Giving Back is Part Of a Realtor’s DNA

Americans just don't know about what REALTORS® do and the profound impact we have in our communities. Let's change that, starting now.

Tony D'Anzica, 2023 HGAR President
Tony D'Anzica, 2023 HGAR President

While many of us are worried about the seemingly unending bad news threatening the real estate industry, Realtors (individually and as an Association) should focus on conveying to consumers the value that Realtors bring not only to every transaction but to our communities and our very way of life. Realtors may be getting a bad rap but, professionally, we have a great deal to gloat about, including our commitment to fair housing, professional development and training, subject matter expertise and our Code of Ethics.

If Realtors sometimes fail to convey to consumers that we bring an unparalleled level of professionalism and expertise to every single real estate transaction, we arguably do a worse job conveying the positive impact that we have on something that affects nearly every American—housing policy. When the voices of 1.5 million Realtors roar on Capitol Hill, or in the halls of every state capitol building, nearly every American unknowingly benefits from our advocacy. Whether it’s fighting for affordable housing, an extension of the national flood insurance program, sustainable development, or lower property taxes, Americans benefit every single day from Realtor advocacy—even when they are not buying or selling a home.

Sadly, Americans know even less about the enormous impact that the average Realtor has in our communities. A number of years ago, NAR reported that 82% of Realtors donate money to charitable causes every year. This compares to the national average of 56.6% of Americans who do so, according to a 2015 study by Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

NAR’s 2022 Community Aid and Real Estate report noted that in 2022, 79% of Realtor members made donations while 66% of Realtor members volunteered every month. Those numbers are even higher for Broker-Owners.

Even fewer Americans (and too few Realtors), know about NAR’s Realtor Relief Foundation. RRF is a non-profit organization that exists to provide financial housing assistance to the public after disasters. NAR also covers all administrative costs of operating the foundation so that 100% of donations can be used for disaster relief. Founded in the aftermath of 9/11, RRF has raised more than $37 million in aid and helped in excess of 19,000 families across the United States who were victims of hurricanes, floods, wildfires or other natural disasters.

On July 9, 2023, hundreds of families in the Hudson Valley, especially in the Town of Highlands, suffered when flash flooding caused catastrophic damage to homes, bridges and roads. After a State Disaster Emergency was declared in Orange, Dutchess, Putnam, Rockland and Westchester counties, it was HGAR’s Interim CEO Jana Currier, who leapt into action. HGAR’s appeal to RRF resulted in a grant to HGAR that allowed us to distribute $356,079.26 to 209 affected households.

For most, if not all of those aid recipients, this grant money was the only monetary assistance they received. Their insurance companies denied their claims because the residents did not have flood insurance—which they never needed because they were not in a flood zone. While FEMA provided some aid to repair public infrastructure, FEMA officially denied providing individual assistance to flooding victims. In response to that decision, Congressman Pat Ryan stated, “FEMA Administrator Criswell should come up to the Hudson Valley, look impacted families in the ye, and explain why she can’t marshal the resources to help them rebuild their homes.”

According to one of HGAR’s own staff members who was doing outreach in Highland Falls immediately after the flood, when asked by a local resident how he could get financial assistance, Congressman Ryan pointed to HGAR and told the resident to talk to the Realtors because they “have money” to distribute. In fact, for most flood victims the only monetary aid they received was from HGAR and the RRF. Critically, that money was received within just a couple of weeks, when it was most needed by residents.

Reflecting on HGAR’s experience with RRF, HGAR’s Currier proclaimed that this “sheds light on the huge heart of local Realtors and how important their communities are to them personally. It raises the awareness of Realtors’ generosity who support residents in need through their contributions to the Realtor Relief Foundation.” As I previously stated, Realtors don’t just live and work in our communities—we give back to them.

Yes, we should worry about anti-trust lawsuits, high-interest rates, and low housing inventory. But let’s also remember “Who We R.” Through the Realtor Relief Foundation, Realtors have helped restore and rebuild communities across the United States that were devastated by disasters. This is just one part of our Realtor commitment to our communities and to our country—and it is part of our story.

As your HGAR President, my final call to action to each of you is that you tell that story to every client, every customer, every family member, every friend, every neighbor and every community leader. Let them know the value that Realtors really bring—not just to every real estate transaction, but to the everyday lives of everyday Americans.

And while you are at it, help us continue to fulfill our Realtor commitment to America by going to the Realtor Relief Foundation website at https://rrf.REALTOR®/donate/ to make your tax deductible contribution. There is no better way to celebrate the holidays.

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