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Real estate agents embraced the president as one of their own, with cheers and whistles but also boos when he admitted not paying brokers their percentage

When Donald Trump addresses coalminers, farmers or Christian evangelicals, even ardent supporters would find it hard to claim he is truly one of them. On Friday, however, he was among his own people, transforming a staid hotel ballroom full of middle-class professionals into a rollicking and sometimes nasty campaign rally.

I feel like home realtors, realtors! the billionaire property developer exclaimed at a convention of estate agents in Washington. I love that business Ill never get it out of my blood. Its in our blood, right?

The National Association of Realtors lapped it up with cheers, whistles, standing ovations and chants of USA! USA!

For some, perhaps, there was pride in seeing one of their own take a little sabbatical, as he put it, from his exclusive residence on Pennsylvania Avenue. But more importantly, there was exultation in the perception of a booming economy and money, money, money. While that sentiment holds, it seemed, Trump can do no wrong. Everything is permitted.

Well, almost everything. Diving into nostalgia about his business career, Trump boasted that he paid brokers only 1% instead of 6%. I was famous for that, he said, prompting some boos from the audience. Like a standup comedian who realizes he has gone too far, he was forced to back-pedal: No, no. Dont worry, nobody accepted it. But I tried like hell, Ill tell you.

Soon, however, he was back in gear, playing to what felt like a home audience and therefore his performance was even Trumpier than usual, going off teleprompter because, he said, his speechwriters couldnt possibly know real estate like he does.

Even as president, I ride down those streets and I say Wow! Is that place nice?, Wow! What could you do with that? Look at the site. And then I say, Wait a minute, I have to deal with China, forget about this stuff.

There was a roar of laughter. These events, full of rambling digressions, are often a mix of comedy, grievance and menace. When addressing a packed room full of realtors, perhaps doubly so.

Trump again demonstrated his uncanny ability to tap into resentments that might be better left buried.

The president flattered the crowd, defended his trade tariffs (The European Union, I would say, treats us worse than China), as well as attacking Democrats (stone cold crazy), environmentalists and the fake news media.

The trappings at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park hotel were less partisan and in-your-face than other Washington gatherings where the president speaks, such as the Conservative Political Action Conference or the Values Voter Summit. The agenda included Planning for Opportunity Zone Investments and Who Realtors R: Learn to Tell Your Story.

And yet the Trumpification of such events, and the nation, continues. Nearly an hour before he spoke, loudspeakers played the Rolling Stones, Elton John, Frank Sinatra and others hits familiar from his rallies. Several attendees were sporting Trump caps and Make America great again sweaters. And in a warning to Democrats about the challenge they face in seeking to dislodge him in 2020, conversations quickly turned to the strength of the economy and the presidents business acumen.

Donald Trump listens to realtor Teresa McKee. Photograph: Erik S Lesser/EPA

Mary Aileen Matheis, a lawyer and realtor from Irvine, California, said: Real estate has helped him understand the business world. He talks about making deals and that sort of thing. He understand what moves people more than others do.

I dont think people here would necessarily call him one of their own, but the markets are doing well and the job rate is going up. When youre doing well, why make a change?

Nick DAmbrosia, 66, a broker from La Plata, Maryland, said: I like the way the economys going well. Im been in real estate for 46 years and the housing market is doing fine. The fact he was a businessman drives it; I dont think it matters he happens to be in real estate.

Earlier this month a New York Times investigation revealed that Trump reported more than $1bn in business losses between 1985 and 1994 more than any other taxpayer in America. According to Shaw Defense, his companies have declared bankruptcy six times.

But DAmbrosia, a Trump voter, said: There are always stories told about everybody, including myself and probably you. If you look at successful entrepreneurs through history, many of them have lost money at one time or another.

But like so much of the nation, opinions in the industry divided. Heather Swanson, president of the Gainesville-Alachua County Association of Realtors in Florida, said: Theres a lot of support here but you always have the other side. Were a large trade organisation and are going to have a variety of views. Theres an even split: there are a lot of people not in favour as well as those who are.

Karena Strugis, 48, a realtor from Charleston, South Carolina, said the economy was booming in her home city but added: He needs to stop tweeting. We need to get back to a time in the world when everyone respects everyone. They used to say, If you dont have something nice to say, dont say anything at all.

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