A Message from the President with Mike Theo: Traditions

 January 06, 2014

The holiday season is filled with traditions. So too is our association. I have marveled since my first days with the WRA nearly three decades ago at how REALTORS¬ģ, despite being fierce competitors in the marketplace, work through their local, state and national associations, to advance the industry and the profession. It‚Äôs a tradition of engagement and cooperation that very few professions have or even hope to have.

This engagement exists in our marketplace, where REALTORS¬ģ long ago established a central bureau called the ‚Äúmultiple listing services‚ÄĚ to exchange property listings and establish rules of cooperation. Today over 800 MLSs exist across the country. This engagement exists in the Code of Ethics, which was established over 100 years ago. It was revolutionary in 1913 when no other group outside of medicine, engineering and law had such a code and the means to enforce it. It‚Äôs important to note that the code was adopted voluntarily, not because some government entity required it. Our tradition of member engagement also exists in our support for government rules and regulations that enhance education and experience requirements to obtain and maintain a real estate license. And it exists in our collective political involvement and legislative advocacy efforts to protect and promote our profession, our industry and the interests of property owners at all levels of government.¬†

It almost seems like this high level of member involvement in the programs, products and services of the association is in our very DNA. 

This tradition of engagement has served us well over time and last year as well. In 2013, we created a common vision for our future vis-à-vis a new strategic plan that directs us to take a leadership role in making Wisconsin’s economy prosper and to continue being the voice of, and a strong advocate for, our industry and property owners. We came together to execute an aggressive legislative strategy, which helped pass legislation to nearly freeze property taxes, prohibit local governments from regulating or imposing fees on real estate brokers or practice, cut individual income taxes, supported landlords, protected vested property rights, and federalized the tax treatment for depreciation and capital loses of certain property. Our member-supported Legal Action Fund enjoyed an equally aggressive 2013 with involvement in court cases dealing with wind turbines and property rights, copyrighted MLS data, protecting homeowners’ right to rent their home, and clarifying commission judgments and legal fees in arbitration cases.

As we begin 2014, this tradition of member engagement will be needed more than ever. Our state legislative plate is full, and there’s precious little time remaining in the session. We need members advocating for the passage of legislation requiring active sales experience prior to obtaining a broker’s license, prohibiting local ordinances from banning short-term rentals of homes, and we must interject the concept of major property tax reforms/reductions into the elections and secure candidate support for that legislation next session.

We will also need member involvement for federal issues such as tax reform and the need to protect the mortgage interest deduction, property tax deductibility and exclusions for capital gains. We also need to be vigilant on mortgage market reforms being discussed in D.C., such as efforts to privatize Fannie and Freddie, with potential adverse impacts on the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage product. We must also monitor closely the changes to the FHA ‚ÄĒ in which some proposals could make many borrowers ineligible for FHA loans regardless of their creditworthiness. We also need member involvement to combat those politicians and others who challenge the very concept in America that homeownership is a desirable goal and aspiration for young people.

And we need member involvement in support of political candidates in 2014 who have earned our support through their support for REALTOR¬ģ and property owner issues.

The tradition of member engagement began when 120 delegates gathered in Chicago in 1908 in the first meeting of The National Association of Real Estate Exchanges, which eventually became the National Association of REALTORS¬ģ. Like so many REALTORS¬ģ who followed, they were dedicated to working collectively for the best interests of the industry, the profession and the property owner. And now it‚Äôs our turn to write the next chapter. In this new year, we face new challenges that will require each of us to give a little ‚ÄĒ a little time, money and effort ‚ÄĒ so we can all gain a lot. Contact your elected officials when asked. Contribute to RPAC to help elect pro-real estate candidates. Become active in your communities and your local boards. Volunteer for activities and committees at the WRA. In short, engage! After all, it‚Äôs a REALTOR¬ģ tradition.

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