As a Realtor® you are part of one of the largest special interest groups in this country – the Realtor® Party, and you have a noble cause – preservation of the American Dream of home ownership. You may not like the idea of being a ‘special interest’ and you may disavow any inclination to participate in the political process that supports it, but that doesn’t change the facts.
Pericles summarized the concept in 500 BC when he said “Just because you don’t take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.” I’ve updated that somewhat with the Wunderlich codicil “If you’re not at the table, you’ll probably be on the menu.”
If you think the business of real estate is just about buying and selling houses, you only know half the story. The National Association of Realtors® is the largest grassroots political action group in this country representing more than 1.1 million Realtors® in our nation’s Capitol. Last year we invested more money in candidate elections and special campaigns than almost any other group. That’s the other business of real estate – the part that allows you to stay in your business.
A few members have voiced concerns over the recent decision by the California Association of Realtors® to increase our dues by $49 to cover this vital piece of our business. But in reading through those comments (comment summary on $49 investment), I realized some of you are simply not aware of what these critical funds are used for and the direct benefit you derive. For less than the price of 1 latte a month, you are insuring your political survival and generating a real and measurable impact to your bottom line.
So let’s break down what YOU get for that $49 investment.
- Just last week we defeated a proposal from CA Senate President Darrell Steinberg that sought to impose a 3% accelerated withholding tax on independent contractors – that’s you. If you sold a $100,000 condo, the withholding from your commission check would be $90. On a median price home in Temecula last year that would have taken an additional $260.89 out of your check – every check all year long. If it wasn’t for our successful lobbying efforts you’d be paying that already because Darrell tried the same thing 3 times last year. Is that worth $49 to you?
- Have you sold a home to a first-time homebuyer in the past year? Over 1.2 million first-time prospects have become owners since the inception of the tax credit last year – 450,000 of those would not have jumped into the market without that incentive. Who do you think lobbied to get that measure passed last February and then worked extra hard to get it extended and expanded in November against long odds? Selling side commission on a median price home in Murrieta last year was about $8,133. Is that worth $49 to you?
- Last year Canyon Lake proposed an ordinance requiring every Realtor® to pay a $90 business license fee every year. If you worked in, advertised in, sold a home in, or even mentioned Canyon Lake in your website – you would get a bill for $90. We worked hard to modify that ordinance – not just for Canyon Lake but so that other Southwest California cities didn’t get the idea they could just reach into your pocket without a fight. Is that worth $49 to you?
- Last election cycle we supported candidates in 9 local city council races. 8 of our candidates won including 3 Realtors®. Do you think it might be helpful to have people serving on our local councils and water boards who understand property rights issues, eminent domain, sign ordinances, zoning and so forth? How about in Sacramento? Or Washington DC? If we had more legislators in place who understood real estate or banking or appraisal issues do you think we’d be having some of the problems we’re having today? Is that worth $49 to you?
- Would the loss of the mortgage interest tax deduction have any impact on home ownership? How about capital gains tax benefits for home owners? The mortgage interest tax deduction and capital gains benefits are on the table every couple years in Washington DC as a source of potentially significant tax revenue. They will be again this year. Without your NAR lobby, these significant advantages to homeownership would have disappeared along with a chunk of your business during the past decade. It that worth $49 to you?
- Would your business be impacted if a buyer could walk into any bank and buy a home from the same salaried employee who gave them a loan? NAR fought an 8 year battle to eliminate a loophole banks were trying to exploit to do just that. We won that fight in 2009. Is that worth $49 to you?
Those are just a few of the things your $49 does. Here’s a few things it doesn’t do:
- Realtor Action Funds do not support a political party platform or agenda – they support the Realtor® Party. We support candidates who understand our issues at the local, state and national level regardless of party affiliation. Historically our expenditures are split almost down the middle at the federal level.
- Realtor Action Funds do not support issues or legislation that is not real estate related. At the state level our analysts comb through every one of the 3,300 bills submitted in an average session. About 1,500 of these may be flagged as having some potential impact on either Realtors® or property rights. Our state directors discuss each of those bills to determine whether the Association will support it, oppose it, maintain a neutral position or if it really isn’t real estate related at all. We also sponsor our own bills to address specific real estate issues of concern to our members. You can read about the eight bills CAR authored for 2010 here.
- Realtor Action Funds do not support travel by Directors, they don’t pay for lobbyists salaries and they don’t pay for ‘pet projects’. If it doesn’t directly support a candidate or real estate related issue or campaign, it doesn’t come out of these funds. They are too precious to squander and the real need is growing exponentially.
I hope this gives you a better feel for why this latest move was made by our state association. It was not a capricious decision and was discussed in detail for more than a year. In order to continue to be effective at the level our members have come to demand, we
must have the support of all members. 10% or 20% can’t continue to pay for benefits demanded and enjoyed by 100% of the membership. That’s neither fair nor equitable.
We welcome your input and questions and I encourage you to visit http://gadblog.srcar.org/ to take part in the discussion.