Capital and mortgage financing rules being drafted in Washington and elsewhere raise the possibility that the United States will become increasingly split between affluent home owners and less affluent renters, because lenders will be constrained to stay within tight mortgage underwriting rules that many households won’t be able to penetrate.
That’s the grim assessment of a meeting of several dozen housing, consumer, and other organizations in Washington last week to look at the regulations coming down the pike as a result of the housing bust several years ago.
The meeting of the Coalition for Sensible Housing Policy, hosted by NAR at its Washington offices, heard from a panel of some of the country’s most highly regarded banking and mortgage financing experts, including Lew Ranieri, one of the creators of the mortgage-backed securities (MBS) market, Gene Ludwig, the U.S. Comptroller of the Currency under President Bill Clinton, and Jim Millstein, a Treasury official who oversaw the restructuring of insurer AIG in the aftermath of the mortgage crisis.
“We’re going to look back at these regulations five years from now and wonder, ‘What the heck did we do?’” said Millstein.
The regulations that have so many in the industry worried are two from the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act enacted two years ago: QM and QRM. QM stands for “qualified mortgage” and the rule would set standards for lenders to ensure they only make loans to borrowers who have the ability to repay them. The rules would apply to all mortgage loans. QRM refers to “qualified residential mortgage” and the rule would set minimum underwriting standards for loans that are packaged into securities and sold to investors. QRM applies only to securitized loans, with the exception of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans, although once those two companies are out of U.S. conservatorship, their loans would be subject to QRM as well.
A third rule that is now on the horizon is known as Basel III, a set of proposed international banking standards being written in Basel, Switzerland, that would include requirements on how much capital banks must hold on their books based on the type of loans they make. In previous Basel iterations (Basel I and Basel II), the rules apply only to the largest banks, but there is concern that aspects of Basel III could apply to regional and community banks as well. The rules don’t have the force of law unless countries choose to adopt and enforce them. Banks in countries that have not adopted the rules might still have to abide by them, though, if they do business in countries that have adopted them.
Against these proposed rules are other factors that threaten to dramatically change the home ownership landscape: what to do with the two secondary mortgage market companies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which are now into their fourth year of conservatorship, and what to do with FHA, which has seen its market share soar since the housing bust but has analysts worried about its exposure.
A similar risk exists with QRM. If that rule requires a minimum down payment, such as 20 percent, much of the first-time buyer market outside of FHA would disappear.
Among the Basel III proposed standards that are troubling are finely detailed risk-weighting requirements that would force banks to hold more capital for all but the most conservative loans.
All three of these new rules becoming final in their current form would effectively create a have and have-not market in the U.S., “creating disparities outside of FHA that are very uneven,” said David Stevens, president and CEO of the Mortgage Bankers Association and 2009-2010 FHA Commissioner.
There’s some irony there, Stevens suggested. Because HUD and the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) are writing “disparate impact” rules that would penalize lenders for loan practices that widen the disparities between borrowers. Thus, lenders face the possibility of adhering to QM, QRM, and Basel III and getting slapped with disparate impact penalties as a result. “This is leading to a real challenge around fair lending,” said Stevens.
There’s another irony as well, and that’s a delay in the day when Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac can be taken out of conservatorship and possibly replaced, paving the way for the development of a fully private mortgage market, which both the federal government and industry participants say they want. Right now, Fannie, Freddie, and FHA comprise the lion’s share of the mortgage market—by some estimates, more than 90 percent. If QRM rules are too tight, the federal government will face pressure to keep Fannie and Freddie under conservatorship rather than let their loans become subject to the new rules.
Thus, the industry finds itself on the horns of a dilemma: On the one hand, overly tight regulations will force all but a few borrowers into government-backed loans, delaying the development of a private market, while on the other, even when a private market is developed, it will be a sharply divided one, catering only to wealthy households that can meet the tight standards while everyone else must use FHA (or Fannie and Freddie, if they remain in some form), or be forced to stay in the rental market.
“What I see now is a turn away from home ownership in America,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), who provided closing remarks at the meeting, “an inability to finance home ownership. And a rental America is weaker than a home owner America, I can tell you that. We’re a nation of owners and not tenants, and that’s one of the great differences between the United States and many other countries. So, we’ve got to be really outspoken. Otherwise, if these rules start coming down after the election on Nov. 6, the administration is going to face not only a protracted unemployment of 8 percent, but a draconian drop in consumer confidence as housing becomes out of reach for almost everybody.”
Other presenters at the meeting were Jim Parrott of the National Economic Council, Michael Calhoun of the Center for Responsible Lending, Ray Natter, former counsel with the OCC and Federal Reserve, Susan Wachter of the University of Pennsylvania, and Brian Gardner, a Washington policy analyst with Keefe, Bruyette & Woods.
When you think of jumbo mortgages you might think of expensive homes, but in many markets throughout the country prices are high enough that jumbos are needed just to buy a home that’s not much more than the median home price or, in some cases, even at the median price. With prices now heading up again on a national basis, jumbos will become more important for home buyers.
Jumbos today start at $625,500 for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans, and $729,750 for FHA loans.
With these trends in mind, REALTOR® Magazine hosted a webinar on August 7 with PNC Mortgage to look at what lenders are looking for from loan applicants and how their agents can help their clients be in the best position when they apply for financing.
It’s a big topic, but some of the things we sought answers to were these:
- What’s the pricing in the market today?
- What’s driving rates on the product?
- What factors do lenders look at when processing loan applications?
- Who is a typical type of client in the market?
- What makes the jumbo process different from conventional loans?
- What type of documentation can a client expect to provide to a lender?
- what do agents need to be mindful of given the added complexity of jumbo loan processing?
- What are pre-approval issues to be aware of?
To look into these and other questions, we talked with Amy Green, owner of Coastal Premier Properties, and Bill Reiter, a loan officer at PNC Mortgage. They’re both in San Diego but what they have to say is applicable to the jumbo sector throughout the country, because they talk about best practices that go beyond locality. And they frequently work on transactions together, so they talk a lot about how to make the agent-lender relationship work.
We also heard from Arnold Simon, a PNC Mortgage executive, who provides his take on the market from his vantage point. NAR Director of Regional Economics Ken Fears is on hand, too, for an update on home sales in the jumbo price range.
Without a doubt, the challenges your clients face getting financing is the issue for today. Buyer demand is not the issue. NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun says the demand is there; what’s holding sales back today is the friction in the mortgage market—both the conventional and the jumbo markets. Our goal with this webinar was to find out what you can do to help your clients get the financing they need to buy the house they want.
REALTORS® have their own university now, and it’s both a very real university and a very different one. It’s real in the sense that the first degree-granting program on offer—the Master of Real Estate (MRE)—is a fully recognized degree by the Illinois Board of Higher Education. What makes it different is that it was designed from the beginning to be practical. That means it’s all online, so you can go back to school for your Master’s no matter where in the country you’re located and without having to take time away from selling real estate, because to a certain extent you can do your work when it suits your schedule. It also means its curriculum, while adhering to academic standards for rigor, is also concrete by design, so that what you get is more than theory; you get practical knowledge that translates into practical business know-how for you today.
Al Naticchioni, CCIM, CRS, a 30-year veteran real estate broker in Redding, Calif., who owns his own RE/MAX office, is one of about two dozen graduate students in the program’s 2012 academic year and already he’s taken what he’s learned to save one of his transactions from falling apart. He was working with a buyer who had made an offer on a property that was being sold by a trust. When the trustee passed away, the replacement trustee said the property was being taken off the market. But Naticchioni had just learned about trusts in his Real Estate Law class and, using the research skills he learned, was able to show that the trust had to follow through on the original trustee’s wishes as long as it could be demonstrated that the sale was in the best interests of the trust, which he was able to do. The result: the transaction stayed on track.
Another first-year MRE student, Erica Ramus, who owns Ramus Realty Group in Pottsvile, Pa., applied what she learned in a matter involving mineral rights in a shale-gas contract. Her market is a big shale-gas area and her class gave her the tools to understand the details of these complex leases. “I learned to analyze a shale gas lease, so right way I used something from the class,” she said.
Like any Master’s program, applicants have to have a Bachelor’s degree and meet academic requirements. The school looks for a minimum 3.0 undergraduate grade point average (GPA), although the school will look at test scores as well for students who fall below that. The program requires completion of 36 credit hours (12 classes), although some classes can be waived for students who’ve already taken academically equivalent classes.
The school also has a research arm, the Center for Real Estate Studies, which has already published two academic papers, including one we reported on earlier that looks at the “hurdle rate,” which is the point at which it makes more financial sense for a person to buy rather than to rent. Upcoming papers will look at forecasting housing demand in the decades ahead and the type of housing that different generatons will be interested in in the near future.
It’s an exciting time for the school, and there’s more to come, says the chair of the school’s Board of Regents, Richard Rosenthal, DSA, president of The Rosenthal Group in Marina Del Ray, Calif. As soon as it can, it will apply for academic accreditation with the accrediting body (it takes two years of operating background before it can even consider applying for candidacy) and it will start to reach out to students globally soon.
The 7-minute video above is a REALTOR® Magazine report on how the school’s doing in its first year. If you’re thinking about getting your Master’s degree or know someone who is, the video should be informative. In it, students in the program share their observations about taking classes online and how the curriculum relates to their day job, which is selling real estate.
About two years ago, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development revamped the HUD-1 Settlement Statement and the Good Faith Estimate (GFE). Among other things, the forms were shortened and some “tolerances” were added to decrease the incidences in which figures on the HUD-1 differed too much from what was originally estimated on the GFE. The changes required HUD to provide a lot of training to everyone involved in the settlement process, including real estate practitioners.
Now, here we are two years later, and these same two forms, the HUD-1 and the GFE, are the subject once again of a revamping, this time by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). In part, the agency needs to make changes because by law it’s required to harmonize the Truth in Lending Act (TILA) disclosures with the settlement forms.
NAR is still looking at CFPB’s proposed changes, which are detailed in an 1,100-page rule. You read that right: 1,100 pages. So, it’ll take some time to get a good picture of exactly what the agency is proposing. But, at this point, it looks like CFPB is trying to do too much, and already NAR sees some potential trouble spots.
First, the agency left it unclear who is supposed to fill out the proposed combined settlement form. Is it the lender or the closing agent?
Second, the agency has left it ambiguous what kinds of things can derail the closing with a three-day delay. Building in a three-day delay sounds good for consumers in theory, because if there is a big discrepancy in what they were told in the loan estimate and what shows up in the settlement form, they should have time to review that. But if the delay is triggered by something minor, then the closing will get snagged at the 11th hour for little purpose, and no one wants that.
Third, the sheer breadth of changes has to have a disruptive effect on closings as lenders and title agents and even practitioners figure out what has changed and what hasn’t. And is that a good thing to be dealing with now, when the housing market is still trying to recover and other big rules—like the qualified mortgage (QM) rule—are still waiting to drop? (QM is intended to set minimum underwriting standards for lenders to prevent them from originating loans to borrowers who lack the ability to repay.)
It might just be too much right now.
In any case, CFPB is taking public comments until Nov. 6 on most of the rule. It’s worth your time to familiarize yourself with the main changes and share your thoughts with the agency. CFPB has a reputation for being good about asking for and considering public input, so consider taking advantage of this opportunity to share your thoughts.
When President Obama signed into law the long-term reauthorization of federal flood insurance about two weeks ago he also reauthorized the government’s transportation funding programs. The two were part of the same bill.
We think of transportation a lot at the local level. Few things are as important to community quality of life than how well traffic flows in and around one’s metro area. Long commutes definitely don’t rate well when people are thinking about the quality of life where they live.
Transit programs are important, too, even in the car-oriented west, where many metro areas are putting in light rail or have a project in the planning stages. Studies have shown that homes along transit corridors enjoy strong values, even during downturns, as we saw in the last one.
What the big transportation law does is continue existing funding programs at $109 billion until mid-2014. The funding comes primarily from the gas tax, which is roughy 18 cents per gallon (more for diesel), with additional amounts from other, temporary sources. The additional sources are needed to close the anticipated gap between what the gas tax collects and what projects need for funding.
The gas tax money goes into the Highway Trust Fund, which dates back to the 1950s. The original idea was that the tax collections that go into the fund would flow out to states and localities to construct new and maintain existing roads and highways. The federal government keeps a portion for additional projects, including transit systems and other types of transportation infrastructure.
The trust fund continues to work the way it always has, but in part because cars are more fuel-efficient now, revenues going into the fund aren’t keeping pace with the need, so the new law brings in additional funds from other sources to supplement the trust fund to close any gap that opens up.
Bottom line: transportation is vitally important to communities, so it’s a real estate issue, and that’s why NAR follows what happens with the federal government’s efforts in funding transportation projects. The new law doesn’t do much to change the programs. Funding allocation processes are revamped a little, with states getting a bit more discretion and a bit less accountability in how they use their money. And the way local entities get funding is revised a bit, too.
In the 6-minute video above, NAR Policy Analyst Darren Smith talks about the details of the bill. If you’re interested in information on getting involved in transportation issues, or getting your state or local association involved, if it’s not already, you might spend some time with NAR’s transportation tool kit, which you can access here.
Perhaps you’ve just noticed the headlines emerging around Libor, or maybe you haven’t even seen them yet. Either way, this story, which has been in the European press for a few weeks now and is just now starting to get picked up on our side of the Atlantic, has big implications for real estate and mortgage finance. Here’s a quick rundown of what it is and how it could affect you.
Q: OK, let’s start with the basics. What’s Libor?
A: Libor is an acronym that stands for the London interbank offered rate (not the Long Island Board of REALTORS®, at least not in this case). That’s the average interest rate banks around the world use to lend money to each other. The rate is set (as the name indicates) in London by financial data services firm Thomson Reuters and overseen by the British Bankers Association (BBA). It’s theoretically calculated by major member banks independently submitting to the BBA their best estimates of the interest rates other banks would charge them to borrow money. When you remove the top four and bottom four estimates, then average out the remaining ones, you get Libor.
Q: Why is Libor a big deal? I hadn’t even heard of it until recently.
A: Libor impacts the rates used for credit card, mortgage, and student loan debt. There’s no precise figure, but at least $300 trillion — and quite possibly more than double that amount — worth of financial products are affected by it. To put it another way, that’s more than four times the economic output of the entire world over a four-year period. So, even a tiny rate change can mean millions or even billions of dollars gained or lost. This infographic provides a good breakdown how Libor impacts the financial ecosystem. Continue reading »
REALTORS® claimed a big victory last week when President Obama signed into law the 5-year reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program. NAR spent years advocating on behalf of this legislation and its 1 million members, by participating in several calls for action and making passage a talking point on Hill visits for years, were instrumental in getting it finally passed.
More than just helping to get the law passed, REALTORS® were instrumental in making it a better piece of legislation.
First and foremost, the law reauthorizes federal flood insurance authority for the long-term, eliminating the constant uncertainty that flood insurance wouldn’t be available in the 21,000 communities where it’s required for obtaining a mortgage. Second, it maintains comprehensive coverage for all properties, including second homes and vacation homes. Third, it’s a revenue raiser, which will help pay down a loan from the U.S. Treasury to cover the massive Hurricane Katrina costs from 2005. Fourth, it improves the accuracy of flood plain mapping, which will continue a trend toward improved mapping so that the industry has clarity over where flood insurance is required and where it’s not. And fifth, it builds in the opportunity for further improvements to the entire flood insurance program over time, so if things aren’t working well, NAR and others will know it and have a framework for getting improvements built in.
There are many other positives to the new law, including a much improved appeals process for home owners to challenge the accuracy of the flood plain map that the federal government is using for their area.
As NAR President Moe Veissi says in a previous post on this blog, getting this reauthorization and reform program enacted into law shows that bipartisanship in the federal government still exists when the need is clear and the legislation is reasonable. It’s no surprise that it’s a program important to real estate that serves as a bipartisan vehicle for cooperation, because real estate in general and home ownership in particular are among the most bipartisan matters the federal government deals with on a regular basis.
There will be plenty of legislative and regulatory challenges for real estate in the months and years ahead, but for now, real estate shows once again it has the power to bind lawmakers together for the common good.
Get all the details about flood insurance reauthorization on REALTOR.org.
Read the new law in its entirety. Flood insurance reauthorization is Title II.
YOU DID IT! Late last week Congress finally acted on one of your key legislative priorities, a five-year reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Even better news, we just received word that the president is expected to sign it into law tomorrow, Friday, July 6, 2012.
All the D.C. pundits said nothing would be accomplished in an election year! You just proved them wrong because you didn’t give up, and now you have the victory to confirm it!
The reason I’m writing this today is to reinforce the commitment of your National Association to you and every other member who expects us to persevere on issues of importance to our members and your clients – the consumers, homeowners, and potential home owners of the future.
NAR, with your help and influence, stayed the course to give lenders and home owners more certainty in the mortgage and real estate market place with available flood insurance for existing home owners and those buying and selling.
This has been a long, arduous battle. The National Flood Insurance Program suffered through over 18 short-term extensions and hobbled along for the last four years without a long-term reauthorization forthcoming from D.C.
It was your charge to us not to give up, not to accept anything less than a long-term reauthorization of the Flood Insurance Program. So, we battled to get every inch along those short-term extensions until now when a full five-year reauthorization has been approved.
This fight traveled over several administrations and more than a few presidents of NAR. I’m proud to represent them and the management team in this victory for you.
But, while I’m proud of my predecessors in leadership, and equally as proud of the most effective management team both in Chicago and D.C., I am especially proud of you!
When called upon to respond to our Calls to Action, you did. When asked to invest in your business, you have. And, when asked to step up and participate you resoundingly did that, too.
New battles lay ahead. There will be no easy victories. Now more than ever, it is our responsibility to be steadfast protectors of the American Dream of home ownership. If not us who? If not now when? So, when we call on you like we did to rally, when we call on you like we do to respond to the calls for action, please; continue to show your commitment.
God bless you all. You are what this country is all about! Rally on REALTOR® Party!
You truly are the heart of the deal… many thanks.
More at REALTOR.org: Congress Reauthorizes Flood Insurance for 5 Years
The magazine’s April 19 legal webinar with National Association of Realtors® attorneys Ralph Holmen and Finley Maxson made a good jumping off point for a series of blog posts. In previous posts, I discussed the RESPA case, Freeman v. Quicken Loans (recently decided by the Supreme Court in favor of NAR’s position; see “Supreme Court Provides Clarity on Brokerages’ Administrative Fees”) and the Fair Housing case Gallagher v. Magner. This week, I explore the property rights victory in Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency.
NAR First Vice President Steve Brown wrote about the case in the NAR Leadership Team’s Voices of Real Estate blog (“The Supremes Rule”), and even though this case has been covered quite a bit, it’s worth examining more closely because it speaks so profoundly to an issue that’s at the core of NAR’s purpose—private property rights. The plaintiffs, Michael and Chantell Sackett, bought land in 2005 with the intention of building a house on it. Today, despite the Supreme Court decision in their favor, the Sacketts are still living in a leased property and waiting to build that house—and it’s quite possible their case could be in the courts for several years, according to their attorney, Damien Schiff of the Pacific Legal Foundation.
I wanted to offer a closer look at what the Supreme Court did and didn’t resolve—and to look at what else real estate practitioners should consider when they’re selling land in wetlands areas.
The Issue: What rights do property owners have to challenge Environmental Protection Agency determinations?
The Law: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is charged with writing rules for and enforcing environmental laws, such as the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. Among provisions of the Clean Water Act are rules regarding the preservation of wetlands, defined by the EPA as “those areas that are inundated or saturated by surface or groundwater at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions. Wetlands generally include swamps, marshes, bogs and similar areas.”
The Clean Water Act gives the EPA authority to regulate development on a wetland that’s in the area of a “traditional navigable water”—but property owners have often been at odds with the agency over (a) what constitutes a navigable water and (b) what relationship that water and the wetland need to have. This conflict has resulted in owners seeking to challenge so-called EPA wetlands determinations in court. In the past, judges have held that EPA determinations couldn’t be challenged in court by property owners. It sounds ludicrous, but to get their day in court, owners had to fail to comply with the determination and wait to be sued by the agency. In the case National Association of Home Builders v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, for example, the plantiffs sought judicial review of an EPA determination, but a district court granted an EPA and Army Corps of Engineers’ motion to dismiss on the grounds that the agencies must be able to administer the Clean Water Act “without becoming entangled in premature litigation.” The Sacketts faced the same barrier.
The Case: Michael and Chantell Sacketts owned a 2/3-acre lot within a developed subdivision that already had a sewer infrastructure in place. The subdivision overlooks Priest Lake in the Idaho panhandle. As my colleague Rob Freedman explained in a post written before the Supreme Court decision came down, “The couple secured local building permits and even received a verbal okay from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that the property, which has water on it periodically but isn’t adjacent to any standing body of water, is not a wetlands.”
But when the Sacketts began taking the first steps toward building a house—filling in a portion of their lot with dirt and rocks—EPA officials ordered them to stop and to restore the property to its original state. The Sacketts asked for an EPA hearing but were denied, so they brought the case to the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho. They said the EPA’s order was “arbitrary [and] capricious” under the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) and that their inability to gain judicial review violated the Fifth Amendment, which states that “No person shall be . . . deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.” Their court dismissed their claims, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the lower court’s ruling.
In 2011, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. Along with a number of other organizations, NAR filed an amicus curiae brief that pointed out, among other things, that environmental groups have had no trouble gaining judicial review of agency determinations. “Thus,” the brief said, “as it now stands, judicial review of jurisdictional determinations is a one-way ratchet . . ..”
The Decision: On March 21, 2012, the Supreme Court affirmed NAR’s position, granting the Sacketts the right to challenge the EPA determination. The justices unanimously rejected the government’s assertion that the EPA determination wasn’t a “final order,” and thus wasn’t subject to judicial review.
The Sacketts’ case is now back in District Court—and the couple will get their day in court. The chance of success depends on the evidence. “We don’t know what is in the EPA’s record,” Schiff says. “They never had to file evidence. I’m hopeful that sometime this year, the EPA will file its record and we’ll be able to see what evidence the agency has to support its determination. I suspect there’s not much because EPA was never on the property.”
Even if the judge decides in the Sacketts’ favor, the case could be held up for years in appeals.
Why It’s Significant for Real Estate Professionals:
Unfortunately, when it comes to wetlands, there’s no blanket rule you can follow to counsel clients. “You can have wetlands experts disagree among themselves about what constitutes a wetland, so determinations will continue to be made on a case-by-case basis,” Schiff says.
After Sackett, however, property owners who receive an EPA compliance order now have means to challenge the order. “Obviously, it doesn’t mean that every single compliance act will become the subject of litigation,” Schiff says, “but [owners] now have a bargaining chip.”
Will Sackett change the way EPA makes determinations? “I certainly think so,” Schiff says. “Senior official have said they don’t think the decision will have much effect in practice. In my view, I don’t see how it cannot. It makes sense that an agency knows that if it can’t be held to accountable, it will act differently. Because it now knows that it can be held to accountable, it’ll spend more time researching before it makes a determination. If has to submit records to court, the agency has an incentive to do a better job.”
One issue the Sackett decision doesn’t address is federal reach. That is, which wetlands does the federal government have the right to regulate and which are off limits? “That’s been the subject of litigation for last two decades,” Schiff says. In a concurring opinion to Sackett, Justice Alito takes a direct stab at the issue of federal reach, calling on Congress to provide guidance: “ . . . the combination of the uncertain reach of the Clean Water Act and the draconian penalties imposed for the sort of violations alleged in this case still leaves most property owners with little practical alternative but to dance to the EPA’s tune. Real relief requires Congress to do what it should have done in the first place: provide a reasonably clear rule regarding the reach of the Clean Water Act.”
In this election year, I don’t expect the issue to be high on Congress’s list.
What Else Do You Need to Know About Selling in Wetlands Areas?
The Sackett decision doesn’t free buyers from the need to conduct due diligence. Before they sign a purchase contract, buyers who plan to make improvements or continue an existing commercial use are strongly encouraged to engage a qualified environmental consultant. Among other things, the consultant can help determine whether any environmental reporting or permitting is required for their intended use of the property. The “Real Estate Acquisition Due Diligence Checklist,” provided courtesy of Minneapolis attorney Andy Jacobson, provides a good starting point; however, buyers in your area should be sure to consult an attorney who knows the state and local rules and regulations that apply.
To learn more about wetlands, visit these sites:
National Wetlands Inventory from the National Fish & Wildlife Service: http://www.fws.gov/wetlands/
New York Times Op-Ed: Where Are the Clean Water Rules?
NAR’s Field Guide to Land Investment (updated June 2012)
Remember: If you have questions about how or whether a law or case applies to your situation, seek the counsel of a qualified attorney.
Next Up: What right do you have to use words and images that you find online?