NAR Vows Pushback on Tax Reform

November 3, 2017
“The bottom line is removing tax incentives means fewer home buyers and lower home values,” Iona Harrison, chair of NAR’s Federal Taxation Committee, said of the House GOP tax plan at the REALTORS® Conference & Expo welcoming ceremony Thursday.

Tax reform was the buzzword of the day as 20,000 attendees descended on Chicago to kick off the 2017 REALTORS® Conference & Expo on Thursday. During NAR 360, the official welcoming ceremony of the conference, leaders of the National Association of REALTORS® promised a strong and swift response to the House GOP tax plan released earlier in the day, which puts homeownership tax incentives in peril. “The proposal being debated is a clear and present danger to our businesses, to homeownership, and to our communities,” Kevin Sears, NAR’s vice president of government affairs, said at the event.

NAR has issued a call to action asking members to warn their congressional representatives about the threats the tax proposal poses to the real estate industry. NAR President-elect Elizabeth Mendenhall said issues such as tax reform lend more urgency to the mission of the REALTOR® Party. In that vein, Mendenhall and newly appointed NAR CEO Bob Goldberg announced that a presidential advisory group tasked with reviewing the successes of the REALTOR® Party recommends expanding its budget. “In many ways, the REALTOR® Party is our lifeline,” Mendenhall said. “With issues like tax reform looming, not only in our nation’s capital but in state capitals across the country, it’s time to up our ante in issue and candidate advocacy.”

Such an increase in power is necessary to hold lawmakers accountable for how their decisions affect real estate, said Iona Harrison, chair of NAR’s Federal Taxation Committee. Harrison, who has testified on behalf of NAR on Capitol Hill regarding tax reform and homeownership, said an analysis by the committee showed that under the GOP tax proposal, homeowner households with $50,000 to $200,000 in annual income would pay $815 more in taxes per year. Coupled with the proposed elimination of other itemized deductions, the tax plan could spur a housing downturn if enacted. “The bottom line is removing tax incentives means fewer home buyers and lower home values,” Harrison said.

“America cannot afford another housing crash,” Sears added.

Brown Winds Down; Goldberg Gears Up

In a video message played during NAR 360, NAR President William E. Brown said his recovery from a double lung transplant is progressing well, though he was unable to travel to Chicago for the conference.

Earlier during the welcoming ceremony, NAR President William E. Brown told REALTORS® in a video message that their hard work inspires him through his own recent struggles. Brown, who underwent a double lung transplant, was recovering at home in California and unable to travel to the conference. “The surgery was successful, and I’m getting stronger every day,” he said in the video. “And even though 2017 has proved to be challenging, this has also been a year of opportunity. There is a lot to be proud of—especially, the incredible work REALTORS® have undertaken in support of our associations, our colleagues, our communities, and our industry. … On a personal note, I want to thank all of you. The opportunity to serve as NAR president and to help move our industry forward has powered me through personal hardship.”

NAR CEO Bob Goldberg and 2017 President-Elect Elizabeth Mendenhall discussed their vision for the future of the association, including new intiatives to further open up the lines of communication between staff and members.

While Brown capped his presidential term with a sentimental speech, Goldberg, who took over as NAR CEO in August, laid out his vision for the association’s future. Of utmost importance, he noted, is to tear down the perception of an “ivory tower” at the association and focus more on member outreach and communication. “We must listen more and talk less,” Goldberg said of NAR. “There’s a reason we have two ears and one mouth. I’ve seen a lot of the incredible work this association has done in support of REALTORS® and property ownership. But I’ve also seen that not all of our members know or understand our value proposition—and we’ve got to change that.”

Goldberg announced several new initiatives to further align NAR with members’ needs. These include assigning senior association staff as points of contact for each NAR region, requiring all association staff to do “REALTOR® ride-alongs” and brokerage visits, and expanding the Member’s Edge and Broker’s Edge programs to connect real estate communities with association resources in a more personal environment. He also said that “in an age of disruption, NAR must disrupt back,” but that the association’s focus should not be on creating new innovations. Instead, NAR will focus more on partnering with technology companies who create innovative products, he said.

Stinton: ‘I Wish You the Very Best’

In a commemoration of retired CEO Dale Stinton’s service to NAR—which spans 36 years, including 12 at the helm of the association—he was remembered for steering the organization through the housing crash, creating the Realtors Property Resource®, and working with Move Inc. to ensure that® remains member-centric. “I’ve worked with 36 presidents and 15 treasurers, and every one of them is an icon to me,” Stinton told attendees.  

He revealed that during his time as CEO, he spoke to the NAR Board of Directors only five times regarding special proposals because “it’s not our place; it’s the members’ place” to work with the board. He reiterated his faith in Goldberg and the Leadership Team to steer NAR on a new course. “We have a very bright future,” he said.

“I wish you the very best. God bless you and what you represent, God bless NAR, and God bless the USA.”

—Graham Wood, REALTOR® Magazine