One of many priorities for NAR in 2021 is fairer entry to house possession

Expanded equity equality and affordability are among the priorities for the National Association of Realtors for the coming year, new President Charlie Oppler told reporters on Tuesday.

"It is imperative that brokers lead the way on this issue," he said during a media call related to the group's annual conference.

Oppler's remarks followed a vote by the NAR board last Friday to expand its code of conduct and ban "harassment or hate speech". The move was in response to offensive comments made online by some realtors earlier this year about racial prejudice against black people.

All brokers who have been the subject of complaints to NAR about such behavior will go through a hearing process, Oppler said.

"It's not just that someone says something and you're no longer a broker, that's not the intent of it," he said. "The intention is not to be honest with hatred and communication that are not positive for the industry."

NAR has also worked on appropriate measures to close the home ownership gap, which is particularly pronounced for blacks. This includes a training program designed to help members "provide equal opportunities for all homebuyers," as well as recruiting and awareness-raising efforts in underserved neighborhoods, Oppler said. These efforts are aimed at bringing residents closer to mortgage and real estate vacancies.

NAR plans to continue pushing for affordable housing proposals to be passed. As an example, Oppler cited a bill with cross-party support that would create tax-privileged savings accounts for down payments.

"There are many first-time buyers trying to get into the market, be it now or in the years to come, and this will certainly allow us to support their efforts," he said.

Oppler added that the association would “support real estate as an essential service in times of crisis” in a broader sense. He noted that the group is concerned that an extension of the current eviction moratorium could put a strain on landlords and create additional needs for public support.

He was optimistic about the prospect of single-family home sales. While early surgery was challenging amid the pandemic when infection rates were high and social distancing protocols were not in place, it is now in a good position, he said.

Oppler said mortgage rates are expected to rise only marginally to 3.2% next year, compared to an average this year that is closer to 3%. Existing home sales, which support the purchase credit market, are likely to remain strong, he added.

"Real estate has really broken out," he said.

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