Voices of Real Estate

BUNGALOWS

[A blog post from NAR CEO Dale Stinton]

For the last 12 years I have walked past a lithograph outside my office, titled ‘Bungalows’! It’s an amazingly accurate representation of what typical houses in the Chicago neighborhoods and surrounding suburbs have looked like for at least 80 years. All lined up in a row, proud evidence of blue collar America, they are modest, brick structures, usually with a well-worn stoop for the evening ritual of sitting and jawing with the neighbors. I thank Terry McDermott, my CEO predecessor and colleague, for pointing the piece out to me (Terry is a Chicago area native like me).

As they say, it ‘speaks to me’ but not in the way you might have thought. While there is joy in appreciating the artist’s skill and interpretative soul – for me, it’s a daily reminder evoking a degree of melancholy bordering on the bittersweet.

If that seems a bit overly dramatic or an odd thing to say (after all it’s just a painting), indulge me long enough to explain. For your patience, I will offer some insight as to what has led to my spending the majority of my working career at the National Association of REALTORS®.

I grew up in Calumet City, a 20 mile drive straight south from downtown Chicago, sharing the Illinois/Indiana border with Hammond, Indiana. In the 40’s, it was referred to as Sin City of the Midwest, apparently for some rather liberal entertainment establishments along the state line that exist to this day. And yet, I thought it was ‘Leave it to Beaver-town’. It was not a particularly diverse place what with 80% of the population being Polish. Every corner had a neighborhood bar, not a Pub, not a Diner – a Bar. The last time they counted how many bars there were ‘back in the day’ it exceeded 125, which is a lot of bars for any town, let alone one of 20,000 people. Cal City as it’s referred to, was in the heart of steel mill country. When you graduated from high school, you could count on a decent paying job in ‘the mills’. Less than 10% of my graduating class were fortunate enough or interested enough to attend college. And so it went – athletic enough to get a basketball scholarship, I went away to school to return home five years later (yes I transferred once so it took every bit of five years) degree in hand. What did I do – you guessed it – I went to work in the mills. U.S. Steel to be exact. South Works to be precise. Accounting turned out to be my aptitude so ‘bean counter’ it was. Literally dozens of my old classmates had a five year head start on me and were marching their way up the steel workers union hourly pay scale as pipefitters, journeymen, electricians, furnace operators, shippers, crane operators, defect inspectors, grinders, and day laborers. Proud, hardworking people, they were always on the lookout for another shift so they could make a mortgage payment or buy their kids some clothes. Living paycheck to paycheck was a way of life. After your shift was over, it was time to engage in a maniacally religious experience known as sixteen inch softball (no glove’s please). A hotly contended scrum every night all summer long, it always ended with the inevitable trip across the street for a Schlitz or an Old Style. Archie Bunker had nothing on us. Those WERE the days!

A half dozen years later, in the middle of the sideburns and disco era, I felt the itch to take my bean counting ability elsewhere (I must admit I had been hearing the rumors of the Japanese dumping steel and putting tremendous pressure on the US steel makers to cut costs). Lucky enough to have a few options, I had a degree and six years experience – I landed at Memorex Corporation, some 40 miles away in the western suburbs. My childhood friends were not so lucky. On one day alone in 1979, they announced the closure of the South Works plant, immediately putting 10,000 people out of work. What followed was predictable and disturbing – many of my friends lost their homes very quickly (yes, those very bungalows) and as if aliens had swept them into the stars, they were gone almost overnight. I never saw them again. To this day I wonder what happened to them. As you might expect, the energy and hopes of a region kicked in the teeth reeled from the loss. The neighborhoods deteriorated. Rows of homes fell into disrepair, and Calumet City, although to this day still valiantly trying to make a go of it, was never the same.

Then what can only be described as ‘serendipity’ to the highest degree – I came to NAR as the Director of Accounting. And I discovered that most precious of career granting gifts – a reason to come to work. And so every day, for 36 years, 12 as the NAR CEO, I have been lucky to be part of the largest dream making and dream saving machine the world has ever known – organized real estate and REALTORS®. I have been blessed to work with the very best Realtors® the world has to offer, legends and icons of an industry with a rich storied history.

Confessions are easiest when you have little to lose – So, as I close this chapter of my life, I sheepishly confess – I used you – I used you to help me feel like I was doing ‘good’. The work of the Staff and Volunteers of NAR and every State and Local Association and MLS Executive is ‘noble work’. It means something to put someone in a home, or even better in my case, to help save someone’s home. So on behalf of my many friends back home who I’ve stayed in touch with and to those I never saw again but for whom I still think of fondly, and to all of you with whom I’ve had the privilege of spending almost four decades – thank you for giving me a reason to get up in the morning and instilling the belief in me that each of us really can make a difference. And today, July 31, 2017, as I pass that painting for the last time, the bitter sweetness will at last be replaced with the knowledge that I tried my hardest, I felt deeply about my job, and the ultimate consolation that Webster’s dictionary still today defines ‘Realtor®’ as a member of the National Association of Realtors®!

TO “B TO B” OR NOT TO “B”

[A blog post from NAR CEO Dale Stinton]

B to B or Business to Business is sometimes used as shorthand for related entities or industry partners cooperating on a menu of products or services.  It is an ‘intra’ concept as opposed to B to C Business to Consumer (inter) relationship.  To my mind, the ultimate B to B structure inside organized real estate is the triangulated relationship between Brokers/Agents, the MLS community, and NAR (all 3 levels).  There are even B to B relationships within this pyramid that have worked together for decades.  There is the Broker/Agent to NAR connection, there is the Broker/Agent to MLS connection, and there is the NAR to MLS connection.  It is this last connection that I’d like to spend a bit of time discussing and in the process, perhaps posit an opinion that the ties that bind us and the opportunities to strengthen our unity are more prevalent now than ever.

As a starting point, allow me to recap or catalogue some past successes we have had together, as a way of suggesting this B to B relationship is stronger than some might think.

For 25 plus years, NAR has been a consistent sponsor of CMLS events even way back when the meetings were in the Northwest and they seemed to only be able to attract 50-75 participants.  Ann Bailey and I always talked about the seeds of collaboration being planted way back then even if it took a fair amount of time for the orchard to mature.  Thanks to some recent very strong, forward thinking MLS leadership actions to create a standalone, membership based legal entity and the hiring of a top executive, Danee’ Evans, there are considerably more attendees (members)now and CMLS has really come into its own.  Simply put, this progress is very significant and needs to be acknowledged and nurtured.

Twenty plus years ago NAR started a thing called RETS, the Real Estate Transaction Standards, with me (the lay person) and seven really knowledgeable and committed industry veterans from Top Producer, Wildfyre, etc…. and one of the preeminent MLS executives in the country, Peter Shuttleworth.  His early contributions to developing the ‘transport mechanism’, much of which is still in use, was exemplary.  NAR, in kind, has been donating open source software to RETS for many years.

In late 2009, we worked with RESO Chairman, Pat Bybee (she’s still missed very much), to morph RETS into a more expanded and inclusive MLS and Vendor universe eventuating in the incorporation of RESO as the umbrella organization that exists today.

Then came CIVIX and an appeal from Ann Bailey on behalf of the MLS community for NAR to attempt a negotiation which would bring this dangerous and potentially catastrophic threat to settlement.  Thanks to Ann and General Counsel Laurie Janik, we were able to put this one behind us, saving MLS’s many millions of dollars.

About three or four years ago I hosted a meeting in Chicago of several key MLS executives who were requesting that NAR loosen some of the controls around the RETS/RESO process and in exchange they promised to deliver a more actively engaged and interested MLS community.  They kept their promise and we kept ours – and out of that has evolved a more vibrant RESO – today’s standards setting group which has grown by leaps and bounds and consists of the best and brightest MLS, Vendor, Brokerage and Association technologists.

Not long ago, NAR stepped up and partnered with our colleagues in the Canadian Association to fund the capture of the MLS ‘domain name’ to protect the brand lest it fall into unfriendly hands.

Then because of helpful feedback from MLS executives that NAR might better understand their point of view if we had someone on staff who came from an MLS background and could advocate for MLS’s – we agreed and added a headcount and hired Caitlin McCrory to do just that.

Valuing and desiring even more feedback, NAR Leadership has been meeting with MLS industry leaders for the past several years and a new, fresher, open dialogue has been achieved.  So much so that we signed the NAR/CMLS cooperative agreement last year which put a number of MLS Executives on NAR committees and has opened up a whole new channel for communication and cooperation.  This past May, CMLS leadership were invited to attend the NAR Executive Committee meeting to provide an update and were sincerely ‘lauded’ for their esprit de’corp and collegiality.

For the past two years our Realtor Party team has been reaching out to MLS’s to contribute to our Corporate Advocacy Funding Program and the response has been overwhelming with more than $1 million pledged and received.

Whether you’ve come to see it this way or not, RPR too was hoped to be an important (B to B) example of cooperation between NAR, RPR, and the MLS and Vendor communities.  It has taken several years longer to achieve the critical mass necessary to demonstrate its ongoing value, but more importantly, we continue to offer up RPR as a great potential partner for what may come or be needed in the future.  The fact is we now have 701 licensing agreements with MLS’s and 25 CIE’s (Commercial Information Exchanges), and we will never do anything to violate or otherwise harm those hard fought arrangements.  We appreciate every one of those MLS Partners whether they were first or last, and whether they are complimentary or critical.

One of the first things Alex Lange did after coming on board with Upstream was to create an MLS Advisory Council to bounce ideas off of and create a channel of communication.  He did not cherry pick our ‘friends’ so to speak, rather he engaged a cross section of all types of MLS’s and MLS executives.  It is out of that group’s advice and counsel and the Upstream Board’s desire to bring everyone back together, that the second option (MLS input first) was born and which has been very well received.  Some have said this is where Upstream should have started to begin with and that its name now belies its mission and brokers original intent.  The NAR learning moment was and is to remember to listen more closely to the Brokers and MLS executives.  When the Brokerage Community perceived an intractability could anyone blame them for wanting to reclaim the fundamental principle of owning and controlling their listing data.  By the same token, some MLS’s understood this perception and were open to providing solutions to the Brokers frustrations.

Which brings us to why the heck did we get into this whole Upstream deal when we did?  Among the strategic reasons none was more basic than demonstrating to the Brokers of this country that we still believed in them and what they represent.  Yes, it’s as simple as that.  They needed us and we responded.  I shudder to think what organized real estate would look like without the Broker as its backbone.

And now we are post Midyear Meetings and the subsequent vote by the NAR Board of Directors to further invest in the future and potential of an RPR/Upstream/MLS Partnership.  It is my belief that the vote (649-93) was far more prescient and strategic in its intent than just funding the Upstream alternative.  I believe the Board of Directors was sending a strong signal that they like it when all the parties are cooperating and working together for one key purpose – to help them!  I think they’d like to see much more of a focus by all of us to come together to serve them better.

Some of you may have missed this signal or dismissed it as yet another attempt on NAR’s part to interfere or intrude itself into space in which it does not belong.  Or you may have spent some time commiserating about what was accurately reported as my ‘cartel’ comment.  Unfortunately, what was conveniently omitted was what I said right before that, which was:

http://voicesofrealestate.blogs.realtor.org/files/2017/06/Dale-Stinton-on-MLSs.mp3

“THERE ARE SOME FANTASTIC VENDORS AND EVEN MORE FANTASTIC MLS’s OUT THERE THAT DO AN UNBELIEVABLE JOB, THEY ARE NOT THE PROBLEM!”

….. followed by applause from the NAR Board of Directors.

Then, after the Midyear Meetings, I listened to a couple of excellent online interviews; one covering the events at the Midyear meeting and one which occurred shortly thereafter.  I can’t say I liked everything they discussed nor do I agree with all of their conclusions, but they were even handed, and generally fair in their observations about the ‘pivot’ to option B and other NAR activities.  What’s the saying …. ‘if you can’t take the heat’.

So where are we now?  Alex Lange reports that he is being warmly received by MLS executives who are anxious to engage in the Option B implementation process as evidenced by a strong desire to discuss an LOI with Upstream.  Alex indicates there are even some large MLS executives who want to bypass the LOI process and get things going by moving straight to a contractual and implementation process.

Additionally, MLS executives are not sitting on their hands.  They are forcing speedier creation and adoption of a true RESO API.  They are talking merger/consolidation like never before.  (Hats off to BrightMLS and a number of others).  Some particularly entrepreneurial folks have introduced the ‘BROKER PUBLIC PORTAL’ and ‘THE GRID’ to the MLS community and they’re putting their money where their mouth is.  As previously mentioned, CMLS has blossomed as a force for cooperation and ideation.  MLS data sharing is happening all over the place.  Some MLS vendors are really stepping up with some state-of-the-art products, particularly focusing on MLS front ends.  FBS and CloudMLX are just a couple of examples of high quality vendors pushing the envelope.

In the meantime, the Brokers are excited about seeing forward movement and progress via Upstream.  They do not feel beaten or that they ‘lost the first round’ as some have said.  They are first and foremost entrepreneurs, they are used to revising their business plans over and over again and moving on.  Mostly they are optimistic about a renewed sense of collaboration within our B to B communities.

This is good news indeed!  The Brokers are ready to cooperate.  NAR/RPR is ready to cooperate.  The MLS’s are ready to cooperate.  Surely, many more good things can be visioned and built on this foundation of like-minded people all focused on delivering value and supporting our members business interests.

So I finish with this; which if it’s true nothing can stop us from sustaining our shared mission to successfully serve our members – Just tell me you still believe in REALTORS® and what they represent.  Tell me you still buy-in to the ‘trusted advisors’ that make dreams come true every day.  I believe in them and always have.  If you do too, then let’s begin anew and create an even stronger B to B platform together which benefits everyone but not at the sacrifice of anyone.

To B to B or not to B!

HEAR US ROAR!

By NAR 2017 First Vice President John Smaby

Last week, nearly 9600 Realtors®came to Washington to make our voices heard on protecting homeownership.  If you haven’t had the chance to come to one of our national conferences, you are really missing out!  It’s tremendous to see so many Realtors®come to Washington, D.C. from all over the country ready to learn the latest on what’s happening in our industry and to connect with other Realtors®.

Let me give you a few of the highlights:

The Board of Directors (BOD) meet to take action on important NAR business

The Board voted by overwhelming support—an 85 percent majority—to support Upstream technology and improving the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) experience.  Earlier in the week, UpstreamRE announced a new “broker of choice” model, which will enable listing data to be input directly into Upstream or flow to Upstream from the MLS.  This will benefit small brokerages because they aren’t able to build a platform the way large brokerages can, and it will allow all brokerages greater control over their data.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson received a standing ovation after giving his thoughts on homeownership, the Federal Housing Administration’s condo rule, mortgage insurance premiums, energy efficiency loans, and public-private partnerships.

Recognizing that homeownership is the foundation of wealth for most American families he said, “We need to make sure that everybody has a chance to become a homeowner.

Realtors® met with Members of Congress and regulators at the Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Department of Treasury and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.  We delivered our message on national flood insurance, tax reform, and sustainable homeownership.

Our members urged Congress to pass a multiyear reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program before it expires on September 30. We also reminded legislators that while Realtors® support a fairer and simpler tax code, it cannot happen by diminishing the real estate tax provisions that are crucial to a vibrant housing market and are a key driver of the economy.  President Bill Brown punctuated his remarks at 360 with a few inspiring words.  He said tax reform, “shouldn’t come at the expense of current and prospective homeowners.”

Realtors® also want to protect sustainable homeownership by advocating for responsible reform of the secondary mortgage market, prohibiting the use of mortgage guarantee fees for any purposes other than credit-risk management, and improving consumer protections for energy efficiency improvement loans.

On the business side, NAR’s strategic investment arm, Second Century Ventures, added seven organizations to its 2017 class of REach®, which encourages the growth of new technology companies into the real estate, financial services, banking, home services and insurance industries.  Two more were announced during the conference.  They include Adwerx, a digital advertising provider and immoviewer, a 3-D virtual tour technology company.

NAR’s REALTOR Benefits® Partner Placester is offering free websites to all Realtors®.  Last year, Realtors® spent a median of $70 maintaining a website. To help reduce business costs, Placester, a real estate website and marketing platform, is extending its partnership with us to provide a basic “NAR Edition” website to the association’s 1.2 million members at no charge.  NAR members will also receive discounts on advanced website features and products.

President Bill ended his remarks at 360 by quoting Oakland Raiders coach Al Davis, telling us, “Just win, baby!”  That’s how we will protect homeownership, consumers and the future of the real estate industry we love.  Hope to see you all in Chicago, November 3-6, at the 2017 Realtors Conference & Expo!

You’re Invited! Join us in celebrating the REALTOR® Party this May

[A guest blog post from 2017 REALTOR® Party Director Charlie Oppler.]

The National Association of REALTORS® is excited to announce the month of May as REALTOR® Party Month.  What does this mean exactly?  Each week during the month of May, associations are encouraged to promote REALTOR activities that highlight the main components of the REALTOR® Party—Vote, Act, and Invest.

Here’s some examples of REALTOR targeted activities Associations can promote each week to help us celebrate REALTOR® Party Month:

VOTE Week: May 7 – May 13

  • Register REALTORS® to vote and educate them on pro-real estate ballot issues and the success of REALTOR® Party candidates.

ACT Week: May 14 – May 20

  • Engage REALTORS® in community outreach projects and ask them to visit members of Congress during the REALTOR® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo or their elected officials back home in their state and local districts.

INVEST Week: May 21 – May 27

  • Educate REALTORS® about the numerous benefits of RPAC and encourage them to invest through individual contributions or by attending RPAC events.

To provide more information surrounding each weekly theme, NAR has created a website that will link to available REALTOR® Party resources and provide a space where associations can contribute activity ideas to promote REALTOR® Party accomplishments and any current initiatives. Visit  www.realtoractioncenter.com/rpmonth to learn more about how your association can get involved!

It is our hope that promoting the REALTOR® Party this May will create excitement and increase member engagement in REALTOR® Party programs and activities while highlighting the great work of state and local associations.

For more information on REALTOR® Party Month, please contact Melissa Horn at realtorparty@realtors.org or 202-383-1026.

Beat Bill Brown’s Bracket: And Then There Were 16

Well, we certainly had a wild, wacky, and wonderful first weekend of the NCAA Basketball Championships, now didn’t we? After the dust settled, only sixteen teams remained to vie for the men’s and women’s national championship. Seems like a good time to check in on Bill Brown’s Brackets. (and for you to see if you are indeed beating those brackets!)

Men’s Bracket Leaders – Seven entries are tied for first, with two more right on their heels. Bill Brown’s Bracket? Currently sitting 30th.

Women’s Bracket Leaders – Bill Brown’s Bracket sits atop the standings, with a slim lead over the second place entry.

Remember to use the hashtag #BillsBrackets as you follow along with the bracket fun on social media.

Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation

by William E. Brown, 2017 NAR President

In the words of one of one of rock’s greatest hits, we didn’t mean to cause a big sensation…but NAR recently released its 2017 Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends study.  This is fascinating research, not only because generation trends impact home buying activity, but because there’s been plenty of angst about the Millennial Generation and whether they will enter the home market at the same rate as previous generations.

Those fears were pretty well abated by the survey.  Millennial buyers, at 85 percent, were the most likely generation to view their home purchase as a good financial investment.  As parents of young children, they’re prioritizing affordability and looking to buy homes in the suburbs.

There was also good news about Generation X.  This was the generation who bought their first home, started a family and were mid-career when the Great Recession wreaked havoc on their finances.  Many of them bought at the peak of the market and didn’t necessarily develop a great deal of equity in their home.  On top of that, they carry the most student loan debt—an average of $30,000. 

Finally, the stronger job market and 41 percent cumulative rise in home prices since 2011 have bolstered home equities.  That, plus a growing job market, has created enough equity that more homeowners can now trade up to a larger home.

My own generation, believe it or not, is also held back by student debt.  The report showed that student loans delayed saving for a down payment or a home purchase for people as old as 62 to 70.  Much of this is debt taken on to support family members, but many older individuals have also decided to go back to school themselves.

 I was thrilled to see that the survey also said that, while they go online to shop, millennial and Gen X buyers and sellers overwhelmingly use a real estate agent to complete their transaction.

 In fact, 90 percent of respondents said they worked with a real estate agent to buy or sell a home.  This resulted in the lowest number of for-sale-by-owner transactions ever at 8 percent, which means there’s no danger that the Realtor®-consumer relationship will fade away any time soon.

To the contrary, this vital generational information can help us be more successful in our businesses as we work to meet the needs of consumers of all different ages.  It’s all groovy, baby!

 

 

Beat Bill Brown’s Brackets

The NCAA Basketball Championships are upon us, and NAR President Bill Brown has caught bracket fever. Think you’ve got the prognostication chops to top NAR’s President? Then head to the links below to make your picks, for both the Men’s and Women’s 2017 NCAA Tournament Brackets.

To enter either Tournament Challenge group, click “Create a Bracket Now”. If you do not already have an ESPN.com account, you’ll be asked to create one. You’ll have a bracket completed in less time than it took me to write this post.

Be sure to get your brackets filled out by noon ET this Thursday, the 16th. Winner earns…bragging rights for a year!

Good luck to all, and May the Brackets Be With You.

Magic of the Season

by William E. Brown, 2017 NAR President

I was a “spirited” child growing up. Perhaps my family would choose a different adjective… let’s just say I had a lot of energy. However, in 1963, when I was eleven years old, either I got my act together, or Santa Claus turned a blind eye, because that year for Christmas I received the ultimate present – a 6-string Gibson guitar.

This wasn’t just a guitar; it was a work of art. Not only did it look smooth with its hand-buffed and high-gloss wood finish, but, put in the right hands, I thought that this 6-string guitar could sound like no other. This was a rock star’s guitar− many rock legends played either Gibson or Fender.

I imagine the exhilaration I felt that Christmas morning, holding the guitar in my adolescent hands, was on par with how John Lennon felt the first time the Beatles walked on stage to play the Ed Sullivan Show. Simply put, Christmas morning 1963 was pure magic!

While no Christmas gift has ever, or will ever, compare, the holiday season remains a magical time for me. As REALTORS®, we enjoy the greatest profession, but there is a tradeoff − we work tirelessly all year long. For most of our members, weekends and evenings are often spent with clients, and not at home with our loved ones. Thankfully, my wife, Heather, is more than understanding; she too is a REALTOR®.

In the Brown household the holiday season brings a welcomed lull. Our cell phones aren’t ringing, there are very few e-mails to return, and for a few brief but magical days, we spend time hunkered down in our own home, enjoying the peace that accompanies this special time of year.

Memories of my 6-string Gibson guitar still bring great joy, but these days, holiday magic is not found in a wrapped present under the tree. Instead, it’s about spending time with those that matter the most.

On behalf of the National Association of REALTORS® 2017 Leadership Team, I wish you and your loved ones a peaceful holiday season and a happy and healthy year ahead.

Take this time to appreciate and to enjoy the magic of the season!

2015 NAR President Chris Polychron honored with Walton College’s Lifetime Acheivement Award

The REALTOR® Community congratulates 2015 NAR President Chris Polychron, the 2016 recipient of the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award at the Sam M. Walton College of Business, University of Arkansas.

Chris’ tremendous accomplishments as the 2015 NAR President were highlighted during the 23rd annual Walton Awards Banquet on Thursday, April 14, at the Fayetteville Town Center. The Award is presented annually to an exceptional and accomplished Walton alum. Past recipients include William T. Dillard, Sr., founder of the Dillard’s Department Stores chain, and Jerry Jones, owner, president, and general manager of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys.

Chris received his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in marketing from the Walton College in 1967.

Congratulations, Chris, on this extraordinary accomplishment!

2015 NAR President Chris Polychron, accompanied by Walton Dean Matt Waller, and Associate Dean Anne O’Leary-Kelly

Evidence Points to Improving TRID Landscape

by Tom Salomone, 2016 NAR President

This time last year, everyone in our industry was talking about the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure Rule. Also known as “Know Before You Owe,” the new rule meant new forms were coming to consumers – and with them, big changes to the mortgage process.

The idea was to make financing a home more transparent for consumers, aiding comparison shopping and preventing surprises at the closing table.

NAR worked hard in advance of the rule to ensure a clear path to success. We pushed for an implementation date that avoided the busy buying-and-selling season, and worked with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to roll out an online toolkit that walked consumers through the new disclosures.

Now six months into implementation, the industry is moving forward. There are still challenges to address, with Realtors® reporting some delayed and a few even cancelled transactions. That’s no surprise, and NAR said from the beginning that there would be bumps in the road and we continue to work with the CFPB to provide additional clarity in order to smooth out those bumps

But more and more we’re also hearing from brokers and agents who see “Know Before You Owe” rules putting consumers in the driver’s seat and helping avoid problems at the closing table. In an op-ed at Banker and Tradesman, broker/owner Anthony Lamacchia had this to say:

“While the extra time has certainly helped alleviate closing delays, the real reason is that, due to TRID, everyone is working together in a more proactive fashion. It had a trickledown effect; Realtors have been asked to negotiate longer closing dates, buyers are reminded more often to get their mortgage brokers what they want, when they want it. Real estate attorneys are contacting each other sooner and working together by pulling title earlier and doing whatever they can to be prepared for closing. Buyers seeing their numbers earlier has prevented last-minute freak-outs and fire drills, which in turn decreases closing delays. Now when there is a problem or a question, it is worked out days in advance instead of the morning of or even at the closing.”

That’s the kind of optimism and can-do spirit that I like to see as the industry continues to adjust.

We know there will continue to be short-term challenges, but the average consumer doesn’t spend their time thinking about regulatory constraints the way we do. They simply want a smooth ride on the road to homeownership.

As an industry, we have the tools and the talent to deliver. As professionals, that’s what we do.

 

New Phishing Scam: Don’t Get Hooked

By NAR 2016 President Tom Salomone

One member of the National Association of REALTORS® recently told how a client was scammed by a “phishing scheme.”  That’s when hackers lure unsuspecting consumers into giving up their hard-earned money.

In this case, criminals hacked the other agent’s account and sent a request to wire funds.  The scammer even diverted the client’s responses from the broker’s inbox!  The client wired upwards of $20,000 overseas right into the criminal’s hands.

This incident drove home to the REALTOR® that you should always tell your client you will never send an email asking them to wire funds.  It also illustrates the wisdom of using the brokerage firms’ firewall by going through the company’s domain.

Phishing scams can be hard to recognize because criminals build their phony sites to look like real sites.  About two years ago, Google did a study that showed phishing scams continue to work about 45 percent of the time.

According to experts, phishing attacks worldwide are happening more often than ever and hackers continue to go where the money is.  When hackers pose as agents or title companies, their target is someone’s down payment on a house.  If the buyer takes the bait, their bank account can be wiped out within minutes!

To avoid being scammed by phishing schemes, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers these tips:

  • Never e-mail your financial information.  E-mail is not considered secure.
  • Check the security of the website.  For any financial information you provide over the web, check that the site is secure.  The URL should begin with https.
  • Be careful what you click on.  Don’t click a link in an e-mail to an organization’s site.  Instead, look up the real URL, and type it in yourself.
  • Be cautious about opening attachments and downloading any files from e-mails.
  • Make sure your operating system, browser, and security software are up-to-date.

Buying a new home should be an exciting and happy event.  To keep it that way, REALTORS® should remind their clients to be extra cautious about the dangers of sending financial information over email, downloading attachments or responding to email requests to wire money.  When it comes to phishing scams, greater awareness of the threat is the best protection!

 

A Note of Support

By: Tom Salomone 2016 NAR President

A few thoughts from last night…

REALTORS® build and strengthen communities. It’s what we do day in and day out. Helping a young family find the perfect starter home, assisting a developer scout a location for a new office development; we are helping to provide bright futures not only for ourselves, but more importantly, for our families, for our neighbors, and for generations to come.

When you’re stuck in traffic and rushing to get to an open house, or when you’re on the phone talking to a disappointed client, you may not be thinking big picture. You’re tired, you’re frustrated, but at the end of the day, you’re always making a difference. I’ll be honest, this job, the role of NAR president, can be exhausting…but in the best way possible. To serve REALTORS® who serve communities is an honor. Other than being a father and a husband, this is the most important role I will have in my lifetime. Most nights when it’s finally time to go bed, I hit the pillow, and I’m out. But last night was different. I struggled to find sleep.

I couldn’t stop thinking about the people of Belgium, the people of Turkey, the people of the Ivory Coast- communities all over our beautiful world who are grieving. In this time of tragedy, I am struck for words. But on behalf of the entire NAR Community, 1.1 million strong, we offer our sympathy, our prayers, and our support to all those impacted by these horrific events.

As REALTORS®, we build and strengthen communities. And we will continue to do so. No matter what. It’s just what we do.

March Winds

By NAR 2016 President Tom Salomone

They say that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.  While that may be true for the weather, the spring real estate market is indicating more of a mixture.

We see a steady headwind for real estate causing the number of existing home sales to fall in February by 7.1 percent to 5.08 million.  In 2016, existing-home sales are expected to increase around 2.5 percent in 2016, whereas over the past year, they increased 6.3 percent.

Prices have climbed in many markets, while the supply of houses and new construction remains low. In fact, low supply levels pushed prices up for the 48th consecutive month of year-over-year gains.  This year, we expect home prices to increase between 4 and 5 percent, following a 6.8 percent increase in 2015.

There’s also a perceived difficulty in getting a mortgage.  The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s new disclosure rule—TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure, or TRID—has been tough for real estate agents, lenders and settlement agents.

According to a survey by ClosingCorp,consumers who are supposed to be helped by the rule find that TRID makes it easier for them to understand closing costs and fees.  However, the new rules are adding anxiety to the closing process.  National Association of REALTORS® Research finds that closings are being delayed about eight days.

Looking ahead, we’re hoping to catch a tailwind on consumer confidence and the economy.

A high number of homeowners are expressing that they believe it’s a good time to buy.  This sentiment is likely being fueled by the $4.4 trillion in housing equity accumulation in the past three years.

Seventy-nine percent of renters would choose to move outside an urban area.  This is expressed most often by millennials, who are now looking to move to the suburbs, something no one thought would ever happen!

Looking back, the housing market has done reasonably well over the past few months, showing surprising resiliency.  The U.S. economy is forecast to grow around 2 to 3 percent in 2016, although prices are still rising too fast, due to decreased supply levels.

REALTORS® are incredibly dedicated to helping their customers find the home of their dreams.  And like the weather, the market is changeable.

This is a good time to take stock and see what you can do to be more effective, whether it’s adopting the latest technology or growing your network.  Let’s all take a deep breath and recommit our efforts to doing the very best work we can, and then some!

It’s spring, the weather is fair, and we’re looking for business to grow.

 

 

 

A LIFE WORTHWHILE

By NAR 2015 President Chris Polychron

A year and-a-half ago, the untimely death of Realtor® Beverly Carter brought home to me that a person’s livelihood as a Realtor® should not put them in mortal danger.

As 2015 President of the National Association of Realtors® (NAR), I made the safety of Realtors® a priority.  Since then, the Realtor® community has come together to increase job safety for real estate professionals.

I also sought to express gratitude to our nation’s police officers for their contribution toward keeping our neighborhoods safe.  During the 2015 Realtors® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo, NAR honored police officers and made a donation to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

This week, we’ve witnessed the terrible shooting of three Virginia police officers and the death of 28-year-old Ashley Guindon the day after she was sworn in for duty.  Ashley bravely entered a domestic dispute situation because there was a child in the house.  Her decision was fatal, reminding us that many special people willingly put themselves in harm’s way to ensure our safety.

During her funeral service Prince William County Police Chief Stephan Hudson said that she lived and died for the service that meant so much to her.  He said, “That was her desire; to serve, to be involved in the things that mattered, to give her life to something worth giving it to.  And that’s exactly what she did.”

Her short life sets a truly inspiring example.  We, at NAR, would like to express our deepest appreciation to Ashley and her fellow officers for their service.   Our sympathy and our prayers go out to the families, the survivors, and all those impacted by this tragedy.

NAR will continue working diligently to make sure members have the information and training they need to stay safe on the job.

Nothing in life is certain, but those who dedicate themselves to serving their communities, whether by opening the door to homeownership or protecting our neighborhoods, will know the satisfaction that comes from giving their lives to something worthwhile.

 

2016 Advocacy Agenda

Working together we can be great!!

By: Tom Salomone 2016 NAR President

Earlier this month, REALTOR® federal policy leaders, from around the United States, gathered in Washington, DC to discuss our Association’s policy agenda. Facilitated by 2016 NAR Vice President Sherri Meadows, from Ocala, FL, in conjunction with NAR’s dedicated staff, this meeting of the minds proved to be tremendously beneficial.  Its key takeaways will help guide the Associations’ advocacy initiatives throughout 2016.

The meeting’s agenda was ambitious, yet well-constructed. Leading housing and real estate industry stakeholders, political prognosticators, and policy and research experts provided incredible insight on issues impacting homeownership and commercial investment, as well as conversations focused on the future of the housing market. These discussions provided attendees with a comprehensive industry outlook. Additionally, NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun shared results from NAR’s 2016 Public Policy Survey which gauged Realtors® views on various federal policy issues.

Based on REALTORS® feedback and priorities, NAR will focus the Association’s 2016 advocacy efforts on the following public policy initiatives:

HOMEOWNERSHIP & REAL ESTATE INVESTMENT TAX POLICIES

  • State and Local Tax Deductions
  • Mortgage Interest Deduction
  • Mortgage Debt Cancellation Tax Relief
  • Capital Gains

CREDIT, LENDING AND INSURANCE POLICIES

  • Credit Availability
  • GSE (Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac) Restructuring, Liquidity and Lending
  • FHA Lifetime Mortgage Insurance Premiums
  • FHA Condominium Requirements & Financing
  • National Flood Insurance Reauthorization

BUSINESS OPERATIONS

  • Dodd-Frank Act Regulations (TRID Implementation)
  • Technology Issues (Patent Reform, Net Neutrality, Data Privacy & Security)
  • Appraiser Independence Regulations

COMMERCIAL

  • 1031 Like-Kind Exchanges
  • Basel III
  • Lease Accounting
  • Waters of the United States

From an advocacy perspective, 2016 is going to be an important year for REALTORS®─ we have a lot of work ahead of us. More often than not, during an election year, policymakers tend to focus on the election, rather than the issues. But we have to keep pushing. It is critical for REALTORS® to come together and have our opinions heard. We need to speak with one voice, loudly and clearly, about the stability a sound and dynamic real estate market brings to our communities.

I need your help! While our REALTOR® federal policy leaders and NAR staff make an incredible team, we need the backing and involvement of our grassroots to ensure that issues important to REALTORS® stay first and foremost in the minds of legislators.

How YOU can help:

The good news is that the REALTOR® Action Center makes participation simple.

1.  Register to Vote.

If you are not already a registered voter, the REALTOR® Action Center will link you to the voter registration form for your state. Each state has different registration deadlines; don’t delay!

2.  Elect REALTOR® Champions.

Property ownership is not a partisan issue. Before you cast your vote, understand the key issues  impacting our industry. Support candidates that support REALTOR® issues!

3.  Act on REALTOR® Party Issues. 

When Congress is considering legislation that affects the real estate industry, NAR calls on its members to act, ensuring that the REALTOR® voice is heard. Through the REALTOR® Action Center, you can respond to our call, and with just a few quick clicks of your mouse, you can communicate directly with your member of Congress.  Sign up for REALTOR Party Mobile Alerts, and in mere seconds, you can respond to a Call for Action from anywhere.

4.  Invest in RPAC.

RPAC’s mission is to identify candidates for elected office on the local, state and national levels who will work with REALTORS® to promote and protect the American Dream of property ownership. Candidates that receive support from RPAC are not selected based on their political party or ideology, but solely on their support of real estate issues. While a third of NAR’s 1.1 million members contribute to RPAC, I know we can do better. Your participation is crucial─ especially in this important election year. Today is the day to invest in your future!

It has been said that America is the indispensable nation. The same can be said about real estate. We are the indispensable sector of the American economy.  As such, we cannot afford to have any harm done to homeownership and commercial investment. Our communities and our nation depend on the success of the real estate sector─ our communities and our nation depend on you.  Working together we can be great!!

 

Honoring Beverly Carter

A Note from 2015 NAR President Chris Polychron

As many of you may already know, on Friday, January 15, 2016, Arron Lewis was found guilty of abducting and killing a Realtor® from Arkansas, a beloved member of our community, Beverly Carter. Justice has been served, and Lewis will spend the rest of his life behind bars, with no hope of parole.  I pray Beverly’s family, friends, and community will find peace with this closure.

I pen this note to you, my fellow Realtors®, with bittersweet sentiments. We owe so much to the Carter family, who despite their unfathomable grief, have done a tremendous job bringing safety to the forefront of our industry. In the 16 months since Beverly Carter’s murder, NAR; local and state Realtor® associations; and, brokers and agents from all across the country, have worked together to develop professional safety protocols. I want to thank, personally, all those who have helped to create and promote the resources now available through the REALTOR® Safety Program. Your contributions are making a real difference.

I urge all REALTORS® to honor Beverly Carter’s memory by remaining vigilant. Ours is the best profession in the world, yet there are some real risks associated with it. Please take the time to understand potential dangers, and take precautions to protect yourself and your colleagues.

Learn more about the REALTOR® Safety Program by visiting www.realtor.org/safety

MLK & Fair Housing

By: Tom Salomone, 2016 President

Monday, Jan 18th 2016, marks MLK Day, honoring the memory of civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In thinking about Dr. King’s many, many heroic contributions, I am reminded of the tremendous impact he had on our industry, including our Association.

In the summer of 1966, Dr. King moved to Chicago and engaged in a series of marches, appealing to the city’s real estate practitioners to end discriminatory housing practices. King’s demand for open housing led to the 1968 passage of the Fair Housing Act.  The Act declared a national policy of fair housing throughout the United States. The law makes illegal any discrimination in the sale, lease or rental of housing, or making housing otherwise unavailable, because of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.

Demonstrating the National Association of REALTORS® commitment to civil rights and making property ownership viable for all Americans, King’s call for fair housing was incorporated into the REALTOR® Code of Ethics. Article 10 states,

“REALTORS® shall not deny equal professional services to any person for reasons of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity. REALTORS® shall not be parties to any plan or agreement to discriminate against a person or persons on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity. REALTORS®, in their real estate employment practices, shall not discriminate against any person or persons on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity.”

Let Dr. King’s legacy be an inspiration to us all- to work even harder – both in our businesses and in our communities.

In the words of Dr. King, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’

**********

If you are looking for ways to get more involved and make a difference within your community, I encourage you to check out the incredible work REALTORS®, from across the country, are doing in conjunction with the Boys & Girls Club of America!  

Global Opportunities – French Connections

By: Chris Polychron, 2016 Immediate Past President

Bonjour et Bonne Année!  Hello and Happy New Year, my fellow REALTORS®!

Just before the holiday, I had the privilege of representing NAR, and speaking at the Federation Nationale de l’Immobilier’s (FNAIM) General Assembly. FNAIM, NAR’s bilateral partner in France, is the premier association for French real estate professionals. The association’s mission is similar to NAR’s mission. Working on behalf of French real estate practitioners and property owners, FNAIM is committed to ensuring that real estate is practiced professionally and ethically throughout France. Like REALTORS®, members of FNAIM must adhere to a strict code of ethics, setting FNAIM members apart from other French real estate practitioners.

The NAR – FNAIM partnership was established in 1999. As associations laboring towards similar goals, our collegial alliance has strengthened over the years and our organizations have collaborated globally on a number of occasions. When the heinous terrorist attacks in Paris occurred this past November, there were a number of FNAIM delegates attending the REALTORS® Conference and Expo in San Diego. Our French colleagues commented that being far away from home during a national crisis was extremely difficult, but the outpouring of support REALTORS® displayed to the FNAIM delegates, was overwhelming. Living in post 9/11 America, naturally, we could all sympathize. But if you attended the General Session during the REALTORS® Conference & Expo, you can attest that the bond we share with our French colleagues moved us beyond mere sympathy. As part of the NAR Global Alliances Flag Ceremony which opened the General Session, Yves Boussard, Past President of FNAIM, carried the French flag onto stage. Spontaneously, all 6000 general session attendees stood up and gave a boisterous and extended standing ovation. From my vantage point, back stage, looking out, I couldn’t see one dry eye. Mine certainly weren’t. The NAR community stood in solidarity- a gesture illustrating how ours is so much more than just a profession, it’s a brotherhood.

The 2015 FNAIM General Assembly in Paris was scheduled for the second week of December, hardly a month after the attack. I wondered if FNAIM would cancel. News stations predicted that there were more attacks to come, and Parisians, rightfully so, were on edge. If I am honest, I too was a little bit nervous at the idea of traveling abroad. But FNAIM persevered; they made the decision to proceed as planned. And I am so glad they did! The conference was tremendous.

Every day the world continues to get smaller. We live in a day and age where our next business deal may not be in the next neighborhood or town, but an ocean or continent away. Consumers are more mobile than ever before. And technology has connected us in ways we never imagined possible.

Similar to the relationship that NAR has established with FNAIM, NAR has built alliances with prestigious real estate associations worldwide. These relationships can help REALTORS® tap into, and profit from, this growing global market.

If you are interested in learning more about global real estate, I encourage you to look into NAR’s Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS) designation. The designation taught me how to explore global opportunities in my home state, Arkansas. You may not think of Arkansas as being an international destination, but as they say in France, L’habit ne fait pas le moine. Literally- Don’t judge a monk by his clothes, or as we say it here in the US, Don’t judge a book by its cover.

Global business is everywhere- New York, Miami, Paris, Hot Springs, Arkansas. You just need to know how to look for it. NAR has resources to help you.

Home for the Holidays [Hold the tripe]

No matter which holiday you celebrate, or even if you don’t celebrate any holiday at all, the end of the year provides most of us with a well-deserved opportunity to slow down and reflect. Lightening your foot off the gas pedal isn’t easy– after all, as a Realtor, it’s your strong work ethic and unwavering commitment to customer service that sets you apart. But now as the year is winding down, it’s your turn to unwind with it- even if only for a short while.

This year I’m going to do my best to avoid the hustle and bustle that often accompanies the holiday season. It’s been a wonderfully busy year with the US real estate market in full recovery mode, but now I’m ready to hunker down at home. It’s time to relish in a brief, but acceptable, moment of being unplugged. For me, discovering the magic of the holiday season means being able to enjoy undistracted, quality time with those that matter most- my family and close friends.

When I was child growing up in New Jersey during the 1960’s, times were different. My universe was encompassed in a one mile radius. We weren’t connected to the world via internet or cell phone; if your mom was looking for you, she’d open the door and shout.

Christmas celebrations, along with every other holiday, including birthdays and Sunday dinners, were spent at my grandparent’s house, just down the street. As a child, the magic of the holidays had less to do with Grandma’s house, and more to do with waiting in line to take a Polaroid picture with Santa. But as an adult looking back, my fondest memories are focused inside my grandparent’s home.

I grew up in a traditional New Jersey Italian Family where every Christmas Eve my grandmother would cook an old-style La Vigilia dinner. My parents, my older brother, my cousins, my aunts & uncles, and I would all cram around the dining room table. And over the commotion that accompanies any family gathering, talking, laughing, occasionally- shouting, my grandmother would serve the Feast of the Seven Fishes. Don’t let the name fool you, there were many more than seven fishes served- anchovies, whiting, lobster, sardines, dried salt cod, smelts, eels, squid, octopus, shrimp, mussels, clams, etc. Her menu also included pastas, vegetables, and the kid’s least favorite course-tripe. (If you’re not familiar with tripe, google it; you’ll understand my aversion.) As a kid it felt like Christmas Eve dinner was endless. Why couldn’t we have turkey and potatoes like the Murphy Family next door?

It’s becoming less and less common for generations of families to live in the same neighborhood, more or less, the same town. As the world gets smaller, opportunities get wider, and geographically, we are now more spread out. For real estate professionals, this is a great thing; movement keeps us in business. But distance makes it hard to recreate those holiday memories we hold so dear.

They say home is where the heart is and while I’m in Florida now, my heart is spread around the United States. It’s back home in NJ with my father and my extended family, and it spreads between Las Vegas and Pittsburgh where my grown children live. This holiday season it’s unlikely that I’ll dine on seven (thousand) fishes, but I will make time to reconnect with my loved ones.

It’s been a tremendous year both personally and professionally, and there is a lot to be thankful for. Last month I was sworn in as your 2016 President of the National Association of REALTORS. Last week, on December 13th, my wife Diana and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary. And in just a few weeks, my family will welcome to the world a new generation of Salomone’s. What a privilege it is to hold these humbling titles, 2016 NAR President, Husband, and Grandfather.

On behalf of the National Association of REALTORS 2016 Leadership Team, I want to wish you and your families a peaceful and happy holiday season.

All year long you have helped others find the homes and businesses of their dreams. Now is the time for you to relax and recharge. Savor this holiday season!