June 2020 ULI Member Spotlight: Melvin A. Vieira Jr.
Melvin A. Vieira, Jr. is head of The Vieira Group at RE/MAX Destiny and a member of the RE/MAX Hall of Fame. A unique realtor, he serves residential luxury and first-time buyers as well as commercial property investors and developers and is deeply engaged in legislative aspects of the business. He is a longstanding member of the Greater Boston Association of Realtors (GBAR) and the Massachusetts Association of Realtors (MAR), currently serving as GBAR’s vice president and on the government affairs and diversity committees of both groups. For nearly 20 years, he has led first-time homebuyer classes. Melvin is a Certified Negotiation Specialist, Accredited Buyer’s Representative, Certified New Home Specialist, and Accredited Luxury Home Specialist, and frequently appears in media features about the real estate industry.
In your 30 years as a realtor, you’ve witnessed significant ups and downs in the industry. How does the current COVID-19 situation compare?
This pandemic is a whole new ballgame. At first, no one understood the depth of it, but we quickly realized it was going to have far-reaching effects on how we conduct business and on the bottom line. Residential and commercial agents had to shift the paradigm and figure out how to function in the “new normal.” How can we communicate effectively with clients? How will title companies, notaries, deed recordings work? What about open houses and property viewings? It became an all-hands-on-deck, 911 situation for the industry.
The associations — NAR [National Association of Realtors], MAR, and GBAR — have made a huge difference. NAR has worked with Congress and the White House, MAR with Governor Baker, and GBAR with mayors. Just one example of the legislative obstacles: the federal government declared us “essential,” but in Massachusetts, we weren’t initially on that list. We had to petition the state to be categorized as essential. Add to that mayors being confused about how to handle agents going into homes and properties — whether that could even happen at all — and what to do about possible tenant evictions and property owner forbearance. There are countless working parts, and it’s been a major juggling act to keep the industry moving.
How is the pandemic impacting development, builders, and the market in general? What effects do you see going forward?
Certain things were at a standstill because of moratoriums on building and construction, but projects that had already been completed are still selling. That said, there aren’t as many active buyers, and some sellers are holding properties off the market. The market in general will likely be affected by people losing their jobs and by the emotional toll of the virus. Some people will move out to less populated and less expensive areas, but Boston will always have an influx of residents and businesses. Prices may get soft for a time, but do I anticipate a total crash? No. It could actually be a good thing that we can slow down a bit and reset to some degree. I’ve seen recessions and stock market crashes, and real estate has always bounced back. I don’t think this will be any different.
Clearly, the legal aspects of the industry are fundamental to the health of business operations. Would you advise other realtors to get involved with legislative affairs?
Absolutely, yes! Without the political advocacy of the NAR, the industry couldn’t work like it does, and the state and local associations are just as crucial. Whether you’re just starting out as a realtor or have been at it for a while, I can’t urge you enough to get involved legislatively. My involvement allowed me to be better prepared for the situation today and gave me the opportunity to bring about change and be part of the decision-making that directly affects the field. Why wouldn’t you want that kind of voice in the process? I’m also an SPC [State Political Coordinator] for the MAR and am the appointed liaison with Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz and Representative Russell Holmes as well as an FPC [Federal Political Coordinator] for the NAR and the appointed liaison with Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley. I bring real estate issues to her attention, often through her chief of staff, and present our case for or against particular legislation and regulations. That’s another way I get to influence factors that could impact our business.
Tell us about your involvement with ULI Boston/New England. How has being a Pathways to Inclusion cohort helped you professionally so far?
It’s the best thing I ever did. I’ve always wanted to be part of urban planning and development, and now I am. I’ve loved being able to challenge the young men and women as a facilitator in the UrbanPlan program in local schools. I love to stretch their thinking beyond what they’ve seen in their own communities. I’m proud to be the first realtor in the Pathways program and enjoy participating in Technical Assistance Panels and on the real estate advisory group. ULI’s webinars at the beginning of COVID-19 gave me different perspectives to bring to discussions with others and made me feel more well-rounded. It’s all been very enlightening.
What do you enjoy most in your downtime?
I love being outside, whether it’s going golfing, fishing, or skiing. I’ve been skiing since I was 12 through Boston’s YES [Youth Enrichment Services] program, and now I try to get urban kids skiing. There’s nothing like being on top of a mountain and looking out on a bluebird day — just seeing the beauty of the world. Spending time with my wife and family or sitting back and relaxing with friends brings me such joy, as does my volunteer work with local food pantries and the United Way. I’m a big believer in supporting your community however you can.