Late Friday, I returned from a week in Washington, D.C., where Realtors from Greater Chattanooga joined nearly 8,500 other real estate professionals from across the country to participate in the 2015 Realtor Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo. These annual national meetings give us the opportunity to meet face-to-face with decision makers and be heard on the issues that affect the industry and the ability of consumers to buy, sell and invest in real estate.
It is crucial that our lawmakers understand the serious issues that face the real estate industry. Realtors lead the way in advocating for home and property owners in their communities, and we showed this week we can do the same in our nation’s capital with our elected officials. Investing in policies good for homeowners and property owners not only strengthens our communities and helps families build stable futures but also drives a strong economy.
Wednesday was a packed day for Greater Chattanooga Realtors, as we met with Sen. Lamar Alexander, Sen. Bob Corker, and Rep. Chuck Fleischmann from Tennessee, and Rep. Tom Graves, Sen. Johnny Isakson, and Sen. David Perdue from Georgia. In these meetings, we emphasized important residential and commercial real estate issues to homeowners and investors.
Specifically, we focused on the need to extend the Mortgage Forgiveness Tax Relief Act, which expired at the end of 2014 and prevents distressed homeowners from facing excessive income tax bills on forgiven home loan debt. Also, we urged lawmakers to protect commercial real estate related tax provisions by retaining like-kind exchange provisions and making the 15-year depreciation period for leasehold improvements permanent. Other pressing matters included patent reform, the creation of nationwide data security standards, and the passage of the Mortgage Choice Act to end discrimination against affiliated lenders.
In addition to meetings on the Hill, we had the opportunity to hear from Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, who provided a housing industry outlook and referenced credit availability as the biggest hurdle to homeownership. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray discussed changes to loan closing procedures and documents, stating that the new mortgage rules are in place to educate and empower buyers to “know before they owe.”
Also, we heard from political strategists Donna Brazile and Ed Gillespie, who shared how social media and the 24-hour news cycle impact congressional priorities and play a role in the political gridlock in Washington.
Move, Inc. CEO Ryan O’Hara spoke about the year ahead for realtor.com and unveiled a visual rebranding of NAR’s official listing site that included a new advertising campaign. Attendees also heard from senior staff from the Federal Aviation Administration Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Office about drone technology and from NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun, who shared residential and commercial real estate market and economic outlooks.
Realtors do so much more than list and sell properties. The meetings and discussions this past week will help advance policies that strengthen homeownership and property rights and make a positive difference for consumers and our industry. Congress is set to take up legislation on several issues in which consumers and Realtors have a real stake, so it is very important our elected officials know the impact they have on our communities and nation as a whole. Through the strength of the Realtor Party, we have made known where we stand on key issues that affect home buyers, sellers, and investors here in Greater Chattanooga.
National Association of Realtors President Chris Polychrome praised our efforts to actively advance the real estate industry and provide a safe and affordable path to homeownership for Americans. “Homeownership and commercial investment help build strong communities and families,” he said. “With the current policy debates underway in Washington, it’s a critical time for Realtors to take action and help shape the future of real estate.”
The Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors is “The Voice of Real Estate in Greater Chattanooga.” The Association is a regional organization with more than 1,500 members, and is one of more than 1,400 local boards and associations of Realtors nationwide that comprise the National Association of Realtors. The Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors services Hamilton and Sequatchie counties in southeast Tennessee, and Catoosa, Dade, and Walker counties in northwest Georgia.
For more information, visit www.gcar.net.