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Speak up: Resolve to Advocate for Your Clients, Your Industry and Yourself in 2013

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By Marc Gould

At year end, many of us make resolutions for the upcoming year. I have one I’d urge you put atop your professional list: Speak up. By that I mean, be an advocate for the issues that affect accredited buyers’ representatives (ABRs®) and our industry as a whole. As real estate brokers, it is your job to inform politicians and elected officials of the issues that matter most to you and to our industry. Here are a few tips on how to do this most effectively:

Keep it local.
All politics is local. You’ve heard this expression many times over, but it continues to hold true. Any politician’s success is directly linked to his or her ability to understand and affect the issues that are important to his or her constituents. Your efforts will be most effective if you start locally with your city council and state representatives.

Policymakers in state and local roles pay more attention to personal communications from their constituents than any other source. These officials want to hear from you and will be more receptive to your ideas than you might expect.

Understand the issues.
Being an effective advocate requires doing your homework and knowing the issues. What are the issues that affect buyers (and consequently ABRs) in your area? Whether it’s zoning, broker lien laws, foreclosure, home inspection, property taxes, appraisal management companies, lending application disclosures and escrow requirements, private transfer fees, or real estate transfer taxes, you need to understand how these affect your buyers. Your mastery of these issues will only help with your agents and clients, and it will ensure that you can be an effective advocate.

It’s also critical to understand both the advocacy and the legislative landscape. Check with your state and local realtors’ association to see what issues they are focusing on. For example, are they advocating for Affordable Mortgages and FHA Loan Limits? In some instances, it may make sense for you to cover the same issues, and in other instances, you may want to advocate about different ones. It’s also essential to know whether city council or state legislators are considering legislation that may affect your clients, such as transfer taxes and property tax increases. Knowing what’s coming up for a vote will not only help you advocate on these issues, but will also help you establish expertise and advise clients about what’s coming down the pike.

Put it in writing.
Writing a letter, making a telephone call or sending an email or fax are always appropriate forms for contacting decision makers. But, a written communication provides a readily available document that can be used whenever a staff member or legislator addresses the issue. When you have a meeting or speak with a legislator or staff by phone, it’s useful to follow up with a letter that briefly summarizes your discussion and reiterates your position.

Put in face time.
Phone calls, faxes, e-mails and letters are all important, but nothing compares with face-to-face meetings in your local district offices (or on Capitol Hill) for their efficacy in being heard. Attending meetings, special events and group advocacy efforts are simply essential. Meeting with your member of Congress, your state legislator or their staff and developing a personal relationship are the most effective ways to influence legislators’ positions on an issue.

Build ongoing relationships with policymakers.
Fostering ongoing relationships with elected officials should be a long-term goal of these advocacy efforts. Developing relationships may not happen the first time you reach out, but over time, you can establish a meaningful relationship with state and local representatives. Start with small things, like inviting officials to a special event or to your next chapter or board meeting. Ultimately, if you want to make sure your voice is heard, you want your state and local representatives to think of you as an expert on real estate issues.

Encourage this by letting policymakers know that if they have questions or concerns about topics that relate to real estate, they can call you. For example, if they have questions about the effects of foreclosures in their city or state, or the impact of bad appraisals, they can pick up the phone or drop you email, and you will provide the answers. (If you get stumped by a question, advise the representative that you will get back to them shortly, and then contact your state or local association government affairs director to provide the information.)

Be aware of REBAC’s national advocacy efforts.
What is REBAC doing to support the growth of your brokerage in 2013? We are increasing our efforts to ensure that legislators and key federal government agencies such as the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPA) and legislators understand the important role ABR s ® play in supporting buyers and maintaining much-needed stability in the housing market. FHA and CFPA are focused on protecting buyers/consumers— a natural fit for ABRs®. We are meeting with these agencies and making them aware of all that ABRs® do on behalf of the buyer-client and the crucial role ABRs® play in the real estate marketplace.

As you look to the year ahead, resolve to get involved in politics at the grass-roots levels. By advocating for the issues that affect our clients, the real estate industry, private property rights, and our economy and infrastructure, we can pave our success in 2013 and beyond.

A wholly-owned subsidiary of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), The Real Estate Buyer’s Agent Council (REBAC) is the world’s largest association of real estate professionals focusing specifically on representing the real estate buyer. With more than 30,000 active members, REBAC awards the Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR®) designation to REALTORS® who work directly with buyer-clients.

For more information, visit REBAC.net.

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