How it is possible that we are already rounding out the first quarter of 2023? This year, like these past few years, has passed in both slow motion and in a rapid blur. The frenzied market we found ourselves in earlier this decade has transitioned into a more reasonable, normalized market. Interest rates are no longer artificially low, settling into a manageable range. Buyers are starting to get their footing, but inventory remains critically low.
Washington REALTORS®’ Welcome Home Campaign aims to address the inventory crisis with a massive lift of housing-related legislative priorities this session. Running and supporting bills on everything from increasing missing middle housing in cities to allowing for detached accessory dwelling units in rural areas – we are bringing much needed solutions to our elected officials. Other bills focus on streamlining regulations that increase housing costs and litigation, increasing the supply and affordability of condominiums and encouraging transit-oriented development.
While our housing inventory-related priorities are robust, our advocacy efforts don’t stop there. Another key legislative priority for 2023 is to update and improve the near-30-year-old Agency Law. This legislation will not only create greater consumer protection, but it will also help to avoid the litigation seen in other states by creating more transparency in disclosure of real estate broker duties and compensation.
Washington REALTORS® (WR) is also supporting a bill designed to address and correct the injustices that prevented families of color from participating in the American dream of homeownership and the benefits thereof. This bill would create a new homeownership account that would provide loans to help cover down payments and closing costs for those who were prohibited from owning a home in Washington because of (now outlawed) racially restrictive covenants, or their descendants.
In addition to these legislative priorities, WR is actively supporting, opposing or monitoring various landlord-tenant bills, tax bills and other industry related bills. As the session progresses, the WR advocacy team is watching all the legislation introduced in Olympia, actively tracking between 130 and 150 bills at any given time to ensure the association is continuously advocating for its members and their clients.
One way in which we get our message to our legislators is through grass-roots advocacy. In January we held an exciting and successful Hill Day in Olympia with a record number of first-time attendees and a near record number of attendees in general. The event displayed overwhelming evidence that WR members are excited to be engaged, to meet with our elected officials and do the work necessary to ensure our representatives keep housing top of mind.
Beyond advocacy, WR is also working diligently to move the needle on the diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility space in real estate. We’re working key initiatives aimed at taking actionable steps to encourage and recruit members from historically excluded and underrepresented communities to begin and maintain a successful real estate career, including a toolkit that is now complete and available on warealtor.org. These recruitment efforts will help increase the diversity of members and leaders within WR. They will also help increase homeownership across all segments of our population by creating trusted real estate advisors in communities that were previously unrepresented.
Another area where we are making great strides is leadership identification and development. As leaders in this organization, we have the duty to identify future leaders and to ensure they are equipped with the tools and confidence to take the reins. It is incumbent upon us to replace ourselves if we want to maintain the vitality of our organization and our industry. We are accomplishing this by offering innovative leadership training opportunities to our members across the state. There is a place for anyone who wishes to be involved and opportunities for growth for those who avail themselves.
I know many of our members are experiencing some trepidation in this changing market. And while I cannot predict the future, I can say that having experienced a few market shifts in my career that nothing lasts forever. No one knows what the future will bring, but we do know people will always need housing. REALTORS® bring knowledge and expertise to what is typically the most expensive and stressful purchase a person makes in their lifetime. Our industry is constantly changing, but buyers and sellers will always benefit from the human touch.
The key is to take this time to invest in yourself. Lean into the tools offered by WR and the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), mastermind with fellow brokers both locally and across the nation and build your toolbox. Complete the (complimentary) C2EX program and utilize what you learn. Get involved in WR and NAR — not only will you learn important and effective ways to grow your business, but you can also create a broker-to-broker referral network across the state and country. Build relationships within your community and wear your REALTOR®-R with pride in your day-to-day life so that your community recognizes you as a real estate professional. That quiet reminder can produce dividends in your business. Maintain a level of professionalism that makes you stand apart. This market will stabilize, and you will emerge on the other side stronger and better for it.
Alisha Harrison is the 2023 president of Washington REALTORS®.