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REALTORS® push helped reopen real estate industry in PA

By Anthony SanFilippo
August 2020

Real Estate wasn’t considered essential in Pennsylvania when the COVID-19 lockdown commenced.

Then the Pennsylvania Association of REALTORS® (PAR) went to work.

Advocating hard for consumers who were left in a bind during the pandemic, PAR was able to make a hard enough push that, despite not garnering passed legislation, made enough noise to make a reluctant governor finally concede to deem real estate essential via executive order.

“Our members were terrific advocates for our consumers,” said Kevin Juliano, PAR’s Digital Director, who managed a statewide call for action in support of Rep. Todd Polinchock’s bill, HB2412, that would have re-opened the industry with safety precautions in place. “In just four days, over 13,000 individual calls and messages went out to the governor.  More than 43% of those were from consumers, many from the private client lists of our members.”

The governor’s office had to actually turn off its phone lines.

While the legislation passed, Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed the bill. However, feeling the pressure of bi-partisan support that the bill received in the state legislature, Wolf issued the executive order that re-opened in-person real estate activities statewide.

Sherri Martin, the Political Affairs Manager for PAR, said that the association had been sharing best practices with the governor’s office all along.

“Though it was a massive undertaking to convince him to allow certain in-person real estate activities, it’s gratifying that many of our points and suggestions were included verbatim in the policy that was eventually issued,” she said.

“We had thought through all the possible scenarios very carefully, with the health and safety of our members and consumers as our top priority, so we’re glad and grateful that he listened to our industry expertise.”

PAR was tireless in their efforts after hearing stories from all corners of the Keystone state about retirees being unable to close on homes they vacated because inspections were suddenly not allowed; families being stuck with two mortgages because they were prohibited from completing the sale of one home after buying a new one; as well as individual stories of a nurse who is a single mother who didn’t have a place to live because she couldn’t finalize her purchase, or a military veteran who couldn’t find a home for his mother.

“Our 35,000 members fully understood and respected the need for social distancing,” said Kim Shindle, Director of Communications at PAR. “But shelter is an essential need, as the governor himself had declared in a speech earlier this year, so our challenge was to have that fundamental importance reflected in the state’s policy that was unfolding during the crisis.”

The problem was that the governor’s initial guidance for a partial re-open was vague, contradictory, and confusing as there were inconsistent instructions from one county to the next.

Anchoring its message with the governor’s own recent statement that “Housing is essential,” the association launched a statewide issues mobilization campaign with a dedicated website of centralized information at www.HousingIsEssential.org, which served as a platform for calls and emails to the governor’s office, policy updates, and FAQs.

Using a REALTOR® Party Issues Mobilization Grant, they crafted a series of three short online video ads, which dominated Facebook and Google during a five-day campaign.

“NAR was great to work with, and so responsive, pivoting in a quickly evolving legislative situation,” Martin said.

To learn more about how Pennsylvania’s REALTORS® showed their legislature just how ‘essential’ the real estate industry is, contact Kim Shindle, Director of Communications, at 800-555-3390 ext. 3005.


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