Thoughts on Leadership: Real Estate and Legislation

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Washington, D.C. for the National Association of REALTORS® RES Advisory Group Meeting and next in San Diego to attend the 2017 AREAA National Convention (but more on that next week). I’ve long embraced the virtues of our industry’s leaders working closely alongside lawmakers to ensure not only the synergy of current legislation with our business practices but also to ensure our nation’s laws promote and encourage homeownership for all.

The meeting kicked off Wednesday at the Treasury Department with a presentation from Drew Maloney, Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs, Treasury. We were also joined that evening by Senator Isakson (R-GA), Congressman Sherman (D-CA) and Congressman Rothfus (R-PA).

As pure coincidence, on the day RES began, the brand-new Tax Reform Framework was released, called “The American Model for Global Competitiveness.” The main purpose of the reform, as stated in the document is to put “America on a level international playing field and [put] an end to the incentives for shipping jobs overseas.”

Maloney fielded questions from our group about this new Framework and how it affects the real estate industry. NAR released the following about where the association stands on tax reform: “Our current tax system is too complex, and tax reform should simplify it. However, tax reform must not discard the features of the system that provide the bedrock for homeownership in America.”

After the Q&A, I was fortunate enough to spend some time with Senator Isakson and was impressed, as always, by his strong and consistent advocacy of the real estate industry. If you didn’t know, he’s one of us. Isakson, along with being a prominent political figure, is also a successful businessman with more than 40 years of experience as a broker for family-owned Northside Realty. In addition, he holds the distinction of being the only Georgian ever to get elected to the state House, state Senate, U.S. House and U.S. Senate. Last year he broke yet another record as the first Georgian Republican to ever get elected for a third term to the U.S. Senate. Now that’s an impressive and well-respected leader!

This Thursday morning, Rei Mesa, 2017 RES Chair called the meeting to order and next we received an update from NAR CEO Bob Goldberg, who was grilled with some tough questions and handled them all with characteristic intelligence and poise. Kudos to Ron Peltier and Lennox Scott who were very direct with Bob on how NAR can improve its support of real estate professionals.

After, Lawrence Yun, NAR Senior Vice President of Research, provided a housing and market update, followed by Jennifer Barnard, FBI Headquarters, Supervisory Special Agent, who spoke about the perils of wire fraud and what we can do as an industry to prevent this persistent problem. Katie Johnson, NAR Senior Vice President and General Counsel, finished up the day with a legal presentation.

Some additional notable priorities for the RES Meeting included:

  • Educate the REALTOR® community about data security and cybercrimes related to real estate transactions
  • Protect the Mortgage Interest Deduction
  • Support Upstream implementation
  • Improve down payment savings options for first time home buyers

… And more.

So, what’s the message? The one, huge takeaway from my time spent in Washington, D.C. is the importance of staying informed, staying connected to our legislative leaders and staying educated on what’s happening in government and how these changes affect our industry. A good place to start would be here, researching NAR’s official stance on tax reform. Whether or not you agree with the position taken, it’s important as a leader to have an opinion that’s researched, strategic and informed. The best leaders are those ones who don’t just say what they want but also exactly why they want it. Take heed from this RES group, filled with busy and important leaders who no matter what give up their time to attend because they understand the significance of making their voice heard in such an impactful setting as our nation’s capital.

GINO BLEFARI is CEO of HSF Affiliates LLC. You can follow Gino on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

Real Living Real Estate Sales Professional Named REALTOR® Emeritus

In the Constitution of the National Association of REALTORS®, a special class is designated for REALTOR® members who have held membership in the Association for a cumulative period of forty (40) years.  In addition, members must have shown a commitment to the REALTOR® Association through at least one year of service to their local, state, or national Association.  Those who have achieved this status, are called REALTOR® Emeritus.
Achieving this status is about more than just numbers, sales, awards, years, or statistics. It is about the many colleagues whose lives Messina has touched, the team he’s put together and the people who he’s supported along the way.  This award is a testament to all the lives he’s changed, the relationships he’s build and the homes he’s brought to so many families in his community. Congratulations from all of us at Real Living Real Estate!
[Picture above: Frank Messina, with Real Living Messina & Associates in Duluth, MN, was granted the status of REALTOR® Emeritus at the National Association of REALTORS® Board of Directors meeting.]

How July's Real Estate Trends Affected Buyers

By Gino Blefari

In July, the real estate market faced a housing-inventory challenge with several reports showing an increase in home prices and decrease in home sales. For example, CoreLogic Case-Shiller reported home prices rose 5.6%, setting an all-time high for the sixth consecutive month. And the National Association of REALTORS® said existing home sales were down 1.8%.

The better news is homebuilders are coming on stream with more projects in a variety of price points. 

These numbers may give some pause at first glance, but considering the basics of supply and demand, it’s clear the number of sales have decreased due to a small pool of available homes paired with a high number of potential buyers on the market. This shows us that home prices that steadily increase box many home seekers out of the market.

Millennials are among those looking forward to owning a home in the tight market – often their first. One of our HSF Affiliates network agents, Ellen Hill from Atlanta, GA, explained that the high prices and low demand is also impacting millennials who are interested in taking their first leap into homeownership. She says during recent brokerage consultations, she’s finding more millennials are living with their parents or continuing to rent for longer periods of time to save for a substantial down payment. This of course contributes to the current decline in home purchases.

Overall, it’s clear that continued home price increases are not surprising considering the low housing inventory we’re seeing in many markets across America coupled with a firm demand for homes. The better news is homebuilders are coming on stream with more projects in a variety of price points. And, as homeowner equity builds, we may begin to see more people place their homes on the market. With continued job growth, millennials saving for the big purchase, and rising consumer confidence in play, we believe more and more homes will begin to be purchased.

Thoughts On Leadership: Innovation in Austin

By Gino Blefari

This week’s travels found me in Austin, Texas … and what a place to be! Austin is a booming city overflowing with rich culture, a lively entertainment scene and incredible food. It’s no wonder it boasts one of the highest growth in the country in terms of population and jobs. In fact, according to the latest estimates, Austin adds 159 people per day to its metro-area population.

After spending several days in Austin, I can see why so many people are eager to move there. Fun fact: Whole Foods’ flagship location can be found in downtown Austin and it’s an 8,000-square-foot market unlike any other. The Whole Foods Market Inc. worldwide headquarters is also located in Austin, which practically ensures city dwellers there remain focused on healthy eating. As I always say, a large part of effective leadership is maintaining your energy, which comes from regular exercise and a mindful, nutritious diet. Relatedly, Austin was named by CNBC as a top city for launching a tech startup and has a thriving entrepreneurial community of small businesses and innovative leaders.

Speaking of innovative leaders, I was in town to meet with the Austin Board of REALTORS® (ABoR), an impressive organization led with distinctive forward-mindedness by CEO Paul Hilgers. He’s a great guy and he’s done a super job transforming the association into a modern example of what a real estate advocacy group should be. Even the office, with its sleek, mirrored windows and tall frame, looks the very progressive picture of the members contained inside. And the interior is just as striking with cutting-edge design and panoramic views of the city.

I was honored to deliver my seven principles for success to the team and even shot a few videos talking about real estate and leadership, which are coming out soon. Paul mentioned he was confident his board members and leadership would now be able to achieve their professional goals faster by following these principles, which is the ultimate goal!

While at ABoR, I was joined by my friend, Johnnie Johnson, former All Pro for the Los Angeles Rams and CEO of World Class Coaches, who spoke to a crowd eager to hear from the legendary Texas Longhorn. Johnnie’s company, World Class Coaches, facilitates the Moving Families Initiative, which is fitting to discuss in a place experiencing such rapid growth.

Like the city of Austin itself and the contemporary leadership style of ABoR, Moving Families Initiative is a pioneering program. It’s an international plan focused on serving, protecting, and meeting the needs of parents moving or relocating with children, ages 19 and younger, including the teachers and coaches who work with their children.

So, what’s the message? During my trip to Austin, innovation was all around. From the towering Whole Foods to the incredible ABoR board and staff leadership to the ideas Johnnie detailed about how Moving Families Initiative can help Austin real estate professionals better assistant buyers and sellers. As a leader, it’s important to surround yourself with inspiring people, places and things. Because while it’s true you can always find inspiration within yourself, it’s your surroundings and who you surround yourself with that might just provide the extra motivation, creativity and encouragement you need to achieve your goals.

GINO BLEFARI is CEO of HSF Affiliates LLC. You can follow Gino on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

Real Living Real Estate Network Professional Recognized by National Association of REALTORS® for Commitment to Homeownership

Cindy Fox, broker with Real Living Now in St. Louis, was recently recognized by the Realtors Political Action Committee (RPAC), a national bipartisan grassroots-based political advocacy organization as a “Hall of Fame” inductee for her contribution and support.

Cindy Fox

The RPAC Hall of Fame recognizes dedicated members whose investments total an aggregate of at least $25,000. Members are inducted at a Washington, D.C. meeting in May. “I’m proud to be part of the Hall of Fame, and even prouder to support RPAC all these years,” said Fox.

Thought on Leadership: REALTORS® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me first in Atlanta for the Relocation Directors Council Spring Meeting then off to our nation’s capital for the REALTORS® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo (follow the conversation on Twitter at #NARLegislative) held annually in Washington, D.C. to provide an opportunity for NAR members to take an active role in advancing the real estate industry, public policy and the association at large.

Of highlight for me during this thought-provoking conference was the NAR Top 75 Large Residential Firm Directors Forum, which took place earlier today and opened with a welcome speech from my friend Rei Mesa, 2017 RES Chair. The forum also featured brief updates from Jeff Barnett, 2017 RES Vice-Chair; Paul Bishop, NAR VP of Research; NAR SVP and General Counsel Katie Johnson; Alex Lange, CEO of Upstream; and Tracy Mahnken, SVP of products for

After the meeting concluded, I was able to catch up with some industry leaders, whose work is ensuring the necessary legislation is in place to best support a healthy housing market. These leaders included:

Jerry Giovaniello, SVP of Government Affairs for NAR. Mr. Giovaniello is the chief lobbyist of the NAR, representing more than 1 million members involved in all aspects of both commercial and residential real estate.

Sarah Young, director of real estate services for NAR who is currently focused on tax reform to benefit prospective homeowners. In a recent RISMedia story, she wrote: “While NAR has long touted the benefits of owning a home, it’s more important than ever to send a strong message to lawmakers about NAR’s proprieties as Congress considers tax reform proposals in 2017.”

Rei Mesa, RES Chair and member of our Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices network family, whose work with NAR is backed by more than 30 years of experience in real estate and a strong passion to create positive, effective and widespread industry change.

Joe Ventrone, VP and deputy chair for regulatory affairs at NAR. At the association, Mr. Ventrone is responsible for developing and analyzing policy on housing, real estate finance, business and technology, environment and commercial real estate.

Jim Imhoff, CEO of First Weber Realtors. He also serves as chair of the REALTOR® Party Corporate Ally Program, which provides an unprecedented advocacy partnership between NAR and its extended real estate corporate family; the Corporate Ally Program raises voluntary corporate funds to invest in both campaigns and issues at both the state and federal levels that are conducive to buying, selling and owning real estate.

So, what’s the message? Unlike other conferences, the REALTORS® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo is really about bringing together the movers and shakers in our industry with those who set the legislative policies that affect real estate markets and homeownership in the United States. It’s an important collaboration and one that generates discernible progress year after year. It also facilitates unique networking opportunities and you know how much I advocate for networking and creating meaningful connections! The biggest lesson to be gleaned from this conference is really about the importance of working together, seeking help outside our industry and finding those who can move things forward in a way no one else can (in this case, by combining real estate leaders with the legislators responsible for setting policy). It’s fine—and necessary—to discuss problems and issues but reaction without action will get you nowhere. However, pair passionate reaction with strategic action and that’s exactly how you’ll find the change you seek.

GINO BLEFARI is CEO of HSF Affiliates LLC. You can follow Gino on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.