California Homeowners Bill of Rights – New Law for 2013.

The new California Homeowner Bill of Rights becomes law today. If you’re not familiar with this measure, it was a bill carried on behalf of California Attorney General Kamala Harris last year that sought to codify some of the measures set forth in the national mortgage settlement deal struck in early 2012. 

Initially opposed by the California Association of Realtors as well as the California Bankers Association and the California Mortgage Bankers Association, the bill was pushed through the legislature by a closed joint committee  of both houses so when the bill eventually reached the floor, it was voted on immediately and passed to the Governor. Total time in committee, floor and signature was measured in hours rather than days, months or years, as is typical for most bills. 

Due to the secretive nature of the committee structure, there was little opportunity for interest groups to provide input and there was great concern that what emerged would be a very flawed effort reflecting an over reaction to purported lender wrongdoing. However, CAR did have an opportunity to work with the committee to effect some modifications to the final version that removed our opposition to the bill. CAR was not supportive of the bill in its final version but adopted a neutral position, although banking groups remained steadfast in their opposition due to to concerns about meritless litigation that the bill opens up for aggreaved homeowners. 

Here’s what the bill does:

  • Stops dual tracking. Once the process has started for either a loan modification or short sale by the lender, the foreclosure process must be stopped. This is in response to cases where the property proceeds along multiple courses at the same time only to have the foreclosure process conclude days ahead of a short sale approval by another arm of the bank. As pointed out, this frequently resulted in the bank taking the property back and ultimately receiving thousands less in the foreclosure sale than they would have in a short sale. Of course we know the banks are covered either way and really don’t care but ultimately this should result in more short sales and fewer foreclosures, which is better for the recovering market.
  • Under the dual tracking provisions, banks must give an applicant a response to their loan modification before they can start the foreclosure process. If a homeowner has not applied for a loan modification, the bank must inform them of their right to do so before starting the foreclosure process.
  • No more robo signing.
  • Banks must provide a single point of contact to borrowers trying for a loan modification or short sale. Homeowners and Realtors are often frustrated by multiple points of contact and the handoff fr5om one agent to  another within a bank frequently resulting in the loss of paperwork sending the process back to square one while the foreclosure process continues apace in another department.
  • Allows the borrower to sue loan servicers if the borrower thinks they have violated any foreclosure laws. This is one of the most worrisome components of the bill in that it may open the door to frivolous lawsuits resulting in increased costs and unnecessary delays in an already costly and time consuming process. 

With nearly 1 million foreclosures recorded in the state since 2007, California remains one of the hardest hit areas of the country. However, foreclosures are down in most areas by 30% or more in the past year and with prices starting to climb across the state, the hope is that fewer and fewer people will be pushed into foreclosure anyway. Some 30% of state homeowners remain underwater in their loans but the combination of improving employment statistics and home price increases has decreased that by more than 5% in the past year.

The Homeowners Bill of Rights may well provide some relief for harried homeowners and produce further delays to the process, but it will do little to change the underlying ability of a homeowner to ultimately afford their home and will, in most cases, only delay the inevitable. If Sacramento and DC don’t screw it up, an improving economy will do more to aid homeowners than the HBR will ever accomplish – and ultimately that’s the best news for everybody. 

NAR Survey – What are we wiling to give up?

Don’t know if you all got this yesterday from NAR 2012 President Moe Veissi. NAR is doing a survey and would like your opinion regarding our federal policy agenda for the 2012. The survey touches on numerous policy areas from housing to healthcare, GSE’s to foreclosures. If you haven’t received it yet, take a minute to follow this link and give your opinion. It takes less than 5 minutes and you will be some of the few (probably) who bother to respond and make your voice heard.

http://www.zoomerang.com/Survey/WEB22E47V5J5E6″

Here’s the final question. I’d be interested to hear what you all think about this. It goes back to the root issue we all face that is the stumbling block for many of our legislators – how do you feel about putting your own issues on the table? We’re quick to encourage cuts to other areas of ‘obvious waste’ – but what about those issues that are near and dear to us?

Which of these statements most closely reflects your opinion on NAR response?

* When it comes to changes in tax deductions, real estate tax preferences and federal spending, we must all share in the sacrifice to reduce our national debt (including reducing or eliminating some real estate related deductions) to assure the future health of our nation.

OR…

* Existing real estate related federal tax deductions and preferences, including mortgage interest deduction and the $250,000/$500,000 capital gains exclusion, should be preserved in their current form despite concerns about federal deficits and national debt.

We’re having some fun now, eh?

Crow with West Nile Virus found in Wildomar

A crow with West Nile Virus was recently found in Wildomar. Crows cover a lot of ground during their day and may play host to lots of mosquitoes. Here’s the caution from the County on how to avoid situations where you may be exposed.

Corona Sign Ordinance.

Corona Sign Ordinance

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

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

So play along. I know, it’s not you.

Here’s the ordinance…

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.

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

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?

Why would the building industry support additional taxes on housing?

‘It has come to our attention that the California Building Industry Association (CBIA) has issued a Call to Action urging its members to tell the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) to reject a proposed rule that would prohibit private transfer fees.  The California Association of Realtors strongly supports the prohibition and urges you to ignore the Call to Action from the CBIA if you or any of your members receive it.  C.A.R. is currently drafting a letter outlining its position on the issue for the FHFA.’

You may recall a couple years back when CAR tried to get our legislature to pass a bill prohibiting private transfer fees. We were aligned against an odd coalition involving our some-time allies the Building Industry Association who were allied with a variety of environmental groups like the Sierra Club and others. Our bill was defeated but we did manage to get a corollary bill passed that at least required properties with private transfer taxes attached to them to at least disclose them to prospective buyers. Prior to that it was just one of those hidden items on page 57 of your title report that most people didn’t find out about until they went to sell their house.

SURPRISE!!! Here’s a bill for another $2,749 that you, Mr. Seller, or you, Mr. Buyer, or you Ms. Agent, get to pay..

Now you might be asking yourself – ‘Self, why would the building industry be in favor of an additional transfer tax on a home – especially a private transfer tax?’ Well according to the BIA, ‘private transfer taxes are used to finance a variety of environmental mitigation, community amenities and affordable housing requirements’. According to their website – if  the current FHFA proposal is enacted the following results may occur:

  • Property values could suffer (already have. Will suffer more in areas with additional taxes attached to the property)
  • Home sales transactions will become cumbersome (really? Having another tax on the property will make the transaction easier?)
  • Lending will be harder to obtain (and having another tax on the property will make it easier? Come on!)
  • Taxes and home owners association dues will increase (too late. You’ll just be one more tax)
  • Environmental conservation efforts will be stifled (no, environmental extremist agendas will be stifled)
  • The real estate market will suffer further (yep, another tax on housing will really help us climb out of this hole)
  • An individual’s ability to choose where they want to live will be inhibited (well yeah, they might choose not to live in an area with a transfer tax)
  • Community programming and quality of life will be compromised (yeah, a tax that has no direct benefit to the community will really compromise it)

Sounds pretty dire, doesn’t it? But don’t be fooled. There are areas of the country where private transfer taxes are needed and I’ve heard from fellow Realtors in some of those areas. But those areas are excluded from this legislation. Why? Because there’s a nexus between the funds being collected from the fees and where they are spent – which is right on the same project. For example, Condo developments that rely on these fees for maintenance and amenities upkeep are exempt as are a variety of other direct benefit uses.

But for California, and indeed much of the country, you need read no further than the first sentence in the BIA claim – ‘finance a variety of environmental mitigation.’ Translation ; it’s a way for developers to knuckle under to environmentalists demands without incurring any cost themselves by passing it along to future home purchasers.

Here’s the typical California scenario: A developer has an option on a tract of land where they would like to build new homes. An eco-mill (environmentalist group set up to find out about this kind of stuff, see – ambulance chasing lawyer) finds about about this developers plan and approaches the builder.

Eco-mill: “We don’t want anything built there because there are maybe endangered species or trees or we just want to preserve the wildlife there. If you move forward with your plans we will sue you from here to kingdom come and even though you might eventually prevail in court, you will spend a ton of money and ultimately it will drive your cost to build these homes up past the point where they are economically feasible.”

Developer: “Jeez, what can we do. There’s a need for houses in this area and we’ll be building a good affordable product that will be really good for young families?”

Eco-:mill “Well, maybe we can reach an accommodation – and it won’t cost you a dime.”

Developer: “That sounds delicious – what do we have to do?”

Eco-mill: “Just attach this private transfer tax to your homes. Every time that home gets resold for the next 30 or 50 years, that tax will be collected and we’ll rake in millions of dollars over the life of the property.”

Developer “And what will you do with the money?”

Eco-mill: “Oh don’t worry abut that.”

Developer: “But will you spend it in the area, maybe help build a new road or a park for the development, contribute to a school or help build a new fire station or something to benefit the residents who will be paying the tax?”

Eco-mill: “Are you friggin crazy? We are totally unregulated. We might spend part of it on new Prius’s for our members, and we might raise our own salaries and we’ll probably spend part of it to research other poor schmucks like you who are thinking about building somewhere else and we’ll no doubt spend part of it suing developers who don’t just fold up like a cheap card table when we threaten them.”

Developer: “Hmmm, well I don’t like that one bit but as long as you promise to leave us alone I guess we’ll just go along and get along.”

Eco-mill: “Thatta boy. Next.”

Think I’m making that up? That exact scenario plays out numerous times throughout our state – less now that developers are building fewer homes, but it was so prevalent during the boom days that whole eco-mills were set up around the product. There was even a Texas company on-line offering the opportunity to help you set up an individual private transfer tax on your own home so that after you sold it, any future sellers would have to send you a check.Yeah, really.

The scenario also happened right here in Temecula with a group that was threatening to stop a well known developer from building a big box store in South Temecula. In that case, because it was a  single store rather than a development with future resale, the settlement was for an upfront fee and the organization went away.

And that’s how it works.

So if you get an email from colleagues at the Building Industry asking to help defeat this FHFA proposal for a private transfer tax, pass on it. NAR has been fighting hard to get this provision included at a national level and at least 11 states have passed a similar measure prohibiting these private transfer taxes. States like California that have no political will (balls) to step up and take a stand against these eco-terrorists, will only benefit from the passage of this proposal.

Well, that’s just my opinion. I could be wrong.

Redistricting & Open Primaries – it’s a whole new world.

Most of you are aware that we will be undergoing a massive redistricting effort  that will impact our County, our State and our Federal elective districts. Certainly in California we’ve all been aware that in the past decade the political boundaries 1) make no sense and 2) produce landslides for the incumbent party. There are definite Republican Districts and definite Democratic Districts and it’s pretty much a waste of time for the alternate party to even field a candidate in those races. One seat has changed parties during the past 10 years out of over 250 separate races. 1!.

But that’s all about to change. Californians voted last fall to form a commission to draw the new districts – unlike the last time they were drawn when we let the politicians draw their own. The Commissions report is due out by August and our area will be in for some changes because our region has grown faster than most regions of the state. Our County Supervisor boundaries will be redrawn to reflect the growth in Southwest County and, with the potential election of current Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries to a supervisorial seat, our region could see 2 Supervisors representing Southwest County for the first time EVER. That’s good.

At the state level we probably won’t see much change but the district  boundaries will definitely be redrawn to make some sense by keeping contiguous city interests in one sphere. Right now Jeffries has a district that runs in skinny strips hither and yon, crossing over Nestande’s district in places, running into San Diego County – makes no sense. Our Senatorial District may also see some shifts as Emmerson keeps a more contiguous area of Riverside County while Anderson gives up some of the northern portion of his San Diego District that starts in Chula Vista.

Our regions also stands to pick up an additional federal representative as more of the population has shifted inland from coastal areas. With out region currently split between Calvert, Bono-Mack and Issa, we’ll have to see what that means.

Further complicating the political landscape is the new open primary rule, again resulting from the last election. There will no longer be Republican and Democratic primaries, just one big free-fer-all. The top two candidates will run against each other in the fall. The theory is that this will draw more candidates from the middle of the road rather than the ideological edges of party politics. One thing it will do for sure is cost way more money. The rest we’ll just have to see about.

Nationally known prognosticator Charlie Cook has recently published his first blush on what that all means to us. His exhaustive report covers the entire country as well as every district within the state. I’ve included an excerpt here dealing only with our immediate area. Stay tuned. This is going to be an interesting season leading up to next years election.

The Charlie Cool Political Report

California
Redistricting Authority: Commission
Ideal New District Population: 702,905
Current Partisan Breakdown: 34 D, 19 R
2012 Cook Redistricting Forecast: 35 D, 18 R

San Bernardino and Riverside

San Bernardino County has almost enough people for three districts, and commissioners will almost certainly need to draw a Hispanic majority seat anchored by the cities of San Bernardino, Fontana, and Rialto. The question is whether commissioners will try to split Democratic Rep. Joe Baca’s current 43rd CD into two parts, paring his district down to his home base in those three cities, and putting Ontario in a separate Hispanic majority district. There will almost certainly need to be a Republican-leaning district anchored by the fast-growing Victor Valley area to the north, and the fate of Chino to the south is anyone’s guess.

Riverside County grew 42 percent in the last decade and surpassed San Bernardino, adding enough people for slightly over three whole districts. There is very big redistricting upside for Democrats here: Riverside gave President Obama a majority of its vote in 2008, yet all four of its districts are represented by Republicans. The most talked-about scenario calls for commissioners to create a new Hispanic majority district taking in Corona/Norco, Riverside and Moreno Valley. This seat would have a significant Democratic edge and could include the Corona home of GOP Rep. Ken Calvert, whose 44th CD is already 43 percent Hispanic.

In fact, surging Hispanic population and political participation in Riverside County explains why Calvert, who routinely had cruised to reelection since 1992, was nearly caught napping in 2008 when underfunded Democratic teachers’ union organizer Bill Hedrick took 49 percent of the vote. Calvert’s 44th CD needs to lose 141,851 residents, so it’s possible a new GOP-leaning district in southwestern Riverside County will complement a Hispanic majority district to the north. Calvert could run here, but he would almost certainly have to overcome primary competition in a vastly new district; Calvert took only 66 percent in his 2010 primary against a challenger who spent just $17,000.

The fastest growing district in the state was GOP Rep. Mary Bono Mack’s 45th CD based in explosive Palm Springs and Hemet in eastern Riverside County. The 45th needs to shed 211,304 residents. There are rumors Bono Mack may be considering an early exit from Congress to help her husband, Florida GOP Rep. Connie Mack IV, with his prospective Senate bid. If that happens, this district could be highly competitive. But Republicans would be somewhat relieved if the eastern reaches of the 45th CD, such as Moreno Valley, were lopped off into a new Hispanic majority seat, boosting the 45th CD’s GOP performance.

There’s virtually no way commissioners will draw new districts that endanger GOP Reps. Darrell Issa (CA-49) and Duncan Hunter (CA-52) in anything other than primaries, unless they draw much of the deeply conservative territory in northern San Diego County into districts with more urban areas, which would be a stretch. A continued 3-2 GOP edge in this southernmost region of the state still seems like the most likely outcome.

As if boundary fortune telling isn’t already hazardous enough, the state’s new “top two” ballot law has added a whole new layer of complication. In June 2010, voters passed Proposition 14, setting up jungle primaries for all federal and state elections in which the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, will advance to the November general election. Candidates aren’t even required to list their party on the ballot anymore. The first indication of the law’s impact could come in a July 12th special election to replace resigned Democrat Jane Harman in the Torrance-based 36th CD.

In the new “top two” era, two candidates from the same party can and will compete against each other on the general election ballot in some districts. This is highly unlikely to happen in swing seats, with the possible exception of unusual cases like open seat races where a plethora of candidates from each party would divide up the primary ballot. The more likely impact of this law will be to shut third party and independent candidates out of November elections.

Over the last few years, relatively unpopular incumbents have eked out November races with less than 50 percent of the vote thanks to minor candidates siphoning opposition votes. Unpopular incumbents won’t be able to depend on this crutch anymore.

California’s brave new world of districts and election laws could seriously endanger 15 or more incumbents. If the commission were to draw districts remotely resembling normal shapes, the incumbents at the most risk in primaries or generals would be those currently sitting in the most gerrymandered districts. Republicans with the most cause for concern are Reps. Dan Lungren (CA-03), Elton Gallegly (CA-24), David Dreier (CA-26), Gary Miller (CA-42), and Ken Calvert (CA-44). The Democrats: Reps. Jerry McNerney (CA-11), Sam Farr (CA-17), Dennis Cardoza (CA-18), Jim Costa (CA-20), Brad Sherman (CA-27), Howard Berman (CA-28), Laura Richardson (CA-37), Grace Napolitano (CA-38), Bob Filner (CA-51), and whoever wins the CA-36 special election in June.

Bottom line: Redistricting may endanger more Democrats in primaries and more Republicans in general elections. Overall, a true incumbent-blind redistricting plan may bequeath Democrats an additional seat or two, given that Republicans currently represent more marginal districts. Eight GOP members sit in districts that voted for President Obama in 2008, while no Democrats sit in districts that voted for GOP presidential nominee John McCain. And if commissioners or judges place an emphasis on maximizing Hispanic voting strength, Hispanic candidates could have new opportunities in as many as five additional districts.

rivco

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.

City of Temecula Grants for Homeowners

The City of Temecula has several programs in place to assist your clients, existing homeowners and prospective homeowners. Starting with their First Time Home buyer Program – designed to help people who have not owned a home in the previous 3 years. If you’re buying a home but need some repairs to make it move-in ready, check out their Residential Improvement Loan Program. There are also grants available to Seniors to help with repairs for their homes – with no repayment required!

And their newest program is the Residential Energy Efficiency Program. This program is available in amounts up to $15,000 for low to moderate income homeowners for the repair or replacement of older heating and cooling systems, water heaters, insulation, windows and dolors.

For more information on any of these great programs, how to qualify and participating lenders and vendors, click on the following links or call the Citys Redevelopment Department or call them at 951-694-6412.

Residential Energy Efficiency Program (REEP)

The Residential Energy Efficiency Program (REEP) was established to encourage homeowners to make energy efficient improvements by repairing or replacing older heating and cooling systems, water heaters, insulation, window, doors, and/or implementing other energy saving measures.

First Time Home Buyer Program (FTHB)

The City of Temecula Redevelopment Agency (RDA) is offering a First Time Home Buyer Down Payment Assistance Program (FTHB). The primary objective of the First Time Home Buyer Program is to provide housing inventory on a continuing basis which will be available for purchase by first time home buyers of low and moderate income.

Residential Improvement Loan Program

The purpose of the Residential Improvement Loan Program is to provide assistance in exterior improvements to residences. Participants typically use the loan to repaint, repair, or replace roofs, garage doors, and/or fences.

There is no payment collected and the loan is forgiven after five years. If the participant sells the house within five years, the loan is repaid with 5% interest.

Senior Home Repair Grant

The City of Temecula offers one-time Grants of up to $3,000 to senior citizens for needed repairs to their homes. No repayment is required.

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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.

Spirit Cleansing – how to move that house that just won’t sell.

Move over Feng Shue, look out Wabi Sabi,  there’s a new process home buyers and sellers are turning to in an effort to make sure a property is livable – spirit cleansing. I kid you not.

We’ve always known that some homes appear to be haunted – heck I own a 120 year old home myself that some folks will swear has a spectral resident. There are entire industries that have sprung up around that phenomenon including exorcisms, TV shows and movies.

bad vibesBut there’s a new form of home that’s appeared on the market – the house of bad vibes. Apparently what we in the business casually refer to as a ‘distressed’ property may actually be distressed in more ways than financially. It may have all sorts of negative vibes, residues or ‘energy imprints’ associated with it as a result of arguments, emotions, money problems and loss.

And of course where there’s an opportunity, there are opportunists. While it’s not unusual for some religious or ethnic groups to have their homes blessed occasionally, this new group is at the beck and call of home buyers and sellers to help rid a house of the funk either before it is put up for sale or before it closes escrow.

Practitioners of the art utilize a wide variety of customs and items in their cleansing treatment. Ringing bells, according to some, breaks up the negative energy. Iron, especially iron swords, are effective at keeping evil spirits away if placed before windows and doors. Kosher salt, candles, fresh flowers, scented oils, spices and incense can also play a role in the ceremony and in maintaining the ongoing positive aura of the home.

abaloinePractitioners of native arts insist that the same power can be derived from smudging ceremonies involving sage, cedar and sweetgrass applied to the person and the home. If you prefer this method, make sure to use a clay or stone bowl rather than an abalone shell. As we all know, abalone shells should only be used in water ceremonies, not burining rituals,  at the risk of offending Grandmother Ocean.

Consultants, astral healers or in some cases, witches, advise on a number of procedures including a thorough top-to-bottom house cleaning and airing-out as a precursor to the spiritual cleansing or invocation. Herbal mixtures, or just a sea salt and water concoction, can be used to sprinkle the house or actually wash down the place if the vibes are really bad. This is accompanied by a blessing, incantation or charm session, lighted candles in every room and the application of more herbs and fresh flowers to keep the negative energy at bay.

But as always, there’s a caution. Advocates warn that by doing this you are entering into a relationship with an unseen power of the plants and spirits which must be treated with respect and honor. Worse yet, you may actually remove a beneficial spirit that will result in even greater harm to you after the ceremony. You are advised to know what effects the spirits are having on your environment before you take any action.

As always, as with any phase of our business, it’s best to hire a professional.

Meet the new HVCC, same as the old HVCC

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Unveil New Appraisal Independence Standards


On October 15, 2010, the government sponsored enterprises (GSEs), Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, announced appraisal independence requirements to replace the Home Valuation Code of Conduct. The new requirements offer no significant changes to the core principles of HVCC. An appraiser may not be selected or retained by mortgage brokers and real estate agents. More specifically, lenders mortgage production staff, any person compensated on a commission basis upon the successful completion of the mortgage, and any person whose immediate supervisor is not independent of mortgage production staff, is prohibited from ordering the appraisal. Lenders must still separate mortgage production functions from appraisal functions. The borrower is entitled to a copy of the appraisal report no less than three days prior to closing. The new standards include language permitting appraisal portability assuming the appraisal continues to meet the independence standards.

Fannie Mae Appraiser Independence Requirements >
Fannie Mae Announcement SEL 2010-14 >
Freddie Mac Appraiser Independence News Release >
Freddie Mac Bulletin 2010-23 >

CRE solicits your input on trasfer fees

The Center for Regulatory Effectiveness Solicits Public Comment on Three Public Policy Issues Associated with the FHFA Proposed Private Transfer Fee Guidance


The Federal Home Finance Authority has proposed guidance which would terminate the use of Private Transfer Fees.  Private Transfer Fees are paid each time a property is sold and are often used for community benefit programs. Private transfer fees have also been used to provide a continual source of income for developers and investors.

The FHFA has received in excess of 2,500 comments. While the FHFA is reviewing these comments  the Center for Regulatory Effectiveness is asking the public and the regulated community to comment on the following public policy issues which emerge from CRE’s review of the public comments submitted to the FHFA:
1.   Should the FHFA issue a rule in lieu of guidance?
2.   Should the FHFA prepare an environmental impact statement on the transfer fee proposal?
3.     Should there be a “carve out” for the public use of transfer fees?Please post your comments at  http://www.thecre.com/tForum/?p=68#respond (Scroll down to the bottom of the page to locate the comments section.)

The Center for Regulatory Effectiveness is a regulatory watchdog founded  by former members of the White House Office of Management and Budget http://thecre.com/ombpapers/OMB_Officials.htm

For additional information , contact
Jim Tozzi at the Center for Regulatory Effectiveness
202.265.2383

____________________________
Josh Van De Riet
Research Assistant
The Center for Regulatory Effectiveness
1601 Connecticut Avenue, NW   Suite 500
Washington, DC 20009(202) 265-2383

SRCAR Publishes 11/2/10 Voter Guide

Make an Informed Choice at the Ballot Box. Your Association has chosen to support the following candidates for election on November 2 based on their past record and/or statements of support for Realtor®/ & property rights issues.

Your Vote Is Important!

Local, State and Federal Candidates
Candidate Office
City of Temecula

  • Maryann Edwards
  • Jeff Commerchero
  • Ron Roberts
City Council
City of Murrieta

  • Rick Gibbs
  • Kelly Bennett
  • Alan Long
City Council
City of Wildomar

  • Marsha Swanson, REALTOR®

  • Ben Benoit

City Council
City of Lake Elsinore

  • Thomas Buckley
  • Steve Manos, REALTOR®
City Council
City of Menifee

  • John Denver, REALTOR®
  • Scott Mann

City Council
  • Kim Cousins
Lake Elsinore Unified School District

  • Kevin Jeffries
66th State Assembly District
  • Brian Nestande
64th State Assembly District
  • Joel Anderson

36th State Senate District
  • Mary Bono Mack
  • Darrell Issa
45th Congressional District

49th Congressional District

CAR has chosen to take either neutral or not real estate related positions on statewide ballot propositions. The Southwest California Legislative Council, your local business advocacy partner, has also reviewed the ballot measures and makes the following recommendations:
State and Local Ballot Measures
Proposition SCLC  Position Recommendation
Proposition 19
  • NO
Regulation/Control of Cannabis
Proposition 20
  • YES
Congressional Districts by citizens
Proposition 21
  • NO
Vehicle license tax for parks
Proposition 22
  • YES
Public Safety & Transportation
Proposition 23
  • YES
Temporarily suspend air pollution laws
Proposition 24
  • NO
Repeal business tax breaks
Proposition 25
  • NO
Budget Voting Requirements
Proposition 26
  • YES
Voting Requirements for Tax Issues
Proposition 27
  • NO
Eliminate citizens redistricting commission

SRCAR is your association. Visit us online at SRCAR.org!

You are receiving this email because you are a valued member of the Southwest Riverside County Association of REALTORS®.
This message is sent from an unattended mailbox. Please do not reply.

Wells Fargo Nixes Extensions on Residential Short Sales

By Kate Berry/American BankerOctober 1, 2010

Wells Fargo has stopped granting extensions for distressed homeowners to complete short sales, a move that will expedite foreclosures.

In a short sale, a home is sold for less than the amount owed on the mortgage and the lender accepts a discounted payoff. The loss to the lender can be smaller than if it had to foreclose and liquidate the property.

But in a memo emailed to short sale vendors last month and obtained by American Banker, Wells said it will no longer postpone foreclosure or trustee sales for those who do not close short sales by the date in their approval letter from the company. Only extension letters dated Sept. 14 or earlier would be honored, Wells said.

The change comes after Fannie Mae told servicers early last month that they needed to stop unnecessarily delaying foreclosures. The GSE said it would hold servicers responsible for unexplained delays to foreclosures by issuing fines and conducting on-site reviews of a servicer’s operations.

Mary Berg, a spokeswoman for Wells, said its new policy on short sales was put in place “over the past couple of months … in response to various investor changes.”

Those investors, she said, “would include the GSEs, Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and those investing in private-label” MBS.

Yet Wells’ decision also follows efforts by the Obama administration to encourage short sales for borrowers who do not qualify for loan modifications.

“It makes no business sense why they are doing this, since it’s wrong for the borrowers and for the government,” said Eli Tene, chief executive of IShortSale, a Woodland Hills, Calif., firm that advises distressed borrowers.

Wells said it will make an exception to the new policy for loans in its own portfolio, which includes those it acquired with Wachovia Corp. in 2008. For these loans, Berg said, Wells allows for one foreclosure postponement, provided the following: it has an approved short sale in hand that includes approvals from junior lienholders and mortgage insurers; the buyer has proof of funds or approved financing; and the short sale can close within 30 days of the scheduled foreclosure sale.

Experts on short sales said that in recent months servicers have been reluctant to approve such transactions out of concern that the buyer will not get financing, or that the buyer’s lender will not be ready to close, causing the buyer to lose patience and walk away from the deal and further prolonging the process.

Wells’ move preceded the recent revelations of faulty paperwork at two major servicers — JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Ally Financial Inc. — which said they had suspended thousands of foreclosure actions to review their processes.

On Thursday, Acting Comptroller of the Currency John Walsh said he had told seven major servicers, including Wells, to review their processes. Another Wells Fargo spokeswoman, Vickee J. Adams, said the company’s “policies, procedures and practices satisfy us that the affidavits we sign are accurate.”

Read the full article here

NO on Murrieta Proposition C, D & E

If you live in Murrieta, in addition to a slate of candidates for City Council you will find 3 ballot measures on your card – Propositions C, D & E. As always, I encourage you to get all the facts and make up your own mind – but if you’d like a little help deciding what to do on these three – VOTE NO!

Measure C is a term limit proposal that would limit council members to two consecutive terms, then they’d have to take 2 years off before being eligible to run again. It’s a solution in search of a problem. If you look at the current council, the longest serving member is in the middle of his second term. 3 incumbents are seeking their second term this election. If you want to see what a waste of energy this proposition is, go down to city hall and look at the pictures of past councils. Murrieta has enjoyed regular turnover of council members since it’s birth nearly 20 years ago. I would challenge most of you to even recognize those councilmembers who served as recently as 10 years ago.

It’s not a problem – it doesn’t call for this solution.

Furthermore, as a former proponent of term-limits, I’ve seen the harm they can cause. Term limits for our state legislators was supposed to solve all kinds of problems but all it really did was eliminate one problem while creating several more. Instead of people with some institutional knowledge, people working together to get the job done, Sacramento is now stocked with novices who 1) come with their own short-term agenda, 2) are running for re-election almost from their first day in the seat and 3) are more beholden than ever to lobbyists and special interest groups to fund their elections and then educate them on the issues. It hasn’t worked for our state, there’s no reason to assume it would work any better for our cities.

Besides that, if somebody is really screwing up – there are two definite remedies – 1) the regular election process and 2) the recall process, which did remove on Murrieta Council member 5 years ago.They have proven to be quite effective here.

Measure D would cap a council members compensation at 15% of median household income. Murrieta median household income currently stands at about $90,000 a year which means a councilember couldn’t earn more than $13,500. Today a council member who takes full advantage of their position – meaning salary, travel, health coverage and extra pay for outside committee work could benefit by as much as $23,000/year. In reality, all of our council members are employed in their own businesses (we don’t have any career politicians) and no one has been paid more than $15,000. Their monthly council salary is $600 and the budget for city council salary and benefits is less than 1/3 of 1% of the total city budget.  No one is abusing the system ala Bell CA and we have checks and balances in place to prevent that sort of thing anyway – not the least of which is an informed and vigilant population. This is another solution looking for a problem.

Measure E would cap the city manager’s salary at no more than 2.5 times the median household income or about $225,000. Rick Dudley makes somewhat less than that today  – about $210,000 – which is right in line with similar cities. If you factor in his other benefits he would exceed that amount by a bit. The police chief and fire captain are right up there as well but this proposition does nothing to restrict their pay. Should we be hiring bargain basement city managers while allowing people working for them to earn whatever the market dictates? Shouldn’t a city’s decision to hire an effective administrator be based on their needs, as well as the competence and qualifications of the applicants rather than what they can hire under some arbitrary salary cap?

Again, this proposition is poorly crafted, addresses a problem we don’t have, unnecessarily restricts the city’s ability to hire quality employees and could potentially cost the city millions in lost opportunities.

We don’t need them. Vote NO on Murrieta Propositions C, D  & E.

And while you’re voting, keep in mind that SRCAR  supports incumbents Kelly Bennett & Rick Gibbs as well as challenger Allan Long for Murrieta City Council.

July housing stats for Southwest CA. Making sense of the nonsensical.

Everything you need to sound like you know what you’re talking about in the local real estate market.
8 city rept

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B of A & Chase release HAFA Guidelines. Thanks NAR?

A couple weeks ago at our GAD Institute, NAR President Vicki Cox-Golder discussed how she and Ron Phipps have been meeting with banking executives around the country in an effort to get some uniformity in short-sale practices and to find out what problems are preventing these large institutions from doing short-sales expeditiously in the best interest of our entire industry. They had met with B of A exec’s just prior to her visit with us and said that in addition to B of A promising to work on the problems, they had also extracted a promise to reduce the time to transact a short sale by nearly half – from about 112 days to just 57 days.

Well, I know we’ve all had smoke blown up our nether regions repeatedly by the big banks about releasing REO’s,  loan mod’s and short sales, (to name but a few) but maybe – just maybe, we are making some progress. Our leaders are meeting, or have met, with B of A, Chase, Wells Fargo and two more, who slip my mind right now. Maybe as a result of these meetings – or maybe just because they felt like it, both B of A and Chase have recently released guidelines that Realtors® will find  helpful to comply with each banks HAFA programs.

Will they work and will the process be as easy-cheesy, lemon squeezy as they claim? Only your Realtor® will know for sure – but it’s a start.

Click here for the 10 page B of A ‘Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternative (HAFA)  Short Sale Program & Guide for Agents

Or click here for a one page synopsis of Chase Bank Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives (HAFA) Program.