The Home Ownership Matters bus tour is crossing the country this year, giving people the opportunity and resources to talk to legislators about how shifting public policy priorities in Washington could jeopardize home ownership.
The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®-sponsored event, which kicked off in Chicago and parts of the Northwest in March, is expected to drive through at least 33 states — stopping in various cities along the way — before it ends in Anaheim, Calif., in November 2011.
If you’re in a bus tour city, stop by for prizes, food, fun, and info.
View 2011 Home Ownership Matters Bus Tour in a larger map
Bus tour highlights
The Home Ownership Matters bus tour kicked off in Chicago on March 5, 2011, to celebrate the benefits of home ownership with Chicagoans and visitors attending the Flower & Garden Show at Navy Pier.
Several attendees described what home ownership means to them. “It’s the history and the memories [my] family makes every time [we] paint a room or change the decor,” said home owner Margie Neighbors.
Neighbors won the grand prize, a $2,500 Lowe’s gift card, during this first stop on the month-long bus tour sponsored by the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. See what else she had to say:
Chicago bungalow owner Peggy Steiner emphasized that responsible home ownership makes financial sense. “It’s a great investment — that’s what I was told growing up by my folks,” she says. And our place “fits us to a T.”
For Beth Reynolds, the event’s emcee and the weekend host of Chicago’s Rewind 100.3 radio show, home ownership and community are intertwined. “We have fantastic neighbors,” she says. “You get to know them and become real good friends.” In fact, her neighbors’ recommendation on a sprinkler system saved her money and led her to support a local business.
Chicago Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) underscored the need to keep incentives that encourage home ownership, such as the mortgage interest deduction, which helps the average home owner save thousands of dollars each year. These incentives help strengthen both our communities and nation as a whole, he said.
The Home Ownership Matters bus, traveling from Chicago to Portland, Ore., on its maiden voyage, made its second stop at the Denver Home Show on March 19, 2011. Hundreds of Coloradans stopped by to celebrate home ownership, discuss challenges to federal home ownership programs, win thousands of dollars in prizes, and share their own home ownership stories.
“Houses are more than windows and walls; they are more than floors, roofs, and foundations. They’re that cool place where we create life’s memories, where we celebrate the best of life, but also comfort each other in life’s challenges,” said Ron Phipps, president of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.
Phipps’ statements ring true for home owner Marty Chavez, who won the day’s grand prize — a $2,500 Lowe’s gift card. “We have to modify [our home] for our son, [who] is learning disabled and has some walking issues, so we want to use some of that money for that purpose,” he said. See what Marty had to say:
Bus tour visitors shared their personal home ownership stories. Karen Fancher, who won a $100 Lowe’s gift card, said:
“It’s our place; it’s home,” said Madeline Davalos, when asked why home is important to her and her family. Davalos was the grand prize winner of a $2,500 Lowe’s gift card and has been a home owner for more than 20 years.
Food and prizes capped off a celebratory atmosphere during the Home Ownership Matters bus tour stop in Atlanta on July 16, 2011.
The stop was also an opportunity for the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, the tour sponsor, to spotlight the need for continued access to affordable mortgage financing.
Federal regulators are considering a rule that would require homebuyers to make at least a 20% downpayment on a home purchase to get the most affordable mortgage interest rates. The rule is intended to help prevent future banking collapses, but it has an unintended penalty: It could put home ownership out of reach for many creditworthy Americans.
It would take about 16 years for the typical American family to save for a 20% downpayment and closing costs, based on 2010 estimates of median income and home prices from the REALTOR® association and the 2010 national savings rate.
If you want to weigh in on the issue, you can send a message to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which is accepting comments on the proposed rule until Aug. 1, 2011.
July 20, 2011 — As the Home Ownership Matters bus crosses Alabama this week, REALTORS® are donating funds to assist victims of the April 27 tornadoes.
“When we see the devastation of families losing their homes in natural disasters, we’re reminded of just how much home ownership matters,” said NAR 2012 First Vice President Steve Brown, who met with Alabama families affected by the tornadoes and presented several families with checks to help them rebuild.
Funds were collected through NAR’s REALTOR® Relief Foundation and the Alabama REALTOR® Disaster Relief Fund. Since April, the Alabama relief fund has provided assistance to more than 150 families.
“Homes provide shelter and comfort, and they form a foundation on which many people build their lives and families,” said Brown. “That’s why on the national level, NAR strongly supports developing a federal natural disaster policy to ensure that families can obtain affordable property insurance.”
July 23, 2011 — The Home Ownership Matters team spent some time with future home owners at the Children’s Museum of Memphis. Through pictures, the children told stories of how important home is as a place for families and fun.
There’s also a direct relationship between home ownership and educational achievement. A study by the New York Federal Reserve Bank found that “though home ownership raises educational outcomes for children, neighborhood stability further enhances the positive outcome.” Since home owners tend to move less often than renters, that stability adds to a child’s success in school.
Aug. 4, 2011 — The Home Ownership Matters bus stopped in Joplin, Mo., today where REALTORS® presented a $73,000 check to help families rebuild following one of the most deadly tornadoes in U.S. history in May.
Funds were collected through the REALTOR® Relief Foundation and the Missouri REALTORS® Relief Foundation, and presented to Missouri State Sen. Ron Richard and Joplin Mayor Mike Woolston.
“When disasters like this strike, the connection between home ownership, strong families, and resilient communities becomes even more apparent,” said NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® 2011 Vice President Elizabeth Mendenhall. “NAR strongly supports developing a federal natural disaster policy to ensure that families can obtain affordable property insurance.”
The Home Ownership Matters bus is traveling the country, giving people the opportunity and resources to make their voices heard about the housing issues that matter most to them.
Des Moines, Iowa
Aug. 12, 2011 — The Home Ownership Matters bus parked outside a local Lowe’s retailer in Des Moines today to raise awareness about threats to eliminate or trim the mortgage interest deduction, a step some on Capitol Hill believe could help reduce the country’s budget deficit.
So why is it important to keep the mortgage interest deduction? Cutting it would destabilize the already shaky housing market, says NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Chief Economist Lawrence Yun in an interview with Real Estate Insights. “It would lead to home values falling by 15%, equating to a destruction of housing wealth equivalent to $2.5 trillion.”
MID has been part of the U.S. tax code for nearly a century, notes Dave Bert, CEO of the Iowa Association of REALTORS®, who also chatted with bus tour visitors in Des Moines:
Although only about one-third of taxpayers itemize in any particular year, most home owners have claimed the mortgage interest deduction at some point in their home ownership life.
Slideshow: Your Mortgage Deduction: Turn Tax Savings into Home Value
Who claims the MID?
- 63% of the families who claim it earn between $50,000 and $200,000 per year, according to the most recently available data from IRS tax returns.
- Among those who take MID, about two-third of all families earn less than $100,000.
- About one-third of all Americans itemize their tax deductions instead of claiming the lump-sum standard deductions. More than 80% of those who itemized claimed the MID.
- More than half of home owners claim the MID. The MID can only be claimed by home owners who pay mortgage interest, and nearly one-third of home owners own their homes free and clear. Among mortgaged properties, more than 80% claim the MID.
- Home owners already pay about 80% to 90% of all federal income tax.
The bus’s final stop in Anaheim wraps up an eight-month trek that kicked off in Chicago in March 2011. The multi-city bus tour was part of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®’ Home Ownership Matters campaign to grow consumer awareness in a number of public policy proposals, government programs, and incentives that could dramatically impact home ownership in this country.
Some of the issues that were and continue to be front-and-center for American home owners include the:
Future of the mortgage interest deduction as an important tax benefit
Availability and accessibility of mortgage financing – how much buyers can borrow through conforming loan limits, if creditworthy borrowers can qualify for a loan, or the amount of down payment future buyers must make
Ability of home owners to obtain affordable flood insurance
You can follow these evolving issues at HouseLogic.