National Association of REALTORS® 2012 Federal Public Policy Priorities

National Association of REALTORS® 2012 Federal Public Policy Priorities

Housing issues are sure to be on the front burner in the near future, and we will be there to put out any fires when needed. NAR is working hard to protect the American Dream of home ownership.  This means making our voices heard by government leaders, policymakers and Congress as they enact laws and write regulations that impact the real estate industry.

Specifically, NAR will be focused on protecting the Mortgage Interest Deduction, extending the Mortgage Debt Cancellation Relief for homeowners in trouble, preserving the capital gains exclusion on the sale of residences, and maintaining the property tax deduction for homeowners. Our goal is to strengthen your housing and real estate investment and ensure that the dream of home ownership is there for each of us and for future generations.

TAXATION

An exploding federal debt has forced tax reform into the limelight. In December 2010, a deficit reduction commission offered a variety of models for both simplifying the tax code and increasing the amount of revenue it generates. The combination of the deficit, the need to increase the US credit limit (aka the debt ceiling) and the fragile economy have lined up to force a major political debate about the relative mix of spending and revenue. As a result, a variety of tax laws, including those affected by commercial and residential real estate, could be reviewed with a focus on raising revenue.

Mortgage Interest Deduction: NAR opposes any changes that would limit or undermine current law. In 2011, NAR secured 183 bi-partisan co-sponsors for H. Res 25 which “expresses the sense of the Congress that the current Federal income tax deduction for interest paid on debt secured by a first or second home should not be further restricted.”

Cancellation of Mortgage Debt: NAR supports further extension of this law which is set to expire on December 31, 2012.

Capital Gains – Exclusion on Sale of Residence: NAR opposes any changes that would reduce or limit the capital gains exemption ($250,000/$500,000) on the sale of a home.

Property Tax Deduction: NAR opposes any changes that would reduce or eliminate current laws.

REAL ESTATE FINANCE

Coupled with a lack of available and affordable mortgage financing, delinquencies and foreclosure rates continue to be a significant concern. Federal policymakers are weighing a number of proposals aimed at creating healthier housing and mortgage markets.

Government Sponsored Enterprises: NAR recommends that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac be restructured in a manner that ensures consumers have a reliable source of mortgage funding in all types of markets, under all types of economic conditions. The restructured entities should be explicitly backed by the government, have no shareholders and be subject to tighter regulations on product, revenue generation and usage, and retained portfolios in order to accomplish their mission and protect the taxpayer.

Credit Policies: NAR believes that regulators and the broader lending community needs to focus on providing mortgage financing to qualified homebuyers and investors, as well as homeowners wanting to take advantage of historically low interest rates. In order to ensure adequate access to mortgage credit, NAR opposes a narrow definition of what constitutes a Qualified Residential Mortgage (QRM) and supports a Qualified Mortgage (QM) definition that establishes strong consumer protections, incorporates important ability-to-repay standards, and offers lenders a safe harbor that reduces litigation exposure. NAR has also called for the expansion of residential and commercial lending products, including investor access to FHA 203K loan program, and supports efforts to increase consumer access to mortgage refinancing programs.

Short Sales: NAR continues to push the lending industry to expedite short sales and is working with Congress to get legislation passed to make the short sales process more efficient. NAR supports H.R. 1498, which requires servicers to decide whether to approve a short sale within 45 days of completion of the file. NAR has also met with FHFA, the conservator of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the GSEs), to advocate for servicing guidelines for Fannie and Freddie loans that speed up servicer response times on short sale transactions.

PROPERTY INSURANCE

For the past several years, Congress has been approving short-term extensions of the National Flood Insurance Program’s (NFIP) authority to issue flood insurance policies while they continue to debate long-term fiscal reforms to the program. The most recent extension was on Dec. 17, 2011, when Congress extended it through May 31, 2012. NAR is urging Congress to use the additional time to complete work on a 5-year NFIP re-authorization bill to provide certainty and avoid further disruption to real estate markets.

APPRAISAL ISSUES

Over the last 18-36 months, a host of rules, regulations, and laws have been announced to further protect appraiser independence. NAR strongly supports the independence of appraisers and the appraisal process. Additionally, NAR opposes the use of indemnification clauses by Appraisal Management Companies (AMCs) which places pressure on the appraiser, compromises their independence, and has a negative effect on the quality of appraisal reports. NAR will also pursue legislative and regulatory efforts to require AMCs to retain competent and qualified appraisers.

COMMERCIAL ISSUES

More than $1.2 trillion in commercial real estate loans will come due over the next few years, and many of these deals will have trouble getting financing. Depressed conditions in the financial and small business sectors continue to negatively affect the commercial real estate industry, which threatens our nation’s economic recovery. NAR supports protecting and enhancing the flow of capital to commercial real estate. NAR believes Congress and the federal government should consider legislation and regulation aimed at improving commercial real estate markets including: (1) accelerated depreciation, (2) increasing the cap on credit union member business lending (MBL), (3) additional banking agency guidance related to term extensions, (4) creation of a mortgage insurance program for performing commercial loans, (5) improving credit availability for small businesses and (6) creation of a U.S. covered bond market.

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December 2011 Utah County Housing Statistics

Housing StatisticsClosed home sales have posted their seventh straight month of gains over the prior year. December put us at 24.6% over 2010 closed sales, pushing our year to date at 533 more sales than last year, a 10.9% increase. This trend should continue as pending sales posted an eighth straight month of double digit increase, sitting at 15.1% this December compared to last and YTD we are up 13.0%.

Inventory and new listings continue to decline. December new listings were down 14.3% and YTD we are down 13.8%. This has pushed our total inventory down 23.2% and our months supply of inventory is also down substantially to 7.0 months, a 31.7% decrease from last year at this same time.

Utah County December 2011 Housing Statistics

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November 2011 Utah Housing Statistics

Housing StatisticsUtah home sales were up for the sixth consecutive month in November, rising more than ten percent, according to the UAR’s newest report. During November, Utah Realtors sold nearly two hundred fifty more homes than last year.

Sales were also up for the year as a whole, rising eight percent compared to the first eleven months of 2010. Since the beginning of the year, more than thirty thousand homes have been sold.

The sales increases should continue in coming months. The number of purchase contracts signed rose thirty-one percent in November. Pending sales measure future activity and have increased for seven consecutive months.

Inventory continued to decline in November, with levels down twenty-three percent. Inventory has been falling for a year, with November marking the fewest number of homes on the market since April 2007.

Contributing to the lower inventory was the fact that fewer homes were put up for sale. The number of new listings was down about twelve percent. About five hundred fewer homes went on the market this year versus last.

Houses were also absorbed faster. In November, it would have taken less than eight months to sell all of the homes on the market at the average sales pace. That’s significantly down from last year when there was an eleven-month supply. Month’s supply has not been lower since 2007.

Nevertheless, price improvements still lagged behind the progress made in other areas. The median sales price was one hundred seventy thousand dollars, down about nine percent from last November’s median. For the year as a whole, prices are down about eight percent.

Those prices combined with another month of low interest rates brought affordability close to the record high. The typical Utah family makes one hundred sixty-seven percent of what is needed to buy the median-priced home under prevailing interest rates. The record was set in September when affordability was just slightly higher.

November 2011 Utah Housing Market Overview

Utah Nov 2011 Closed SalesUtah Nov 2011 Days on MarketUtah Nov 2011 InventoryUtah Nov 2011 Months Supply

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November 2011 Utah County Housing Statistics

Housing StatisticsClosed home sales have posted their sixth straight month of gains over the prior year. November put us at 8.3% over 2010 closed sales, pushing our year to date at 424 more sales than last year, a 9.4% increase. This trend should continue as pending sales posted a seventh straight month of double digit increase, sitting at 36.6% this November compared to last and YTD we are up 13.5%.

Inventory and new listings continue to decline. November new listings were down 6.6% and YTD we are down 13.8%. This has pushed our total inventory down 22.7% and our months supply of inventory is also down substantially to 7.5 months, a 29.9% decrease from last year at this same time.

Utah County November 2011 Housing Statistics

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Buyer Beware – Utah Short Sale Warning

BUYERS DO NOT LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU!

frustrationAs a broker, I am sometimes called to resolve disputes between agents. When this happens the two brokers examine the contract and try to resolve the issue. I want to share with you a recent dispute and the sad story of a buyer who lost their first position on a short sale contract.

If you are looking to understand the short sale process a little better, please visit my post on the Utah’s Short Sale Disclosure. Some KEY sections of Utah’s Short Sale Addendum are listed at the end of this post for your ease of reference.

Buyer 1 submitted an offer to purchase a property on the condition of short sale approval from the bank (AKA Third Party). The buyer’s agent included the short sale addendum and in section 4 (see below) gave the bank 60 days to approve this offer. As part of the contract, the seller was allowed the opportunity to continue to market the property and accept back-up offers. A few days before the offer was set to expire (per the terms of section 4, the 60 days to get approval) the selling agent negotiated a second, better offer, in back up position for Buyer 2.

The 60 days came and went without the buyer’s agent extending the “Third Party Approval Deadline”. This failure to extend the deadline resulted in the automatic cancellation of the contract. It then moved the back-up offer from Buyer 2 into first position. Fast forward another 60 days and the agent for Buyer 1 calls me upset that his buyer has lost their position! I sadly had to explain the contract in detail to this agent and help them understand that by not extending the “Third Party Approval Deadline” they had lost their buyer’s position in the contract.

BUYERS – Be aware of the date in section 4 of the Short Sale Addendum. CALL your agent well before this date and extend it if you are still interested in the property and you haven’t received “Third Party Approval”. Sadly the buyer in the story above found themselves wasting 120 days with nothing to show for it, all because their agent didn’t pay attention to this simple deadline…

4. FAILURE TO OBTAIN THIRD PARTY APPROVAL. Seller and Buyer shall have until  mm/dd/yyyy (“Third Party Approval Deadline”) to obtain Third Party Approval. If by the Third Party Approval Deadline, Third Party Approval has not been obtained, the REPC shall automatically be deemed cancelled whereupon any Earnest Money Deposit shall be released to Buyer without the requirement of further written authorization from Seller.

6. SELLER’S RIGHT TO ACCEPT BACK-UP OFFERS. Buyer agrees that at any time prior to Third Party Approval as defined in Section 2 above, Seller may: (a) continue to market the Property to other interested buyers; (b) continue to advertise the Property through the MLS showing any MLS status category (the MLS will allow) deemed necessary and appropriate by the Seller and/or the Third Parties; (c) accept additional backup offers for the purchase of the Property (“Backup Contracts”) subject to the rights of Buyer under this contract; and (d) Seller may or may not submit any such Backup Contracts to the Third Parties for review.

7. BUYER & SELLER’S RIGHT TO CANCEL REPC. Seller and Buyer acknowledge that there will be significant time delays in obtaining any response from the Third Parties to the terms of this proposed Short Sale; and because this is a Short Sale, Seller will need to obtain the highest and best terms for the sale of the Property. During this significant time delay, circumstances may change for both Seller and Buyer. The changes in circumstances may include, but are not limited to: (a) adjustments in available mortgage financing rates and terms; (b) modifications in the financial circumstances of Seller or Buyer; (c) the timing of the transaction may no longer meet Buyer or Seller’s needs; (d) Buyer may find another property that better suits Buyer’s needs; and (e) Seller may receive additional offers for the purchase of the Property that better address Seller’s legal and financial needs. Based on the above, if at any time prior to Third Party Approval, or the Third Party Approval Deadline, whichever occurs first, the Buyer or Seller determines that their circumstances have changed and it is no longer in their best interest to pursue the sale/purchase of the Property, either Buyer or Seller may cancel the REPC by providing written notice to the other party. In such instance, the Earnest Money Deposit, if any, shall be returned to the Buyer without the requirement of further written authorization from Seller. Buyer and Seller acknowledge and agree that this mutual right of cancellation is fair and reasonable to both parties.

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My Visit to 9/11 Memorial

9/11 Memorial and Freedom TowerI recently attended the Inman Connect New York conference at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square. It’s a bustling and exciting part of New York City, one I highly recommend visiting. But what I was most looking forward to on this trip was the opportunity to visit the 9/11 Memorial.

We put together a great group of friends attending Inman Connect and made the trek downtown. The process for visiting the 9/11 Memorial is pretty slick. You go online to make a reservation and simply arrive at the designated time and make your way through security and then are free to roam around the hallowed ground.

9/11 Memorial PoolsYou can’t help but feel a sense of what happened here, especially as you approach the 9/11 Memorial Pools. The empty footprints of the twin towers is something that pictures can not adequately portray. The noise of the rushing water, the names surrounding the pools and the gaping void combine in what can only be described as the perfect memorial to the lives lost here. It is fitting though, that next to these footprints rises the new Freedom Tower.

9/11 Memorial Names ParapetAs I walked around the 9/11 Memorial Pools, I was struck by this particular view down a corner of the names parapet. It clearly illustrated to me the incomprehensible loss that the FDNY suffered that day, as they rushed into the buildings to save lives and then lost their own in the process. This shot captures the names of 5 FDNY Companies, one above the other.

I also had the chance to see the amazing 9/11 Tree that survived the collapse of the towers. It was also moving to see the temporary visitors center and view the items there, such as the FDNY helmet, twisted steel and melted aluminum. Those pictures are below.

If you ever find yourself in New York, I highly recommend you visit the 9/11 Memorial.

The 9/11 Tree9/11 FDNY Helmet9/11 WTC Twisted Steel9/11 WTC Melted AluminumFreedom Tower9/11 Memorial Visitor Pass

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Houzz’s Readers’ Choice – Best of 2011

houzz logoHouzz is one of my favorite sites/apps and it is chock full of ideas to make your house amazing too!

This year they compiled a great Reader’s Choice list of the best rooms of the house in 2011.

Enjoy!

2011 Best Living Rooms

2011 Best Living Rooms

2011 Best Kitchens

2011 Best Kitchens

2011 Best Bedrooms

2011 Best Bedrooms

2011 Best Bathrooms2011 Best Bathrooms

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The 12 Days of Christmas – Home Repair and Maintenance Version

The 12 Days of Christmas – Home Repair and Maintenance Version

On the First Day of Christmas …New Filters for Their HVAC

On the 10th Day of Christmas …Water Heater Maintenance

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Great Books I Read in 2011

Why fight it, everyone seems to be doing a top 11 list this year instead of just 10, so here’s the books I enjoyed reading the most this last year (in no particular order…) Click on the books for their Amazon.com pages.

Steve Jobs Biography – A fascinating look at the life and mind of one of the greatest innovators of our time. It’s a lengthy book, but I couldn’t put it down. Walter Isaacson does a wonderful job of illustrating all aspects of Steve’s life. As an Apple user I really enjoyed the insights into the principles that drove Steve Jobs, and in turn the company. On a side note… I love actual hard bound books, this was my very first purchase of an eBook on my iPad. Pretty fitting that Steve’s book was my first!

Tribes – Seth Godin does a great job, in this short but poignant book on the art of leading tribes. Seth’s insights are always unique and open your mind up to different ways of thinking about the role of leaders and followers. If you aren’t already following Seth’s daily blog… I’d highly recommend it. He shares great insight each day and it’s usually a short quick read. Check out Seth Godin’s Blog for yourself – click on his head ->

Linchpin – Another great read from Seth Godin! This book is all about you – your choices, your future, and your potential to make a huge difference. To quote Seth, “The only way to get what you’re worth is to stand out, to exert emotional labor, to be seen as indispensable, and to produce interactions that organizations and people care deeply about.” This is a great book if you are looking for ways to build value with your clients, employer… or anyone for that matter!

The Art of the Long View –  Peter Schwartz takes a interesting look at strategic planning and long-term visioning through the use of scenario building. This book is chock full of great examples of companies whose use of scenario building paid off in the real world. Schwartz walks you through the scenario building process step by step so you can easily implement his principles into your own long-term planning.

Made to Stick – This book, by brothers Chip & Dan Heath, takes a look at why some ideas survive and others die. They examine what it takes to improve the chances of worthy ideas surviving. They reveal the anatomy of ideas that stick and help you transform they way you communicate your ideas. Learn to apply principles like the “Velcro Theory of Memory” and creating “Curiosity Gaps”. It’s also full of great real world examples.

Crush It! – Gary Vaynerchuk’s breakthrough book is always a fun quick read. Gary focuses in on how to cash in on your passion. Speaking of passion… Gary is the king of passion and it shows throughout this book. My favorite chapter is actually the shortest chapter of the book… # 7 – CARE! This book will get you pumped up and excited to both identify your passion and build on it to be more successful in every aspect of your life.

Surviving Your Serengeti – This was probably one of my most favorite books of the year, because it really became an interactive experience. Stefan Swanepoel crafted an excellent safari adventure that took a look at seven unique skills found in the animals of the Serengeti and then applied them to everyday life. He took it a step further with a “What Animal Am I” quiz and is ready to launch workshops based on the lessons learned in the Serengeti. I was fortunate to attend the two beta tests of the workshop held here in Utah. It’s an awesome program!

Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell has a great track record with “Tipping Point” and “Blink”. He certainly doesn’t disappoint with “Outliers – The Story of Success”. Gladwell takes a unique perspective in this book by looking less at what successful people are like and turns the focus into where they are from by examining their culture, their family, their generation and upbringing. He looks to real world examples of the Beatles, software billionaires, athletes, and many more!
What the Dog Saw – Sticking with Malcolm Gladwell for one more enjoyable read! This book is actually a compilation of intriguing and interesting interviews that Malcolm conducted over more than a decade for The New Yorker.  The scope of this book ranges from why are there dozens of varieties of mustard-but only one variety of ketchup to what do football players teach us about how to hire teachers to what does hair dye tell us about the history of the 20th century? A very entertaining read!

Trust Agents – Is a great examination of using the web to build influence, improve reputation and earn trust. Chris Brogan and Julien Smith delve into how the internet has changed the way we do business. They show you how social networks and personal connections are playing a greater role in business success than marketing messages ever will. Full of strategies and tools to help you implement the art of being a “Trust Agent”.

Always Looking Up – We all know Michael J. Fox, but do we really? This book takes a look at the last decade of his life and his battle with Parkinson’s Disease. By recognizing the gifts of everyday life, Fox has found the key to being a happier, more satisfied person, in-spite of the tremendous challenges he faces with Parkinson’s. The subtitle to the book sums it up well, “The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist”. A great lesson we could all learn from.

I hope a few of these were on your reading list this last year, and those that weren’t…
Well there’s always this year! Happy reading!

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Secrets of a Pro: How to Create a Dazzling Christmas Light Display

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Copyright 2011 NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

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