The 1970s - Haven't We Met?
October 3, 2022
If current rates of inflation, climbing mortgage interest rates, and rising home prices sound familiar, welcome back to the 1970s. Dubbed “The Me Decade,” economic conditions in the 1970s led many Americans to focus on their own wellbeing rather than the social issues that dominated the 1960s. Inflation averaged 7.1 percent annually and, by 1979, equaled the 11 percent 30-year fixed mortgage rate. Shopping malls began to replace downtown shopping areas in the 1970s, but wages could not keep up with inflation meaning many Americans had less buying power than at any time since the Great Depression. Due to the Arab oil embargo, America was in the midst of an energy crisis and gas lines were part of everyday life in Alabama.
By 1970, baby boomers in Alabama and across the nation were coming of age, getting married, and starting families of their own. They needed homes but inflation left them with little money for a down payment and interest rates limited their access to nicer homes without becoming “house poor.” In the 1970s the median home price jumped from $23,000 to $55,700 for an annual gain of 9.9 percent. That was great news for homeowners with lower fixed rate mortgages whose homes became a significant portion of their wealth. Real estate investments were performing better than the stock market which only increased 17 percent over the decade. To protect their investments, homeowners began to oppose large-scale housing developments and suburban towns imposed bans on development.
The decade dawned with renewed optimism for minorities and women seeking to become homeowners. Passage of the Fair Housing Act in 1968 was followed, in 1974, by the Equal Credit Opportunity Act making it illegal for lenders to discriminate based on “religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, marital status, receiving income from a public assistance program, or exercising any right under the Consumer Credit Protection Act.” Legally, only income, credit score, and existing debt could be considered in evaluating a credit application. The Act opened the door for single and married women to obtain a mortgage or other credit without discrimination.
The times were changing and so was the national organization for real estate professionals which was, by now, the largest trade organization in America. In 1972, the National Association of Real Estate Boards formally changed its name to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) and, in 1973, adopted the trademarked “R” logo. By the mid-1970s, NAR boasted 400,000 members.
The Alabama Association of REALTORS® (AAR) was thriving, too. AAR’s REALTORS® Institute graduated its first class and the National Institute of Farm and Land Brokers established an Alabama chapter. In 1971, Governor George Wallace issued the state’s first proclamation of REALTOR® week. Alabama REALTORS® gathered in Mexico City for their 1973 state convention.
To learn more about the Association's history visit our Centennial Anniversary page here.