Advocacy Opportunities in the 2024 Political Landscape

Former congressmen speculate NAR could make headway on capital gains exclusion for sellers and helping veteran buyers.

In today's “50-50” political environment, it’s essential to find common ground, former Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina told a crowd Sunday at the Federal Legislative & Political Forum. The forum took place during the REALTORS® Legislative Meetings in Washington, D.C., where thousands of REALTORS®, members of the National Association of REALTORS®,  gather each spring to discuss policy and spotlight key priorities to their members of Congress.

Sharing the forum stage with Gowdy was Joe Cunningham, another former South Carolina congressman. Gowdy, a Republican who served from 2011 to 2019, and Cunningham, a Democrat who served one term (2020–21) before being narrowly defeated in a heavily Republican district, said they worked across the aisle as much as possible during their time in office.

Gowdy, now a television and podcast host, and Cunningham, the national director for the political organization No Labels, complimented the association’s even-handed approach to advocacy, recalling their NAR Federal Political Coordinator (FPC) by name. “My hat’s off to you,” Cunningham said. “You do a great job. You educate members of Congress on issues that matter to your industry—and to your community as well.”

The FPC program, celebrating its 50th year in 2024, is one of the pillars of NAR’s bipartisan advocacy program. Through the program, NAR members from around the country are assigned to a member of Congress from their district or state. They build personal relationships and help legislators and their staffs understand the impact of policy decisions on the real estate industry and communities.

REALTORS® Maura Neill of Atlanta and Scott Louser of Minot, N.D., hosted the forum, discussing a range of topics with Gowdy and Cunningham—from which of the association’s 2024 policy priorities are most likely to resonate in Congress to the impact of coming practice changes on VA borrowers.

Gowdy said one area where NAR could have success this year is in the advocacy effort to raise the capital gains exclusion on the sale of a primary residence. The exclusion hasn’t changed since 1997, despite dramatically higher home values in many areas. REALTORS® visiting Capitol Hill this week are speaking up in support of the bipartisan More Homes on the Market Act, which would double the exclusion, helping to spur sales in high-cost areas.

See the full list of NAR Legislative Priorities and talking points for communicating with your members of Congress.

One of the practice changes outlined in NAR’s pending settlement agreement requires that, effective Aug. 17, MLS participants working with buyers must have a written buyer agreement that specifies compensation.  One point of concern many NAR members have raised is that borrowers using the VA home loan program are prohibited from paying a real estate agent.

Although it’s important to note that the settlement agreement allows compensation to come from another source, including the listing broker or seller, Gowdy and Cunningham both expressed support for a rule change or other solution from the VA that wouldn’t disadvantage veteran borrowers.

“Veterans face challenges on the battlefield, and when they come back home, the battle often continues—the fight for health care, the fight for housing,” Cunningham said. “Veterans need [an agent] who understands special provisions of the loan. They also rely on your local knowledge.”

Gowdy said he hoped for a regulatory fix. “I cannot imagine sending anyone, including a veteran, into what’s become an incredibly complicated process of purchasing a home without an advocate. And I wouldn’t expect anyone to advocate without getting paid,” he said. “I’ve had three closings in the last 12 months. I’m an attorney. I couldn’t have done any of it without the help of a REALTOR®.”