NAR President Tom Salomone raised the curtain on the REALTORS® Conference & Expo in Orlando, Fla., on Thursday, praising members for going beyond the call of duty to strengthen communities around the country. "When I announced our theme for 2016, the concept of ‘… and then some’ -- always going that extra mile for our families, our communities, our associations, our industry, and the clients we serve -- I hoped the REALTOR® family would embrace this philosophy," Salomone said at NAR 360, the official welcoming ceremony at the conference. "However, you haven't just embraced it. You've embodied it."
Salomone said he was particularly proud of the collaboration between REALTOR® associations and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, an effort he launched at the start of his tenure to connect real estate professionals with opportunities to give back to their communities.
|NAR President Tom Salomone addresses attendees at the REALTORS® Conference & Expo in Orlando, Fla., on Thursday.|
A national tragedy this year also brought out the giving nature of REALTORS®: the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in June that rocked the conference’s host city. Members of the Orlando association sprang into action to help victims and their families. "It's this type of selfless action that exemplifies the heart and soul of the ‘… and then some’ spirit," Salomone said.
A video Salomone shared featured Orlando REALTOR® Christian West-Howard, who used social media to obtain housing for victims of the shooting and their family members. “We were in a position to serve,” ORRA President John Lazenby said in the video.
Salomone also called attention to a meeting of housing experts NAR convened in July to devise strategies to deal with issues related to homelessness and the nation's shortage of affordable homes. Participants worked together on a Meals for Hope event, preparing 30,000 meals for homeless people in the Washington, D.C. area. Salomone added that the Florida REALTORS® association sponsored an event in Orlando on Thursday to pack 100,000 meals for distribution in Central Florida.
NAR Treasurer Mike McGrew noted during the ceremony that the REALTORS® Relief Foundation has raised more than $25 million to help people impacted by natural disasters since its inception 15 years ago. RRF is hosting a “Dress Down and Donate” fundraiser Sunday during the conference near Entrance C of the convention center. Donors are encouraged to wear comfortable clothes in keeping with the spirit of the event.
Eye on Home Ownership
Other NAR leaders turned the focus on the association’s push to promote home ownership and raise public awareness about the value of a REALTOR®.
- NAR 2017 President Bill Brown highlighted the Get REALTOR® consumer advertising campaign, which is built around a partnership with the ABC television program "Modern Family." Actor Ty Burrell, who plays a REALTOR® on the show, will be on hand at the NAR booth on Saturday from 1p.m. to 3 p.m. Attendees can have their photo taken with him in front of the fireplace set used in NAR’s TV commercials.
- NAR First Vice President Elizabeth Mendenhall discussed NAR's strong relationship with global media powerhouse News Corp, which owns Move Inc., the operator of realtor.com®. She spoke onstage with Robert Thomson, CEO of News Corp, about the collaboration. "There's no more important investment decision that [people] make in their life than buying a home," Thomson said, "and you want guidance from somebody you trust".
- NAR Immediate Past President Chris Polychron said the condo financing legislation championed by NAR and signed into law by President Barack Obama in July is an example of the ability of REALTORS® to influence the nation’s housing agenda in ways that help home owners and real estate professionals. The new law makes it easier for people to get mortgages backed by the Federal Housing Administration to buy condos. Polychron drew loud applause when he mentioned that just last week, the FHA, which has been crafting rules to reflect the law, announced that it will lower the owner-occupancy requirement on condominiums from 50 percent to 35 percent. “The Federal Housing Administration agreed with NAR’s position because of our credibility speaking on behalf of consumers," he said. "Condominiums will have a much easier time getting certified by FHA, and REALTORS® will have more options for clients looking to purchase a condo with an FHA mortgage. This is a huge win for REALTORS® and the consumers we serve.”
Wins in Washington
Polychron and NAR Vice President Sherri Meadows also highlighted other victories the association achieved in Washington this year, including a clarification of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s “Know Before You Owe” initiative to emphasize that lenders are permitted to share closing documents with real estate professionals with permission from the home buyer. In addition, at NAR’s urging, lawmakers passed private market flood insurance legislation and voted to eliminate the cap on VA loan limits. Meanwhile, NAR played a key role as the Federal Aviation Administration issued long-awaited rules to make it easier to use a drone commercially, and NAR's research division commissioned a study on the relationship between student debt and the ability to afford housing and presented the findings at congressional and media briefings.
Meadows noted that a central element of NAR's success in connecting with lawmakers and policymakers is the REALTOR® Party, which contributed funding to 560 congressional and Senate races this year. NAR will provide analysis of the results of those elections Tuesday evening at www.realtoractioncenter.com/elections. There, you can also register for the REALTOR® Party Post-Election Live Webcast, which will occur Wednesday at 3 p.m. ET.
The Phone-a-Friend phone-bank program for RPAC has strengthened REALTOR® Party reserves, and associations around the country are on track to host a collective 550 phone bank events and make more than 60,000 calls by the end of the year. "This program has helped to protect home ownership and property investment while ensuring that the REALTOR® voice remains strong from city halls to the nation’s capital," Salomone said. "It has also helped many of our members to get involved who have never before invested in RPAC."
Meadows and Polychron also talked about the REALTOR® Party’s efforts to get candidates who support the real estate industry elected to public office. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, a former REALTOR® who is running for re-election with backing from the REALTOR® Party, appeared via a live video link to discuss the importance of REALTOR® support. "I can tell you without fear of equivocation that I'm a better governor because I was first a REALTOR®", Herbert said.