Live from the 2024 REALTORS® Legislative Meetings

This special episode was recorded live at the REALTORS® Legislative Meetings in Washington, D.C. Shannon and Patrick provide a mid-year advocacy update, including advocacy work surrounding the settlement agreement and its impact on the Department of Veterans Affairs home loan guarantee program, and much, much more!


[00:04] Welcome to the Advocacy Scoop, the podcast that takes you inside the advocacy work of the National Association of REALTORS®, connecting 1.5 million members with their advocates in Washington for a front row seat to the fight for public policy that strengthens the ability of Americans to access property ownership.

[00:25] Hello everyone and welcome to the Advocacy Scoop. I'm your co-host, Patrick Newton from the National Association of REALTORS®. This is a special episode of the Advocacy Scoop, recorded before a live audience at the REALTOR® Legislative Meetings in Washington, D.C.

[00:37] Our fly-in, as it's called in D.C. lingo, is when nearly 10 ,000 REALTORS® from across the country bring our issues straight to lawmakers in Washington. During this episode, my co-host, NAR's Chief Advocacy Officer Shannon McGahn, gives us her semi-annual update on all things advocacy and it wouldn't be the advocacy scoop if she didn't give us the scoop on an exciting announcement.

[01:00] Also in this episode, we discuss our advocacy work related to the NAR settlement agreement, including a pressing issue with the Department of Veterans Affairs. As our members know, the VA's Home Loan Guarantee Program is the only program that explicitly bans buyers from directly paying for professional real estate representation.

[01:19] In light of the settlement, NAR launched an all-hands advocacy effort on this issue. We met with VA officials, engaged with lawmakers, and rallied all of our industry partners to get this prohibition lifted.

[01:31] Now, I'm happy to report that since this live episode was recorded, the VA signaled plans to temporarily lift this ban until they deem it necessary to engage in a formal rulemaking process.

[01:43] This is a huge win for veterans and for NAR. And as Shannon noted, this is also a testament to those thousands of REALTORS® who came to D.C. with a unified message. Without this change, veteran buyers could be denied access to professional representation and all the negative consequences that come with that in their pursuit of the American dream of home ownership.

[02:05] So, with that update, here is the Advocacy Scoop, live from the REALTOR® Legislative Meetings in Washington. Enjoy!

[02:16] This is one of our most popular sessions at all of our conferences and everybody just... they want more advocacy, more Shannon, more cowbell. Like they, they're like, give it so that it was like, let's just turn this session into a monthly podcast. So, that's what we're going to do. We have three episodes already posted.

[02:28] So, one question we we get everywhere we go is we want to hear more about your work, we want to hear more about your wins because there are so many and advocacy is such a multi-layered operation.

[02:39] Well, we are pleased to have you here on stage and we will be very pleased if we can have you all grab your phone go to wherever you get your podcast and subscribe to the advocacy scoop.

[02:50] We will highlight many of the areas that are already on our website, but we know that you are busy, you are in the car, you've got families to take care of, you've got plenty of things going on.

[03:01] I also would love to read books and read our website and read all of the blogs and information out there. But I listen to podcasts about 16 hours a day, and that provides all of that information in a very digestible and easy to use format.

[03:16] So, we'll be very excited to continue this. This is our live broadcast. So, we're going to jump into what will be the next recorded session of the Advocacy Scoop. Yep, this will be the May episode. So, let's get right into it because whenever we do the Advocacy Scoop at a conference, Shannon comes out sort of gives a state of the union type address, sort of usually behind the podium over there. So, we'll do this Q &A style and find out what you've been up to since the last time you were on stage doing the Advocacy Scoop, which would have been back at Next in Anaheim. So, since then, we've had a little something come up called the settlement. We are going to talk a little bit about that just from the advocacy perspective because there is an advocacy component to it and you are talking about it on the Hill. So, tell us what are folks saying on the Hill and what are we doing on the Hill regarding it?

[04:02] Oh, absolutely. And as we are preparing to go to the Hill this week and meeting with, I think so far, we've confirmed meetings with 98% of all members of Congress. So, we'll be quite busy there. We have all of that material that's available on, and as we had approached the settlement agreement and our team of advocates have hit the Hill in the weeks prior to prep for these legislative meetings, we've had briefings with members of key committees, with members in leadership and others, and they ask, well, what is happening with the settlement agreement? And, we get support throughout on both sides of the aisle.

[04:45] We understand that there could be some policy issues that come up, how can we help? And the top policy issue that comes out of the agreement is what happens with VA buyers? And, this has something where we have long held policy on this issue for many years. Because Veterans Affairs had a handbook that references if you are going to use a VA loan, and you are the buyer, you cannot use the services of professional representation. And, that has been kind of a, you know, cloudy gray area of "what do you mean by this and where is this direct authority coming from?" But because VA buyers have been using other programs or they've been in demand for some of the lower interest loans during the pandemic and otherwise, it hasn't really gotten to the point of that sort of public pressure, and now it has. So, we have an all-of-the-above approach where we are talking directly with VA, directly with members of Congress, who have oversight over the program with the appropriators who also have the ability to fund this program, and many others within the veterans services organizations and other lending institutions who represent veterans to explain that there is a possibility if the seller is not affording that area of the commission that you would see veterans who would not have the ability to -- it's not even an affordability issue -- they're not even allowed to use the services. And, that could be very problematic as you have served your country and then are working on one of the largest purchases of your life.

[06:18] So, we've received great traction. We have those talking points on,  and we'll be communicating that with members of Congress as we look at what are those next steps.

[06:29] It could go through the regulatory process which takes a good amount of time. It's sad when you're like, oh, Congress can act faster. So, when Congress is looking into this, there's the operations process and others and so we have many avenues of support and again amazing traction bipartisan House and Senate, and we are working through that over the next couple of weeks.

[06:50] In addition to that, we have also highlighted first-time first-generation home buyers especially when you're looking at the African-American and Hispanic communities where we have been working to increase the homeownership rate and open up more opportunities and doors that there could be instances where you see that they may not be able to compete at the closing table.

[07:10] So, that has been an ongoing conversation that we'll talk about with our policy team later on today as they come up to the stage. And we will have, as part of today, conversations on what is happening on the Hill, what's happening in the 2024 election, and what is happening in 2025 as we look at the congressional policy landscape and it's our anticipation that this will be an issue that is covered way before then.

[07:36] Yeah, well the last time we we spoke in Anaheim we were in the middle of a speaker fight, we were in the middle of a government funding fight. The speaker fight lives on I suppose, we might see something on that the next week but for the most part resolved, the government is funded for another fiscal year, NFIP (flood insurance) is secure for another fiscal year. I spoke to Austin just before I came out on stage. I don't know if Austin's in the room. Our flood, our flood, yep, all right, perfect. Austin knows everything there is to know about flood. I said, how many flood insurance reauthorizations have there been since Shannon came to NAR in about 2018?

[08:17] And, he says around 30. So, good work. Hey, that's teamwork. Teamwork makes a dream work. That's right. But government funding is our bread and butter in a way. So there's so much stuff tucked in.

[08:29] There's 12 appropriations bills. So, tell us a little bit about the work that we do on that and what we're kind of doing for the rest of the year now that we have that sort of done.

[08:40] Oh, sure, sure. And, that's a great example of putting the urgence before the important. And, that whenever you're looking at a government funding bill that includes must pass piece of legislation like flood insurance, that is an opportunity for us to do a call for action which we did do twice last year, very successfully, the one at the end of the fiscal year where we had somewhere near 20 ,000 contacts within 24 hours to Capitol Hill over a weekend. You guys are busy on Saturday mornings, and I know it was amazing that we were able to get so so many that we were hearing from members on the Hill saying, "Okay, we got it, we got it. We know it will be in this piece of legislation that's passing later today." And, it turned out that with the Flood Insurance Program in and with our efforts, that funding bill passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate. And that's a rare combination.

[09:29] Well, we talk about, you know, that bipartisanship and our advocacy organization and operation is built around that.

[09:41] That's why we have the purple cards up here. That's our advocacy color, bipartisanship, bipartisan cooperation. So, you know, you have a little of my Shannon McGann phrasebook that I keep secretly of all your quotes, but you like to say "It's not divided government. It's balanced government." Right?

[09:56] Well, you know, if you're trying to be a glass half full kind of person. Yeah (laughs). As I said, I was gonna say, it is balanced. It is heavily representative of the electorate of the country.

[10:09] And if you look even at state by state and what districts are going red versus blue, and obviously we see everything as purple, but it is something that if you can just go down the line, you'll see that this is where the country is divided in that 50% area. And, our job is to find the solutions and to find those areas where we can have common ground and we can go to Capitol Hill, we can go to our state governments and say we all see this problem, and we as an organization of over a million folks with more committees than Congress has -- Board of Directors is the size of two Congresses --  that we have our own process to help develop these policy proposals and to bring them in a bipartisan way, and I think when we talk later too about RPAC and 2024 election activities, that's a key component of it.

[10:56] Well, we're here at RLM, and there's a group of folks here celebrating a very special anniversary, 50th anniversary for our FPC program.

[11:08] You have called that program the envy of Washington advocacy. So, tell me what you mean by that. Do you really keep the little books of like this. Yes. I need to come up with some better lines. OK. It is the envy. And it is something that, when I first started back in late 2018, and I went through -- I call it Bill Malkasian University -- and my predecessor walked me through all of these programs.

[11:31] And, the federal political coordinator program, my jaw dropped. I said, that is really a grass tops program, because these are direct relationships. How many folks here are FPCs?

[11:42] Can I get a show of hands? Wonderful!!! Happy 50th anniversary! Anyone here part of the very first FPC class?

[11:53] All right. I don't think so. I don't think so, but we're going to find out. But it really is the envy of advocacy programs throughout the country.

[12:05] When I talk to my counterparts and other organizations, they bring it up, and it's really fun when you mention to a member of Congress, I start every single meeting or even just quick introduction with "Hey, who's your FPC?" And, they never know what FPC means. They're always like, oh, my person? Like, yeah, who's your person? And, if they know who that person is, I immediately pull out my phone, send a text message, and say, OK, this member of Congress knows what's going on.

[12:28] And they always say, I love my FPC and here's why. We are neighbors. We have been friends since high school. We went to college together. She sold me my first home.

[12:39] There is a real deep personal connection and that is something that is very vital to advocacy and it's vital to what we do and what you all do as part of your business.

[12:50] And, so the fact that we can take that to the halls of Congress and around the country is amazing and congratulations FPCs and we're excited to celebrate with you all this week.

[13:20] Nice! So, we have a little website called, that's FLYIN. You came up with that one. If I had a little book of all the things that you came up with (laughs). Well, until this podcast my legacy were these note cards. I came up with these a few years ago and now everybody wants them. But, no, no (laughs). We have a website called That's Washington lingo. I worked on the Hill for 10 years. Shannon, you were on the hill for a little bit longer. - Let's not talk about how long. - Okay. (laughs) And this is called a flyin.

[13:31] It's when an organization comes to town and many organizations do this. I don't think there's very few of any that are as big as ours. In event speak, we call this a city takeover. I think we have 38-ish hotels blocked. And, when I was a Hill staffer, I remember, you look in the tip sheets in the morning and all the REALTORS® are in town, so you know you're going to have to wait 20 minutes for an elevator. Pack your lunch. You're not going to get into the Rayburn cafeteria that day. No, the line will be out the door. We knew when the REALTORS® were coming to town.

[14:07] And in this website,, we keep our updated Hill talking points, and we like to ask them when we go to the Hill for three, we like to give them three sort of top line asks.

[14:18] And so my question to you, Shannon, is how have those three asks sort of evolved this year? 'Cause you've already mentioned it a little bit, but the tax thing is a big deal.

[14:29] Absolutely! And so, we're looking at hitting the Hill on Tuesday for the bulk of the meetings, but we've been having these meetings throughout the year and the top issue that we are hearing directly from you all that has been, unfortunately, a bit of an evergreen issue over the years is the lack of inventory and its impact on housing affordability availability and accessibility.

[14:50] And, so we have been working over the last several years on many proactive legislative proposals that will help unlock existing inventory and to develop and build the new inventory.

[15:02] These are things like the More Homes on the Market Act that would provide capital gains incentives in order to sell home, especially if you're selling to owner occupants who are in desperate need of homes right now.

[15:14] This also includes things like the Neighborhood Homes Investment Act, which we have long supported, has bipartisan support, both in the House and Senate, and that's kind of like an opportunity zones for housing to help build and rehabilitate housing in areas that need it.

[15:30] We're also looking at other tax provisions that are coming up in the next Congress. The Tax Cut and Jobs Act expires in 2025, and we'll have a session later on today with Evan Liddiard and Helen Devlin and Bryan Greene to talk about lessons learned from the 2017 tax debate and how we can take that into 2025.

[15:50] We're also looking at fair housing and equitable access to housing. These are including enforcement and increased funding for fair housing enforcement. Also, looking at more protections in fair housing for the LGBTQ + community.

[16:07] And things like independent contractor status, which is potentially under attack by a Department of Labor rule. They rescinded one rule last year and have a new one that is troublesome and could be translated in some states to potentially go after independent contractor status.

[16:24] And that would impact the ability of, you know, 89% of REALTORS® are independent contractors who choose to be so, and choose this because it may be the best career move for their family and for themselves personally.

[16:38] And, if that were under attack that you would see less ability to have that representation. We're also looking at the VA loan issue as one of those areas of fair housing and equitable access to that representation.

[16:53] And, the underlying foundation of all of these issues that we bring to Capitol Hill is the amazing research that is put together by Dr. Lawrence Yun and Dr. Jessica Lautz.

[17:03] Are you in the house? Oh, I don't know, but they're probably out there running some models right now and doing their own survey work, but without that research and without NAR being the organization to come to Capitol Hill five years ago and say, "We are five and a half million units short of a healthy real estate economy that we need to not just build new housing, but be able to unleash the current housing that is unoccupied."

[17:32] Jessica just mentioned in a briefing that before you even go and put a shovel in the ground there's about $94,000 of regulatory costs that need to be covered. That's making housing less affordable.

[17:45] Our home buyers and sellers reports show that 10% of home buyers last year used a VA loan and 23% in the African American community used a VA loan. And these are under, you know, potential attack by policies that are within the federal government that we can change and we have the power to influence. And so, we'll continue doing that with the great research that they put together and also sharing the statistics of each individual district that our team delivers to their member of Congress and their staff, and they're always very happy to see that. So, these are the types of things we do year round, but we're especially grateful to have wonderful company with you all here this week.

[18:25] Our research team literally has groupies. They're groupies, I'm a groupie. I mean, they're impact in DC. I mean, you cannot overstate it. It's Congress sites these figures in hearings and in floor speeches and the media, therefore, you know, sites these figures. And, a lot of times they come back to our research team. So yeah, that's one of our big three is making sure the folks on the hill know about that, that resource.

[18:48] Well, I do want to say really quickly, while we have some time, I know you have some broad goals, Shannon, you know, continuing our public policy goals and promoting any of our products.

[18:59] We've talked about that. But another one is thinking modern. So, tell me, like, what does that mean to you? Thinking modern. Our team is probably tired of hearing it, but the advocacy goal is to look at what is the future of advocacy, what will we be doing ten years from now and how do we beat every other organization to it. That includes our RPAC fundraising and disbursements trustees looking at the political landscape and the future of technology and fundraising. Things like AI and how that is influencing communication in the way that we are able to make our message heard. So, these are all important issues that our team is focused on day in and day out and we love to hear from you.

[19:39] We know that there are best practices throughout the country. They're not just here at the national level, and so that's an important issue also for our our GAD community -- government affairs directors.

[19:50] If you're in this room, you probably know what a GAD is, but I was told not to use these acronyms anymore. And so, we are grateful to continue modernizing and then also expanding on our friends and family and understanding that all of the organizations who work in the real estate space and anybody who wants a strong, healthy, vibrant economy, and the ability for people to guard our generational wealth and to have a home of their own cares about the same issues that we do. And we can develop that collaborative relationship with organizations across the country and we will continue to do so.

[20:21] Great. Well, the clock has ticked to zero at least for our little session here. We're going to have more folks coming up right after us. But we like to end our little podcast with something called "Closing Time," which is a real estate pun, obviously, which we speak in movie quotes in real estate puns in a lot of the podcasts. Explicitly. Explicitly, really. So, we close the podcast this way every time, and I ask Shannon to tell us a story or something from behind the scenes or some sort of like announcement that's not public yet. So give us the scoop on something.

[20:49] All right well you're going to get the scoop at the scoop for you today, and we'll talk about this a little bit in the next session but we are about to see Congress launch a real estate caucus.

[21:01] A bipartisan group of members of Congress are going to be announcing this in a press release early this week where we have members who will focus on helping to educate their colleagues on real estate issues.

[21:12] These are members of Congress who may have a background in real estate, maybe they were REALTOR® or worked in development or some area of the real estate ecosystem, and they feel very strongly that there's an important story to be told about the importance of real estate on the economy and the very complex policy issues that if you're not on the financial services committee or ways and means committee or banking or finance, you may not have as much access to it but that doesn't mean that you don't have interest in it. So, this is a collaborative effort that we are working with home builders and the mortgage bankers and many throughout the real estate industry to make sure that we're helping them to deliver the most accurate up-to-date best information. So, look out for that press release coming early this week and we might even be having some speakers coming in and talking about their efforts here. So, we're very excited.

[21:57] And the caucus is a big deal in Congress. I mean to all the FPCs that are in the room: you've got to get your member of Congress on the caucus.

[22:09] That'll be one of our, yes, one of our asks as we go into the Hill meetings is "please join the real estate caucus" and that's a great avenue to learn more about the important aspects of this industry.

[22:19] Great. All right. Well, that wraps it for us. If you want to listen to the Advocacy Scoop podcast every month, just download it wherever you listen to your podcast, or we'll have it on our NAR's website at and that's a wrap for this episode.

[22:35] All right. Thank you. So that's the scoop. Thank you to everyone listening to this podcast. Please be sure to subscribe and share wherever you get your podcast and meet us right back here for more advocacy scoop next time.

[22:48] REALTORS® are members of the National Association of REALTORS®.


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