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Wallace Prepares for National Role : Californian to Step Up to Presidency of Realtors Assn.

September 01, 1985|RUTH RYON | Times Staff Writer

For better or worse, it happens in California first.

Clark E. Wallace laughed. The phrase is one of several that he voices from time to time to get audience response.

Adhering to the scouting motto, "Be Prepared," Wallace must be ready more than ever in his real estate brokerage career with a quip or a catchy saying. He must be more knowledgeable than ever about congressional goings-on affecting real estate.

The reason: He's president-elect of the National Assn. of Realtors, the nation's largest trade and professional association with more than 670,000 members. It's a powerful lobby.

As its incoming president in November, Wallace, a Northern California real estate broker who was president of the California Assn. of Realtors for half of 1978 and all of 1979, is pretty powerful himself.

As such, he's in demand as a speaker, which is why he was at the Anaheim Marriott a few days ago to address the annual convention of the Arizona Assn. of Realtors. "They go out of state for their convention every other year," he explained.

He was also there to dedicate an American flag for the 25th anniversary of the Huntington Beach/Fountain Valley Board of Realtors.

Such are the demands on an organization head-to-be.

While in town, he answered a few questions about the state of real estate--another activity expected of those at the top.

What is his housing outlook? "It has been a good year so far and in some cases, especially in California, a banner year.

"It's not a barn-burner. To be a barn-burner, we'd have to have fixed interest rates of under 12%. But business is very brisk, and this is not just true of the Sun Belt. The strongest area is New England, which we thought was dead and buried four or five years ago. They've had a resurgence."

What about the Midwest? "It was devastated (in terms of real estate) in the early '80s, but they wouldn't take it lying down. The chambers of commerce got busy, and now the Midwest is attracting business."

As for the rest of this year, he said, it is tied to "interest rates," cue words for another of Wallace's favorite expressions.

Borrowing from the familiar saying that the three most important things in real estate are location, location, location, he says, "The three most important things in real estate today are interest rates, interest rates, interest rates."

This reminds him of the role government plays in determining interest rates and other aspects of the economy.

"We're not happy--You could say we're disenchanted--with Reagan's policies that continue high deficits," he said, calling reduction of the national deficit the National Assn. of Realtors' "No. 1 concern."

What he termed "close on the heels" of the deficit in terms of realtor concern is tax reform.

Referring to tax proposals awaiting congressional action, he said, "Nobody can be against tax reform, but some (of the pending) issues could hurt us, as well as homeowners and real estate investors."

There already has been considerable talk about potential harmful effects on resort areas. "Even the anticipation of tax changes led to a 50% fall-off in sales in Palm Springs," he said. He hopes for some changes in the proposals "or else we will see resort areas in 30 states severely impacted."

He also hopes that there will be no loss of mortgage revenue bonds "because the first-time home buyers are really profiting from them."

He is more optimistic about continuation of investment tax credits for historical rehabs and the ability of home sellers to use seller-backed financing when necessary.

"After a year of struggling with imputed interest (relating to seller-backed financing), I think we can say that we've put that to bed," he said. "It will be dealt with by the Senate in September, but I think we've fashioned a workable seller-financing package."

By October, he expects what he described as a "marked-up tax bill" to come out of the House. "It won't look like what Reagan put forth in May," he predicted.

While on the subject of legislation, he talked about FHIP, the Fair Housing Initiative Program, which was proposed to put some teeth into the housing portion of the Civil Rights Act. Among its provisions, it would provide some federal funds for testing housing discrimination.

"(Sam) Pierce (secretary of Housing and Urban Development) has made it a cause celebre, " Wallace said, "but we're not against fair housing. We just don't like our tax dollars being spent on testing when HUD and the Justice Department appear to have different rules for it."

In Chicago, fair-housing groups have been working with local government to force real estate agents to "steer" minority home buyers into certain areas of the city so there is a given percentage of minorities there. Also called "integration maintenance," this new and so far relatively limited practice has been raised as an issue in the FHIP fight. However, neither HUD nor NAR favors it.

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