Active Rain March 24, 2011

Why I Will Happily Shell Out the 40 Bucks

For my colleagues in the real estate industry…”politics makes strange bedfellows”

Some day this will all be hersI’ll preface my thoughts by tipping my cap to the memory of Elizabeth Taylor to make a point: when you think of the late Ms. Taylor, what number do you first think of? 

If the number is her 8 marriages, may I suggest 100,000,000. Because she raised $100 Million for AIDS research, much of it before anyone else jumped on board. Notable people and notable things are more than what they seem. I’ll keep 8 with Yogi Berra. 

There has been much written, often with angst, about the proposal by NAR to essentially charge every member another $40 annually to support what is referred to as the “Realtor Party.” I have given this some serious thought the past few days and the kernel of my conclusion is what I first wrote on Jay Thompson’s article about the matter: I believe that NAR’s hand was forced because the important work done by RPAC, the Realtor Political Action Committee, is not supported by enough members

I am as guilty as anyone. I never knew much about RPAC until I attended NYSAR’s mid-winter meeting in Albany last month. There, I saw firsthand the crucial- and I do not use that word lightly- advocacy that RPAC does for our members and industry. I saw a work group of our best and brightest discussing how to address proposed laws in Albany that would impose draconian restrictions on advertisements by brokerages, as if we weren’t already over regulated. 

For those of you who either say or nod in agreement that your NAR membership is good for MLS membership and little else (see my remark on the late Ms. Taylor), let me give you a few thumbnails on the important work RPAC has taken on:

  • RPAC has successfully kept banks out of the real estate industryy. Chew on that if the short sale or REO process work for you. 
  • New York finally passed a Commission Escrow Act which mandates that sellers who dispute and withhold a broker commission deposit the funds in escrow and go to arbitration. This is far better than having to litigate what in two cases of my own were simply dishonorable deadbeats who thought they’d steal services. 
  • RPAC is fighting transfer taxes, which are the tax de jour of some municipalities who face the consequences of their bloated budgets. Transfer taxes hurt our industry and really hurt the consumers, especially sellers who need every penny of equity they can get and buyers who are already beset with trepidation in this climate. New York transfer taxes are the highest I know.
  • They are working to preserve the mortgage interest deduction, which should need not a syllable of debate in this forum. Not a syllable. 
I could go on, but if a strong trade organization and lobbying force aren’t important to you by now, just call your favorite loan officer and ask them if they wish they had a trade organization like we have. Ask your LO if they thought two years ago that the government, by imperial fiat, could decimate how they earn their honest living. I for one do not want to go the way of the buggy whip, because I know the value I bring. I ran a FSBO assistance firm for several years. I know far better than to think agents are there to suck the profit from a transaction and little else. We are needed more than ever. 
That is the very reason that this $40 is now an issue- as an MLS official I know that no move involving dues is ever undertaken lightly. I would conclude that with the low support by membership, NAR’s hand was forced.The odds are that if you are reading this that you haven’t ever contributed to RPAC or even gotten involved in your local association. Maybe you heard an offhand comment about how RPAC supports a candidate you dislike. This is your wake up call. If you don’t like their solution, what have you done? 
Those bullet points above and dozens of others are meaningful to me. Mortgage brokers had a weak political voice and are facing extinction. Even loan officers for lenders face dramatic pay cuts. I know my value. Our industry has proven it belongs and won’t be banished by market forces. No politician is going to take the business I built from nothing into my career away from me. I will pay $40 to preserve how I feed and clothe my family. As long as my name is on that red sign I want an advocate in Albany and Washington. And you should too.