This week, just two blocks from where several hundred white nationalists and supremacists recently shook the city of Charlottesville, Virginia, and the entire nation to its core, team members at real estate brokerage Nest Realty will meet to brainstorm what they can do to make a difference.
Their conversation will center on fundraising plans and selecting a charity that they believe will combat and address the issues of hate and violence brought to the fore last weekend in their normally quiet, picturesque college town.
“We walk and ride our bikes past there every day,” said Nest co-founder, partner and associate broker Jim Duncan. “We were all affected by it, in the short term and long term.”
On Saturday, August 12, white nationalists rallied in protest of the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee; a speeding car slamming into a group of counterprotesters killed a 32-year-old woman who was walking across the street.
Local agents at Nest Realty, a firm of 45 agents in Charlottesville with 100 total agents across seven offices in Virginia and North Carolina, will soon gather to discuss what’s next. “We are in the process of figuring out how we can give back to the community,” Duncan said. “We all have charity causes, but they don’t necessarily speak to this type of community building.”
The conversation will expand to Nest’s other offices after the initial meeting, Duncan said.
“It is a profoundly difficult situation in which we find ourselves as a community and real estate industry in the Charlottesville area — it is a period of shock,” he added.
With his Realtor hat on, Duncan said the real estate market was inevitably affected by the rally.
“I think that a couple of buyers (from overseas) expressed misgivings about moving to the Charlottesville area, a knee-jerk response to a certain degree,” Duncan said, adding that the Charlottesville community reaction in the aftermath has been profoundly heartwarming. “That’s the story we, as a community, need to get out there; we need to act and tell others about it,” he said.
Anne Gardner, CEO of the Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors, was at the National Association of Realtors’ (NAR) Leadership Summit in Chicago when the events took place in Charlottesville last weekend. She spoke from a personal standpoint: “We experienced a tremendous outpouring of understanding from peers at the meeting,” she said. “We have had the support of NAR; their staff team has assisted in fielding press inquiries last week. The staff has responded in a matter of minutes when we needed them.
“Every Realtor (around the country) has to feel the impact of an event like Charlottesville because it affects so many communities. As Realtors, we are deeply connected to the communities in which we live, work and volunteer. We are witness to a tremendous outpouring of peace, civility and understanding since the events of the weekend.”
It will now be a community healing phase for Charlottesville, she said: “We are a peaceful community, extremely collaborative by nature, and the speed by which the community has moved toward healing is something which we can draw upon.”
“Recent events have been disturbing to many,” NAR added to the conversation in a statement. “NAR is proud that the Realtor Code of Ethics distinguishes our members and encourages respect and fairness among Realtors and the consumers they serve. Attempts to authorize and encourage discrimination under any banner is ethically wrong and wholly inconsistent with the fundamental principles of the Realtor Code of Ethics.”
California Association of Realtors President Geoff McIntosh noted that “in a few short months, it will be the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act.
“As part of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, this legislation prohibits discrimination during the sale, rental, advertising or financing of housing. This coming milestone marks the long journey toward granting individuals the right to shelter, regardless of their race, ethnicity, religious beliefs, sexual orientation or disability.
“As we look ahead to commemorating this historic piece of legislation, the California Association of Realtors denounces the recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia, as reprehensible and as having no place in our society.
“The work Realtors do every day contributes to the building of communities, economies and toward the security of individuals and their families. We believe in the dignity of providing shelter for all individuals, and we repudiate the intolerance and bigotry we have been witness to in recent days. We will continue to stand for the rights of all individuals to live where they want, how they want and with whomever they want.”
Massachusetts-based activist agent Anne Mahon with Re/Max Leading Edge went to Boston to join others in peaceful protest this weekend and invited a number of her buyers and sellers to attend.
“To my delight, in the crowd I spotted an absolutely ridiculous number of both my buyers and sellers (over 50 of them),” she said. “We did our best to show that we don’t tolerate this behavior in Massachusetts and across the country. And for good reason … the majority of Americans have no interest in living in the neighborhood of a hater.”