Advocacy During a Pandemic

Insight August 2020_Advocacy Resources Header

Insight May 2020 coverOver the last few months, NC REALTORS® has been hard at work to serve and support you during these uncertain times.


Ever since COVID-19 arrived, many North Carolinians—especially REALTORS®—did not have an idea what the next day would bring. There wasn’t a guidebook to dealing with a pandemic; they didn’t teach this in government affairs school! NC REALTORS® government affairs staff had to deal with an onslaught of issues coming at us at breakneck speed—issues with serious impact on the lives and business of REALTORS®.

This year started out as expected. The legislature met briefly to close out 2019’s very long session, still at an impasse with the Governor on the budget. The NC REALTORS® government affairs staff were analyzing how well our REALTORS® PAC (RPAC) and Independent Expenditure campaigns did in the February primary. We were also planning for what was expected to be a very short session in the spring in which not much legislative work would get done. Then, almost overnight, everything changed.

The first sign that life was going to be turned upside down came when our annual trip to promote North Carolina at the world’s largest real estate investor conference in France was canceled just a week before it began. It wasn’t much longer before the United States started taking the virus seriously.

In North Carolina, the Governor began crafting his stay-at-home emergency order. NC REALTORS®’ first order of business was to protect your business. We knew it was vital to have real estate designated as an essential business. After all, North Carolinians across the state would still need to buy and sell property; life didn’t stop for people. Homeowners would need access to their largest source of wealth—the equity in their homes—especially with an anticipated financial crisis.

Our lobbyists quickly communicated with the Governor’s staff. We built a coalition of partners to add to their voices, including many who had political ties to those in the executive branch. We all breathed a sigh of relief when our advocacy efforts paid off. According to the Governor, real estate was essential. However, there was a hitch: the order he issued allowed local governments to add their own regulations. Suddenly, things got very complicated.

Every day, we learned about a new local order that restricted REALTORS®’ ability to broker sales. We had to pivot our attention from Raleigh to battling in eighteen counties, cities and towns across the state, including most of the largest areas. Fortunately, our local associations could lead the way with us partnering behind the scenes. In the first big test of our Regional Government Affairs Director program—with eight NC REALTORS® Government Affairs Directors (GADs) deployed to assist the locals—we eventually got most of the orders changed to allow brokerage to continue.

Meanwhile, most real estate business had to be conducted remotely. In order to facilitate remote closings, North Carolina’s law had to change to allow remote online notarization and funds to be dispersed in those cases when recordation of deeds was delayed. Our lobbyists pulled together all the industry partners, worked with the Secretary of State and drafted legislation that passed during the emergency session.

During this time, the government affairs staff were in constant contact with the National Association of REALTORS®’ (NAR) Washington government affairs staff, who were working to get benefits for homeowners, small businesses and independent contractors in the massive Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Their success is a testament of relationships built over many years due in part to the generous RPAC support of our members.

North Carolina was unprepared for some of that federal help, most notably the pandemic unemployment assistance that REALTORS® could use if necessary. Our regulatory team got unprecedented input as new systems were built to roll out the program. It wasn’t perfect, but it could have been much worse.

Space doesn’t allow anything but this tip-of-the-iceberg look at what the NC REALTORS® government affairs team has been doing. It has been all hands on deck at rattling speed. The same is true of the rest of NC REALTORS® staff. Meetings and education had to be moved online. Our communications and marketing team had to regularly update content on multiple websites and send a torrent of communications needed to keep you informed. Likewise, the legal hotline became a lifeline for many NC REALTORS® members.

As 2020 continues, NC REALTORS® staff hope that life becomes more predictable. The important work that REALTORS® do is fully back on track and everything can be done more safely. Most importantly, we hope all of you are healthy.

Filed Under: