By NAR 2013 President Gary Thomas
One of the proudest achievements last year by the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) was when Congress reauthorized the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). This is a very important development, and NAR worked hard to ensure its passage.
The NFIP is critical to home sales, because in order to purchase a home in a floodplain, flood insurance is required for the transaction. The 5-year reauthorization brings stability to the NFIP, which had been subject to two lapses and 17 stop-gap measures, since 2008.
However, because of the high costs associated with the program, the NFIP has come under question in recent years. I’ve heard from many of our members, especially those located in coastal states that changes made to the law as part of the reauthorization could increase insurance costs by up to 20 percent, as “subsidized” policies (property owners who were paying less than the cost of the “actuarial” or full risk cost) are phased out. This would pose a heavy burden for many working-class coastal residents, who could pay more than $20,000 per year for flood insurance.
That’s why I created a Presidential Advisory Group (PAG) to examine the issues surrounding flood insurance and NFIP. The PAG will study the issues and report back to me and the Board of Directors. We also expect a congressional hearing in July on the affordability of the rate provisions.
While we understand that costs need to be controlled, we also know how crucial the NFIP is to millions of Americans. We must make sure the program remains viable and affordable to taxpayers so that it is available for home buyers.
If you’d like to learn more, NAR has a video that helps explain the changes to the NFIP and rate schedules.
We’ll keep you posted on any developments. In the meantime, NAR will continue working with our friends in Congress to protect the NFIP.
By NAR 2013 President Gary Thomas
Owning a home of your own is a vital part of the American Dream.
The 75 million Americans who do own their homes can testify that homeownership helps people, communities and the nation. Homeowners are happier, healthier and enjoy a greater feeling of control over their lives. They vote, volunteer and contribute more to their neighborhoods. And because homeowners pay 80 to 90 percent of federal individual income taxes, they provide ongoing support for programs benefiting all Americans.
At the National Association of REALTORS®, we are working hard to inform, educate and engage people across the country about the benefits of homeownership. During this year’s Midyear Meeting & Expo, we asked REALTORS® from coast to coast to step up and tell us that “Home Ownership Matters.”
We heard from REALTORS® all the way from Maine to California. Their genuine enthusiasm for what they do is evident in their personal testimonials. If you want to see for yourself, watch our video.
By NAR 2013 President Gary Thomas
Our hearts go out to the victims of the terrible tornadoes that ripped through Oklahoma. Tragically, as it stands now, 24 souls were lost in the storm, including nine children. Property damage is estimated to reach over two billion dollars.
We’re hearing from neighboring associations that as many as 38,000 people were affected, with 12,000 to 13,000 homes damaged or destroyed.
The loss is overwhelming.
Through it all, though, there were so many acts of courage and kindness worth noting, such as the brave teachers who protected children by laying over them to shield them from the storm.
Oklahomans have certainly proven their resiliency.
Still, they could use a helping hand. To assist where they can, the Oklahoma Association of REALTORS is working with the local boards surrounding the disaster area in Moore, as well as with neighboring association executives from Missouri and Kansas who have offered their help.
They plan to distribute supplies and funds to help those in need.
If you’d like to help the tornado victims, please look for further information from the Oklahoma Association of REALTORS® at the following link:
By NAR 2013 President Gary Thomas
As Bob Hope said, “a bank is a place that will lend you money if you can prove that you don’t need it.”
All kidding aside, we understand banks play a vital role in the housing market. And just as banks are important, so is protecting the interests of consumers.
In 2010, Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank Act). It established a new government agency, called the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The purpose of the CFPB is to supervise banks, credit unions and other financial companies and enforce the federal consumer financial laws.
According to the CFPB, their mission is “to make markets for consumer financial products and services work for Americans — whether they are applying for a mortgage, choosing among credit cards, or using any number of other consumer financial products.”
Because of their important role, NAR maintains an ongoing dialogue with the Bureau. Recently, NAR organized a mortgage roundtable with Iowa REALTORS®, CFPB Director Richard Cordray, NAR staff, and other industry partners. The meeting went very well and demonstrates the importance of presenting the REALTOR® perspective on lending issues to the CFPB. It also shows our members the value of NAR and our ongoing partnerships with federal agencies.
Last March, the CFPB held a field hearing in Iowa on their release of an expanded version of its consumer complaint database, including complaints on obtaining a mortgage, loan modification, or short sale. We welcome the database as a good start in addressing some of the difficulties facing consumers, and our REALTOR® members will appreciate that a light is being shined on deficient banking practices.
Let me mention that CFPB Director Cordray spoke at the May Midyear Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo in Washington, DC. We were interested to hear his perspective on how best to protect consumers.
Here at NAR, our goals are to increase mortgage liquidity and help consumers make better decisions about which mortgage is right for them. This will allow the real estate market to continue improving, help lift the country’s economic markets, and ensure that the dream of homeownership remains within reach for the majority of Americans.
By NAR 2013 First Vice President Chris Polychron
I was just chatting with Elizabeth Mendenhall, 2012 Chair of the Strategic Planning Committee. She let me know that NAR is looking for the next big idea. Do you have any crazy ideas for NAR? Or one that is new, different and unique? If so, the Strategic Planning Committee needs your help.
Get out your cell phone and film a 10-15 second video. State your name, where you are from, and “My crazy idea for NAR is….”
You can be as outrageous as you like, as long as it’s a real idea. If you need inspiration check out this video: http://youtu.be/8rwsuXHA7RA
Please email your videos video to firstname.lastname@example.org by April 30th. If your idea is creative or interesting, you may be featured in a video presented at the May meetings in Washington, DC.
Did you know that 45% of recent buyers used open houses to find their home? NAR encourages REALTORS® to participate in the upcoming Nationwide Open House Weekend, April 20-21, when REALTORS® will hold open houses in neighborhoods coast to coast. President Gary Thomas shares more about the Nationwide Open House Weekend in the video below, and talks about the buyers who are most likely to use open houses in their search for home.
By NAR 2013 President Gary Thomas
On April 15th, it’s a good time to remember something Will Rogers once said. He noted that, “the difference between death and taxes is death doesn’t get worse every time Congress meets.”
As the U.S. Congress considers action on comprehensive tax reform, you can be sure that NAR is doing its best to protect the many long-standing tax incentives to home and property ownership.
These include the following:
- mortgage interest deduction
- capital gains exclusion on the sale of a principal residence
- deduction for mortgage insurance premiums on private mortgage insurance and FHA-backed insurance
- state and local property tax deduction
- carried interest on commercial real estate
We’re going to have to stay on top of the action. These are complicated issues that will not be settled with a direct up or down vote that affects only real estate. They may easily be tucked into the language on a larger bill, and things may move very fast when the time comes.
Right now, we’re in the early stages of what we expect will be a long process. The House Ways & Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee are holding ongoing meetings on the issues. As REALTORS®, we have a seat at the table and are sharing our views.
We tell members of Congress and staff how necessary these incentives are for rebuilding the national economy. Since we’re in the midst of a fragile recovery, additional housing taxes would crush the real estate market just as it is poised to help lift us out of the economic doldrums.
Our goal is to see that the tax code will continue to reflect the fundamental American value that homeownership helps build financial stability. Not only is this the right policy for housing, it’s also the best for families, for communities and the entire country.
Our government tax policy should encourage homeownership while giving more Americans a chance for their little piece of heaven. Support NAR and keep real estate tax incentives alive!
By Gary Thomas, 2013 NAR President
REALTOR® University is one of finest examples of the innovative thinking NAR is doing to meet the needs of REALTORS® in a rapidly changing industry.
REALTOR® University fosters lifelong learning. It is the only institution of higher education focused exclusively on real estate. Entirely online, REALTOR® University is geared toward busy schedules of REALTORS®.
As REALTOR® University begins the second year offering its Master of Real Estate degree program, it is well on its way to meeting its goal of creating the highest standard of professionalism and competency in the real estate industry. Find out more about getting your degree from REALTOR University in my video below.
By NAR 2013 Vice President Leslie Rouda Smith
Before the year 1500, real estate transactions were sealed by “livery of seisin”—the ceremony surrounding conveyance of a property. Closing the deal required the physical transfer of a piece of ground, twig, key, or other symbol on the premises in the presence of witnesses.
Following that custom, paper became the modus operandi and the wet ink signature has been the standard for more than 500 years.
That is until now—the era of technology—when electronic signatures promise easier, speedier, safer transactions for REALTORS® and consumers.
Congress tried to help this along by passing the ESIGN Act of 2000. Its purpose was to support and promote electronic commerce through the use of electronic records and signatures by ensuring the validity and legality of contracts entered into electronically, while preserving consumer protection laws.
Since then, electronic signatures have become much more widely accepted by most financial and lending institutions. E-vendor DocuSign reports 65,000 new users per day (not just in real estate) and expects that number to be one per second by the end of the year. ZipLogix is reporting a 102 percent increase in 2012.
Yet, despite huge growth, many REALTORS® continue to experience problems submitting forms with electronic signatures to servicers of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans, particularly relating to short sales and Real Estate Owned, or REO, properties.
In markets where distressed properties are emerging as the dominant share of the market, completing a transaction under threat of possible default or foreclosure is not unusual. In these instances, the speed and flexibility provided by electronic documents is critical.
I recently took part in a summit, hosted by NAR in Washington, DC, to examine obstacles to increased acceptance of electronic signatures. The meeting brought representatives from government, banking, lending, real estate, and electronic signature providers together for an open discussion.
It was a great opportunity to exchange ideas, and our goals moving forward are twofold. One is to enact government policies that will facilitate implementation of the ESIGN Act. The other is to continue the dialog among all sectors to promote examples of best practices and find additional strategies for eliminating obstacles to full acceptance of E-signatures.
In addition to hosting the summit, NAR has also requested the Acting Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Ed DeMarco to clarify and align Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s policies on the broad acceptance of electronic signatures.
The ability to reduce records and documents to digital form and transfer them electronically, when coupled with the Internet, is transforming the commercial world in general, including the real estate world. Not only have electronic sources provided better data faster, but they are an indicator of the need to reduce all documents to digital form.
We believe that, if done correctly, E-signatures can do more than ease transactions. They also offer greater protection against fraud than traditional wet ink signatures.
We’ve come a long way from exchanging dirt and twigs. There is no doubt that electronic signatures are the wave of the future. Catch the wave!