MP: So, are rising interest rates the biggest concern for our industry next year?
SB: No. What will overshadow interest rates are tax reform issues and the continuing fight over the mortgage interest deduction. Unfortunately, many of these historical supports are touted as “loopholes.” It’s unfair to characterize these incentives as such. They were put in place to help people buy property because when they do, they’re investing in communities. Everybody wins. We have to be vigorous in our defense of these incentives to make sure we remain a country of property owners and not a country of renters. There’s a profound difference between the two, economically, socially and culturally. So that’s what we will be dealing with next year, as well as regulations surrounding HUD that will have an impact on how we do business.
MP: Do you believe any of these issues will come to resolution during your term?
SB: Tax reform has been on the table for many years. I don’t see it being fully resolved in the near future, so we need to continue to be watchdogs over any tax reforms that could adversely affect the ownership, accessibility and sustainability of real estate.
That being said, we would like to see resolution of the Freddie and Fannie restructuring. The protection, viability, solvency and mission of FHA are also of critical concern. That’s a big part of what we’ll be dealing with next year. If we didn’t have these institutions in place during the recent Great Recession when the private market so dramatically retracted, we wouldn’t have been able to sell properties, period. These are ongoing, long-term issues, and we have to continually work to protect the real estate industry and the consumer in our advocacy work.
MP: What will be your approach to serving the NAR membership next year?
SB: I think it’s important that we continue to improve our communications with our more than a million members. We have maybe 20 percent who are actively engaged in our work. I understand the 80/20 rule, but my hope is to strategically target and better communicate with the various segments of our REALTOR® members. One email blanketing a million members is not effective. From residential to land to commercial sales, we need to better target our members so as to better serve their interests and needs, as well as the industry as a whole. To give you a specific example, we have to identify our “pure” commercial real estate members, as well as serve our members who do both residential and commercial business. (We refer to them as “resi-mercials”). Each has specific needs that we must serve if we are to serve all aspects of real estate.