By Roger Parham, Association/CarolinaMLS President
As Realtors®, we know email is our friend. It allows us to quickly reach out to buyers and sellers, fellow Realtors®, prospects and others vital to our business.
Among those “vital to our business” are elected officials.
I’ll tell you why.
Political advocacy is essential to the health of our business. The real estate industry is often a target for legislation intended to generate revenue that, in turn, puts a damper on homeownership. Other policies can impact the ability of our clients to purchase — or even stay in — their own homes.
NAR, NC REALTORS® and our local association email us Calls for Action, or CFAs, on critical legislative issues of importance to Realtors® and homeowners. Responding to these CFAs usually takes less than two minutes of your time, but it can be one of the most effective ways to communicate with our legislators in Washington, Raleigh or at city hall.
All you have to do is click on the email, read a brief message about the proposed legislation, use the text provided or write a quick note and click “send.” The message goes directly to your elected officials.
Unfortunately, only about 10 percent of Charlotte-area Realtors® take the time to respond to a Call for Action. Can you imagine the impact we would have if that number were even 20 percent? How about 50 percent? Do you think Congress would increase its attention to what we have to say? You bet it would. Our power is in our numbers and in the critical role real estate and homeownership play in the economy.
To date, our industry’s political efforts have helped maintain the federal mortgage interest deduction, but the current tax reform policy under consideration in Washington could make it effectively irrelevant to most Americans.
A recent NAR analysis of the President’s tax-reform blueprint found that homeowners with incomes between $50,000 and $200,000 would actually face average tax hikes of $815 in the year after enactment of the proposed reforms. Non-homeowners in the same income range would receive average annual tax cuts of $516. This is outrageous.
First-time homebuyers, already too small a number, could think twice about buying a home. Research from NAR shows the percentage of first-time homebuyers is well below the historical average, and in 2016, the homeownership rate was at a 50-year low.
In Raleigh, a good example of our political effort is the fight against taxes on services. We’ve fended off taxes on our commissions and on most of the services involved in a home sale — but this battle is not done.
Last year legislators passed a tax on home warranties, and we want to make sure they don’t enact taxes on home inspections, survey and termite services and closing attorneys. Such taxes drive up the cost of homeownership.
Also on the federal level, we want to see preservation of USDA mortgages to aid rural areas and Section 1031 like-kind exchanges that benefit both residential and commercial real estate. On VA loans, fees that sellers have to pay if their buyer has a VA loan need to be reduced or eliminated to make these loans competitive in today’s market.
We also need to reduce premiums that buyers pay on FHA loans. We had taken care of that in the last year of the prior administration only to have President Trump sign an executive order that undoes the reduction.
Two minutes and a few clicks — that’s all I’m asking. We need to stand up for homeownership and our livelihood. If we don’t do it, who will?