By Katherine Tarbox, Senior Editor, REALTOR® Magazine
The day before the National Association of REALTORS® starts its Home Ownership Matters Bus Tour at the Chicago Flower & Garden Show, REALTORS® from the Chicago area gathered at NAR headquarters Friday for a town hall-style meeting. The topic: the state of home ownership in America today.
2011 NAR President-Elect Moe Veissi, in Chicago for the kick-off, encouraged REALTORS® attending the meeting to start talking with peers and clients about how much the U.S. economy is affected by home ownership. “We need to spread the word,” he told the 100 or so REALTORS® in the audience. Key messages he asked members to share:
- The housing market makes up $4 trillion, or about 15 percent, of the total U.S. gross domestic product.
- The housing industry has led the way out of six of the last eight U.S. recessions.
- For every two homes sold in the United States, one job is created.
“You want stimulus? Don’t mess with the MID!” 2011 NAR President-Elect Moe Veissi said during a town hall meeting in Chicago March 4.
Veissi asked members to join in the fight by voicing their concerns to their elected officials and by sharing these statistics publicly in their community. “Let’s help the American consumer understand how vital home ownership is to a healthy U.S. economy,” he said, “and how it helps to create the thing we need most right now, jobs.”
One of NAR’s key priorities is preventing any chipping away of the mortgage interest deduction as a means of helping to reduce the federal deficit. The push comes at a time when editorial boards of major newspapers such as The New York Times and The Washington Post have come out in favor of eliminating or reducing this tax benefit, which has been in place for almost 100 years.”Home owners already pay a majority of the taxes in this country,” Veissi said.
“The deduction didn’t cause the deficit problem,” agreed Chicago Association of REALTORS® President Mabél Guzmán, who joined Veissi for the question-and-answer session. Rather that taking away the deduction, the government needs to look internally at how it can streamline its operations, she said. “Small businesses have been making these kind of cuts for years.”
“It seems so illogical to take away the mortgage interest deduction,” said Joe Siciliano, CRS, after the meeting. “It’s creating jobs, which is important,” said Siciliano, managing broker of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Chicago. “But also, people bought their home years ago based on this tax benefit. I feel more strongly after hearing Moe speak today that we need to keep this benefit.”
Also top of mind for members was the need to fix the financial system and free up capital for qualified buyers. “The pendulum swung too far in one direction. Now, it’s swinging too far the other way,” Veissi said.
“If we had more financing options, we would sell more real estate today,” agreed Marki Lemons-Ryhal, ABR, CRS, a team leader with Keller Williams Realty in Chicago.
Veissi said NAR strongly favors reforming — rather than eliminating — the government-sponsored enterprises that enable the secondary mortgage market to operate. “The GSEs are broken but they’re fixable,” Veissi said. “Without them, we’ll lose the system that helped many of our parents and grandparents become homeowners. If you privatize the secondary mortgage market, you eliminate the concept of the 30-year mortgage,” he said.
The Home Ownership Matters bus tour is an opportunity for NAR to engage with American consumers on these issues. The bus travels from Chicago to Denver to Portland during the month of March, with a few intermediate stops along the way. The tour’s message is simple but powerful: Home ownership matters to individuals, to communities, and to the country. We hope to see a lot of you as we travel from city to city!