An investment analyst has approached the National Association of REALTORS® and several NAR directors seeking insights on a special meeting of the NAR directors that will take place in July. At the meeting, the directors will be discussing proposed changes to the relationship between NAR/REALTOR® Information Network and Move Inc./RealSelect, which operates REALTOR.com.
The analyst, who signs his e-mails “Jem,” is offering an incentive for information and is seeking to learn the likelihood of changes that would restrict the ability of third parties to aggregate MLS data. NAR General Counsel Laurie Janik says directors should avoid speculating on any future actions of the board. “We don’t know what the board will decide,” Janik says, “so I would strongly caution against speculation.”
At the Joint Meeting of the Multiple Listing Service Forum and Multiple Listing Issues and Policies Committee Thursday, all things MLS were on the table. In fact, even items that weren’t on the MLS were up for discussion–specifically, so-called “pocket listings.”
“Clearly they’re not ‘off the market,’ nor are they in your pocket. They’re not on the MLS,” clarified Robert Bailey, 2013 chair of MLSlistings Inc. in California. Bailey presented attendees with research on the growing number of homes for sale in his local area that never make it to the MLS at the REALTORS® Midyear Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo.
In a study comparing public records with MLS listings in the California communities of Monterey, San Benito, San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Santa Cruz, Bailey found that off-MLS listings increased from 12 percent in 2011 to 15 percent in 2012 to 26 percent of the market in the first quarter of 2013.
Supporters of pocket listing practices often cite situations where sellers are seeking privacy or are concerned about having strangers view their homes. Bailey said such desires are valid, but the numbers indicate a growing trend.
“Clearly they’re more concerned about privacy and security now that the market has gotten better,” Bailey said, drawing a collective chuckle from the crowd. Continue reading »
HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan made an appearance at the National Association of REALTORS® Midyear Legislative Meetings on Wednesday to laud the work of his agency in promoting housing policies and programs that acknowledge the equal rights of gay and lesbian Americans. The agency makes clear that sexual orientation is no barrier to accessing any HUD programs, he said.
“We have a broad requirement that housing opportunities should be available to all persons regardless of sexual orientation,” said Donovan, who spoke to members gathered for a reception of the National Association of Gay & Lesbian Real Estate Professionals (NAGLREP).
But Donovan noted that there is still a long way to go on the civil rights issue that has rapidly been gaining ground in recent months and years. Noting President Obama’s strong support of marriage equality and recent same-sex marriage cases brought to the U.S. Supreme Court, Donovan added, “There is still an urgent need for legal protections based on sexual orientation.” The 45-year Fair Housing Act does not include sexual orientation as a protected class.
NAGLREP Founder and CEO Jeff Berger said he was delighted by Donovan’s appearance at the meeting and his commitment to ending discrimination in housing faced by the LGBT community. The movement clearly has momentum, he said.
Berger cited the group’s drive, working with Wisconsin REALTORS®, to get sexual orientation included as protected classes in the NAR Code of Ethics. That change was approved by NAR’s board of directors at the Midyear Meetings in 2010. Now, an effort is underway to add Code of Ethics protection based on gender orientation. The proposal will be voted on by the NAR Delegate Body at its meeting in November. Berger also hopes to get NAR to include LGBT data in future versions of its Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers and Member Profile. “It will give REALTORS® a truer picture of who is in their markets if lesbians and gays and same-sex couples were acknowledged,” Berger said.
School’s coming to members of Congress over the next two days as thousands of REALTORS® meet with lawmakers to provide a refresher course on how critical the federal government’s historic support for home ownership is to the country’s future.
“We have an unprecedented situation today, because so many members of Congress are new and really don’t always know how important home ownership incentives are to the economy and to the country, NAR Chief Lobbyist Jerry Giovaniello told thousands of REALTORS® packed into a 7 a.m. session today as a kick-off to their visits to Capitol Hill.
Each year thousands of REALTORS® come to Washington for the NAR Midyear Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo, which includes two days of Hill visits to champion real estate issues to their members of Congress.
This year is different, Giovaniello said, because as Congress discusses ways to reduce the federal deficit and whether to change the Tax Code, some of the government’s longstanding incentives for home ownership, including the mortgage interest deduction and other tax provisions, will come under debate. The roles of FHA and the secondary mortgage market are also shaping up to be part of the discussion.
“Our main job is really just to educate members on why these incentives have been such priorities for the federal government for so long,” said Giovaniello.
Some 43 percent of the Senate had turned over in the last six years, and in the House, more than 80 members have been in Congress for fewer than three years, many of whom have never served in public office before. “There are many members of Congress who think FHA is a lending program rather than an insurance program, so a lot of what we have to do is just educate these members about these basic things, said Giovaniello.
REALTORS® have three simple talking points they’ll be taking with them to Capitol Hill this week:
1. Preserve MID and other housing tax incentives, including the capital gains exclusion on the sale of a principal residence and the property tax deduction.
2. Protect FHA’s ability to meet its mission of helping responsible households who needs its mortgage insurance to buy a home.
3. And pave the way for the return of private capital to the secondary mortgage market while preserving an explicit, not-for-profit, government-chartered federal presence in the market.
NAR’s tax counsel, Evan Liddiard, said the conditions are the best in almost two decades for Congress to tackle sweeping tax reform, so MID and other tax incentives will be part of the discussion. Liddiard said that even if the two houses of Congress can’t craft legislation that can pass both houses, if any paring back of home ownership incentives are included in bills that at least make it through one house or another, that sets a precedent that will make it easier in later years for harmful changes to pass. “We have to head this off now,” he said.
One argument members of Congress might make in favor of paring back MID is that they need that tax cut in exchange for lowering tax rates, which would help households across the board. But because there’s no guarantee that Congress won’t turn around in a few years and raise the tax rates again, that’s not an argument that makes sense, said Giovaniello. “Once we give up something on MID, we won’t get it back,” he said.
On FHA, which has seen its reserves take a hit in recent years, REALTORS® will be carrying the message that the agency has been the unsung hero of the country’s economic recovery. It stepped up to the plate during the housing downturn and made lending possible at a time when there were few other options. Had it not done that, the country would be in a tougher place right now. And in any case, the agency’s finances are quickly improving and could soon be in positive territory once again.
“FHA is a counter-cyclical program,” said NAR Policy Analyst Megan Booth. “It’s role is to step up when other sources of funding won’t, so it did its job.”
Legislation could be coming down the pike that might seek to require borrowers to come with a higher downpayment or to pay higher insurance premiums or to meet certain income qualifications, said Booth. each of these provisions would be devastating to the agency’s mission and needs to be resisted, she said.
The main message on reform of the secondary mortgage market is that a continued federal presence, explicit and on a nonprofit basis, is essential for the preservation of the widespread availability of 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages. Private lenders without that federal backstop simply won’t make safe, long-term financing available on a widespread basis.
“We’re going to hold members accountable for how they vote on these issues,” Giovaniello said. “That’s one of the messages we need to take to Capitol Hill. We’re watching what they do.”
To reinforce the message, REALTORS® will be wearing badges on lanyards that carry a simple message: “Home ownership is not a loophole.”
Over the next two days, that message will be out in force on Capitol Hill.
A standing-room-only crowd was on hand as members of the National Association of REALTORS®’ Strategic Planning Committee revealed a report Tuesday afternoon that summarized the results of a year’s worth of REThink sessions.
Released at the Midyear Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo in Washington, D.C., the report was compiled from 16 workshops across the country in an effort to answer the question over the future of NAR in uncertain times.
“I’m glad to see that we had a small enough room for this crowd,” joked NAR 2013 President Gary Thomas. He said he was thankful for the enthusiasm, adding that broad engagement is what makes the REThink report special. “It’s coming from the members rather than a small, insular group.”
The event was so widely attended that the committee added a second session Wednesday, May 15, at 1:30 p.m. Eastern at the Omni Shoreham hotel.
The report distilled responses from 4,500 individuals who used these workshops to come up with actions that individual real estate professionals, industry players, and NAR can undertake to stay relevant in the changing world of real estate. But this was not just an exercise of pulling the curtain back on data.
“We’re here to ask your feedback,” said Strategic Planning Committee Chair Shannon W. King. “We want you to agree that these are the right issues.”
Some of the many items discussed at Tuesday’s event were “big data” issues, industry collaboration, the opening up of association leadership positions, and more. Two suggestions that garnered widespread applause among attendees were increasing professional standards for members and “taking back realtor.com,” as one facilitator quoted from the report. Continue reading »
It may seem out of left field, but when NAR regional vice president Vince Malta isn’t selling homes in San Francisco, he’s collecting baseball bats hit by legendary players like Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle. The unlikely combination is a result of deep-rooted family traditions; Malta is a third generation REALTOR® who has been in the business for 35 years, and joins his father and grandfather before him as a passionate fan of the game.
“I’ve always loved baseball since I was a child,” said Malta, CEO at Malta & Co., Inc. in San Francisco. “I got into bat collecting because I thought it was very interesting to collect a piece of history.”
And that’s where this hobby could have ended, with a few prized bats and the satisfaction of holding baseball history in his hands, if not for Malta’s real estate mind working overtime to analyze the way the bats were being sold.
“I started doing some research and it seemed like there were a couple of experts who knew about baseball bats but were also selling them,” he said. “So they wound up authenticating the very bats they were selling. In real estate, we call that a ‘conflict of interest.’”
Worse still, some of the bats for sale weren’t exactly priceless memorabilia worthy of glass display. But it would take years of conducting research and scouring decades-old factory records before Malta could decipher the legitimate from the lies.
“I bought a game-used Jackie Robinson-autographed bat and thought, ‘wow that’s really cool,’” Malta recalls. This cool factor quickly thawed when he returned to the bat years later, armed with extensive knowledge about its production and make. He analyzed the model, concluding the bat was rendered in 1973; a fine year for the Oakland Atheltics to defeat the New York Mets in a seven-game World Series thriller, but for Jackie Robinson—who stopped playing baseball in 1956 and passed away in 1972—using that bat would have been, well, impossible.
“People were telling you things and giving you stories about the bats that just weren’t accurate,” Malta said. “I think the bat needs to speak for itself.”
It’s a dictum that can resonate in real estate as well as baseball—an agent can stage a house with all the shiny bells and whistles, even provide anecdotes about how much fun the home owner’s children had playing in the spacious backyard, but in the end, the property must speak to the buyer.
However, it still helps to have those words interpreted by someone in the know.
“There will always be a person out there who will sell you something,” Malta said. “You need a facilitator with knowledge guiding you through the process.”
To Malta, this is why authenticating bats can’t be an act of whimsy; it must be a serious practice—as complex as a real estate transaction—determined by things like labeling, wood type, and the hitting characteristics of the player who purportedly used the bat at that time.
Even the National Baseball Hall of Fame staff keeps extra copies of Malta’s book, “A Complete Reference Guide Louisville Slugger Professional Player Bats,” on hand. The publication is widely acknowledged as the most comprehensive manual for collectors of Hall of Fame players’ bats. The Guide was a labor of love for Malta, who worked in conjunction with Jack Hillerich, grandson of John A. “Bud” Hillerich—maker of the first player-customized baseball bat—to gain access to Louisville Slugger factory records.
Since its release in 2007, the book has established Malta as one of the foremost authorities on bat collecting. More than just a baseball textbook, it weaves the history of the sport throughout its pages, in a narrative enriched by Malta’s own experiences meeting the greats of the game. “Many of the players are so warm and personable,” Malta said, listing Ernie Banks and Brooks Robinson among those he enjoyed speaking with.
But some of his most frame-worthy baseball encounters occurred on the job. At an NAR meeting in 2005, while sitting with his wife, 13-year-old son, and 1984 Hall of Fame inductee Harmon Killebrew, (an invited guest at the event), Malta’s wife casually mentioned to the right-hander that her son was having a tough time at the plate. Immediately, Killebrew stood the struggling young player up and began to give him a batting lesson. “It’s all in the hips,” he instructed, as REALTORS®—and the Maltas—watched in awe.
“We still have the picture of Harmon Killebrew giving my son tips,” Malta said. “I love that players are so open and such great ambassadors of the game.”
As an ambassador of homes, it’s easy for Malta to see the connection between his favorite sport and the real estate profession. “We provide a valuable service,” he said. “People can consider what we do like baseball bat authenticating: We make sure they get what they expect.”
The Senate this week is taking up legislation to even the tax-collection playing field between Internet retailers and bricks-and-mortar retailers. It’s an important issue for commercial real estate professionals, because their clients face a disadvantage against out-of-state Internet retailers on tax collection.
It’s not that no tax is due when something is purchased in a different state over the Internet. A tax is in fact due, but states have no way of systematically collecting it. And a Supreme Court case from 1992 prohibits them from requiring out-of-state retailers to collect the tax on their behalf.
As a result, it’s largely been up to buyers to pay the tax, in the form of a “use tax,” but they rarely do. Correcting this disparity is the rationale behind the Marketplace Fairness Act, S. 366, which the Senate is set to pass any day now. Lawmakers and analysts generally agree that the bill will in fact pass, and then it needs to be taken up in the House, where the outcome is less clear.
NAR supports the bill, mainly for two reasons. First, it will help the commercial real estate sector, which finds the playing field tilted against it as buyers go online to buy things from vendors in another state that, if bought in a store, would require them to pay state tax. Second, it’s a good bill for states, because it will bring in tax revenue that’s owed to them, helping those with a budget gap improve their bottom line. By some estimates, states are losing out on more than $20 billion a year.
Critics say the bill equates to a new tax, but in fact the tax is already in place. The bill is intended to make it practical and simple for states to collect what they’re owed.
There are plenty of arguments on both sides of the issue, but for the real estate industry, it’s simply about creating an even playing field between them and Internet retailers. In the 4-minute video above, NAR Government Affairs analysts talk about the bill and why NAR supports it.
Access NAR’s letter in support of the bill.