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GLAR members attend conference in Washington D.C.

Housing and private property issues were top of mind for more than 8,500 real estate agents who convened in Washington, D.C., during the 2014 Realtor Party Convention & Trade Expo.

Greater Lakes Association of Realtors members attending: Linda Steffen, president of the association; T.J. Simon, president-elect; Rebecca Sellnow, state director; Sheila Holley, national director; Janie Weston, CEO; and Marissa Skuza, governmental affairs, were among fellow real estate agents from across the country who went to meetings and visited lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

A number of critical residential and commercial real estate issues took center stage at this year’s meetings. Sessions focused on pressing topics like protecting real estate-related tax policies, reforming the secondary mortgage market and the accessibility of mortgage credit and loan programs.

“As the leading advocate for homeownership and real estate issues, Realtors want to make sure these critical issues are recognized by our country’s leaders and remain top of mind for them,” said Steffen, in a news release. “Homeownership and commercial investment play a critical role in the long- and short-term health of this nation.”

While they were in Washington, the members met with Sen. Al Franken and Sen. Amy Klobuchar and representative staff for Congressmen Nolan, Peterson, Kline, Ellison, Paulsen, Walz and Congresswomen McCollum and Bachmann, on Capitol Hill to influence public policy decisions that will directly affect consumers’ ability to buy, sell and own real estate. Members also urged staff for Nolan and Franken to reinstate the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act, which expired at the end of 2013. The expired tax provision provided relief to individuals following a loan modification, short sale or foreclosure.

Throughout the week real estate agents participated in sessions with a number of government officials and industry experts who addressed many of today’s critical housing, mortgage finance and real estate investment issues. During one session, Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan announced a blueprint for greater consumer access to credit through a new FHA housing counseling program. Donovan said the agency is taking additional steps to expand access to mortgage credit for underserved borrowers.

Real estate agents also heard from political strategists David Plouffe and Steve Schmidt who previewed the upcoming midterm elections and provided insights into the issues currently being debated in Congress and their impact on real estate agents and the real estate industry. News anchor and political commentator Chris Matthews discussed the divided Congress and the Obama administration’s second-term agenda.

Steve Berkowitz, CEO of Move Inc. (operator of, shared his vision for how the company will continue to provide consumers with the best content, tools and professional expertise they need to find a home through the site and by working with a real estate agent. National Association of Realtors Chief Economist Lawrence Yun shared his latest outlook for the economy and residential and commercial markets, and expects positive market improvements throughout 2014.

Members also had the chance to explore the latest industry innovations and stay up to date on how new products are transforming the real estate business, as more than 100 exhibitors showcased the newest real estate products and services for the industry during the Trade Expo.

The Greater Lakes Association of Realtors is located in Baxter, Minnesota and is made up of agents and affiliates who service Aitkin, Cass, Crow Wing, Hubbard, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Todd, and Wadena counties. The association is governed by a board of directors made up of association members and affiliates. The association provides services to Members including access to the Multiple Listing System (MLS) which houses the listings of our Members and listing from around the state of Minnesota.