Local News

Realtors balk at funding transfer tax fight

Posted July 21, 2008 5:25 p.m. EDT
Updated July 22, 2008 1:31 a.m. EDT

— For months, Realtors called a real estate transfer tax an unfair tax on homeowners. Now, they're calling a $10 million effort to fight the tax an unfair tax on themselves.

Last year, state lawmakers gave counties two options to raise revenue for growth-related needs like new schools, wider roads and extended water and sewer lines. One was a quarter-cent local sales tax, and the other was land transfer tax of 0.4 percent of the sale price of homes and land.

Extensive ad campaigns by developers and the North Carolina Association of Realtors helped defeat transfer tax proposals in 19 counties last November and in May, including twice in one county. Last month, the Realtors group pledged $10 million to continue fighting the tax at the polls.

To fund that war chest, the association is levying a $70 assessment on each of its 43,000 members and will raise its annual dues by $25 next year.

Realtor Becky Harper said she thought the transfer tax fight would be funded by the association's political-action committee, not through mandatory contributions by members.

"This is an unfair tax on Realtors. It's a tax to support a political campaign that we may or may not agree with," said Harper, who is against the transfer tax.

Realtors must pay the annual dues to belong to the state association and access its Multiple Listing Service.

"It's the route they're taking to push this agenda, slamming it down our throats, using extortion, leveraging our careers against ourselves," said Realtor Carlton Brown, who doesn't support the  campaign. "I'm deeply offended that they would hold my career over my head and say, 'You'll support us on this agenda, or we will end your career as you know it.'"

Association President Wendell Bullard said some of the frustration is misguided. PAC money must be used for candidates, not a property rights campaign, which is why the group is using member dues. Voluntary contributions wouldn't raise enough money to fight the transfer tax, he said.

"It comes from your pocketbook, so they're responding out of emotion, and people have a right to have time to express their frustration," Bullard said. "I do ask our members to stand firm, to stay committed, stay united, and we will ride through this."