In 2020, Texas REALTORS® celebrates the association’s centennial as the strongest grassroots advocacy organization for Texas real estate.
But this stature didn’t arise quickly—it took years of proving the REALTOR® value to earn the reputation as protectors of the real estate industry.
A Mission of Grassroots Advocacy
In 1920, committed leaders in real estate from across Texas came together under a shared vision for the industry’s future that remains in place today. Over the years, the association’s most important advocates are REALTORS® themselves. Members’ on-the-ground intel about how proposed policies will support—or harm—real estate consumers has made Texas REALTORS® the premier grassroots advocacy organization. As the state grew, so did the REALTOR® presence in Texas.
The REALTOR® voice at the local, state, and national levels has positioned the association as the go-to information source that elected officials rely on when implementing real estate-related public policy.
Under the Dome
The Texas Legislature meets every two years, and you will find Texas REALTORS® at the state Capitol every session—even between sessions—working to educate lawmakers on the potential effects of proposed legislation and helping them draft pro-real estate public policy to protect consumers.
Reaching Goals Through Determination
The first goal members outlined in 1920 was to pass a licensing law that would provide statewide regulations on the real estate industry. It took dedication and perseverance, as success finally came in 1939 with the passage of a license law.
The next significant milestone came almost 30 years after the association originated, when the Legislature created the Texas Real Estate Commission as the state regulatory agency. Gov. Beauford Jester signed the bill in 1949. Members had pushed for this to raise standards and boost the profession’s esteem.
In 1961, the association focused efforts on opposing a proposed transaction tax and an occupation tax imposed on real estate brokers. Thanks to REALTOR® advocacy, the transaction tax was abandoned, and a bill removing brokers from the occupation tax was signed into law.
REALTORS® supported a wide range of private property rights. For example, in 1963, the law regarding condos required individual or joint ownership of a single structure. The association supported the creation of the Texas Condominium Act—the first statute to address multiple ownership of residential property.
In the 1970s, REALTORS® were the driving force for establishing the Real Estate Research Center at Texas A&M University to provide public study of the state’s real estate industry.
Stopping Bad Bills Early
Many of the association’s victories don’t make headlines. Over the years, Texas REALTORS® has fought to defeat bad bills from even progressing to votes or committee hearings by educating lawmakers on the potential damage of proposed legislation for their communities and the real estate industry statewide.
Protection and Collaboration
Members actively worked to maintain their legislative influence and continue to closely monitor any proposed taxation on real estate. In 1974, REALTORS® played a role in the state’s first Constitutional Revision Convention to serve as watchdogs protecting the rights of private-property owners.
Also in 1974, REALTORS® collaborated with the State Bar of Texas to create the first standardized real estate forms. The newly created Broker-Lawyer Committee drafted a Statement of Principles that defined the roles of lawyers and real estate brokers that recognized real estate brokers as fiduciaries and conveyors of real property.
When the Legislature reconvened the following year, the association spearheaded the movement to amend the License Act to require continuing education and other enhanced licensing requirements, which Gov. Dolph Briscoe signed in 1975.
Unity in Support
In the 1980s, Texas REALTORS® focused on political advocacy with the goal of ensuring REALTORS® spoke with one voice in support of the industry and its consumers.
When the Texas protective homestead law was threatened in 1985, REALTORS® fought against forces that sought to allow homeowners to take out a second mortgage. Members were concerned these changes could lead to increased debt and more foreclosures. Thanks to REALTORS® working to educate lawmakers on these concerns, the bill eventually failed in the Texas House.
Texans in D.C.
Texas REALTORS® work with the state’s Congressional delegation to advocate for federal real estate issues, such as fair housing, flood insurance, and financing. In 2019, 430 Texas REALTORS® went to Washington, D.C., to advocate for real estate issues with their Congressional delegation.
Close to the Action
The association’s headquarters had always been in Austin to be near the Texas Capitol. But it was at the end of the 1980s when the organization made its home on a piece of property just across the street from the statehouse, opening in 1989.
This gave REALTORS® convenient access to the Capitol and ensured that lawmakers recognize REALTORS® as dedicated advocates for their industry.
The association’s walls and archives are filled with photos, proclamations, and bills signed into law.
The 1990s provided REALTORS® with ongoing opportunities to stand up for consumers’ rights, as members fought to enshrine strong home equity protections in the Texas Constitution. Voters approved the REALTOR®-supported constitutional amendment in 1997 that prohibited homeowners from borrowing more than 80% of the value of their home minus what was still owed—a safeguard that has protected Texas from housing market crashes in several other states over the years.
Other landmark victories in the 1990s included the passage of consumer protection legislation regarding seller’s disclosure, the Broker’s and Appraiser’s Lien on Commercial Real Estate Act, and amendments to the Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
Huge Wins in the New Millennium
In 2001, the association helped defeat legislation that would have levied an 8% sales tax on the sale of all real estate. Two years later, REALTORS® defeated a proposal to create a 1% real estate transfer tax.
During a special session in 2005, REALTORS® advocated to address eminent domain reform, with the resulting legislation curbing some uses of eminent domain and offering protections for Texas property owners.
Property tax reform was a key issue for the state in 2006, with REALTORS® appointed to a governor’s task force and commission that generated recommendations for improving the property tax and appraisal systems.
Thousands of Texas REALTORS® attended a property tax reduction rally on the Capitol grounds, urging passage of the legislation that ultimately provided homeowners with substantial property tax cuts. The association’s 2006 chairman, Dennis Patillo addressed members at the rally.
The first legislative session of the 2010s resulted in several victories for Texas REALTORS®, including defeating more attempts to tax real estate. The association also supported bills to protect owners in eminent domain proceedings and bills to reform homeowners associations.
In addition, the association won a long-fought battle to revise the Deceptive Trade Practices Act to effectively exempt real estate brokerages from liability under the act, as long as the broker or agent hasn’t committed an illegal act.
After the 2007 session, the association formed six new public policy task forces to set the agenda for the next session. These member-driven bodies research and vet issues to set REALTOR® priorities for the following session.
Advocacy During the COVID-19 Crisis
In 2020, the COVID-19 crisis has touched every facet of life—personal and professional. Texas REALTORS® has been advising elected officials at every level about the impact on the real estate industry, its practitioners, and consumers.
Texas REALTORS® helped ensure that real estate was considered an essential service statewide so REALTORS® could continue helping real estate consumers.
As the state took steps to plan for reopening, Texas REALTORS® engaged in discussions with Gov. Abbott’s Strike Force to Open Texas to coordinate the phase-in of real estate activities to bring association members back to business.
A List of Successes
With the line “Under all is the land” in mind, REALTORS® in 2015 further expanded the association’s public policy priorities with support to measures that helped improved Texas roads.
It was this year that REALTORS® engaged in the association’s largest campaign ever, spending $6 million on a statewide campaign to encourage voters to approve a constitutional amendment to ban transfer taxes and increase the homestead exemption. Voters agreed, with 86% of those who went to the polls voting in favor of the amendment.
From 2017 to 2019, the association earned several more legislative victories on behalf of real estate consumers, stopping forced municipal annexation and prohibiting cities from imposing certain fees on new residential and commercial construction.
The 2019 legislative session brought REALTORS® monumental wins on years-long fights to reform the state’s property tax system and school finance system—all benefiting Texas taxpayers with more information and reduced tax burden.
A Historic Century With More Successes on the Horizon
As the association celebrates the first 100 years of Texas REALTORS® at the forefront of legislative advocacy for real estate in the Lone Star State, it is clear that REALTORS® will continue to be the driving force in shaping Texas for many years to come.