New CAR / Housing Affordability Fund Mortgage Protection Program

On Thursday, April 2, 2009 the Housing Affordability Fund has  launched a new program designed to provide peace of mind to first-time buyers who are hesitant to enter the housing market due to concerns about potential job loss, and subsequently being unable to meet their monthly mortgage obligations.

To be able to qualify for the Mortgage Protection Program, applicants must:

. · Be a first-time home buyer – someone who has not owned
a home in the last three years.
· Open escrow April 2, 2009, or later, and close on or before
Dec. 31, 2009
· Use a California REALTOR® in the transaction
· Purchase the property in California
· Be a W-2 employee (cannot be self-employed)

For Frequently Asked Questions Click Here

Click Here for a copy of the MPP Application

NAR Letter to FED / Treasury re: TARP Concerns

March 30, 2009

The Honorable Timothy F. Geithner
Secretary
U.S. Department of the Treasury
1500 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, D.C. 20220

The Honorable Ben Bernanke
Chairman
Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
20th Street and Constitution Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20551

The Honorable James B. Lockhart, III
Director
Federal Housing Finance Agency
1700 G St., NW
Washington, DC 20552

The Honorable Sheila C. Bair
Chairman
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
550 17th St., NW
Washington, DC 20429

Dear Secretary Geithner, Chairman Bernanke, Director Lockhart, and Chairman Bair:

On behalf the 1.2 million members of the National Association of REALTORS®, thank you for the efforts of the Administration to reduce interest rates and provide liquidity to the mortgage finance system. Government action is a critical part of stabilizing the housing market and establishing the foundation for a broader economic recovery. Recent increases in home sales activity and an expanding pipeline of rate reduction refinancings suggest the promise of a housing recovery that is essential to the recovery of the U.S. economy.

As you know, the complexity of our markets makes it difficult to anticipate and align every component needed for a recovery plan to succeed. We have concerns that efforts by the Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve Board, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and others are not fully reaching Main Street and the American people. There is growing evidence that many large financial institutions are using the leverage they now have, as a result of TARP and other taxpayer supported vehicles, to gain market share and maximize net revenues and margins at the expense of borrowers. As a result, the public is not deriving the full benefits of the Administration’s actions and hard work.

Several recent articles in the Washington Post, the American Banker and CNBC.com all highlight the phenomenon. Large institutions, in an effort to maximize net revenue and avoid the costs of increasing capacity, appear to be using their pricing and market power to limit the flow of mortgage capital at the retail level. A fair assessment of rate spreads would suggest long term mortgage rates should be 4.5% or perhaps even less given the investment and efforts made by your agencies and others. Nevertheless rates still hover near 5% on average in the retail market as large firms use price to deter new mortgage applications instead of building or supporting additional capacity so that borrowers can finance or refinance at more reasonable market rates.

With regard to additional capacity, large financial institutions, including TARP recipients, have taken deliberate steps that reduce capacity system-wide, harming small and midsized retail lenders, ultimately reducing competition and harming consumers. Based on recent HMDA data, these smaller firms account for about 40% of all residential mortgages originated in the U.S. They play an essential role in providing retail capacity and both national and local competition in the mortgage markets. REALTORS® rely on them and their local expertise as they help people in their communities purchase homes or keep their homes.

Small and midsized lenders rely on large FDIC-insured depository institutions for short term “warehouse” credit lines that allow them to provide funds at the closing table. Warehouse lines are replenished as the loans are sold to investors. Many large financial institutions have closed down their warehouse lending and others have announced the intention to do so. Some have even intimated their rationale is to focus more on their own retail lending. The practical effect is not just to reduce capacity and competition, but eliminate competition.

Without warehouse lines or similar access to capital, small and midsized lenders cannot lend and eventually go out of business. It is estimated that hundreds of billions of dollars of warehouse capacity have left the system. If small and midsized lenders are forced out, there will be less competition and more concentration of pricing power in large institutions. There will also be fewer options for consumers and comparatively higher interest rates as relatively few large players dominate the market. Finally, thousands of employees of these small businesses will find their jobs endangered or lost, and homebuyers and homeowners will pay more or be denied the credit they need.

As we enter this critical stage in our housing recovery, we urge you to consider the role you each can play to restore the availability of affordable credit at the retail level and examine what role the GSEs can play in alleviating the bottleneck in retail lending. It is essential that consumersand small businesses derive the benefits from the investment that American taxpayers are making. Consumers and small businesses are the keys to economic recovery and future growth. Low mortgage rates, first-time homebuyer tax credits, and the spring home buying season are coming together in a manner that could finally put a floor under the housing market. However, we face a potential major bottleneck in our mortgage credit delivery system and consumer interest rate costs that are historically higher than the data indicate they should be. We urge you to explore all possible options to impress upon lenders the importance of fully deploying their resources and expertise to address the retail level mortgage credit shortage and costs.

Thank you for your consideration of this important issue.


Sincerely,
Charles McMillan, CIPS, GRI
2009 President
National Association of REALTORS®
cc: The Honorable Shaun Donovan, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development

Looking for Land Use Problems YOU Have.

There are times I’ve been critical of some NAR positions and pronouncements. But when they do it right it’s a thing of beauty. I’m proud to be a Member of the Land Use, Property Rights and Environment Committee. Between national meetings the group usually has a Webinar or 2, as we did today preparatory to our meetings in Washington DC in May.

This Committee deals with a fascinating range of problems related to federal land use legislation. I’ve posted info on some issues like the checkerboard land use issue, water rights, coastal and riparian issues. As you might imagine, in this great land – from sea to shining sea, there is a wide variety of issues. But some consistently emerge at the top of the list, things like water rights, land grants/transfers, the gamut of ‘green’ issues and zoning/domain issues, to name a few.

In DC the committee will hold a Forum on Tuesday, 5/12, in the Omni. It’s an open forum to bring your own state, regional or local concerns to the committee. If you have local concerns, make sure your state/NAR Directors are aware of them. I will also be happy to pass along any comments made to this post.

Water is a pre-eminent issue across the country. From California to Maine, from Texas to Minnesota – water is king. And where there are water issues there are often collateral issues like endangered species, anything green, land use & water rights.

This also morphs into a second major concern right now, that of the checkerboard land use problem. Over the years land trusts have built up to manage these ‘public’ lands. In the absence of strong federal policy, they have pushed their own agenda’s, often to the detriment of adjacent property owners and communities. Stories were shared of these landowners doing land swaps of 100 acres for 600 acres, or swapping land rights but keeping water rights – minor annoyances like that.

Anyway, if you’re going to be in DC in May, stop by the Omni on Tuesday morning at 9. Or, if you don’t want to be up that early, just leave a comment here and I’ll let them know it’s from the ActiveRain Land Use Group.

Gene, the biggest land use issue where I’m from is:


Government Affairs Update

Government Affairs Directors usually have 2 or 3 times a year we do a ‘fly-up’ to Sacramento. The morning is spent  with our lobbyists and policy staff, the afternoon with our legislators, schedules permitting. This year, budgets being what they are, we are eliminating at least some of the fly-ups in favor of  webinars.

This morning we had an opportunity to get an update from and hold a Q & A with Alex Creel & Stan Weig. For those of you who don’t know these two, Alex is our chief state lobbyist and Stan is deputy chief. Alex has been with CAR for something like 22 years now and as a team they know more about what happens in Sacramento than most of our legislators do. (Ooooh, like that’s a challenge.)

In response to a question, Alex said that if history is any indicator, CAR will not be taking a position on Propositions 1A – 1F as they are ‘not real estate related’. The last time we stepped outside our box was to endorse the 1980 Jarvis-Ganz tax bill known as Prop 13. (You can read a summary & recommendations from our partners at the Southwest California Legislative Council here)

He also noted that CAR would not be sponsoring any bills this session. Citing a difficult political and economic climate, any bills that involve spending are DOA but ‘revenue enhancement‘ bills and anything ‘green‘ are on the fast track. Of course by ‘revenue enhancement’ bills, we’re talking taxes. With the state facing an immediate deficit of $8 billion (just announced by LAO), or the $14 Billion projection if 1A doesn’t pass, taxes and fees are back on the table. He said it could go from not pretty to pretty ugly real fast.

Between the tax & fee bills and a number of point-of-sale bills, Alex feels this will be a strategically defensive year both at the state and local level. The more spending is curtailed at the state level, the more burdens fall to our local governments to off-set losses. That leaves us liable to tax attacks.

In other updates we learned that the Septic Regulations we have been arguing against are going back for another revision. I’ve lost track of how many this makes and if history is any indicator, the new regs will just find new ways to be bad. Or maybe they finally heard the people and will realize new regs aren’t necessary, or they can draft some regs to reinforce the regs that already exist. Naw – they’ve been justifying their existence for 9 years now. No use jumping off this milk train too soon. How would you like to have spent YOUR last 8 years studying sewage, wastewater and septic systems? And still not learned anything? Talk about your life being in the crapper.

Anyway, look for new regs maybe by late summer with another brief round of public hearings in the fall.

We have lobbied hard to expand the $10,000 statewide new homebuyers credit to include the purchase of any home – unfortunately with the state on track to log 600,000+ home sales this year, that’s a $6 billion plus pricetag nobody’s willing to pick up.

Finally, what we’re seeing locally is being repeated in numerous markets around the state. Sales are on the rise while prices continue to decline. As this was a legislative update rather than a financial one, no prognosis was rendered on how and when we would be through this.

From an advocacy standpoint, sometimes a good defense is the best offense. Your legislative team will be doing our best to keep you at the table.

NAR Update on Legislative Action


To:  All REALTORS®

From:Charles McMillan, 2009 NAR President

Re:NAR meets with government and industry leaders to address critical issues.

Dear Fellow REALTOR®,

I have spent the past week in Washington, D.C., in some of the most important meetings to date with top government and industry leaders.

In a special audio edition of my President™s Podcast, I provide details on how NAR is addressing the proposed limitations on the mortgage interest deduction, problems with short sales and REO sales, and the Federal Reserve™s latest announcement that it will purchase more agency mortgage-backed securities.

Please take just a few minutes to listen to the podcast, and forward the link to your colleagues.

http://www.realtor.org/about_nar/presidents_report/_podcast_archive/mcmillan_policyupdate_20090319

Rest assured that NAR continues to work harder than ever, both in the public arena and behind the scenes in Washington, D.C., to stabilize the housing market and address legislative and regulatory issues that impact you.

I will continue to provide you with regular updates on our progress. IIn the meantime, please visit the Government Affairs page on Realtor.org for more details on our efforts and check the President™s Report for additional updates from your 2009 Leadership Team.

Sincerely,
Charles McMillan Signature
Charles McMillan, CIPS, GRI
2009 NAR President

The Official Guide to Mortgage Resources in California.

mortgage resources

A Guide to Mortgage Resources in California

WELCOME to California’s Consumer Home Mortgage Information web site! Here you will find helpful information and links if you are considering buying a home, or if you already own a home, or have a mortgage and may be experiencing difficulty in keeping your payments current.

This is the official state of California website.

CAR Releases Mortgage Mod info

Mortgage modification information now available

C.A.R. has created consumer information sheets detailing the various mortgage modification programs available through the larger lenders and government entities. C.A.R. also has created an easy-to-use reference chart about available programs.

The consumer sheets contain information such as eligibility requirements, who to contact to apply, costs associated with the program, and other vital data. The sheets also are formatted in Microsoft® Word, enabling REALTORS® to print and e-mail them to their clients.

For more information, please visit:
http://www.car.org/legal/mortgage-workout-programs/

The following information is intended for REALTORS® and homeowners seeking information on existing mortgage workout programs.  In general, the loan modification programs on the chart (see link below) and consumer information sheets (see links below) are intended for primary residences only.

For consumer information sheets containing detailed information on specific programs that REALTORS® can share with their clients, please click on the appropriate link below.

. Making Home Affordable Refinance
. Making Home Affordable Modification
. HOPE For Homeowners (H4H)
. Countrywide Financial (Bank of America)
. Citigroup, CitiMortgage
. JP Morgan Chase & Co.
. IndyMac Federal Bank, FDIC
. Federal Government Loan Modification (Participants include: Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Federal Home Loan Banks, Hope Now participants, Department of the Treasury, Federal Housing Administration and the Federal Housing Finance Agency, and Wells Fargo.)

Mortgage Interest Deductability, Septic Regulations, More News

 

Federal Proposal to Reduce Mortgage Interest Deducibility 

 

The Obama Administration has recommended, as part of its budget proposal, that the amount families earning more than $250,000 year can deduct for mortgage interest be reduced. NAR and C.A.R. are steadfastly opposed to any attempt to modify the mortgage interest deduction because it may affect the value of all property and both are working to develop plans to ensure that the proposal is not included in the budget eventually passed by Congress.  Please note that while the administration has proposed these changes, they are not yet in any legislation. Please stay tuned for a future Call-for-Action.

 

State Water Board Will Revisit Regulations

 

 

Pressured by public outcry over the proposed regulations of septic systems, the State Water Board has indicated that it will try and respond to extensive comments on its new regulations. When revised regulations are released, the public will again have the opportunity to comment on them. Thanks very much to so many of you for submitting comments and attending workshops on this issue. Without your active participation in this process, it is likely that the original proposals would have been implemented as planned. Our next concern is to ensure that the subsequent set of proposals do not include point-of-sale mandates. C.A.R. will continue to keep you posted.

 

 

Carbon Monoxide Bill Reintroduced

 

SB 182 (Lowenthal) is a re-introduction of a bill vetoed last session. It is designed to require the installation of carbon monoxide (CO) alarms in privately owned dwelling units that are potentially at risk to CO poisoning. C.A.R. is working with the author and sponsors to ensure that the bill does not include requirements that properties be retrofitted at point-of-sale.

 

Copyright © 2009 CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (C.A.R.)

FREE Realtor Tools From NAR.

 

 
 

Dear Fellow REALTOR®,

NAR knows that the current state of the economy has affected you and your real estate business. We recognize the challenges you are facing and are here to help.  

Effective immediately, NAR is launching the Right Tools Right Now initiative for our 1.2 million members.

This Association-wide program provides over 300 NAR publications, resources and services to you for FREE, at cost, or at significantly reduced pricing. Our goal is to make NAR’s robust roster of business-building tools available to you Right Now.

The Right Tools Right Now program includes offers and information in the following categories:

Convention & Events
Technology Services
Research Tools
Enhanced Services
Online Training
Educational Tools & Publications
Articles & Information

Use the following link for complete details on this initiative: www.REALTOR.org/RightTools

Here you’ll find hundreds of NAR products, resources and services offered for FREE, at cost, or at a significant discount. New offers will be made available in the weeks and months ahead, so be sure to check back often.

Look for this icon to easily know if a product or resource is part of the Right Tools, Right Now initiative.

On behalf of the Leadership Team of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, we encourage every member to take advantage of these resources. We are pleased to offer the Right Tools, Right Now to support you and your business throughout 2009.

Contact Information Central at 1-800-874-6500 or access www.REALTOR.org/RightTools should you have any questions on this initiative.

Sincerely,

Charles McMillan Signature
Charles McMillan, CIPS, GRI
2009 NAR President

Dale Stinton, CEO
National Association of REALTORS®

Take the Realtor Party Pledge – sign up here…

party

I support the REALTOR(R) Party and its platform, and join with other REALTORS(R) around the country in speaking up for the best interests of our industry and our customers. I pledge to:

* Vote for candidates – at the local, state, and national levels – who uphold the REALTOR(R) Party Platform and make the right decisions for my profession and my customers.

* Contribute to the REALTORS(R) Political Action Committee, to help RPAC work with our allies in local, state and federal government to make sure they continue to support the interests of the real estate profession.

* Educate my colleagues about the importance of our industry speaking with one voice and working to build the bipartisan relationships necessary at all levels of government to ensure a sound and dynamic real estate market in this country.

Signed:

Click here to sign your own Realtor Party Pledge

WHY POLITICAL INVOLVEMENT?

Since 1969 RPAC has been promoting the election of pro-REALTOR® candidates across the United States. During the last federal election cycle alone, RPAC contributed over $12 million to pro-REALTOR® candidates to Congress, making it the number one trade association political action committee in the nation.
Why has RPAC been successful? In America the exercise of good government has its foundation in the participation of its citizens in politics. By definition of the work you do, REALTORS® are contributors to the American dream- home ownership. REALTORS® make it possible for people to bring value to their communities, their lives, to schools and to the future. Increasingly REALTORS® are facing forces from many directions that threaten their ability to help bring about the American dream for more people. Increasing health care premiums, the economy, property tax burdens, rent controls, impact fees and the taking of private property for the public domain are only a quick handful of issues that somewhere, everyday REALTORS® confront.

IF NOT YOU, WHO?
That is why it is vitally important that REALTORS® be politically active: to take on the responsibility of protecting the values and rights we hold dear. If not REALTORS®, then who? No one knows a community better than a REALTOR®. It would be difficult to believe that a local no-growth group would represent your real estate business interests, or that those employed by the local government know best how much and where to spend the tax dollar better than you do. REALTORS® are the experts on their communities. REALTORS® know the lay of the land, the families, the best schools, the neighborhoods, and the leaders. With REALTORS® in virtually every community in the nation, you are in a strong position to be on the front line as either a proponent or a defender.

Failure to be involved politically can and likely will result in someone else filling the vacuum left by you. That may sound okay at first; because we are sure someone else will do the job and see things as we do. That is until one discovers that the voices being heard may be contrary to wise business planning and a threat to property owners and their rights. If you as a REALTOR® do not speak out, get involved, and help shape your community, someone else will. It is a good bet that they won’t be supportive of your position.

On the national level, we give our money to those in Congress who both understand and support REALTOR® issues. We look to build the future by putting RPAC dollars in places that will help advance the interests of Real Estate professionals. RPAC is the only political group in the country organized for REALTORS®, run by REALTORS® and exists solely to further issues important to REALTORS®.

Help Flush Expensive & Unnecessary Septic Regulations

Help Flush Expensive & Unnecessary Septic Regulations

Due to overwhelming public outcry at a number of regional workshops, the State Water Resources Board has extended the public comment period to February 23, 2009 and the Sacramento hearing originally scheduled for February 9 has been postponed indefinitely.

If you are not familiar with what the State Water Board is up to, they are proposing regulations for ‘Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems’. (You and I simply call them septic tanks.) Many homes from the Wine Country to Meadowview, La Cresta, De Luz and most county areas not served by a public sewer system would be impacted by these proposed regulations, in some cases very seriously impacted.

The California Association of Realtors has been working since the regulations were first announced in 2001 to remove the more onerous, unnecessary and expensive elements of the proposal. With limited success.

A full copy of the currently proposed regulations and the draft Environmental Impact Report are available at http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/water_issues/programs/septic_tanks/ (Sorry. Nothings simple at the state.) If you can’t make it through the entire 41 page proposal or the 120+ pages of the EIR, there is a 17 page Executive Summary (complete with a cute little graphic of the sewage trickle-down theory) and a 5 page Q & A. 

The stated goal of the proposed regulation – to prevent contamination of adjacent wells or groundwater resources – is admirable. However, as is often the case when presented with a simple task, the state agency has spent 8 years going way overboard in justifying their existence. Many elements of the EIR are specious and some of the proposed regulations would make owning a home with a septic system nearly impossible.

Inspections and certifications every 5 years at costs estimated to be about $700 are among the least of the problems. Mandates for ‘qualified professionals’, ‘certified analytical laboratories’ and ‘qualified service providers’ are either ill-defined or call for professions that don’t even exist yet. If those (currently non-existent) professionals determine your septic system is within 600 feet of a neighbors well or an ‘impaired surface water body’, you may be liable for a $45,000 retrofit. If you build a home in an area potentially meeting these criteria, the new system will set you back at least $35,000 to comply.

In addition to the five year requirement, if you want to sell your home any and all necessary retrofits and regulations would need to be met and paid for prior to point-of-sale. If you had the inspections but misplaced the documents, you would incur additional costs to replace them and/or recertify.

If you are concerned about increased onerous government encroachment into your private property rights, please read the proposed regulations. If you agree with the California Association of Realtors that the proposal is too far reaching and that the EIR did not adequately address the true impact either to the environment or to homeowners, you still have an opportunity to make your voice heard.

Because state regulatory agencies are not as responsive to the public as elected officials, we are asking that you register your opposition to this proposal with your state legislators asking them to intervene with the State Water Board to ensure that final regulations do not overreach and are not unnecessarily burdensome. Senator Hollingsworth and Assembly members Jeffries and Nestande are already behind you on this one but lending your voice to the growing chorus of outrage they are hearing can’t hurt. You can find their contact information elsewhere in this publication.

You can also register your thoughts directly with the responsible agency before February 23 by contacting the:

State Water Resources Control Board

Division of Water Quality

Attn. Todd Thompson, P.E.

P.O.B. 2231

Sacramento, CA 95812

Gene Wunderlich is Government Affairs Director for the Southwest Riverside County Association of Realtors. Address additional questions to GAD@srcar.org.

 

Candidate Training School for Realtors

Calling all political junkies. The California Association of Realtors will be holding it’s second annual Candidate Training School for Realtors in September. Recognizing that most Federal level legislators start at the state and that most state level legislators start local, Realtors have realized the benefit of ‘growing our own’. If you have any aspirations to run for local political office, check out the CAR webpage, talk to your local Legislative Committee and submit your application for review.


February 12, 2009

Dear Gene Wunderlich

C.A.R. will be launching a Candidate Training School for REALTORS® on September 14-15, 2009 in Sacramento, California.  This forum will be a very exciting opportunity to groom and extensively train California’s REALTORS ® to run for local elective office in 2010 and beyond.  Those candidates chosen to attend the two-day training session will be afforded an opportunity to make a real difference in the real estate industry by helping to shape public policy once elected to public office.

Since this is a huge undertaking, I have enlisted the aid of a consultant named Kitty Barowitz to help me with the coordination of this exclusive forum.  As the program progresses, she will be contacting some of you to talk more about the program, answer any questions that you may have and to find out more about any potential and plausible candidates within your respective local association.

The attached letter and nomination form for the candidate training program will be posted on the C.A.R. website shortly.  All candidate school nomination forms must be submitted by Friday. April 3, 2009. Like the CREPAC trustee nomination form, the candidate will be able to locate the form online, download the document to their computer and submit it via fax to (916) 492-5290 for consideration.  The webpage is http://www.car.org/governmentalaffairs/crepacborpac/campaignshcool/

A screening committee will be selected to review the forms and to make the final selection of candidates who will be asked to attend the candidate training session.


We are looking forward to the launch of this new phase of political activity.  Please feel free to contact me with any questions/comments that you may have.  Thank you for your commitment to making this program successful.

Sincerely,

David M Howard, Political Affairs Director

National Leadership – Working for YOU.

Reposted from the NAR Voice of Real Estate blogsite. Charles McMillan is our 2009 NAR President.

Working for YOU, Posted by Charles

Posted: 09 Feb 2009 10:52 AM CST

Yesterday, I met with Sheila Bair, chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. – one of our closest contacts in the Obama Administration. We talked at length about the problems that REALTORS® are facing on the ground, including problems with short sales and loan modifications. I am happy to report that she recognized these problems and said they are developing some new ideas that could help resolve them.

I will continue to update you on development in this area, and I invited Ms. Blair to provide you with a direct update on these efforts at NAR’s Midyear Meetings this May. Stay tuned for more information on that in the months ahead.

My meeting with Chairman Blair capped an incredible two-week run here in Washington, D.C., where nearly 1,000 REALTORS® met, planned, and acted on a single goal: Helping YOU in your businesses.

Here are just a few of the things we have been working on to help you:

• NAR continued our push to keep housing a top priority in the final economic stimulus bill, expanding the tax credit to $15,000, and making permanent the 2008 GSE and FHA loan limits.

• NAR’s political and committee leaders met to formalize our 2009 policy agenda, based on a recent survey of all members. Not surprisingly, the economy, keeping banks out of real estate, and protecting the mortgage interest deduction top the list of priorities.

• I met with state presidents and association executives, and with the leaders of several minority real estate organizations, to get their thoughts on the major challenges our members are facing and what NAR can do to help.

• I participated in a satellite media tour to promote our housing stimulus plan on TV stations across the country. I also met with nearly a dozen reporters here in Washington, D.C., to promote our position on the economic stimulus package and other key issues, like banks in Real Estate.

• We made final preparations on our brand new consumer radio program, Real Estate Today, which will debut next week on XM Sirius and WMAL 630 in Washington, D.C. This program will help us bring consumers back into the market.

NAR’s Strategic Planning Committee laid the foundation for our organization to move in new directions to help members in this new environment and in the years ahead. [link to 2009 Strategic Plan]

• The REALTORS® Federal Credit Union Board met, and we are on track to open May 1 of this year, providing vital services to REALTORS.

• The Leadership Team also approved a new initiative to give you the Right Tools, Right Now to help you in your business. Look for more details on that later this month.

These are just some of the things NAR has been working on – both in public and behind the scenes – to help you, our members. I know many of you are working just as hard to address challenges in your communities. If you have ideas, let us know. You can comment right here on the Voices blog, or send an e-mail to presidentsreport@realtors.org.

It will take all of us to get through this difficult time and build a brighter future for all members. I promise that NAR will keep pushing harder than ever. I hope all of you will join us. – Charles McMillan, 2009 NAR President

NAR Introduces Real Estate Today Radio Program

As announced at our recent Business Meetings in Orlando, NAR will be launching a nationally heard radio series called Real Estate Today next week. Initially the show will be carried primarily on XM/Sirius stations but they hope to be expanding the list of carriers to include more mainstream radio outlets as well. For a preview of the program, follow the link.

Last month, I sent you an e-mail explaining some of the things that NAR will be doing in 2009 to help our members succeed through these challenging times. Today, I am pleased to announce the launch of one of those initiatives – NAR’s weekly two-hour talk radio show, Real Estate Today.

Real Estate Today will premiere the weekend of February 14-15. We’ll show consumers why REALTORS® are the most credible, trusted source of real estate information, and convince them that using a REALTOR® when buying, selling, or investing in real estate is the smartest decision they can make.

We’ll also be building consumer confidence in the market and in the long-term value of real estate to help bring buyers back into the market.

LISTEN TO A SNEAK PREVIEW/EXCERPT FROM THE SHOW

Real Estate Today will air online at www.RETRadio.com – visit the site anytime after the premiere to listen to current or past programs.

Beginning on February 14, satellite radio subscribers can hear Real Estate Today on America’s Talk, XM Channel 158, Saturdays 5-7 p.m. EST; Talk Radio, XM Channel 165, Saturdays 1-3 p.m. EST; and Stars, Sirius-XM Channel 102, Saturdays 6-8 a.m. and Sundays 9-11 a.m. EST.

If you’re in the Washington, D.C., area, you can listen to Real Estate Today on the show’s flagship station, 630 WMAL AM, every Sunday from 1-3 p.m., EST, beginning February 15.

We’re working to quickly expand the list of stations that will carry the program locally. Find out how you can help.

REALTORS® can also advertise on the show.

We welcome your input! If you have local market insights or program content suggestions, e-mail RealEstateToday@realtors.org

Sincerely,
Charles McMillan Signature
Charles McMillan, CIPS, GRI
2009 NAR President

Point-of-Sale Retrofits – A Bad Idea Explodes

Point-of-sale ordinances – what are they and why are they wrong?

At our recent mid-winter business meetings, point-of-sale ordinances were debated in several committees. Why? Because this year we are likely to face more point-of-sale ordinances at the state level than we have in the past decade. During his 20+ years as our Chief Lobbyist, Alex Creel has met and defeated more than 20 point of sale ordinances that would have resulted in thousands of dollars of increased cost to homeowners and resulted in even less affordable housing across the state. He’s expecting an onslaught of this type of bill this session.

In spite of the fact that there is currently a dearth of legislation on the table (see CAR Update Post), we already know of several bills waiting in the wings that will have point of sale provisions. Among these:

  • ACWA (Association of California Water Agencies) is circulating a point of sale water conservation (toilet) retrofit.
  • The CEC (California Energy Commission) may re-introduce AB2678 with point of sale energy audits (a bill we successfully fought last year).
  • The PLC (Planning and Conservation League purportedly has a similar bill it is waiting to introduce.
  • The ARB (Air Resources Board) will approve an implementation plan that includes point of sale as a trigger for retrofits.
  • Water agencies & county governments are rumored to have at least two different bills requiring sewer/septic inspections and retrofits.
  • Local governments continue to push point of sale as a trigger event for fireplace, water use and energy retrofits.
  • There are additional calls for more ‘safety’ mandates for items like the carbon monoxide alarm bill narrowly defeated last session as well as for the next iteration of pool safety barriers.

Why all these and why now? Well, you may notice that most of those proposals have one thing in common – they deal with conservation issues and right now GREEN is in. Our new President is GREEN. Our lame-duck Governor can’t get a budget in place but if something is GREEN, he’s all over it. Our liberal legislators are increasingly GREEN. Want to make money off some lame product or get some lame bill passed? Make them GREEN.

And if CAR stands up in opposition to these worthless and costly mandates – well, as one member put it, we stand to become a red smear on the GREEN road.

There is an excellent series of briefing papers available at CAR.org dealing with how to address  point-of-sale retrofit bills. And it’s not an easy battle because many of the bills are actually for a good cause. Even if you’re not GREEN it’s hard to argue with water conservation, especially in Southern California, or pool safety or energy efficiency. If you can save time, energy, water and money, it’s gotta be good, right?

But the bottom line is that point-of-sale mandates are about the LEAST effective way to accomplish something. First of all it transfers the cost of compliance to only those parties involved in a transaction and not to ALL homes. It even does that inefficiently since studies show that within a 25 year time span, less than 22% of homes will be impacted by the measure. The impact us further diluted since those same studies show that newer homes, those already most in compliance with energy saving features, change hands most frequently while pre-1979 homes, those most likely to offend, change hands much less frequently.

What CAR has been very successful at doing is pointing out those dismal penetration results. We suggest that if their widget or gizmo is of such universal benefit, then it should be applied to ALL homes to achieve the promised benefit, not just burden 5 or 10 or even 25% of homeowners with the ‘tax’. We are also supportive of a time-certain feature.  We have employed this very successfully when the situation called for it by specifying that the measure apply to ALL homes, that compliance be mandated within a specified time period and, when possible, the utility or agency provide some incentive for compliance paid for out of the up-front savings that agency will enjoy from the retrofit. Water heater strapping, smoke detectors and pool barriers are examples of this and are now standard issue on every home and subject to disclosure by the Seller on the TDS or WHSD forms.

Keep your eyes open for local municipalities attempting to implement these measures as they look for ways to ‘enhance revenue’ and/or reduce consumption. We have successfully avoided the imposition of these items in several local cities in the past few years and will work with them to augment the program in such a way as to ensure it’s maximum efficiency with minimum impact to home owners and Realtors. If you hear of any city or commission thinking about any point-of-sale retrofit mandates, please contact GeneWunderlich@SRCAR.org right away.

After all, the easiest way to do something isn’t always the right way and the right way is seldom easy. Point-of-sale mandates are certainly easy but that doesn’t make them right.


Inventing the ‘Shortclosure’

So you finally figured out the difference between a short-sale and a foreclosure. Congratulations. But do you know what a shortclosure is? I thought not.

At our mid-winter business meetings, CAR debated the possibility of sponsoring or supporting legislation to create a hybrid between a short sale and a foreclosure called a ‘shortclosure’.

Anybody who has attempted a short sale has been frustrated by the lack of responsiveness by the lender/lenders to negotiate in good faith or in a timely manner. Realtors often cite the delays as being ‘deal killers’ because by the time a bank responds, even if it’s an affirmative response, most Buyers are long gone.

But it’s also generally acknowledged that a short sale will net the lender a higher return, not to mention reducing inventory and abandoned properties. It is ‘in their best interest’ to work with an agent but they just don’t seem to realize this. So the question was – how can pressure be applied to landers to at least respond in a timely manner whether the response is positive or negative. You can decide not to proceed but dammit don’t take 2 or 4 or 9 months to let us know.

The shortclosure hybrid would allow a property owner to require their lender to respond to a bona fide short sale offer within some maximum time period OR that lender would be required to accept a deed in lieu rather than completing the foreclosure process. The procedure would create an incentive for the lender by treating junior note holders as ‘sold out juniors’ on the property, thereby making the deed in lieu more attractive and keeping the juniors from interfering with the short sale.

In committee this proposal was defeated for a number of reasons – chief among which would be the backlash from lenders and the mortgage banking industry. Realtors would, in essence, be butting into their business in a big way trying to tell them when and how to respond to our offers. More than a little self-serving on our part. It would also severely dampen the secondary market by freezing out junior lien holders.  While they are not playing a major role in the current market, they were a major player in the most recent run-up and they will also play a critical role in rebuilding the industry.

We could also expend a lot of energy trying to craft a bill, fight with people who are customarily allies of ours to get it passed and by the time it got all the way through (supposing it even did), the current crisis would have passed and the bill would no longer even be relevant. You’ve gotta pick your battles.

CAR determined instead to focus on creating aids and education assisting Realtors to work short sales more effectively including outlining a template for providing a successful financial argument to the lender for their consideration. Realtors who have worked numerous short sales claim a higher percentage of success by following a simple yet detailed process which posits an ‘iron clad’ financial argument to the lender which has a higher probability of getting a positive and timely response.

Bottom line – don’t look for ‘shortclosure’ relief anytime soon but you can increase the odds in favor of your success by putting together a sound financial package for your lenders. We’ll let you know when CAR as a package in place.

Lender Pre-Foreclosure Access to Default Properties

Abandoned Property Ordinances Debated

Local governments are not specifically pre-empted in their ability to enact local rules dealing with foreclosed properties even though SB 1137 (Perata) put a general rule in place statewide. Some cities recently have been trying to impose obligations and fees on foreclosing lenders even before the lender takes title to the property at the time of foreclosure sale.

Though unlikely to stand a test of law, the overreaching nature of the these property maintenance ordinances can end up creating unworkable burdens for Realtors attempting to list or sell REO properties. Some local jurisdictions are tracking NOD’s and attempting to require the lender of record to maintain the property even through the foreclosure process. Of course we know how successful that is since some properties get transferred numerous times prior to sale, or transferred to an asset manager or other elements preventing the city from knowing who the true owner of record is.

Lenders also rightly point out that t

to go on the premises until the sale is complete and they take the property back. But this hasn’t stopped municipalities from imposing fines of up to $1,000/day for unmaintained properties. But then the cities figured out – hey, if we apply a lien prior to the foreclosure sale the lien gets wiped out. So they’re waiting until after the lender takes the property back and then applying their lien so it is not invalidated by the sale.

The problem is that some lenders have attempted to have Realtors cover the deficiency out of pocket from the REO lenders set fee. In other words, the cities are doing something borderline illegal and rather than fight it some lenders are attempting to ‘shift’ these responsibilities to the Realtor.

This is a whole different problem than some Realtors simply not knowing the rules, not registering an REO property as required by valid city ordinance, or doing their job and the lender holding them responsible for that.

A second problem has arisen in some areas where a lender has actually attempted to comply with these pre-foreclosure issues by taking over maintenance of what appears to be an abandoned property only to find out they have locked out the legitimate owner or a tenant, or even locked-out Realtors who had listed the property for short-sale.

CAR determined that it would not sponsor nor support legislation extending a lenders obligation to maintain a pre-foreclosure property. Rather, it would explore ways to extend the reach of SB 1137 to pre-empt local law which states that locals cannot cite property or create a lien for violations of a maintenance ordinance until and unless the property has been foreclosed, that the lender has been properly noticed and been given a corrections period of not less than 30 days.

While we are not currently aware of any cities in our region trying to circumvent the law by applying these proscriptive liens, if you become aware of local problems, please notify GeneWunderlich@srcar.org immediately.