatory body to oversee rent control regardless of housing supply.

If states are successful in easing rent control restrictions, NAR is concerned that residential rentals in those areas will lose value, while both property tax assessments and bases will decrease, forcing other property owners to eventually pay more in taxes or fees as a result. Ultimately, rent control discourages the production of new rental dwellings in the private sector, and NAR is committed to fighting against these laws across the country.

 

 

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Unveiling Our Vision for Housing Finance Reform

NAR CEO Bob Goldberg & 2019 President John Smaby

NAR CEO Bob Goldberg & 2019 President John Smaby

Last Thursday, February 7, REALTORS® had the chance to showcase their leadership on housing finance reform in front of more than 400 industry professionals, NAR members and a few current and former Congressmen.

With reform to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac on the minds of so many in Washington, NAR’s first-annual Policy Forum took an extensive dive into its work to ensure these Government Sponsored Entities can effectively serve the housing market and protect taxpayers in the years and decades to come.

At the conclusion of the Forum, those 400 attendees were given a first-hand, first-time look at detailed research outlining NAR’s vision for GSE reform. The whitepaper is already being referred to by both media outlets and industry trade groups as a critical building block for housing finance reform legislation. These discussions continue to gain traction on Capitol Hill.

The paper – and our vision – is true to our core. It offers policymakers a framework that leverages reforms and innovations implemented since the crisis while also promoting competition in the secondary market. Quite simply, our vision boils down to five key principles: protecting taxpayers by using private capital; minimizing costs to consumers; promoting housing accessibility and affordability; preserving the 30-year fixed rate mortgage; and maximizing access for creditworthy borrowers.

The housing crisis of 2007-2008 left Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac financially devastated, forcing the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) to move to place the GSEs into conservatorship.

While conservatorship remains more than a decade later, NAR has read the writing on the wall and is evolving to ensure our members and America’s housing industry are in the best possible situation should policymakers move to end conservatorship in the coming months or years.

Led by two of the best minds in the field, Dr. Susan Wachter, Professor of Real Estate and Finance at the University of Pennsylvania, and Dr. Richard Cooperstein, head of Risk Management at Andrew Davison and Company, Inc., NAR has presented a pragmatic solution to these challenges – prioritizing and protecting a liquid mortgage market for Middle America and underserved borrowers alike.

Our hope is that this work will result in GSE reform legislation that secures a government guarantee, ensures equal access for lenders of all sizes, promotes consumer affordability, maintains broad consumer access and protects the 30-year fixed rate mortgage.

To read the full working paper and its executive summary, please visit https://www.nar.realtor/fannie-mae-freddie-mac-gses/nars-vision-for-housing-finance-reform.

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REALTOR® Advocacy Continues Despite Government Shutdown

NAR CEO Bob Goldberg & 2019 President John Smaby

NAR CEO Bob Goldberg & 2019 President John Smaby

As of Monday, January 7, the partial shutdown of the federal government had become the third-longest in U.S. history, with White House and Congressional leadership still unable to reach an agreement on funding for southern border defense.

Currently, more than 420,000 federal employees are working without pay, including some at the IRS and Department of Homeland Security, while 380,000 workers have been furloughed from the Departments of Transportation and Housing & Urban Development, among others. In all, nine of 15 federal departments are closed, while dozens of agencies also remain shuttered. Fortunately, however, roughly 75 percent of government services are unaffected by the shutdown.

Still, concerns would deepen should the shutdown persist for additional weeks, and many Americans and federal government workers are certainly feeling the effects of the stalemate one way or another.

The situation becomes particularly bleak for all federal government employees who will not receive a paycheck until the government reopens. Obviously, any American who faces a temporary pause in income because of the shutdown could struggle to on time make payments in the coming days and weeks. That includes mortgage payments and bills for things like rent, car loans and student debt. Any delay in these payments could harm an individual’s finances and their credit, which would obviously impact their ability to buy a home or make other large purchases in the future.

During the shutdown, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is not issuing new rural loans or closing on direct loans. HUD, however, will still close on single-family loans, but furloughs at the agency could make the process longer and more difficult.

For ordinary Americans, this shutdown creates economic uncertainty and feelings of long-term instability. Buying a home is a high-stress transaction, and adding another complexity to the process with possible delays in the transaction only further hurts the economy and U.S. consumers. It could even begin to shave off GDP growth in a measurable way.

We will continue to work with congressional leaders and White House officials to minimize impacts of the shutdown on the housing market, and to ensure our 1.3 million members across the country are equipped with every resource necessary to continue operating as usual during the shutdown. We have also prepared a page which outlines all the ways you and your business could be impacted, along with a comprehensive document explaining the specific impact on each governmental entity that impacts housing.

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