Pushing Forward on Our Goals

With a new chapter underway for the nation, NAR President Charlie Oppler is keeping laser-focused on housing and commercial real estate priorities.
Charlie Oppler

© Courtesy of the Oppler Family

You’ve assumed the NAR presidency at a topsy-turvy time. Where are you focused?

Because I’m not traveling, I’m even more focused on listening to and connecting with members, committee liaisons, local leaders, and association executives. There’s a lot of COVID-19–related frustration out there. Some people think we’re halfway through the COVID-19 tunnel; some say we’re out of it; and some say we’re in deep. We will get through this. It’s important we push forward with our member priorities—including additional pandemic relief.

Speaking of advocacy, we have a new administration, as well as a new Congress, facing many competing housing and commercial real estate priorities. Where are we focused?

I’m optimistic about a first-time home buyer credit, which seems to have broad support. Hand in glove with that, we must address the inventory shortage, since a tax credit will stoke even more demand for homes for sale. We’re lobbying hard to preserve 1031 like-kind exchanges, which are critical to the economy, to help small investors, and to generate new housing. Along with zoning changes, 1031s could be key to converting languishing commercial space to residential units. In addition, if 1031 exchanges were removed from the tax code, it would hinder land sales and pile more pressure on commercial. Read more about how communities benefit from 1031s.

What other pots are simmering on the advocacy burner?

After more than 12 years of conservatorship, it’s high time to reform the government-sponsored enterprises. NAR is leading policy discussions to thoughtfully convert the mortgage giants into a utility. As a public-private entity that allows for private investment and government oversight, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will best be able to uphold the market for consumers by maximizing credit access, minimizing taxpayer risk, and keeping costs down.

And certainly, fair housing is front and center for NAR. Initial feedback on NAR’s new Fairhaven simulation training has been enthusiastic. What’s next in that area?

Under our ACT! plan, which stands for accountability, culture change, and training, NAR is focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion in all aspects of the business, from policy to education. I’m delighted by the response to Fairhaven, a fictional town where agents work against the clock to close deals while confronting discriminatory scenarios. One user said: “Going through this experience was really eye-opening. Some areas where I thought I was being fair, I found to be the opposite.” Another person said, “I already have a good handle on fair housing. However, I see how sometimes you make an unconscious decision that may have negative effects.” We’re also readying a mentorship program that will invite more diversity into the industry by pairing members with people interested in all aspects of the business. And I encourage you to read “Repairers of the Breach”, which looks at how REALTORS® and several communities are taking the lead in addressing the nation’s racist past to close the wealth gap between white and Black Americans.

How hopeful are you about the COVID-19 vaccine’s impact on how we live and work?

When you hear from my successor at this time next year, I hope the world will feel a lot safer. But for now, we must keep our guard up. I’m optimistic, but safety must remain a priority. Masks are here to stay for a while. Read more about guidance on workplace vaccine policies.