Homeownership Matters NAR Bus Tour Continues

On the Road Again, Posted by Vince

Posted: 14 Jul 2011 06:45 AM PDT

VinceMaltaDo you hear the engine revving? The NAR Home Ownership Matters Bus Tour is taking off for Atlanta this weekend to kick off the second leg of our bus tour. From Atlanta, we’ll travel the U.S. discussing the value of home ownership with the media, REALTORS® and consumers until we roll into the Annual Conference in Anaheim, November 11 – 14th.

I can’t express to you enough how vital it is that we continue to sound the message that Home Ownership Matters “to people, to communities and to America.” I’ve been working in real estate for over 25 years. Never have I seen the confluence of challenges that REALTORS® have faced in the last three years.

Our clients are having a hard time getting loans. Lenders aren’t giving us a yay or nay on a short sale. The National Flood Insurance Program is set to expire on September 30th. That’s going to start holding up closings this month (so please answer the Call for Action!).

The challenges are plentiful. One way to ensure that we get the help we need to create a safe, well-functioning, healthy real estate market is to start talking. That’s why the Home Ownership Matters bus tour is designed to talk to local leaders, prospective home buyers and the media about how best to protect our industry so all responsible Americans have the opportunity to buy into the dream of home ownership.

During the last leg of the bus tour in March, we reached 27.3 million consumers through media coverage. That would have cost us $3.95 million if we had to pay for it.

Thousands of consumers came out to our bus tour events to learn more about the value of home ownership. We saw a 350 percent increase in weekly visits on our Home Ownership Matters Facebook page. Five thousand additional people visited HouseLogic.com. Two thousand members attended REALTOR® Town Halls and bus tour events in 13 states.

I can’t wait to see the progress we’ll make on this leg of the tour this summer and fall. We’ll be in Atlanta on July 16, at Atlantic Station from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Please come out and visit with us. Tell your clients to come out as well. They just might leave with a Lowe’s gift card in hand.

Check Realtor.org/BusTour for more information and future bus tour stops.

The future of our industry rests in our hands. I’m glad we’re getting back on the road to start talking! – Vince Malta, 2011 NAR Vice President and Liaison to Government Affairs

Help Extend the National Flood Insurance Program

 

I hope that you’ve all taken a minute to respond to the latest call-for-action from NAR. (That goes double for those who are always complaining that NAR doesn’t do anything for you.)

A bill, H.R. 1309, is being debated in Congress right now that would re-authorize, reform, and extend the National Flood Insurance Program for 5 years.

The NAR Land Use Committee, has been working on getting this bill in place for years – it’s been a top priority. Finally we have a bill that will truly make a difference if passed, or the NFIP program will sunset on September 30 of this year.

If that happens, it would be catastrophic for many areas, coastal regions, mid-west areas prone to flooding, etc. This program is the ONLY SOURCE of flood damage protection for 5.6 million home and business owners today, not to mention the millions of affiliated jobs like builders, remodelers, movers, mortgage lenders, insurance agents, real estate professionals and more. In the last 3 years alone there have been 9 stopgap extensions and 5 shutdowns. Just last year a shutdown of just a few weeks resulted in more than 47,000 home sales delayed or canceled – in a market that is way down to begin with.

Do we need MORE uncertainty from our leaders on this issue? We actually have a chance to provide some long term stability to at least one segment of our market, let’s not blow it. Take a minute – click on the page below and lend your voice to the chorus.

1.1 million strong. Very little we can’t do if we put our minds and hearts to it.

Thank you.

Corona Sign Ordinance.

Corona Sign Ordinance

I know it’s not you but… we have been notified by the TIGAR association in Corona that their city people are having sign ordinance problems – and it’s all the dastardly OUT OF AREA AGENTS that are gumming  up the works. So a copy of their sign ordinance is attached for your viewing pleasure.

If you list properties in Corona, or hold open houses there, you need to be aware of the rules. They’re actually not bad and have mostly to do with sign size and hours &  areas of placement. Otherwise they reserve the right to pick up your signage and, if it doesn’t stop there, they could rescind the whole ordinance and you’d get NO (0) signs.

So play along. I know, it’s not you.

Here’s the ordinance…

Lenders prepare for lower loan limits; stop accepting certain applications


In anticipation of the expiration of current loan limits on Sept. 30, 2011, Bank of America has decided to stop accepting conventional and government applications for loan amounts that will exceed the permanent loan amounts.  The deadline to submit loan applications was July 1.

According to an email from Bank of America, conventional loans that exceed the permanent loan limits will now be required to use non-conforming programs.

Barring Congressional action, the maximum FHA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac conforming loan limit will decline to $625,500 beginning Oct. 1, 2011, from the current $729,750 limit, though the majority of counties will fall far below the $625,500 maximum.  The conforming loan limit determines the maximum size of a mortgage that FHA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) can buy or guarantee.  Non-conforming or jumbo loans typically carry a higher mortgage interest rate than a conforming loan and require a higher down payment, increasing the monthly payment and negatively impacting housing affordability for California home buyers.

Again, barring congressional action (heh), conforming loan limits in Southwest California will likely revert to about $425,000. Not that big a deal right now but in a couple years we’ll be priced out of the market again and looking for alternatives. How do you think Subprime and Alt-A loans got so popular out here? Couldn’t get a conforming loan for a median price home.

 

New Home Assessment Data from Larry Ward

The word is out from our County Assessor, Clerk Recorder Larry Ward – another round of declines for property taxes in Riverside County. This makes three straight years of dropping assessments, a year longer than the last go-around in the 90’s.

But a couple of things have changed. This year many of the dropped assessments will go to commercial properties, which are continuing to lag residential properties. When I spoke with Larry earlier this year he was hopeful there would not be a need for further reductions this year after taking property values for the county back to roughly 2002 levels last year. Indeed as we have seen from my reports, residential values have remained virtually flatlined through the past 24 months after dropping over 50% in the previous 18 months. Assessed property values for the county for 2011 will be just over $200 billion, down over 16% from their peak of $243 billion in 2008.

This will be felt next year by the county as well as our cities, who are struggling to keep services afloat. Property taxes are the single largest source of operating funds for our cities and county and a substantial and real drop as we have experienced puts a real crimp in budgets, especially following the recent state decisions to further plunder city coffers of redevelopment funds, vehicle license fees and some of the basic operating funds cities have always counted on to get by. For the county it will mean a drop of nearly $5 million in property tax revenue from their earlier estimate of $266 million, a reduction of nearly 1% from their current budget of $582 million.

A second major change from Ward’s office is in the way the changes will be reported to property owners. Every year along about this time people got used to seeing a little postcard in their mailbox telling them what next years assessed value on their home would be. This year that’s not happening. In an effort to shave $200,000 from his budget, Ward will be posting the new assessments on-line on July 15. You can review your property tax assessment at www.riversideacr.com. If you don’t have internet access, well then you’re probably not reading this but in case you know somebody who may not browse, they can obtain a written assessment by calling 951-955-6200. They could also write to

Assessor, County Clerk, Recorder Larry Ward
P.O.B. 12004
Riverside CA  92502-2204

One final change tis year. If you think your assessed value should be higher or lower, it might cost you to find out. There has been debate among the County Supervisors to charge a fee to challenge your assessment. Should your challenge prevail and the property re-assessed, the fee would be refunded. But if the initial assessment stands then you will forfeit that fee. This has been proposed for two reasons – first as a cost measure to help defray some of the expense of researching individual properties after the process has already been done. Second, to minimize the rash of frivolous filings that occurs every year without foundation. Appears the only time people want their home to be worth less than it actually is is for tax purposes. And while this is understandable, your ‘gut feel’ of what your home is hopefully worth for tax purposes costs the county a lot of money to show you otherwise and that is being addressed by the new fee structure. If  you purchased your home after January 1, 1999, chances are Larry’s got you covered. He’s been one of the most aggressive and accurate Recorders in the state as far as making sure you aren’t over taxed.

 

Southwest Healthcare expands facilities/services in Murrieta & Wildomar

In a major step forward for our hospitals and our community, Universal Health Services recently announced the opening of  greatly expanded Southwest Healthcare facilities at both Rancho Springs Medical Center in Murrieta and Inland Valley Medical Center in Wildomar. Long-time readers may recall my rants from early last year wherein the hospitals appeared to be locked in a life-or-death (for residents of our community) struggle to open new emergency rooms and other much needed facilities that had been built, outfitted and staffed for over a year.

I’m not going to dredge up all that unpleasant history at this point other than to say significant changes were made at the hospitals while other changes were taking place at the state agency. Finally last month the state gave the go-ahead to open these  facilities at first on a partial basis, followed quickly by a full opening. (In the interest of full disclosure, I was one of 5 new members named to the Board of Governors for the two facilities, though I take no responsibility whatsoever for the progress made).

New CEO Ken Rivers initiated a sea change of atitude by instilling the concept that each patient is not just a patient but a family member. Treat each person you meet as if it’s your own parent, sister or child. Together with some tweaks to procedural issues raised by state and federal regulators, the level of care is reaching new heights.

new er

The move at Rancho Springs opened up a $50 million expansion which saw emergency beds go from 8 bays separated by curtains to 30 fully private bays with not only state-of-the-art medical and trauma gear but flat screen TV’s in every room and family comfort stations.

er

Equally important for the community is the entire 2nd floor dedicated to womens services, pre-natal care and a host of other services. These include spacious suites for Moms that have individual sleep-chairs for Dads, infant warmer beds and specially designed facilities to accomodate all services within the same room – including C sections and other procedures. No more wheeling the patient around here and there, most everything can be done within the comfort of her private suite.

wc

One opening that has been delayed is the dual bay neonatal intensive care unit with surgical centers. Originally staffed and trained, the two year wait to open meant that staff was moved to other areas and now must be re-trained so this much needed opening has been delayed for a few more months.

In addition to being a regional trauma care center, Inland Valley Medical Center also added to their own ER center as well as a much needed cardio-vascular care center. Intensive Care Units were also expanded at both facilities and new technological advances were incorporated into both the new facilities and the existing buildings, an ongoing process.

One more very cool thing – you can visit the nursery anytime to see the newborns. Check out theses little bundles and their happy Mom’s. Friends and relatives from across the country and around the world can log on and see how Mom & baby are doing. Grandma in Topeka can go in and see when Casey T. was born, how big she was and view several snapshots of the nipper.

More beds, more space, more technology and more caring – means a better healthcare experience for all our patients. After all, we know you really don’t want to be here and would just as soon be on your way as quickly and easily as possible.

It’s not just about healthcare, it’s about people care. I like being part of that.

Is your safety worth $1.99? New Realtor safety app looks promising.

This is very cool and I just had to share. Every so often we hear about a Realtor getting attacked or worse showing property or at an open house. NAR has designated Realtor Awareness & Safety seminars, individual offices have set up training and awareness methods including the famous ‘blue file’ call. (If you suspect a problem, call the office and ask for the ‘blue file’). But this lady built an app that at the touch of your screen allows you to call 911 and a friend and sets off an alarm. Another handy feature is the ‘Save Creep Data’ which walks you through a description process while the details are fresh in your mind.

This doesn’t take the place of taking safety precautions on your own behalf but it might just help save your butt if you do get into one of those situations.

Austin Realtor Releases REAL ALERT– the Personal Safety App for iPhone!

Austin, Tx. – (Wednesday, May 25, 2011) – On May 17, Austin Texas real estate agent Michelle Jones released REAL ALERT, a personal safety application designed for real estate agents. The App was developed by Michelle in order to increase personal safety awareness and provide quick access to emergency services.

The National Association of Realtors reports an increase in crimes against real estate agents in recent years. These crimes, ranging from minor thefts and assaults to rapes and even murder, occur throughout the country. Local media coverage of one of these violent attacks prompted Michelle to develop the App. “I’ve heard about attacks against agents for years, but seeing the local coverage of the violent attack of a San Antonio agent really scared me. I didn’t want to be the next victim.” says Michelle.

The Michigan Realtor Magazine advised that “The first step in preventing any crime is the knowledge that it can happen to you.” Real estate agents are particularly vulnerable to criminal attacks. Michelle’s husband, Thaddeus Jones states “After hearing about the San Antonio incident, I no longer felt comfortable with Michelle showing vacant listings and hosting open houses alone. I began going with her whenever possible and that began to interfere with my career and ultimately interfered with hers, too. Michelle and I decided to get serious about finding a better solution and there just wasn’t anything available on the market.” Being unable to find a comprehensive product that made her feel safe, Michelle decided to take matters into her own hands.

From one screen, REAL ALERT allows you to save precious moments with Quick tap “Call 911” and a Quick tap “ALARM” to ward off potential attackers. It allows you to speed dial your emergency contact with Quick tap “ALERT A FRIEND”. You can use it to LOCATE the nearest HOSPITALS using your current GPS location and record “CREEP DATA” – details about a suspicious person before they are forgotten.

After coming up with a solution that would make husband Thaddeus comfortable and her feel safe, Michelle approached a programmer she knew and hired her to program the app. “I’m not an overly technical person and definitely not a programmer” says Michelle. “I developed REAL ALERT to satisfy my own safety needs and quickly realized that it is a perfect solution for anyone, regardless of age or profession, that wants to protect themselves from potentially dangerous situations. I’m confident that it will help save lives.”

REAL ALERT is currently available on iTunes at a price of $1.99. It is listed in the ‘Lifestyle’ category and is compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. REAL ALERT is available for download at: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/real-alert/id436455476?mt=8

Media Contact Michelle Jones – Developer, (512) 470-3173, realalertapp@gmail.com

Southwest California Realtor Report for April 2011

Here’s the monthly report for Temecula, Murrieta, Lake Elsinore, Wildomar, Menifee and Canyon Lake. The report contains information on Single Family unit sales and median price for the region as well as a recent article on legislative issues dealing with homeownership.

If you find the type is a bit small for your viewing pleasure, simply click on the title to go to a full size version on Slideshare.com.

 

The right of property is the guardian of every other right.

Briefing Report: The Value of Property Rights

“The Right of property is the guardian of every other Right, and to deprive the people of this, is to deprive them of their Liberty.” – Arthur Lee

The Bedrock of a Free & Prosperous Society

The institution of the right to private property is perhaps the single most important condition for a society in which freedom and prosperity is to flourish. This notion of private property can seem fairly straightforward, especially for people living in a free-market society such as the United States. As noted in the book Unleashing Capitalism:

One reason for its familiarity to us is that private property is a bedrock principle of market capitalism. Think of a growing economy as an award-winning Broadway show. Private property is like the stage crew, constantly working behind the scenes to make sure the show runs smoothly. Private property, while perhaps underappreciated, is vital to ensuring that the economy will grow and prosperity will rise over time.

Yet in our modern political age, the importance of private property rights has faded to the background and has at times been termed little more than a “philosophical exercise that has no practical implications.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Across the nation, and particularly in California, property rights are becoming ever more vulnerable to infringement by government control in several forms: excessive taxation, regulation, and the process of takings (i.e. eminent domain). This undermines property rights and thereby suffocates economic growth prolonging our economic woes.

The protection of private property is vital component necessary for the economic growth and prosperity that will play a key role in lifting California out of her perpetual economic malaise.

The Cornerstone of American Exceptionalism

“Property,” John Adams wrote, “is surely a right of mankind as real as liberty.”

America’s founding was shaped by the radical declaration that our right to private property was and is inherent and inalienable. This novel and revolutionary idea, embodied in our Founding documents, challenged the historical practice of man’s rights being determined, limited, and granted by the state. This reorientation of the grantor of rights – from our Creator rather than from those in authority – dramatically redefined who was sovereign while simultaneously placing chains on the powers of government. The state would now be the protector – rather than the arbiter – of man’s inherent and inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the fruits of his labors1.

The right to hold private property is a well-documented principle of the Founding Fathers. William Blackstone, whose Commentaries on the Laws of England shaped much of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, wrote that “the law of the land… postpone[s] even public necessity to the sacred and inviolable rights of private property.”

Thomas Jefferson stated: “all power is inherent in the people… they are entitled to freedom of person, freedom of religion, freedom of property, and freedom of press.” Thomas Paine, in Rights of Man, cites property, along with liberty, security, and resistance of oppression, as chief among inherent individual rights.

Such reasoning led to drafting the Fifth Amendment in the Bill of Rights, where it states, “No person shall be…deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” The need to protect private property rights, once so obvious to Jefferson and Adams, is now becoming lost in a tangle of intrusive government takings.

Governmental forces (excessive taxation, regulation, and strong eminent domain powers) make property rights less secure, increasing owner uncertainty. Greater uncertainty decreases the willingness to undertake capital investment and accumulation thereby reducing the productivity of labor and depressing wages. Greater uncertainty also curtails transactions transferring property to new owners who discover more valuable uses. Ultimately, economic growth stagnates. When government undermines private property rights, the economy suffers and this thwarts prosperity for the future2.

The Millstone of Eminent Domain

The clearest example of government infringement on private property rights is the use of eminent domain. Eminent domain is the power governments have to confiscate private property as long as it is for a legitimate “public use”. Whereas eminent domain was initially intended to ensure that public services (ie roads and highways) were available to the public, local and state governments often use eminent domain for any project that is considered economically beneficial. Public use, as a practical matter, has morphed into a more ambiguous “public benefit.”

The most jarring example of this morphed “public benefit” was the city of New London’s abuse of eminent domain and the Supreme Court’s ruling upholding the action in Kelo v. City of New London (2005). In Kelo, the Supreme Court held that held that the Constitution allows governments to seize private property and transfer it from one private land owner to another in the name of economic development. In other words, after the Kelo decision, governments can use their eminent domain power to take homes for potentially more profitable, higher-tax uses, powerful evidence, as Justice Clarence Thomas suggests, that something is seriously awry with the Supreme Court’s vision of the Constitution.

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor framed the problem very simply in her blistering dissenting opinion: “Under the banner of economic development, all private property is now vulnerable to being taken and transferred to another private owner, so long as it might be upgraded i.e., given to an owner who will use it in a way that the legislature deems more beneficial to the public in the process.” This decision went well beyond what the founders intended when they wrote the just compensation for public use clause.

While some political observers note that the power of eminent domain is rarely used in the Golden State, the Institute for Justice – a leading legal advocate against eminent domain abuse – has documented nearly 200 projects across the state that have threatened or used eminent domain for private gain. Within each of those projects, dozens, hundreds, if not thousands of homes, businesses, churches and farms have been impacted.

National polling confirms that the public is overwhelmingly opposed to the use of eminent domain for economic redevelopment. Some 87 percent responded that government shouldn’t have such power. Some 88 percent responded that property rights are just as important as freedom of speech and religion.

Regulatory Takings

Today, government imposition of regulatory regimes that signifi­cantly diminish the value and enjoyment of private property may present an even more common threat than abuse of eminent domain. Property owners are increasingly subjected to regulatory “takings” – where the use of their land is drastically restricted and, consequently, the overall value of the land diminishes.

The problem begins, therefore, with the growth of government regulations at the federal, state, and local levels of governance that deny owners the legitimate use of their property. A prime example can be seen in the advancement of the environmentalist movement. Just as the inflation of the 1970s moved people into higher tax brackets, so the environmentalism of the 1990s has given government new rationales for controlling the use of property. While there is little doubt that cleaner air or less traffic congestion are a positive end goal, when they are accomplished through heavy handed regulations, we may be sure that our liberties are also being restricted. Production and prosperity also tend to decline, and in the case of those people who bought land anticipating that they would be able to develop it – but now find that they have paid a high price to keep it idle – there is also manifest injustice3.

Leonard Gilroy of the Reason Foundation describes the infringement of property rights through land use regulation as follows:

…contemporary land use regulation often uses public policy to mandate the private provision of amenities that benefit the community-at-large. As the regulatory scheme influencing local land use has grown more prescriptive and restrictive, there has been an increasing curtailment of private property rights. Landowners in many communities nationwide have been restricted in their ability to use their land in the ways that they had intended when they purchased their property, dramatically reducing their property’s value and imposing an economic hardship on them.

If investors don’t know what they own, or can’t be sure of defending their property rights, then they either won’t invest or alternatively they will demand higher rates of return when they do. This idea applies to both tangible and intellectual rights. The net impact tends to be dual — lower levels of investment and higher interest rates, neither of which is conducive to faster economic growth.

Stimulating the Economy

Well-defined and enforced private property rights are the cornerstone of a free-market economy. The positive economic effects of private property are widespread and well documented. Secure property rights promote specialization and exchange, provide incentives for conservation and preservation of resources, and promote technological innovation, entrepreneurship, capital accumulation, and investment. In essence, secure property rights underlie economic growth.

This relationship is confirmed in The Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom. As demonstrated in the chart to the right, property rights and economic prosperity go hand in hand.

On average, GDP per capita is over 10 times higher in nations with the strongest property rights than in those with the weakest property rights.

One of the government’s primary roles is to ensure that people can own and make decisions regarding how they will use their property and ideas – which in turn spurs entrepreneurial growth. As such the same correlation between strong property rights and economic growth must pertain to state and local governments.

In a free market economy, one of the strongest incentives that drive entrepreneurs is the desire to please customers and thereby earn a profit. To flourish, entrepreneurs need an economic environment that encourages private property and free markets.

In a system where the government or some central planner owns the nation’s resources and decides how they are allocated, entrepreneurs do not profit from their successes; thus, there is a much smaller incentive for them to be creative. In a free market economy, entrepreneurs can use their property and ideas in ways they think are best, and they can benefit directly from their successes in the form of higher profits or salaries.

Simply put, private property is necessary for economic growth and prosperity.

Conclusion

Today Californians are besieged on all sides by government infringement on their right to own property and use it to its fullest extent. As government and bureaucracy continue to grow, federal state and local governments alike are wielding far-reaching environmentally based land use restrictions, “growth controls,” unreasonable zoning hurdles, facility permitting regimes, and, now, potentially, crippling carbon dioxide emission limits. Throw in the threat of eminent domain and tax policies which diminishe productivity and undermines the security of ownership, and it is easy to see why California’s economy continues to struggle.

One of the most important steps that lawmakers can take is to serve as strong advocates of property rights, and ensure that new laws do not further erode those rights.

By focusing on the importance of private property rights and providing greater protection of those rights, federal, state and municipal leaders will witness the economic growth they have long pursued through other means.

For more information on this report or other Local Government and Housing issues , contact Ryan Eisberg, Senate Republican Office of Policy at 916/651-1796.

Jesus Christ Superstar Starts Final Weekend Run

The Temecula Valley Players production of Jesus Christ Superstar enters the final weekend of it’s 3 week run this Thursday, April 21 at the Old Town Temecula Theater. Some of you old Hippies will not doubt remember the debut of this exciting piece of musical theater from your halcyon days. For the rest of you, JCS was first staged on Broadway in 1971 as the first rock opera. Staged by Andrew Lloyd Weber with lyrics by Tim Rice,  the piece roughly follows the last week of Jesus’ life – provided of course that Jesus had a good voice and was surrounded by lots of singing, dancing Apostles, priests and hookers.

jcs

The Temecula Valley Players version is true to the original production and brings together a diverse collection of some of our Valley’s most talented thespians. For Director Marc McCullough, staging this production has been a lifelong passion. Jason Call, who channels Ted Neely as Jesus, first played a minor part in the
production when he was 14. Now some 24 years later he has achieved his dream to bring the lead role to the stage. Several of the other players have also had an abiding fascination with this unique piece of theater and have eagerly endured months of rehearsals to fine tune the production.

The cast of nearly 50 people includes youngsters of 7 and 8 years old up to a couple ‘senior members’ of nearly 60. Many of the actors are what we refer to as
‘triple threats’, they are equally adept at singing, dancing and acting. I am actually the antithesis of a triple threat in that I can’t really sing or act and I certainly can’t dance, but I do have a certain presence. Thus the role of High Priest suits me fine as foil to the scheming Annas and the evil Caiaphas.

priests

If you haven’t had a chance to catch this local production, tickets for the final 5 performances are gong fast but a few seats remain available. For more information and showtimes visit: Jesus Christ Superstar.

$40 political survival proposal – updated.

Many of you have commented on my earlier blog regarding the proposed $40 dues increase to fund the Realtor Political Survival Campaign. As you recall, that will be voted on in May at our annual meeting in DC. Yesterday we had a 1 1/2 hour webinar with NAR leadership discussing why the additional funding was necessary. At that time the possibility of putting the Public Awareness campaign on haitus for a couple years and using those funds for political purposes was presented as a sort of plan B. According to NAR stats however, that public awareness campaign is a great success – although most of you would just as soon it went away.

Anyway, for those of you opposed to an additional $40 hit on your dues, it appears your voices have been heard, Now you just need to make sure your local association and your NAR Directors are aware of your feelings.

From NAR President Ron Phipps:

To:        Local Board and State Association Presidents

This letter constitutes the official notice required by Article II, Section 10 of the Bylaws of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® of a proposal to eliminate a previously approved membership assessment.

In May of 2010 the NAR Board of Directors approved an assessment of $35 per member for 2011-2013 to be used to continue the Public Awareness Campaign during those years.  The Finance Committee has now offered two alternative proposals regarding funding for the REALTOR® Party Political Survival Initiative.  One proposal eliminates the Public Awareness Campaign $35 Assessment for 2012 and 2013.  That proposal also increases NAR dues by $35 per year to fund the REALTOR® Party Political Survival Initiative.

The other proposal offered by the Finance Committee is being recommended by the NAR Executive Committee.  That proposal would increase NAR Dues by $40 per year to fund the REALTOR® Party Political Survival Initiative.  The Public Awareness Campaign $35 Assessment would remain in effect during 2012 and 2013.

Dues, membership assessments and amendments to membership assessments for the National Association are adopted by the Board of Directors of the National Association.  These issues will be coming before the Board of Directors at its meeting on May 14, 2011.

Sincerely,

Ron Phipps
2011 NAR President

Fannie & Freddie incentives for buyers & agents.

Fannie Offers Incentives for HomePath Properties
On April 11, 2011, Fannie Mae announced new buyer and selling agent incentives in connection with the sale of Fannie Mae-owned properties (HomePath properties).
A buyer of a HomePath property to be used as the buyer’s primary residence can receive up to 3.5% of the final sales price to be used toward closing costs.
A selling agent bonus is available in four states—California, Washington, Arizona, and Texas. In these four states, a bonus is being offered to selling agents who represent a buyer who will use the property as a primary residence. For properties in California and Washington, the selling agent bonus is $1,000. For properties in Arizona and Texas, the bonus is $500.
To qualify for either incentive, the buyer and, for properties in one of the four states, the selling agent must meet certain requirements, including the following. The buyer and selling agent incentive must be requested at the initial offer submission. The initial offer must be submitted on or after April 11, 2011, and the property sale must close on or before June 30, 2011. The buyer must use the property as a primary residence (auction, pool and investor sales are excluded). Check the HomePath website for more details. If you have questions, please CONTACT Jeff Lischer at 202-383-1117 or jlischer@realtors.org with any questions.

Cash-out now qualifies for Bail-Out. Sweet.

Too many people were being turned away because they had taken cash out of their equity. So now you can enjoy that nice vacation, drive a nice car and still get federal bail-out money. Sweet!

Mortgage aid offered to those who cashed out equity
The California Housing Finance Agency announced this week that people who cashed out equity on their home now are eligible for three of the four “Keep Your Home California” programs.

MAKING SENSE OF THE STORY

  • Keep Your Home California is a state-run program funded with $2 billion from the U.S. Treasury’s Hardest Hit Fund.  It is designed to help low- and moderate-income people who are unemployed or owe more than their home is worth pay their mortgage.
  • There are four individual programs that fall under Keep Your Home California.  Eligible homeowners can get up to $50,000 in assistance from one or more of the four programs combined.
  • Under the new rules, people who took equity out of their homes will be eligible for the unemployment mortgage assistance, mortgage reinstatement assistance, and transition assistance programs if they meet all the other program requirements.  Homeowners who cashed out equity will continue to be ineligible for the principal reduction program.
  • When the program first started, homeowners who had tapped the equity in their homes were ineligible for the programs.  CalHFA decided to include these homeowners due to the large number of homeowners who were being turned away for assistance.
  • Under the program revisions, homeowners who originated mortgages after Jan. 1, 2009 also are eligible for the same three programs.  Originally, these borrowers were excluded because they also are excluded under the federal Home Affordable Modification Program, so CalHFA wanted to be consistent with HAMP.
  • To qualify for any of the four programs, homeowners must fall below certain income limits, must be living in the home, and cannot own a second home, among other criteria.  For additional requirements, visit www.keepyourhomecalifornia.org/eligibility.htm.

What a Government Shutdown Means for REALTORS®

The current continuing resolution (CR) providing funding for government operations is set to expire on April 8, 2011. If legislation providing for funding is not signed into law to extend funding after April 8, the federal government could shut down. This means many, but not all, government programs, including some that impact federal housing and mortgage programs, could grind to a halt as early as April 9, 2011. While the true impact of a shutdown is unclear until it actually begins below is a synopsis of how federal housing programs will likely operate in the event of a shutdown. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) requires each agency to have contingency plans in place and reportedly has instructed agencies to not provide specific information on impacted operations.

Federal Housing Administration

FHA cannot offer endorsements for any new loans in the Single Family Program and cannot make commitments in the Multi-family Program in the event of a shutdown. FHA will maintain operational activities including paying claims and collecting premiums. Management & Marketing (M&M) Contractors managing the REO portfolio can continue to operate.

VA Loan Guaranty Program

Lenders may continue to process and guaranty mortgages through the Loan Guaranty program in the event of a government shutdown.

Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

Should the federal government shut down, the IRS cannot process federal income tax returns or issue refunds (but it can deposit tax payments). Consumers who were expecting to use their tax returns as part of the down payment for a home purchase will temporarily not have access to these refunds.

Flood Insurance

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confirmed that the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) will not be impacted by a government shutdown.

Rural Housing Programs

For the US Department of Agriculture programs, essential personnel working during a shutdown do not include field office staff who typically issue conditional commitments, loan note guarantees, and modification approvals. Thus, lender will not receive approvals during the shutdown. If the lender has already received a conditional commitment from the Rural Development office, then the lender may proceed to close those loans during the shutdown. A conditional commitment, which is good for 90 days, is given to a lender once a USDA Underwriter approves the loan. If a commitment was already issued, the funds were already set aside and the lender may close the loan at its leisure. If Rural Development has not issued a conditional commitment, the lender must wait until funding legislation is enacted before closing a loan.

Government Sponsored Enterprises

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will continue operating normally, as will their regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

Treasury

No official word as of yet, but the Making Home Affordable program, including HAMP and HAFA, may not be affected as the program is funded through the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act which is mandatory spending not discretionary.

Background Information on Government Shutdown

HJ Res. 48 extends the Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011 (Public Law 112-6) to April 8, 2011. If another continuing resolution (CR) or budget is not signed into law, the federal government could shut down on April 9, 2011. This requires the furlough of non-emergency personnel and the curtailment of federal agency activities. Federal contractors cannot be paid. Programs funded by annual appropriations are directly impacted though programs funded by laws other than appropriations (such as Social Security) may also be impacted. The last government shutdown occurred during fiscal year (FY) 1996 and lasted 21 days, from December 16, 1995 through January 6, 1996.

The Anti-Deficiency Act is the primary law preventing government activity when no budget or CR is enacted. The act, found in 31 U.S.C., prohibits:

  • Making or authorizing an expenditure from, or creating or authorizing an obligation under, any appropriation or fund in excess of the amount available in the appropriation or fund unless authorized by law.
  • Involving the government in any obligation to pay money before funds have been appropriated, unless otherwise allowed by law.
  • Accepting voluntary services for the United States, or employing personal services not authorized by law, except in cases of emergency involving the safety of human life or the protection of property.
  • Making obligations or expenditures in excess of an apportionment or reapportionment, or in excess of the amount permitted by agency regulations

Basically, the government may not make payments or commitments unless there is enough money in the bank. According to the US Office of Personnel Management, an agency must shut down activities not excepted by the US Office of Management and Budget (OMB) when it no longer has the funds to operate. OPM recommends that agencies:

  1. communicate with employees and representatives about a potential shutdown;
  2. prepare draft furlough notices;
  3. determine which positions are excepted from the furlough according to OMB guidance.

Federal agencies have been required to complete contingency plans since 1980. OMB has three different bulletins that agencies may reference in the development of their shutdown plans. Plans must include, among other things, estimated time to complete a shutdown and the number of employees to be excepted. The President, Members of Congress, presidential appointees, certain legislative branch employees, and federal excepted employees are not subject to the furlough.

Sources

House Resolution 3082, “An Act making appropriations for military construction, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2010, and for other purposes.”
http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-111hr3082eas2/pdf/BILLS-111hr3082eas2.pdf

Antideficiency Act Background. US Government Accountability Office.
http://gao.gov/ada/antideficiency.htm

Guidance and Information on Furloughs. US Office of Personnel Management.
http://www.opm.gov/furlough/furlough.asp

Update on Keep Your Home California Program

Update on the ‘Keep Your Home California’ program.

This $2 Billion program, announced a few months ago to great fanfare but little result, has determined it’s time to expand the programs due to it’s thus far limited reach. The program is designed for low and moderate income borrowers who refinanced their home, took out a home equity line of credit (HELOC), or are underwater on their loans and now find themselves in trouble (duh). The program features four separate sections to help these borrowers including one to get caught up on their loan, another to reduce their principle, one to provide relocation and transition assistance and one to subsidize payments to unemployed homeowners.

Administered from a federal grant by the California Housing Finance Agency, the programs director says they started slow by design. Before jumping in with both feet they wanted to guage the response, see what kind of people were applying and why they were not qualifying. The director expects the program ultimately to help 100,000 Californians.

Of course as I noted in an earlier post when the program was announced, the program is voluntary for lenders. Yeah, you read that right. Lenders will voluntarily agree to accept partial back payments or reduced principle for borrowers who took cash out of their homes during the boom times. Low to moderate income buyers, who are in financial trouble. Yeah, the banks haven’t demonstrated much pro-activity in helping anybody at all, let alone low to moderate income folks. I’m sure this will all work out fine. Even the director admits that ‘only some lenders are participating’. Go figure.

Oh well, I guess if we can keep 100,000 low to moderate income people in their homes here while other demographic groups are ignored by HAMP and HAFA and other bail-outs, that’s a good thing, eh?

Gov says drought is over – rates rise in celebration.

Governor: Drought is over.

What a great headline on the front page of our daily newspaper today. Accompanied by a photo of two goofs standing out in the snow with some 15′ long stick suspended from a ski pole measuring how heavy snow is. I don’t know – I guess it was meant to convince us the Gov. knows scientific stuff.

But the message was clear, our state reservoirs have reached such high levels after two years of rainy winters and plenty of snow up high that the drought declared in 2008 no longer exists. WhooHoo! The biggest reservoir in the system, Oroville Dam, is at 104% of its historical average, Shasta is at 111% of historical, our current snowpack is at 165% of normal. Even the Colorado River basins, Lake Mead,  Diamond Valley and others are filling up fast.

But wait – they remind us that conservation remains necessary because of the precarious condition of the Sacramento River Delta. Even though they’ve got all that water, a lot of it up north, doesn’t mean they will be releasing any more for us down south because it would still kill the little Delta Smelt – that 3 inch long good-for-nothing fish that gets sucked into pumps because it’s too stupid to swim away. Yeah, we still got that.

But even Southern California reserves are up – plenty of water for now. That means the 50%+ increases in price they’ve jacked onto us the past two years will stabilize? Maybe even drop a little since water is now plentiful? After all, the increases were to encourage conservation during the tough times and reduce our dependence on imported water.

And we’ve done that right?

Usage in San Diego County is down 20%, other areas are averaging between 15% and 43% reductions over the past 2 years. I mean, they beat us over the head with this. Gotta conserve. Low flow toilets, desert landscape, 5 minute showers,  if it’s yellow it’s mellow, if it’s brown flush it down, you name it, we’ve done it.  Heck I’m even drinking my whiskey neat because I don’t want to waste the water for mix or for ice.

We get that: Conservation = good. No conservation = expensive.

So now we get a break, right?

Yeah, I got your break right here, Pal. This is the part where you just have to appreciate the humor of the situation or you’re likely to go on a rampage with multiple dangerous weapons and a bad attitude. According to one water department spokehole, “all that water is a blessing and a bane.” A what? A bane you ignorant savages! Because now they have all this water but guess what? They’re not selling enough to cover their asses – I mean expenses. Honest to Jesus H, we’ll now be paying higher water bills because we’re not using enough. I believe judicious use of the ‘F’ word might be appropriate here.

Sounds like the oil companies. “Hey, they’re using too much gas, lets jack up the price to get them to conserve. Hey they’re not driving enough, we need to jack up the price to boost our profit. Hey, there’s a crisis in Libya, let’s jack up our price because we can. Hey, we don’t even need a good reason anymore, lets just jack up our price because….. Jackholes!

So we’ve got water flowing out the kazoo but we’re still scheduled for another 12.5% in rate hikes by 2012. It would appear that we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t. If anybody can suggest a scenario out of this wherein the consumer actually wins a little, please feel free to suggest it.

Aw what the hell. It’s just California. Grab a little medicinal weed, go to the beach and forget about it.


Realtors! Please answer your Call for Action.

Stay Active. Answer the CFA!, Posted by Vince

Posted: 30 Mar 2011 07:18 AM PDT

Doctors consistently tell us that we can keep ourselves healthy if we stay active. Without consistent exercise, our health deteriorates.

It’s the same in politics. If REALTORS® continue to stay active on Capitol Hill, we can help bring our industry back to health and maintain its health. If our participation slides, our businesses slide.

We sent out a Call for Action on Monday to all REALTORS® on the mortgage interest deduction. It tells Congress not to trim the MID one bit. It also asks members of the House of Representatives to back House Resolution 25 which supports the MID in its current form.

We’ve already seen a strong participation rate on this one. But when we say we need “everyone” on board answering the Call for Action, we mean it. This is a serious issue that will affect homeowners, consumers, and every single REALTOR® in America.

There’s no association for home owners out there. There’s only us. NAR represents the 75 million home owners.

So it’s crucial that REALTORS® remain active and answer the CFA today. Now is your moment to let your member of Congress know what’s important to you.

If you need more convincing, check out the letter-to-the-editor on the MID in the Chicago Tribune from NAR’s Chief Economist. Do you think it’s a good time to ask homeowners to cough up another $3,050? I don’t either.

Thank you for your participation! I promise you, it’s making a big difference. — Vince Malta, 2011 NAR Vice President and Liaison to Government Affairs

Realtors® Oppose High Down Payment Requirement for Qualified Residential Mortgage Exemption

Washington, March 29, 2011

High down payment requirements being proposed by federal regulatory agencies as part of the upcoming rulemaking under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act will unnecessarily burden homebuyers and significantly impede the economic and housing recovery, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

Six agencies, including the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., Federal Housing Finance Agency, Federal Reserve, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, are developing a proposed risk retention regulation under the Dodd-Frank Act that requires lenders that securitize mortgage loans to retain 5 percent of the credit risk unless the mortgage is a qualified residential mortgage (QRM); FHA and VA mortgages would also be exempted. The purpose is to create strong incentives for responsible lending and borrowing.

“As the leading advocate for home ownership NAR supports a reasonable and affordable cash investment requirement coupled with quality credit standards, strong documentation and sound underwriting,” said NAR President Ron Phipps, broker-president of Phipps Realty in Warwick, R.I. “A narrow definition of QRM, with an unnecessarily high down payment requirement, will increase the cost and reduce the availability of mortgage credit, significantly delaying a housing recovery.”

NAR believes that Congress intended to create a broad QRM exemption from the 5 percent risk retention requirement to include a wide variety of traditionally safe, well-underwritten products. Congress chose not to include a high down payment among the criteria it specified in the Dodd-Frank Act to guide the regulators in defining a QRM. Strong evidence shows that responsible lending standards and ensuring a borrower’s ability to repay have the greatest impact on reducing lender risk.

“We need to strike a balance between reducing investor risk and providing affordable mortgage credit. Better underwriting and credit quality standards have greatly reduced risk. Adding unnecessarily high minimum down payment requirements will only exclude hundreds of thousands of buyers from home ownership, despite their creditworthiness and proven ability to afford the monthly payment, because of the dramatic increase in the wealth required to purchase a home,” said Phipps.

The definition of QRM is important because it will determine the types of mortgages that will generally be available to borrowers in the future. Borrowers with less than 20 percent down could be forced to pay higher fees and interest rates, up to 3 percentage points more, for safe loans that otherwise do not meet too narrow QRM criteria.

NAR is concerned that a narrowly defined QRM will also require severe tightening of FHA eligibility requirements and higher FHA premiums to prevent huge increases in its already robust share of the market, adding additional roadblocks to sustainable home ownership.

“Saving the necessary down payment has always been the principal obstacle to buyers seeking to purchase their first home. Proposals requiring high down payments will only drive more borrowers to FHA, increase costs for borrowers by raising interest rates and fees, and effectively price many eligible borrowers out of the housing market,” said Phipps. “We strongly urge the regulators to consider the negative consequences of setting onerous limits on the availability of credit.”

The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing 1.1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

Liberty Quarry Final Environmental Impact Report is Released

The Riverside County Planning Department has released the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) for Granite Construction’s proposed Liberty Quarry Project south of Temecula. At 8,500 pages, the document is easily half again as long as the draft EIR released last year. I haven’t slogged through the report yet but preliminary indication is that it backs up the draft EIR findings that Riverside County would benefit economically and environmentally from the proposed quarry location.

That will have no impact whatsoever on quarry opponents who argue that the blasting will disrupt the area, reduce property values, contribute to earthquakes, and produce clouds of deadly silica dust that will entomb our region. To say it’s been an impassioned argument over the past few years would be an understatement. Sadly, it has pitted neighbor against neighbor, city against county and logic against emotion more than once. The Letters to the Editor section of the local paper would dry up if not for the continual missives pro & con on this single subject.

I posted information on this two years ago after our Directors had visited another quarry site and the SDSU Preserve area adjacent to where the new quarry would be located. The Southwest Riverside County Association of Realtors® has not taken a position on the quarry project but has attempted to bring accurate information to our members so they have some background should they choose to make their own informed decision. You can get that background here:

Liberty Quarry & Private Property Rights

SDSU Showcases the Santa Margarita Watershed

Public hearings have been scheduled for the project on April 26 and May 3 at Rancho Community Church (31300 Rancho Community Way) in Temecula starting at 4 pm.

The report is available for your perusal at: Liberty Quarry Final EIR

Few will actually read it, everybody will be quoting the ‘facts’ as they interpret them. And no matter which side prevails in the County’s final decision, we may be assured this will tie up the courts for several more years. Some people have more solid granite between their ears than would be mined from the Liberty Quarry in the next 75 years.

Attack!

NAR Realtor Party Political Survival Initiative – A Penny for your Thoughts.

It’s entirely probable you’ve heard about the new NAR Realtor® Party Political Survival Initiative introduced at the AE Institute this past Sunday. While NAR has not made a broad announcement of the program yet, our AE’s are returning from their meetings this week with information on the initiative and word has been getting out from Inman, from the blogs, and of course on Realtor.org itself.

According to NAR, the initiative was launched partially in response to last years Supreme Court decision, the celebrated Citizens United Case. As forecast, that decision stands as a game changer in the lobbying world granting corporations the same rights as individuals to contribute to political campaigns. The price of doing business has just gone up and if you want to stay at the table with the serious players, you’d better step up your game.

That’s what NAR is proposing by instituting a mandatory $40 dues increase effective 2012. The issue will be voted on at NAR’s Mid-Year Legislative meetings in May.

The following is a post by NAR stating their reasons for launching the initiative. I would encourage you to read it. I have also included the slide show presented to our AE’s in Dallas this past Sunday. I have no doubt this will be hotly debated as we approach our May meetings and I encourage you to make you opinions knows to me, to your local associations as well as your state and NAR Directors. Make sure to note that 2/3 of the funds raised will be channeled back to your state and local associations for local purposes.


Why did NAR create the REALTOR® Party Political Survival Initiative?
•  In January of 2010, the Supreme Court ruled in the case of Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission.
•  The ruling states that corporate dollars—so-called soft dollars—can be used to fund independent expenditure campaigns.
•  This not only changes the way elections are financed at the national level, but it also overturns restrictions that allowed only hard dollars—those funds contributed for political purposes by individuals, rather than corporations—to be used in 23 states.
•  This means political fundraising as we have known it for the past 100 years just shifted dramatically.
•  Corporate funds/dues can now be used to shape opinions about candidates in ALL 50 states.
•  It is a game changer of gigantic proportions.
•  It is as if the goal posts on a 100 yard football field were expanded to now cover 140 yards.
•  In order for “The Voice for Real Estate” to have the impact it has had for the past 100 years in terms of political advocacy, the REALTOR® organization is stepping up its game.
•  No one has spoken with more power or as passionately about protecting private property rights and fighting for opening the door to the American Dream of Home Ownership than the REALTOR® Family.
•  To maintain and grow our political power in this new landscape, NAR launched the REALTOR® Party Political Survival Initiative.
•  The REALTOR® Party Political Survival Initiative did not just happen overnight.
•  It was the result of nearly a year of careful study and consideration.

What does the REALTOR® Party Political Survival Initiative mean for members?
•  The proposal is for a dedicated dues increase of $40.00.
•  The increase would take effect in the 2012 budget year.
•  Because it is “dedicated” to this initiative, it would be used exclusively to fund political advocacy efforts.
•  In the past, NAR has already contributed funds to this initiative out of its operating budget.
•  But to undertake the initiative at this level and give it a best chance for success, greater additional funding is needed.
•  The increased dollars will be dedicated solely to advocacy purposes as outlined by the Political Survival Initiative.
•  If this dues increase is approved, over 50% of NAR budget would be devoted to political advocacy, which consistently ranks among members as the #1 benefit they receive from NAR.

What are the benefits of the Political Survival Initiative?
•  The most powerful benefit is it will keep the REALTOR® organization as one of the most influential advocacy groups in America.
•  There are monumental issues coming down the pike that will affect members in their daily businesses, such as the future of mortgage finance and keeping housing affordable in America.
•  We must have the power to shape this pivotal moment for the American Dream of Home Ownership.
•  Most importantly, these dollars will be available to state associations and local boards.
•  2/3rds of the dollars raised will be returned back to states to be used in support of local candidates and issue campaigns, and for other political advocacy needs—to help shape the opinions of candidates on real estate-related issues as they work their way up as elected leaders.
•  It will combine NAR funds with state/local funds to increase our political power
•  It will create early relationships with state and local lawmakers/policymakers
•  It will shape the political make-up of state or local governing bodies.
•  NAR President Ron Phipps often comments that “now is our time.”
•  With this initiative, REALTORS® are seizing the moment for home ownership.
•  We are doing this NOT ONLY because of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, but because our core competency is our grass roots advocacy; it’s where we need to be investing today so our future advocacy efforts will be successful tomorrow.
•  We need to be grooming our “REALTOR® Champions” at the state / local levels now, before some of them progress to become elected leaders at the federal level.
•  The political press in Washington has already noted the emerging clout of the REALTOR® Party.
•  A recent article in Politico said: “REALTORS®… are going to want to be politically effective, and a large measure of their influence is that they are present everywhere.”
•  Now is our time to seize the day.