By Geoff Ramsey, CRS, GRI
President, Greater Chattanooga REALTORS®
As I thought about a topic for this week’s column, I kept coming back to all the rain lately, not just in our area but across the country. In addition to that issue, other communities have been battling wildfires. Recently, homeowners across the country have been evacuated for both of these natural disasters, and as a REALTOR® it is not lost on me the importance of our industry continuing to work on behalf of all property owners.
When the REALTOR® organization lobbies on behalf of property owners, our efforts are known as the REALTOR® Party – a bi-partisan group of industry professionals monitoring laws and regulations and going to bat for consumers. We tackle a variety of issues from preserving the mortgage interest deduction to improving federal mortgage programs, which allows more families to join the ranks of homeownership. Yet, we also have our finger on the pulse of environmental issues, including flooding and wildfires.
Several topics related to environmental and property rights concerns are on the REALTOR® Party’s radar and include clean water, endangered species, energy efficiency, natural disasters. National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), lead paint, and wildfires, to name a few. What do these topics have to do with real estate? Each of these issues can have a significant impact on property owners and the costs to own and maintain those properties.
Did you know that flood insurance is required for a mortgage in more than 20,000 communities nationwide? Millions of small business and homeowners depend on the federal program to protect their property against flooding, the most costly and common natural disaster in the United States. Without the NFIP, more property owners could become uninsured and turn to the Federal government for taxpayer-funded disaster relief and rebuilding assistance after major floods.
It’s likely you or someone you know in another part of the country has faced raising insurance rates following a natural disaster such as a hurricane, wildfire, or earthquake. Or worse, perhaps the policy was denied. Without federal involvement, affordable property insurance will continue not to be available in many parts of the U.S. to protect against the next mega-catastrophe caused by a hurricane, earthquake, or other Act of God. Without insurance, it is the taxpayer – not the property owner – that pays when Congress reacts to the latest disaster by providing millions of dollars in financial disaster assistance to rebuild under-insured properties and communities.
What would it look like if energy efficiency were federally mandated? REALTORS® believe property owners’ ability to sell their home or building could be at risk without first having to conduct energy audits and improve its heating and cooling system, windows, insulation and/or lighting. Also, older homes that do not meet adequate energy efficiency requirements or score poorly on energy use assessments may lose value compared to newer, more efficient homes. REALTORS® support improving energy efficiency through voluntary incentives, commercially reasonable approaches and education in lieu of individual building mandates, and we oppose applying existing laws/regulations that are not designed for global climate change to try to address these issues; provisions that impose undue economic burdens on property owners or managers; or triggering such requirements at the time when real property is sold.
As you can see, the REALTOR® Party identifies, analyzes and acts on a variety of issues that affect the real estate industry and private property owners. It is critical for REALTORS® to come together and speak with one voice about the stability a sound and dynamic real estate market brings to our communities. That voice is the REALTOR® Party working on behalf of you.