Category Archives: Realtor Magazine

Posts by Sam DeBord in REALTOR® Magazine

Project Upstream: Tax Reform for Real Estate?

This article was originally published in Realtor Magazine:
by Sam DeBord

Business owners take risks to create valuable products and services. They drive the national economy and create jobs.

But no good deed goes unpunished. These entrepreneurs are rewarded with a slough of tax reporting requirements from a tangled web of government agencies. A single business might file fee or tax reports with its city, county, secretary of state, state department of revenue, licensing board, insurance commissioner, and the IRS.

Business owners often feel powerless, subject to countless mandates with no voice in the process. In an ideal world, the system would be reformed. A business would file a single revenue report that could be used by any agency, cut one check to the government, and get back to work. No one is holding their breath for that outcome.

Disjointed Real Estate Listing Distribution

Real estate’s convoluted listing system creates a similar feeling. Property listings, and the services that support them, are the revenue drivers of the industry. Making listing delivery efficient should be a priority. Yet a single listing might have to be input in a dozen different locations before it has been comprehensively distributed. The process doesn’t improve much after distribution. The listing creators often have little control or feedback regarding how their information is treated.

Brokers, agents, staff, and others waste valuable time entering the same listing data into multiple MLSs, vendor websites, franchisor platforms, and advertising portals. The data is the same, but each listing outlet requires a different process of delivery. It’s the definition of inefficiency.

Loss of Control, Uncaptured Value

Once delivered, the listings can take on lives of their own. Brokers and agents often sign on to agreements with little protection for their data rights. Advertising portals rework and manipulate the data and media as they see fit. Some go so far as to republish listing photos in unrelated advertising campaigns without credit or compensation given to the creators.

The single brokerage, on its own, has little ability to reform the process or negotiate a better contract. The inertia of the current system is too great. As a nationwide collection of brokers, though, a single voice like the Upstream coalition would have that power. It has the assets necessary to create a new process and the clout to motivate listing data recipients to operate on a more level playing field.

This, of course, is where fears of power consolidation reside. Tax reformers promote a streamlined system but are wary of granting a federal government agency greater powers to make it possible. Project Upstream’s goal is to streamline business and benefit the entire broker sphere. It will also be a place for brokers to manage a broad range of other kinds of information beyond listing data, including customer databases, vendor contacts, and agent rosters.

Its motivation, though, is the subject of conspiracy theories regarding elimination of small brokers and takeover of MLSs.

Us vs. Them, or All for One?

Luckily for real estate, the body with the power to streamline its processes isn’t the IRS. It’s a collection of “us.” The forces combining to support Project Upstream are the brokers who deal with the value-sapping quagmire of the current listing system every day.

These are business owners who represent over 70 percent of brokers nationwide (and growing). When we get past fear, the benefits of Upstream are fairly straightforward for brokers:

  • Eliminate redundant labor in listing input
  • Improve accuracy and timeliness of listing data output
  • Ensure broker control and choice regarding which outlets receive data
  • Establish broker rights and display rules over the data and media

Upstream’s challenge will be conveying this message to the individual. The project’s developers clearly understand the mission. Can that message be delivered in a way that motivates a broker or agent to change course in their everyday duties in support of a greater movement? Much like each individual voter must understand and believe in a cause to take the time to cast a ballot, adoption by the masses, one by one, will determine the viability of this venture.

Tax reform may be wishful thinking. Listing data reform, on the other hand, is right under our noses. There’s no czar or military coup attempting to seize power and take our autonomy from us. Brokers are merely creating better tools and more control for themselves.

Real estate brokers nationwide haven’t collaborated this closely toward a clear goal in quite some time. Let’s not allow conspiracy theories to cloud the way forward.

Sam DeBord

Sam DeBord is managing broker of Seattle Homes Group with Coldwell Banker Danforth, and 2016 president-elect of Seattle King Country REALTORS®. You can find his team at SeattleHome.com and SeattleCondo.com.

Make Connections, Reduce Risk

This article was originally published in REALTOR Magazine:

Our guest editor Sam DeBord looks at how today’s hyperconnectivity has widened business opportunities and created networks of spaces to keep agents safe on the job.
SEPTEMBER 2015 | BY SAM DEBORD

Connections are the currency of our industry. Our professional development and financial success depend on our ability to connect with customers and industry friends. I had the honor of serving as guest editor for this issue of REALTOR® Magazine and learning how the staff links so many of us with the information we need to stay relevant. For years, I’ve contributed online pieces to the magazine working remotely (I’m a managing broker with Seattle Homes Group-Coldwell Banker Danforth in Seattle). Spending time with the team helped me develop a deeper understanding of the publication and a more solid camaraderie with the people behind it.

Technology has allowed us to develop global online connections at breakneck speed. We discuss, argue about, and laugh at our industry with peers we may never have met in person. By the time we share a beverage at a convention together, we’re old friends. I’m excited to build on those connections when I attend my first NAR conference in November. In the convention preview, you’ll find compelling ideas from several conference speakers about how to always be innovating in our business—a kind of sneak preview of the San Diego meeting’s educational highlights.

While today’s hyperconnectivity has vastly broadened our business opportunities, the exposure may also be making our work more dangerous. Our characteristics, habits, and daily routines are available online to anyone who would profile and target us.

This reality hit home when Arkansas agent Beverly Carter was murdered a year ago. In recent years, real estate practitioners have also been murdered in Washington, California, Michigan, Texas, and Ohio. Assaults on our colleagues are being reported regularly. These events snap us collectively back to the reality of our occupational risks, but the concern doesn’t last long enough to instigate broad action.

But some initiatives are underway to change the mindset. The REALTOR® Safe Harbor program is growing in Arkansas, with members sharing their office spaces so people can meet safely. Iowa REALTORS® are taking a safety pledge committing to checking IDs before every showing. At Open Door Partners, we’re compiling a nationwide map of broker, lender, and title offices to make safe agent check-ins easy. Learn more at MeetMeHereFirst.com. These are in addition to NAR’s expanded safety resources available at realtor.org/safety. But all these efforts will be merely lip service if we don’t commit to them.

Let’s go to this year’s conference ready to learn, to be challenged, and to be inspired. Let’s focus on making connections and sharing, not on brand rivalries and office politics. Let’s keep the well-being of our friends and colleagues top of mind. Then, of course, let’s have fun. The REALTOR® Magazine team and I will see you in San Diego.

Sam DeBord

Sam DeBord is managing broker of Seattle Homes Group with Coldwell Banker Danforth, and 2016 president-elect of Seattle King Country REALTORS®. You can find his team at SeattleHome.com and SeattleCondo.com.

Let’s All Open Doors for REALTOR® Safety

This article was originally published in REALTOR® Magazine:
by Sam DeBord
It happened again last month. A real estate agent took a call from a potential new client, went to the property for a showing, and was kidnapped at gunpoint.

Thankfully, she got away. But others aren’t so lucky.

Beverly Carter lost her life in a similar situation. So did Mike Emert, Vivian Martin, Sarah Anne Walker, Ashley Oakland, and Ann Nelson.

“The question ‘How do we make our agents feel safe?’ quickly became ‘How do we make all agents in our market feel safe?’ The answer is, ‘Give them a safe place to go.’ Our doors are open to any agent, from any company, anytime we are open, to meet a buyer for the first time.” ​—AnnMarie Janni, Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate Go Realty in Holly Springs, N.C.

Enter: Open-Door Partners

If you’ve seen the open-door policy I proposed in REALTOR® Magazine and featured in the Chicago Tribune, you know the idea is simple. Real estate brokers should band together and let any REALTOR® from any company use their reception space to meet new clients and verify their identities.

Well, recently I’ve been thinking even bigger than just brokerage offices. Everyone in our industry should be partnering with us for safety. Title and escrow professionals, builders, and lenders—you regularly stop by our offices, and we’d like to stop by yours. You’d probably benefit from seeing real estate professionals in person more often. Let’s make that happen.

“Unfortunately, one of our agents was attacked in the field. You always think it happens to someone else until something like that smacks you into reality. It can happen to anyone. If simply opening our doors to a competing agent can avert an incident like our agent endured, then I cannot imagine not doing so. There is a time for competition, and there is a time for just plain doing the right thing. Safety first; competition second.” ​—Rich Shearrow, Realty Ohio Real Estate in Worthington, Ohio

If every title/escrow company, lender, and brokerage across the country that agreed to let agents use their offices for safety check-ins with new clients was displayed on a web-based map, we’d have enormous coverage. Real estate professionals wouldn’t need to travel across town to meet a client in an inconvenient location. The temptation to show properties to unverified people would be greatly diminished.

“Meet Me Here First”

That’s the goal. We should feel comfortable telling every sign call, every Internet lead, every last-second showing request, “Meet me here first. It’s a new nationwide safety policy. And it’s only five minutes from the home.”

“Our firm’s new open-door policy is meant to create an environment where real estate professionals can feel safe. We will encourage other firms, title companies, and banks across northwest Arkansas to adopt similar open-door policies. Our safety, and the safety of our colleagues, is simply that important.” ​—Anthony Clark, Clark Partners Realty Group in Fayetteville, Ark.

With a single web-based map displaying all of our offices together, real estate professionals could easily find safe meeting places on the go. They would be able to verify the person’s identity in a public business setting convenient to the property location. The technology is insignificant—it’s basically already built. In fact, I already built a prototype at MeetMeHereFirst.com.

All We Need Now Are Our Open-Door Partners

Title/escrow companies, lenders, and other real estate industry vendors will benefit through this partnership. We want to advertise all of your offices as partners in safety. These offices alone would make for a massive database of locations.

“Beyond our immediate group of agents in our brokerage are many friends in other brokerages whom we work with daily to get deals to closing.  We all need each other!  Because of our love, respect, and adoration for these agents, and because we are one big family of REALTORS®, we want to help them to be safe by opening our doors as a safe haven meeting place.” ​—Vicci Hall, Front Gate Realty in Ridgeland, Miss.

Scattered throughout this article are quotes from real estate brokers who understand that now is the time to work together for the safety of the whole industry. Brokers themselves might have to swallow a bit of competitive pride to join the cause, but it would benefit their agents as well as grant them recruiting opportunities. Brokers work together often for common goals. Those of you that I saw in Washington for NAR’s Legislative Meetings understand that.

Stand Up and Show Your Support for REALTORS®

I’ve already been talking with lenders and title companies who love the idea. If you know a company leader who should be involved, please introduce us. Let’s do something great for this industry that will cost us little, and bring goodwill to all our businesses.

We want you as an open-door partner. Are you ready to step up for safety?

Don’t Let Your Real Estate Website Become a Ghost Town

This article was originally published in REALTOR® Magazine:

There’s too much defeatism when it comes to real estate websites. I often hear brokers say their sites aren’t doing anything for them because the big portals dominate in terms of consumer traffic. Such statements are the antithesis of a successful sales mindset.

Do real estate websites really need to “do something” for us? No. Just like your office, car, phone, business cards, postcards, CMAs, or laptops – you buy the tools, and then work the hell out of them to generate sales.

The idea that we can just set up a website and let it do its magic to produce prospects is like buying office space, not staffing it, and expecting people to sit down and sign sales contracts.

Everything about real estate requires hustle. Your Web presence is no different. If you already have a prospecting system that works, and you don’t have the time or money to invest in your website’s development and maintenance, then stick with what you know. Just don’t say it isn’t possible, because there are plenty of brokers and agents treating online lead generation like it’s their No. 1 job.

What a Modern Website Looks Like

If you want a website that generates leads, then you need to build, maintain, and enhance your Web presence like it’s your brick-and-mortar office. Your website needs to be:

  • Attractive: That means an aesthetically pleasing, modern design that’s not cluttered. As a business owner, you should care about how your business is portrayed to the public.
  • Easy to use: Make sure it’s extremely user-friendly for the consumer. Include a search function with filters prominently displayed on every page.
  • Constantly managed and improved: Your website is not a “set it and forget it” tool. It needs regular updates. You don’t want dated information out there. If your website looks and acts like a place where professionals regularly do business, consumers will view it that way. If it looks like a ghost town that hasn’t gotten a glance from its owners in years, consumers will continue on to the next stop.

Consider Hiring a Pro

Not everyone is a techie, but hiring someone to do Web development, traffic building, and lead generation and conversion isn’t dissimilar to what we already do. We hire maintenance people to keep the office clean and running, staff to cover the phones, and marketers to produce advertising. Delegation is the finest art of a successful real estate broker-owner, but many still seem to think it’s not worth hiring support.

There’s no “easy” button in online lead generation, but it’s also not out of reach. If you can’t build, maintain, and regularly enhance your Web presence, you need to be paying someone else to keep it updated.

Online Lead Generation = Prospecting

My company generates dozens of leads every day on its websites, but that requires lead generation to be a major focus. We don’t sit on our laurels. Our main websites focused on the Seattle market rank high in search, and we just developed BellevueHomes.com to spread our reach further. Our agents depend on leads to keep our team successful, and we treat online lead generation the way most brokers or agents would treat their top prospecting activities.

Of course, you can also buy leads from portals to supplement your process as you get started. In the long run, though, building a reason for a consumer to visit your website directly will generate long-term benefits to your search engine optimization (your rankings in search results) and your on-site leads will have a much higher conversion rate than those from portals.

Kickstarting your traffic often requires some paid marketing, which can be done directly through many real estate website companies, or through a pay-per-click marketing agency. Make sure you work with someone who specifically knows real estate PPC marketing, or you’ll lose your shirt on the lead cost. The long-term goal is to create an online experience that helps traffic grow organically, but you may need to drive a few paid visitors to start the flow. Think of it as buying your way into your future customers’ minds.

PPC marketing is a lot like that agent who dropped door hangers in his neighborhood for years. He spent a lot of money to get his name in front those folks, and after a while, home owners just remembered his name. They could eventually type it straight into a search when they went look online for an agent. Then, the agent didn’t have to advertise at their doorstep any more.

Your real estate website isn’t a hobby, and designing it to generate leads is not for the meek of heart. Luckily, real estate brokers are not meek. If you really believe that real estate prospecting is shifting even further toward online interaction, then start focusing your money, time, and delegation toward online customers in a way that says, “This is my online office. We’re ready to serve you where you are.”

Sam DeBord is a state director for Washington REALTORS® and managing broker of Seattle Homes Group with Coldwell Banker Danforth. You can reach him at sam@seattlehome.com.

A National Open-Door Policy

This article was originally published in Realtor Magazine, and recapped in The Chicago Tribune:

The murder of REALTOR® Beverly Carter saddened us all. However, most were not shocked. While these occurrences are rare in absolute terms, the frequency with which agents are targeted by criminals is high enough that we all remember a handful of similar stories.

Our usual response is some hand-wringing, reminders about safety policies, the adoption of new apps, and the inclusion of a “Top 10 Tips To Stay Safe” list in our newsletters. It has never been enough, and it won’t be this time, either. Our primary goal shouldn’t be to notify others after we’re in trouble. It should be to significantly change the way we work in order to prevent those situations in the first place.

The ability to meet a potential client at a real estate office is by far the most effective way to deter stalkers and criminals. It avoids the situation that defines nearly every crime we hear about against agents: being victimized by an unknown person at an unsupervised location.

The core issue is time. Real estate is a frantic industry, and we’re always scrambling to save a few minutes. We may follow standard safety procedures most of the week, but when a home on the east side of town just needs one quick showing on a busy Friday, and our office is 10 miles west, we don’t want to burden anyone with the drive. We make the “just this once” excuse in our heads, and we show the property to strangers.

We all know that real estate is essentially about location, and so is our problem. Some of us work for companies with a dozen offices scattered around our region, but most of us don’t. If every agent only had an office nearby, the extra 10 minutes for a safety meet-up wouldn’t be such a hassle.

Here’s the thing: Every REALTOR® does have that office, if we only think of ourselves as a community banding together for safety. Every real estate office across the country should promote an open-door policy that would allow real estate agents with other companies to use their public space for quick safety check-ins with new clients.

We talk a lot about the unique spirit of cooperation in our business, but extending it to our competitors and associates in the brick-and-mortar world would really put our money where our mouths are.

I’m not suggesting brokers provide coffee, Wi-Fi, or a formal space for writing up contracts. This idea would simply allow any REALTOR® to ask potential clients to meet up and shake hands in a professional, public environment.

Some companies may already have an implied open-door policy. Our management at Coldwell Banker Danforth has committed to it for our offices in the greater Seattle market. The effect would be exponentially greater, though, as a national standard of practice. It would be an accepted requirement for being a part of the professional ranks, and agents in the field would know they could rely upon it if it was adopted across the board.

There will be plenty of broker objections, but most are shortsighted:

“An agent from across town may end up in my office every morning.”

“Virtual agents who don’t pay for their own desk will be trying to use mine.”

“That agent who stole our listing will be standing in my lobby, trying to sell it to her buyer.”

If we were always laser-focused on safety, these objections would melt away as petty, and we could secure our industry against predators based on goodwill alone. Luckily, there are also business advantages to such a national policy.

Brokers are constantly looking for ways to get in front of successful agents for recruiting purposes. The agent who ends up in your office regularly with clients is clearly someone who works your region well. She’ll make friends with your employees at the front desk. You can get to know her face-to-face and explain why she should be working in an office that so obviously fits her needs. These agents who are constantly out in the field are on the upward success trend. Most of us work for more than one company over the course of our careers, and it’s usually personal contact that creates those conversions.

Now think of it from the individual agent’s perspective: They wouldn’t bring clients in to your office and expose them to your branding if they didn’t really need to. They clearly value your office, and it’s up to you to close the deal. Even their clients will be sitting in your nice lobby, wondering if this might be the local company they should be working with in the future.

While this solution wouldn’t cover all showing situations, we’d have countless REALTORS® whose safety would benefit greatly from this policy. Brokers who pride themselves on positive branding, foundation building, and a forward-thinking recruiting strategy will understand the potential benefits.

As I mentioned above, we shouldn’t need all of these ancillary broker benefits for the open-door policy to make sense. We should adopt it immediately simply because a fair number of our own have been beaten, abused, robbed, and murdered for simply doing their jobs. Still, the recruiting benefits for brokers who employ a brick-and-mortar model are clear. Your new recruits will be walking through your door, and your long-time agents will have greater security when they happen to travel outside their usual neighborhoods.

An open-door policy costs nothing, improves safety, and increases collaboration within our industry. What are we waiting for?

Sam DeBord is a state director for Washington REALTORS® and managing broker of The Seattle Homes Group with Coldwell Banker Danforth. You can reach him atsam@seattlehome.com.

The Ultimate iPhone Listing Video

This article was originally published in Realtor Magazine:

You can always hire professionals to do video for high-end homes, but the new iPhone makes it financially feasible to shoot a great video for any listing. Let me show you how.

I recently wrote an article for WA REALTOR® Magazine that laid out the steps to create a high-quality real estate video on an iPhone. Now that I have even more experience with the technology, I thought it was time to break down the steps with an example of a video I actually created, with a few more details on how to do it effectively and make the video look professionally shot.

The video embedded here took about 10 minutes to shoot and about 20 minutes to edit and stitch together on my new iPhone 6. These are all one-take video clips, using Instagram’s Hyperlapse app for the video capture and the Videolicious app for the editing. It was a vacant home (which has since sold), so I need to create a video that focused on the overall property a bit more than the interior.

I’ve shot a few videos on older models of iPhones and Androids, but the iPhone 6 Plus really stands out because of its optical stabilization. This is critical for making the video look like professional marketing. Add the Hyperlapse app’s digital stabilization features, and many of these shots look like high-end equipment rolling along a stable rail or dolly.

Here are some additional tips for how to shoot, edit, and distribute the perfect listing video with your iPhone 6:

Highlight all three dimensions. When you’re planning out horizontal panning shots, find spaces where there are objects in the near and distant fields of vision. You’ll note that they seem to visually move in different planes. This really maximizes the benefits of video, and produces an effect that you can’t get with still photography.

Mix up your clips. Pan up and down. Tour the home and travel through the neighborhood in order to keep the viewer’s interest up. Intermix video clips that are short enough to catch the viewer’s interest and move on to the next scene quickly.

Keep it digestible. It’s an awesome tool, but using the time-lapse function too much can be overwhelming for the viewer. Watching a home tour at warp speed just isn’t comfortable. Try time lapse out at 1x or 2x speed first. Also, it may be tempting to walk through the entire home, but it can become disorienting. The camera doesn’t react well to light changes in different locations. You can always shoot the whole listing, breaking up your clips and picking the best ones later. But unless the listing is tiny, you just don’t need to show every room. You should be able to tell the story in less than two minutes.

Think small. I specifically intended for viewers to watch this video on a small-size screen, so watching it on your phone is the best reference point. More and more users are going mobile, and streaming high-quality video is much easier with a smaller frame size.

Your ultimate goal is to create a video that is short on facts and long on visual beauty. I didn’t list an address in this video or voice it over since it was already sold, but you could add both. The intent of the video, though, is not to tell the viewer everything about the home. It’s to quickly entice them to have an emotional reaction and contact you for more information.

Generate Listings With Home Valuation Tools

This article was originally published for Realtor Magazine:

Brokers can use online automated valuations as a way to educate clients and attract new business. Here’s how.

Brokers loathe Zestimates and most other online home valuations because they’re riddled with inaccuracies. Our agents end up spending far too much time explaining away bad data and poor pricing information to their clients.

But the online valuation is attractive to consumers, and brokers can use it as an effective teaching tool to attract sellers to their own businesses.

Brokers and agents can sign up for automated valuation tools as standalone websites or have them integrated into their current websites.  By driving traffic to these pages, brokers can connect their agents with sellers, educate them, and convert the leads into listings – a valuable prospecting stream in these inventory-scarce times.

How It Works

There is a wide variety of valuation tools available to brokers and agents, but the mousetrap is very similar.  It starts with a landing/squeeze page, which tells users: “Get an instant online valuation for your home.” Users are then prompted to input their address.  Once a user’s address is captured, the system stores the location of a potential home seller.

The second step asks the home owner for a little bit of information about their home and some contact information so that a full value report can be delivered to them.  When that information is entered, a report on comparables and a value range are delivered to the user based on tax data. The user’s contact information and address go to the broker or agent who buys the valuation service.

Driving Traffic

Of course, you need to get home owners to the website before they can start entering their information. Driving organic traffic to these landing pages can be difficult. If a broker already has a popular site, simply embedding a call to action on the website like, “What’s Your Home Worth Today?” can capture some seller leads from the site’s current traffic.  More often, though, direct-targeted traffic is more effective.

Most successful users of these systems are driving traffic from paid advertising campaigns on search engines and social media. Pay-per-click ads on Google and Facebook ads are the most popular, and they must be highly targeted to be financially effective. Each ad should focus on a specific group so that its content will sound as if it has been written for that individual home owner.  The broader the audience, the more expensive a campaign will be and the lower its conversion rate.

For example, an ad on Facebook that targeted users who are in a serious relationship, over 35 years old, with a college degree, in ZIP code 98121 would define a very specific segment of home owners (in this case, mostly high-end condo owners in the Belltown neighborhood of Seattle). The ad placed on Facebook would have a picture of a condo, and say, “Condo prices in Belltown are up 8.4% this year. Find out what your home is worth right now!”

Target your ads to the areas where your agents want to list homes – and where they know the market. Some agents may never go outside of one ZIP code. Keep the message short and specific. A picture of a home with local architectural style, and the message, “Home values in X neighborhood are up X% — get your online valuation now!” will always speak directly to the user and the value offering. Run different ad campaigns for different locations and agents so that your ads are always locally targeted.

Converting Leads

Getting leads from home owners who are curious about their home’s current value is far more targeted than blanketing every home in a neighborhood with a postcard. A significant percentage of those landing on your valuation tool are wondering whether or not they should sell right now.

Getting a listing appointment, at this point, requires the usual traditional techniques. The follow-up can be a mailer, a phone call, a report dropped on the front porch, or even a door knock. While not all agents are comfortable with the more aggressive techniques like door knocking, such an approach can work in this scenario.

The follow-up to the value report is appointment setting. Here’s a script: Thanks for requesting a home valuation report. It has a lot of your neighbors’ recent sales and an estimated price range for your home. As you know, though, computer-generated valuations aren’t particularly accurate. If I could stop by for ten minutes, you could show me any unique features and upgrades in your home, and I can deliver you a full, professional comparative market analysis to give you a more exact price.  Are you available today or tomorrow?

Prospecting for listings with automated valuation systems makes your efforts more targeted and more efficient. While the tools are outstanding for generating leads when a highly specific ad campaign is supporting them, the end results will always rely on good follow-up. A system in which agents quickly contact potential sellers, define their home-selling status, and set an appointment to meet or deliver a more in-depth report can become a significant driver of targeted listings in your local markets.

The Plight of Current Home Owners

This article was originally published in Realtor Magazine:

Changes to the MID would punish those who make mortgage payments on time.

With another year of deficits underway, Congress is again eyeing the reduction of tax benefits such as the mortgage interest deduction for a quick influx of cash. There’s no official timeline for when Congress will bring the matter to a vote—or whether it will at all—but it’s important that we as REALTORS® keep the pressure on to save the MID from the ax.

While our defense of the MID is staunch, the vision of exactly whom we’re defending can get a bit blurred. We often focus on the prospects for future home buyers because we want to ensure a healthy real estate market for them. When looking at the potential effects of an MID change, though, we should be keenly aware of how it would impact our clients who already own homes.

There are roughly 75 million home owners in the United States. Most used our services to buy homes. These home owners worked with their lenders to find an affordable financing plan. They budgeted for mortgage payments, insurance, utilities, and annual taxes, and they put away enough money to pay their bills on time. In short, they followed the rules.

Proposals to limit or eliminate the MID would change those rules mid-course. They would ignore more than 100 years of tax precedent that these home owners relied upon in their budgeting. The changes would haphazardly increase some home owners’ housing expenses, negating their planning to ensure they could make those mortgage payments.

It seems wrongheaded when contrasted with the current clamor in the nation’s capital to regulate future home buyers’ financial standing. To keep mortgages as safe as possible from default, new rules bar lenders from writing loans for home buyers who don’t meet strict “ability to pay” guidelines.

And what of those poor saps who already own a home and consistently made their payments throughout the downturn? Some legislators are attempting to “backdoor” their years of planning and saving because, ironically, lawmakers couldn’t do the same for the country.

It’s clear that home owners’ concerns don’t garner the same attention as those of their neighbors who walked away from their homes. Distressed home owners have benefitted from various pieces of legislation written to lessen their financial pain. But for the home owner who’s still playing by the rules, the ability to pay seems to be taken for granted.

Proponents of MID reductions say that the tax break’s benefit is spread unevenly and hides behind a purported social ill in the tax code. If that were truly the case, there could be an attempt to disqualify future home purchases from the MID without harming current home owners. Of course, there isn’t nearly enough money in that endeavor to fill the current budget, so a much wider, less socially conscious net is being cast. With a blind eye turned to the all-too-recent struggles of real estate markets nationwide, the budgetary silver bullet for some appears to be strapping another weight onto home owners’ already overladen backs—and hoping that they don’t break again. For many current home owners, it would be too late to avoid changes in the tax laws. They’re locked into long-term mortgages. Lending rules have changed so much in recent years that many current owners wouldn’t even be able to get approved to buy another home if they needed to downsize.

Home owners don’t want a bailout, new protections, or entitlements. They merely ask that their legislators honor the rules that were the basis for making the biggest investment of their lives.