April 13, 2011 — Austin
More than 2,000 Texas REALTORS® participated in the 2011 Legislative Hill Visits at the Texas Capitol on April 12. Involving myriad meetings between Texas REALTORS® and legislators, the governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the Texas House, the discussions focused on supporting a wide range of consumer-protection legislation and protecting the rights of homeowners.
“Texas has withstood the real estate bubble that ravaged the rest of the country, largely because state leaders made protection of private-property rights a priority in recent sessions,” said Dwight Hale, chairman of the Texas REALTORS®. “We are focused on maintaining that strength and continue the tradition of keeping homeownership affordable in Texas.”
One key factor that contributed to Texas’ avoidance of the drastic foreclosure increases experienced by other states is its strict policy on home-equity lending. The Texas REALTORS® played a fundamental part in getting these consumer protections passed in 1997 when the Texas Legislature was considering home-equity lending legislation. Texas REALTORS® lobbied for and won several consumer lending protections for homeowners. The most important of these protections is that homeowners can only borrow a maximum of 80 percent of their appraised home value.
“This kind of protection doesn’t exist in other states and many homeowners have found themselves upside down on their loans as a result,” said Hale. “This is one of the most important consumer-protection statutes Texans have and we vigorously oppose efforts to change this law.”
In addition, the Texas Legislature has addressed issues related to eliminating private transfer fees several times before, yet concerns remain. These fees require the buyer of a property to remit a payment to a private entity each time the property is sold.
According to Hale, “These fees are scams that decrease affordability and serve no public purpose. Texas REALTORS® support legislation currently moving through both chambers of the Texas Legislature that would prohibit most private transfer fees on real estate.”
A third important issue is eliminating the abuses of eminent domain and ensuring property owners’ rights are fully protected under Texas law.
“While necessary, eminent-domain powers are sometimes abused and private-property rights are threatened whenever an eminent-domain taking is contemplated by the government,” Hale said. “Texas REALTORS® support legislation friendly to property owners that limits the possibilities for eminent domain abuse.”
In light of the recent budget shortfall, new taxes on real estate transactions and services are also sometimes seen as quick legislative fixes. But taxes of this type increase housing costs and burden buyers and sellers, which hurts the real estate market and the Texas economy. Texas REALTORS® oppose proposals that would make it more difficult for Texans to buy or sell a home.
Finally, Texas REALTORS® also follow legislation that deals with water rights, transportation, sustainable energy production and more. This wide legislative agenda aims to protect real estate and homeowners’ rights.
Chairman Hale concluded, “As decisions are made during this legislative session, it’s important for lawmakers to continue to support public policies that have kept Texas strong during the recent economic downturn and will keep Texas leading the nation during the nationwide economic recovery.”