“I feel like home,” President Donald Trump said as he took the podium in front of a crowd of real estate agents on Friday.
Trump received a warm welcome from the National Association of Realtors at the trade organization’s Legislative Meetings and Trade Expo in Washington, D.C., where he spoke for more than an hour. He is the first sitting president to speak at the conference since George W. Bush spoke in 2005.
Trump — whose namesake firm has seen some of its properties struggle as of late — said he’s “always looking at the real estate” he passes while he’s driven around in the presidential limousine.
“I’ll never get it out of my blood, its in our blood right?” he said to cheers.
Early in his speech, Trump announced that the U.S. had come to agreement to lift tariffs on steel and aluminum, which have driven up costs for building materials and put a strain on developers.
“I’m pleased to announce we’ve just reached agreement with Canada and Mexico,” he said. “We’ll be selling our product into those countries without the imposition of tariffs.”
He also said he wants to re-privatize mortgage giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, calling it a “pretty urgent problem” that he has “many geniuses” working on, including “some incredible talent from Wall Street.”
He said the government-sponsored enterprises lack competition and aren’t run as well as they could be. Earlier this year he signed a directive instructing government offices to develop a plan to release the companies from government control.
Otherwise, he spent much of his time at the podium touting the strong economy, specifically high employment rates.
“Many of those people are going to go out and buy houses, right Tracy?” Trump said, gesturing to Tracy Kasper, NAR’s vice president of advocacy.
Trump also pointed to the benefits of the 2017 tax reforms, which gave way to the federal Opportunity Zones program, which provides capital gains tax breaks to investors who fund developments in economically depressed or stagnant areas.
“We gave you one hell of a tax cut and the regulation cut may be more important,” he said.
Along with slashing corporate tax rates, the Tax Cut and Jobs Act capped state and local tax deductions at $10,000, meaning high-net worth individuals in states with high local taxes like New York and California pay significantly more in taxes each year.
That has prompted some of those high-net worth residents to flee to states with lower tax rates, like Florida.
Later on, Trump reminisced about his days in real estate, during which he claimed he was “famous” for skimping, or trying to skimp, on paying commissions. He said he paid brokers just a 1 percent commission fee instead of 6 percent, drawing boos from the crowd.
“Don’t worry. Nobody accepted it,” he said. “But I tried like hell. But I’d get it down to 4 or 5, that’s not so bad.”
But he also praised brokers he’s worked with in the past. “There’s nothing like a good broker, you’re like a good surgeon, its true,” Trump said. “You have to remember those people and reward those people properly.”