Fair Housing in the U.S.: Insights from a Real Estate leader

By: RE/MAX News

Fifty-three years after the passage of the Fair Housing Act in the U.S., real estate professionals continue to work toward a more equitable experience for all homebuyers and sellers. A RE/MAX executive shares his thoughts on why that is, what’s being done and what affiliates can do today to make a difference.

“Fair housing ties us all together,” says Mike Reagan, RE/MAX Senior Vice President, Industry Relations and Global Growth & Development. “It’s about delivering the dream of homeownership – to everyone.”

Reagan, whose role includes creating initiatives and furthering fair housing efforts, sat down with RE/MAX News to share his insights on how real estate agents can make a difference driving equality within real estate.

Every April, National Fair Housing Month commemorates the passage of the Fair Housing Act in 1968. But there’s still progress to be made.

“RE/MAX has a strong voice in the industry, and we want to activate as many programs as possible,” he says of the international brand, which has a presence in more than 110 countries and territories. “We’re a proud sponsor of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals Glossary of Real Estate Industry Terms as well as the AREAA Asian Real Estate Association of America State of Asia America Report – but that’s just a starting point.”

Q: What does the idea of fair housing mean to you?
A: There’s a 30-second answer and a 30-minute answer. But to me, fair housing is like the core values of the RE/MAX organization: At the end of the day, we are in business to support RE/MAX affiliates as they help every type of person or family on the planet fulfill the dream of homeownership. It means everyone has the same opportunity to live where they want to live and to get a fair loan amount. Individuals and families are able to build wealth by owning real estate and a first home is the starting point on that path. When we support this, we help everyone – regardless of what they look like or where they live or where they’re from.

Q: What role do you think real estate agents have in fair housing?
A: The Fair Housing Act was signed into law in 1968. Every single person that works in real estate – real estate agents, builders, title companies, loan officers, etc. – has a role in fulfilling not only any applicable legal aspects of fair housing but also in eliminating barriers of homeownership. It’s their responsibility to ensure that they follow the Fair Housing Act as well as any state and local fair housing laws. Consumers choose RE/MAX agents because they are trusted, knowledgeable and experienced advisors that can help them go down this path of one of the most complicated and expensive decisions in their life. That trust doesn’t happen overnight. Agents have to earn it with every client, every day.

Q: Are there any small actions agents can take now that make a big difference?
A: At RE/MAX, we like to say RE/MAX affiliates are in business for themselves but not by themselves. There are tons of resources available so agents can be the best they can be. It’s so important to listen to each individual customer and understand their extremely unique set of circumstances and then be able to engage with the process. The pandemic empowered real estate agents to really focus on providing special attention to customers as their trusted advisor. That’s what it’s about: remaining focused on the consumer.

Q: RE/MAX supports the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP), Asian Real Estate Association of America (AREAA) and the National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB). Why are these partnerships important when it comes to fair housing?
A: These organizations become the library of testimonials, action, training and education. RE/MAX is then able to repurpose and redistribute those resources to every level of our network. A perfect example is our new partnership with NAREB. NAREB puts out the SHIBA (State of Housing in Black America) Report, and perhaps people aren’t familiar with the report or, more importantly, they’re not familiar with some of the homeownership data it outlines. This kind of resource really opens eyes and encourages agents to continue pursuing training, education and coaching. Another good example is that because of a lot of the terrible things that have happened in the past year – including the thousands of attacks on Asian Americans – AREAA is dedicating its annual April 2021 conference to diversity and inclusion. The organization is bringing together some of the top speakers in the country to virtually address some of the issues. I am speaking at the closing session and encourage RE/MAX affiliates to attend the entire event because that’s where great education takes place.

Q:What is one of the biggest benefits of RE/MAX partnering with these organizations?
A: RE/MAX affiliates who are members of NAHREP, AREAA and NAREB are extremely passionate about the mission. Each of these organizations has a goal to increase homeownership – specifically sustainable homeownership – and to educate all real estate professionals to better serve their community. It’s important for RE/MAX affiliates to connect with the entire community they serve. With this knowledge and through resources provided by these organizations, RE/MAX affiliates are able to look at the demographics in their community and ask themselves if they’re in tune with what’s taking place in their particular market. Does the makeup of their office reflect their community and are they serving all segments of the population?

Q:Why are you proud to be associated with RE/MAX and its efforts?
A: We are making a difference, and it’ll continue. When we dive into one of these partnerships, we're going to ask for a seat at the table, we're going to ask how we can turn the table over. How can we move the needle on all those things we want? We attended a meeting at the White House to discuss redevelopment in the 8,700 Opportunity Zones around the country and we have worked closely with Freddie Mac to develop affordable housing programs. These are the efforts I’m most proud of.

Q: How does fair housing align with RE/MAX, LLC and its goals?
A: When I first met [RE/MAX Co-Founders] Dave and Gail Liniger, Dave said, ‘We're going to change the way real estate's done in the world.’ Over my 30 years with RE/MAX, that phrase has stuck with me every single day. From day one in the ’70s, Dave was very proactive about bringing women into real estate when that just wasn't heard of. RE/MAX grew internationally, and we have wonderful pioneers that had this dream of owning a real estate company in their own country. When you meet them, you see the passion they have, not just for the brand but what they're going to be able to do.

Q: What more should RE/MAX agents know?
A: There are mortgage-ready consumers out there who aren’t being reached. Freddie Mac and NAREB have identified that there are approximately 3 million Black consumers who are considered mortgage-ready, meaning they are financially ready to buy a home but haven’t. What's so exciting is all of this education is going to pay off. When real estate professionals serve the entire community, regardless of the makeup or race or economic structure, homeownership rates can increase and more real estate transactions can be completed.