What’s wrong with our Association?

Yesterday I stood in the back of the room during our Tuesday morning mls marketing meeting. As usual it was well attended and the highlight yesterday was the forum by candidates who are running for our board of directors. We are truly blessed to have an exemplary crop of folks who are willing to give of their time to help guide our association into the future. It wasn’t that many years ago we had one or two people, if we bullied them into running. Now we have a surfeit of well qualified people from members from our Young Professionals Network to people who have been in the industry for 30+ years.  We have three openings this year and 8 people interested in filling them. The future looks bright.

But a question was raised from an audience member during the Q & A referring to a ‘disconnect’ between the board and the members. Now keep in mind I sat on the board for 12 years, chaired it three times and have sat in the back of the room as an observer the past 2 years. Never have I seen a board more connected to the members. Everybody on our board is a practicing Realtor®. They come from big franchise offices and one man brokerages. There are salespersons and brokers. There are people that work hard to do 5 deals a year and others who do 80 or more. There are people with lending and appraisal experience, men and women, young and not-so-young – in short, a board that mirrors our membership pretty well.

This board is also very engaged. There have been times in the past where board members were just padding a resume but todays board members sit on a variety of committees, several are traveling directors to our state association, some travel to national association meetings, others are involved in our regional and state mls, some are members of our fraud task force and some have stepped in from our future leadership pool, the Young Professionals Network, to become leaders today.

How do you even intimate these people are ‘disconnected’ from our members? They represent the very best of our members. And the people running for the positions represent a continuation of that excellence – it is insulting to them and to the current board to say they’re disconnected.

But then I had to step back and consider the source. Not everyone out there is connected, that’s obvious. The person calling for more transparency in board meetings is obviously not aware that board meetings are open to everyone to attend and that minutes are subsequently posted to the association website. In spite of repeated efforts to inform them, they’re disconnected from the bigger picture.

Another member bemoaned the lack of ‘outreach’ to get members to attend the Tuesday morning marketing meetings. This has been an ongoing  issue over the years as people tend to come to the meetings when times are tough but don’t attend when times are good. But even during the best of times attendance seldom exceeds 1% or 2% of our members plus a healthy dose of affiliates. Again, some members are disconnected. They think the entire association revolves around these Tuesday morning meetings simply because that’s the one thing THEY attend. As one director pointed out, an email goes out every week reminding members of the meeting – they can either choose to attend or not. Apparently of our 3,500 members, about 3,440 regularly choose ‘not’. Yet amazingly enough many of those people are very successful without attending the meetings. Not a lack of outreach, simply a matter of choice and priority.

Some pointed to a lack of Broker involvement or commitment to force their agents to attend these meetings. We have a very robust Broker community that take a very active role in our association. We hold regular meetings with them to provide information and solicit their input and these meetings are very well attended. Right now we are involved in an ongoing efforts to get a majority of our Brokers signed onto the Broker Involvement Program through CAR & NAR. The BIP has been shown to increase the response rate for calls to action by anywhere from 2 – 3 times. That’s critical for our state and federal legislative programs – far more critical at this juncture than pressuring these Brokers to force their agents to attend a Tuesday morning  meeting. Not only that, most Brokers have their own weekly marketing meetings and if they’re going to have their agents kill a morning a week, they would just as soon it be at their own office meeting. Their choice, not the association’s position to badger them.

Unfortunately, as all people running for office, our candidates treated all these questions with a gravitas often undeserved. Sometimes the premise behind a question is invalid and it’s OK to point that out. And as much as we’ve been told over the years “there are no stupid questions”, we all know better, don’t we? In any group there’s bound to be at least one asking stupid questions repeatedly. Yet our candidates, to their credit, dealt with each question, often according it way more legitimacy than it deserved. A couple even twisted themselves into corners on what they would do if elected trying to address every realm of some obscure question. Welcome to the world of politics.

Ah well, bless the candidates for stepping up. Three of them will go on to represent our members very effectively and develop that special connection. The ones not elected will still continue to contribute as they have over the years which brought them to this position today. Yesterday they staked out their positions and answered questions for an hour – all for the benefit of 5, count ’em, 5, people who had not yet voted. They treated it like it really made a difference – because it does. If you don’t like it, get involved yourself. It’s easy. All you have to do is step out from the back of the room lobbing vollies and move to the front of the room fielding them.

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.

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?

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.

Short Sale Webinar Presented by Bank of America

Join us on March 23 at 1 p.m. or March 24 at 10 a.m. for a free webinar on Bank of America’s Cooperative Short Sale Program.  Bank of America will be rolling out its new program for expediting short sales, as presented by B of A’s Consumer Credit Executive Kimberly Dawson.  Topics to be covered in this one-hour session include:
How cooperative short sales will expedite the short sale process;
What the agent’s role will be;
Whether B of A will pay relocation assistance; and
Who the agent can contact for assistance or to escalate the process.
Space to attend this webinar may run out very quickly, so register now at http://www.car.org/education/webinars/bofawebinars/.  Once you have registered, you should immediately receive a confirmation email, which you will need to join the webinar on March 23 or 24.  If you have any questions, please contact C.A.R.’s Special Projects Coordinator Lindsey Moss at (213) 739-8217 or email her at lindseym@car.org.

FHA’s Stevens Departs for MBA Greener Pastures

stevens

In the past I have written favorably about FHA Commissioner David Stevens. I even got a comment on one blog from Stevens thanking me for my post. I’ve attended several talks by Stevens, a couple webinars and phone chats, etc. I like Dave – think he’s done a good job keeping the FHA out of bail-out territory, adjusting some  policies – like the 90 day flip rule, etc.

Well, the end of this month what will be a big loss for the FHA will become a big gain for the Mortgage Bankers Association when David Stevens leaves the former for the latter. I don’t know if I will like him as well in the new position but hope he can bring the same clarity and focus to the MBA that he has brought to FHA and that his knowledge of a broad spectrum of the market from several perspectives will be put to good use.

Stevens joined the administration team at FHA as one of President Obama’s new hires and has usually been perceived as a straight shooter knowledgeable of the industry whereof he governs. The same could  not always be said of his bosses HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan or FDIC Chair Sheila Bair. Stevens, while toeing the company line, could also be candid in appraising some of the constraints of working within the administration, explaining why things were the way they were and what the impact and repercussions to the industry would be. Donovan and Bair can always be counted on to spout the strict company line regardless of whether you call BS on them or not. I always found him a refreshing fresh voice amidst the sea of blather.

He joined the administration after serving as President and COO of real estate firm Long & Fosters but he has an even more extensive background as a  mortgage lender at World Bank and Wells Fargo and a seven year stint running the small lender channel at Freddie Mac.

No word yet on who will be tapped to replace Stevens at the helm of the FHA when he  leaves at the end of the month. One can only hope that an equally competent and focused individual will be named, someone who knows what business they’re in, actually understands housing, lending and how they impact the economy and can work to keep the FHA a relevant entity for first time and lower income homebuyers.

Thanks Dave. We’re wishing you the best. If you can do the same kind of job at MBA you did at FHA the housing industry as a whole will benefit from it. Good luck.

Update: CA State Bar v. Michael T. Pines. SHARK ATTACK!

Last October I wrote about a local attorney by the name of Michael T. Pines who was making quite a name for himself in local real estate circles. (Another Real Estate Scam to beware of.) Counselor Pines was making the evening news by advising clients who had been foreclosed on and evicted to break back into their former homes under the theory that since the debt had been satisfied through foreclosure, they could now own their former home free and clear.

To say this hadn’t worked would be an understatement. Clients who actually followed his advice were summarily re-evicted if they were lucky and arrested if they were not. After all, the homes were now the property of the bank and in some cases had already been resold so charges of breaking and entering and other minor misdeeds were alleged.

Turns out Mr. Pines himself was in foreclosure on some homes he owned and lost his own law office building to foreclosure (he didn’t try to break into his own building). At that time a judge had also slapped him with a $16,000 fine for filing frivolous lawsuits and for wasting his time and not acting in the best interest of his clients.  He also had a couple restraining orders against him for civil harassment after a trial and had been cited for contempt at least once.

law

Today attorneys for the State Bar of California asked a judge to suspend the law license of Mr. Pines. According to the state bar, Pines behavior had become ‘so
egregious’ that it filed to have his license suspended on an interim basis while it seeks a permanent removal. Jeez, that’s like watching sharks attack another shark – gruesome yet exciting, and as rare in legal circles as it is in nature.

Chief Trial Counsel James Towery was quoted in a written statement as saying “To remove a lawyer from active practice before formal charges are filed is a drastic remedy. In this case, that remedy is justified by the established misconduct of Michael T. Pines, who has shown complete disrespect for the law, the courts and especially the best interest of his clients.” Duh.

Never to be outdone, Pines has filed his own lawsuit against the state bar. “I’m sure the charges are going to be thrown out,” says Pines. “They’re going to be really embarrassed when they find out the truth.”

Hmm, attorneys vs. attorney. I’m guessing the truth might be a rare commodity in this v enue. Of course that’s just my opinion, I could be wrong.

Meanwhile people who have already suffered through a legal foreclosure in Southern California will not have the opportunity to be further victimized by this predator – at least until he teaches the state bar a lesson and gets his dorsal fin back.

fin

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The opinions in this commentary are strictly Gene Wunderlich’s personal opinions. While any reasonable and/or rational indivdual should agree wholeheartedly, the opinons reflected herein may not necessarily be those of the Southwest Riverside County AOR, or any local or state government or other mental institution.

Redevelopment Agencies are wrong places to cut

I’ve been writing about this since Gov. Brown stated his intent to do away with local redevelopment agencies and distribute the money from local agencies to hi8s statewide projects. Sure there are some cities around the state that either aren’t using the funds or are misusing the funds but many are not and they have done a world of good. Look at downtown Temecula. Look at the Gaslamp in San Diego. Without redevelopment, the Gaslamp would still be the slum it was not that long ago.

An article appeared in today’s Californian that adds the housing element to the mix. Redevlopment has provided over 91,000 affordable housing units since 1995. For every 100 units created, 125 local jobs are created and 32 permanent jobs. Some in Sacramento just don’t get it – they are actively trying to kill what’s left of the housing industry not understanding that housing speeds an economic recovery, housing is a jobs engine which our state desperately needs.

Click here to view the forum post: Wrong places to cut.

Your February Housing Report

Housing stats for Southwest California for January 2011. Sales volume, median price, foreclosures, trends & commentary.

Property re-evaluation time. Check here for Prop 8 info.

Riverside County Assessor/Clerk/Recorder Larry Ward has published information on Proposition 8. Unlike some counties, in Riverside Larry takes the initiative to automatically evaluate property values every year and has reduced values (and taxes) in each of the past 3 years. The office is in the midst of looking at the market again this year to see if a wholesale reassessment will again be utilized or if the demand might be met by simply allowing individual homeowners to file their own reassessment requests if they think their values have declined further during the past 12 months (for the most part, they have not). However, if you would like to find out more and get a copy of what you’ll need to file if you do, please visit Larry by clicking on his homepage.

Also note the prominent warning about the so-called ‘Riverside County Tax Authority’ mailer soliciting $167 to produce a copy of your grant deed. Larry will be happy to get you one for about $10 or $20 bucks. Don’t get conned. Check with the authority first.

larry ward

Keep Your Home California – Good News for some CA homeowners.

Keep Your Home California Program

The U.S. Treasury Department has approved CalHFA’s plan to use nearly $2 billion in federal funding to help California families struggling to pay their mortgages.

The Keep Your Home California programs are focused on assisting low and moderate income families stay in their homes, when possible, and leveraging additional contributions from mortgage servicers.

Primary objectives for the Keep Your Home California programs include:

  • Preserving homeownership for low and moderate income homeowners in California by reducing the number of delinquencies and preventing avoidable foreclosures
  • Assisting in the stabilization of California communities

Each of the Keep Your Home California programs is designed to address one or more aspects of the current housing crisis by doing the following:

  • Helping low and moderate income homeowners retain their homes if they either have suffered a financial hardship such as unemployment, have experienced a change in household circumstance such as death, illness or disability, or are subject to a recent or upcoming increase in their monthly mortgage payment and are at risk of default because of this economic hardship when coupled with a severe decline in their home’s value.
  • Creating a simple, effective way to get federal funds to assist low and moderate income homeowners who meet one or all of the objective criteria described above. Speed of delivery will be balanced with fulfillment of the specific program’s mission and purpose.
  • Creating programs that have an immediate, direct economic and social impact on low and moderate income homeowners and their neighborhoods.

News from FHA on flipping and condos

Good news if you have clients who are FHA borrowers.  The FHA has extended its temporary waiver of its “anti-flipping rule.”  The original waiver, which was passed as the direct result of C.A.R.’s leadership efforts, was set to expire at the end of last month, but now will be extended through the remainder of 2011.  The ruling allows investors who acquire foreclosed properties at below-market value to be exempted from waiting the customary 90 days before reselling them.  The 90-day waiting period originally was put in place to protect FHA borrowers against predatory practices of flipping where properties were quickly resold at inflated prices to unsuspecting borrowers.  First-time buyers have responded overwhelmingly to the opportunity to buy “move-in ready” renovated homes with low down payments, prompting the extension.

If you work with condominium buyers, you’ll want to know if the condominiums in your area are approved and eligible for an FHA loan.  C.A.R.’s subsidiary, REBS®, has introduced Clarus FHA Approval™ Eligibility Check, which offers a unique searchable database that will allow you to quickly determine FHA loan eligibility via a simple property address search.  Using this service, you and your FHA clients can avoid failed transactions and non-recoverable costs due to undetermined FHA loan eligibility status.  C.A.R. has negotiated special discounts for its members.

You’ll also want to let the condominium associations in your area know that HUD now requires that an entire condominium development be preapproved before an FHA loan may be granted.  FHA loans currently represent almost half of all new mortgages nationwide, and failure for a development to be preapproved to be eligible for FHA loans will almost certainly impact the marketability and value of the development.  Clarus FHA Approval™ also offers Approval Services to assist condominiums in seeking HUD approval.  Discounts are available to condominium associations referred by a C.A.R. member.  For more information about both Clarus FHA Approval™ services.