This time two weeks ago I was in Anaheim, California, at the National Association of Realtors’ Annual Conference, themed “Seize the Day“.
I am still struck by the bigness of it all. Not just the sheer numbers (over 20,000 of us!), but by the strength of the passion and the vision. Yet I am still wondering, are we delivering what future generations of home owners need from us today?
Plenty of the sessions addressed NAR’s vision – and especially the increased emphasis on the Public Advocacy Campaign. The Realtor brand and our Code of Ethics has always been about protecting home ownership, and never has the organization been more focused on that than this coming year. One key element of the campaign is the “Future Generations” commercial you’ve probably seen on TV. A grandson dreams about owning his own home one day, while the grandpa wistfully wonders if he’ll ever have that opportunity.
My own “future generations” moment came in a session called Energy: New Approaches and Challenges for the Future. A Realtor in the audience came to the mic to mention a 20% increase in energy costs in her Vermont market. Here we were discussing energy as a land use topic. But without intending to, she hit the nail on the head: energy is an affordability topic. And if we continue to mislabel it, each Realtor’s business will suffer.
I caught up with her later (literally passing on the escalators!) and learned more. It’s an example that should put all of us on notice:
- 20% rise in utility prices bumped her bills up to $240 per month
- She owns an 1100 square foot ranch
- A similar home on Realtor.com is available for around $180,000
- According to Realtor.com calculators, mortgage for a house like this would be about $700 per month, with $200 in taxes
It got me thinking. Now my smart $180,000 client is a $160,000 client. Can I still find them the right home at the lower price point? Are they going to be satisfied with my work? What if there’s just not enough house to make them jump in, or what if the new numbers have them too nervous to move?
And what about my not-so-smart client? What if they proceed at $180,000 but energy costs rise again? Have I done good work for them? Or are they up at night wondering how they are going to pay the mortgage?
I run my business 100% on referrals, and foreclosure resales – even the just the shadow of one – is simply not acceptable in my plan.
So when it comes to protecting home ownership and future generations we need to step up and acknowledge that empowering clients with energy efficiency should be part of what we do – both to enable our own livelihoods, and to strengthen our own communities.