On June 10, The Post and Courier ran a story by Renee Dudley that called into question the integrity of the South Carolina Realtors and its political activities. We must respond by presenting additional facts and comments that we believe should have been included in the original article.
» Misleading headline: The sensational headline that Rep. Jim Merrill is facing ethics questions may sell newspapers, but it is not backed up by the content of the story. If the intent was to advocate a need to change current law, the story could have done so in a more forthright manner.
» Omitted facts: Realtors support candidates for office who value private property rights and the American Dream of homeownership. These candidates know that a strong economy with a robust job market benefits every South Carolinian. SCR, through its political action committee, selects candidates to support, then may hire firms (like Rep. Merrill’s communication firm) to produce, print and mail campaign materials (mailers, postcards, etc.) These expenditures are reported as required by state law. The Post and Courier report omitted the fact that the vast majority of the fees paid for these campaign materials go directly to hard costs (print, postage, etc.) SCR also conducts issues-based campaigns, designed to educate the public about vital economic issues like property tax reform.
» The beneficiaries: Your report claims the point of sale reform bill, supported by Rep. Merrill in 2011, financially benefited Realtors. The direct beneficiaries of the point of sale reform bill were consumers, investors, business owners, other owners of 6 percent assessed properties and our entire state’s economy. Reducing these property taxes has already resulted in increased investment and job creation, as reported by David Slade of The Post and Courier on March 25, “Change to property tax law stimulates some real estate deals.”
This issue was such an economic crisis that the House Majority Caucus listed it as a top priority of its economy and jobs agenda for this legislative session. Rep. Merrill, recognizing one of the many deficiencies of Act 388, fought to reform the point of sale law with the support of a majority of the members in the South Carolina House and Senate. In fact, the final vote count was 105-4 in the House and 42-0 in the Senate.
SCR represents 14,000 Realtors who work every day to promote and protect private property rights and homeownership.
Why do we do this? We know that a strong economy benefits every South Carolinian. Strong economies create jobs. Families with jobs buy homes. Homeownership benefits our communities. When a home is sold in South Carolina, Realtors, lenders, home inspectors, insurance agents, builders, attorneys and others benefit. And it doesn’t stop there. Local communities benefit even more as the new homeowners buy furniture and appliances, hire painters, eat at restaurants and attend charity events. Our state and our country benefit as homeowners pay 80-90 percent of all income taxes. The total economic impact of the sale of a median priced home ($152,000) in South Carolina is almost $50,000. As you can see, Realtors don’t just sell homes — we invest in and help build better communities.
The South Carolina Association of Realtors is one of the state’s largest trade associations. Real estate makes up more than 15 percent of the state’s economic engine. The issues Realtors advocate benefit the more than 2.1 million homeowners and business owners across the state by improving our economy and creating jobs at a time when economic growth is needed most.
Realtors have successfully supported efforts to: create jobs, curb predatory lending, create a conservation land bank to protect our natural resources, and ban private transfer fees, just to name a few. We’ve also successfully opposed various legislative efforts that would have raised taxes and fees on homeowners and business owners time and time again.
Are we a special interest group only looking after Realtors, as this story suggests?
Our actions speak louder than words. Realtors love South Carolina and its quality of life and we will continue to fight to improve our economy, create more jobs, and protect the American Dream of homeownership.
Nick Kremydas is chief executive officer of the South Carolina Association of Realtors.