By Robert Freedman, Senior Editor, REALTOR® Magazine
Heather Smith knows how to get young professionals engaged in our political process. She founded an initiative called Young Voter Strategies as a way to reinvigorate our democracy by making clear to young people the importance of their political involvement. One outcome of that, arguably, is the success of Barack Obama’s presidential candidacy. Whatever your views of his politics, his camapign was built on a massive influx of young Americans who had little or no involvement in politics before. That can only be healthy for a democracy, regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum. She’s now head of an initiative called Rock the Vote. You might have heard of that: It works through rock acts like the Fall Out Boy and entertainers like Zach Braff to reach out to young adults about voting.
I mention Smith because she’s one of the speakers at a forum called Rock the REALTOR® at the 2009 REALTORS® Conference & Expo on Friday that touches on an important topic for the health of real estate in the years ahead: getting today’s young real estate professionals to take an interest in the politics of real estate.
What are the politics of real estate? Getting the home buyer tax credit extended and expanded is a good example. If you don’t follow the day-to-day machinations of the legislative process—hopefully you’re too busy cultivating customers and closing deals to do that—it might seem like there was little controversy behind the effort to get the credit extension passed (which happened last week). After all, the Senate passed the credit without a single “no” vote. But in fact passage of that law was in some sense years in the making. That’s because it’s taken years for NAR (and other real estate associations, for that matter) to develop the ability to energize its members on behalf of what’s best for real estate.
You should know that NAR broke all records on its Call for Action to extend and expand the tax credit. I don’t have the latest figure, but the last time I checked NAR had an 18 percent response rate. Compare that to just two years ago, when the typical response rate was 3 percent. That kind of turnout is crucial, because lawmakers respond when thousands of real estate professionals in their district or state contact them about an issue.
Here’s where young people come in. The average age of NAR’s members is 52. For the health of real estate markets going forward, NAR must continue to educate lawmakers about the impact of their proposals on your business. That’s a job that increasingly will fall to the up-and-coming generation of real estate professionals. As such, NAR recognizes the need to get its younger members involved in the advocacy process. And this forum is an important part of that effort.
Other speakers are Peter Leyden, director of the New Politics Institute, and Keith Kanemoto, a 2005 REALTOR® Magazine 30-under-30 winner and a broker of Prudential Rocky Mountain, REALTORS®, in Longmont, Colo.
If you’re not already planning to attend that session, I encourage you to check it out. If you’re a broker with younger professionals in your office, you could learn much about how to get them to make the connection between their success and REALTORS® advocacy success in Washington, at your statehouse, and before your city council.