In Defense of the American Dream

Thousands of REALTORS® gathered on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., in May 2012 to send a message to legislators and policymakers: Home ownership is part of the American Dream and needs to be supported.

May 18, 2012

During the National Association of REALTORS®’ Midyear Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo in May 2012, between 14,000-15,000 REALTORS® assembled in the shadow of the Washington Monument on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. They came together for the Rally to Protect the American Dream, an event designed to send a clear message to legislators and policymakers: Home ownership is critical to the U.S. economy and needs to be fostered and defended. And no group is better equipped to defend it than REALTORS®, the “architects of the American Dream,” as NAR President Moe Veissi termed them at the beginning of the rally.

Speaker after speaker affirmed that sentiment in brief remarks to the crowd. NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun forcefully declared that the mortgage interest deduction — often brought up as a possible target for cutting to bolster federal tax revenues — belonged to the people of America, not to politicians looking to make up a budget shortfall.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told the crowd that Congress needed input from REALTORS® to help guide the country’s real estate policies. “My decisions will be better if I listen to you,” he said. “God bless all of you. America is better for what you do.”

Following his remarks, Hoyer told REALTOR® Magazine that he believes depressed home values are among the biggest issues that legislators need to address. To that end, he supports President Obama’s efforts to help more distressed borrowers refinance in order to get more manageable monthly payments. “It’s imperative for the housing market that we help those people stay in their homes,” he said.

Kathryn Koplinka, a REALTOR® from Moriches, N.Y., and one of REALTOR® Magazine’s 2010 30 Under 30 honorees, came to the rally to support the extension of the Mortgage Debt Relief Act, among other issues. Her message to Congress? “Don’t penalize home ownership,” she said. “Stop trying to turn us into a rental nation.”

Hagan Stone, a REALTOR® from Brentwood, Tenn., and the RPAC fundraising chair for the state of Tennessee, had two basic pieces of advice for decision makers in the Beltway: Keep real estate at the forefront of the nation’s economy and don’t do any additional harm to housing. In his market, he’s found that appraisals have been negatively affected by murky rules laid out in the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill.

Butch Fulcher, a REALTOR® and RPAC contributor, came up to Washington from the Tri-Cities (Petersburg, Colonial Heights, and Hopewell) of Virginia just to attend the rally. He favors policies that help get foreclosures off the market and new ways to find financing for mortgage loans. “We’ve never seen problems like this before,” he said. “We need our voice to be heard to bring back housing.”

Sherri Campbell, a REALTOR® and team manager who practices real estate in Lanham, Md., wants to protect the mortgage interest deduction and find a way to make short sales faster and more predictable. “By stabilizing that, it would allow houses sitting on the market to move,” she said.

Stone said the rally was helping reinforce those messages in a very clear, powerful way. “I’ve never seen anything like this," he said. “Being here and knowing that REALTORS® back in Tennessee are watching this online and supporting us makes me incredibly proud to be part of the National Association of REALTORS®.”

“It’s wonderful,” Campbell said. “The camaraderie is great. And it lets everyone know how important these issues are.”

Chris Polychron, a Hot Springs, Ark., REALTOR® and NAR's 2013 First Vice President nominee, agreed. “I've never been more proud," he said. “We’re not here for ourselves. We’re here for the American home owner.”

Brian Summerfield is the former manager of business development and outreach for NAR Commercial and Global Services.