Monthly Archives: November 2015

Virginia REALTORS® Are Helping Injured Veterans Move Into Mortgage-Free Housing

Virginia is the home of many of our nation’s veterans. In fact, nearly one in ten state residents are either veterans or active members of our nation’s armed forces. And, a great many of these veterans have returned home with life impacting disabilities. Because of this, Virginia’s REALTORS® have started to address the unique challenges that injured veterans encounter in regards to home ownership.

“Injured veterans face challenges that could be marginalizing without the support that comes from REALTORS® and other community leaders committed to inclusion in housing and society,” said Deborah A. Baisden, 2015 President of the Virginia Association of REALTORS® (VAR).

A plan to support disabled veterans recently came out of VAR’s biennial Leadership Academy that was funded with a $5,000 diversity grant from the REALTOR® Party. The diverse group of Virginia REALTORS® came together with the single purpose of leading positive change in their communities. In the end, they decided to launch an ambitious fundraising effort to benefit Homes for Our Troops (HFOT), a non-profit organization that provides mortgage-free homes to severely injured 9/11 veterans.

In just 12 short weeks, the REALTORS® were able to raise more than $50,000 by reaching out to local REALTOR® boards and private funding sources. The VAR provided additional financial support, bringing the total HFOT donation to $62,000. “The passion that this group of REALTORS® has for this cause is just spectacular,” says Baisden. “It really exemplifies the role and the value of REALTORS® in their communities.”

Statistics from the Department of Veterans Affairs show that the number of disabled veterans is on the rise. Because of this, VAR now hosts online fundraising for HFOT throughout the year, and is working with the organization to create hands-on volunteering opportunities for REALTORS®.

“Fundraising is just the first goal of our partnership with HFOT,” says Baisden, “but raising awareness is as important.” Baisden also says that HFOT is working with other REALTORS® associations throughout the United States in hopes to expand their partnership even further.

REALTORS Are Helping To Transform Massachusetts Towns

Placemaking

Participants engaged in placemapping.

When Ben Scranton, CEO of the REALTOR® Association of Pioneer Valley (RAPV) in Western Massachusetts, first learned about Placemaking Grants, he was immediately intrigued. Scranton was attending a meeting hosted by the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) when he discovered that the REALTOR® Party was offering micro grants of up to $2,500 for community improvements. “$2,500 may not seem like a large amount of money to some, but I knew that if we directed the funds towards the right projects it could make a big difference for neighborhoods in our area.”

Scranton set to work immediately, getting word of this community enhancement opportunity out to the 1,650 REALTORS® in his association. Members were quick to respond with ideas, and by the end of the year two of the grants that the association had applied for were awarded.

The first placemaking grant contributed to the construction of a fenced-in, off-leash dog park in the town of Agawam, just west of Springfield in Hampden County that generated lots of excitement in the community. Residents collaborate with the town’s Parks & Recreation and Planning & Community Development Departments to make the dream of a safe dog playground a reality.

The dog park was largely financed through the private fundraising efforts of the Agawam Dog Owners Group (ADOG) who were pleased to receive RAPV’s generous contribution. In addition to the boost from the placemaking grant, the RAPV also paid for a memorial bench for the Agawam Dog Park in honor of RAPV Past President Cindy Ayre, a lifelong dog-lover who had recently succumbed to a long illness.

The second placemaking grant went towards upgrading a recently constructed walking trail in Monson, Massachusetts, a small town east of Springfield. The town had been in recovery mode since being hit hard by a devastating tornado in June of 2011. The construction of the fitness trail was important to residents because it indicated that the town was far enough along in its reconstruction to begin focusing on recreational, quality-of-life projects.

The funding that the RAPV provided went towards the purchase of signage and benches for the walking trail. Though the trail was initially created with the town’s senior citizens in mind, they’ve found the facility appeals to everyone. “The trail is a nice addition for the whole community, and we’re proud to have made it a little more comfortable and welcoming,” said Scranton.

The RAPV is excited to continue to make an impact in the Massachusetts neighborhoods their REALTORS® live and work in. “These placemaking grants reflect how active and how invested in their communities our members are,” Scranton enthused. “They’ve really embraced this Placemaking initiative, and their ideas for future projects keep coming! We’re so grateful to the REALTOR® Party for supporting our community involvement this way.

Expansion Creates Controversy In Rehoboth Beach, Delaware

The vacation town of Rehoboth Beach is known as “Delaware’s Most Visited City”, and the seaside community is attracting more visitors every season. But the town’s growth has raised concern with residents, as some worry that the inherent charm and peacefulness of Rehoboth will be lost in the continued expansion.

Much of the concern focuses around increasing noise levels and new construction that is changing the city’s landscape. Both of these issues have been addressed by the city with two controversial zoning ordinances that have divided the community.

The Sussex County Association of REALTORS (SCAR) has been a key advocate for the city’s best interest during these heated debates. SCAR ran a public awareness campaign to ensure that residents were given comprehensive information about the proposed changes, empowering them to have a meaningful dialogue with the city’s commissioners. SCAR also demonstrated to commissioners how a large portion of the city’s revenue stream came from real estate transactions.

The first proposed ordinance attempted to address increasing noise levels by banning the use of swimming pools at rental properties, which raised serious concerns with rental property owners. The ordinance was unanimously voted down by the city commissioners. Instead, the commissioners enacted a pool licensing plan that gave the city the right to withdraw licenses in response to excessive noise infractions.

However, a second proposed ordinance that placed restrictions on new home construction did pass. The new law makes it harder for developers and property owners to build large-scale homes by imposing greenspace requirements, backyard setbacks and a square footage cap. Supporters believe that the law will preserve the quaint charm that the older, smaller vacation cottages lent to the community while those opposing it believe it will hamper progress.

REALTORS Help Millions Navigate Housing Affordability Challenges With Housing Opportunity Progam

Fast Fact: State and local REALTORS®are solving housing affordability challenges for millions of hard-working Americans, thanks to the Housing Opportunity Progam.

You already know this: Hard-working Americans have a tough time today finding a home they can truly afford.

But did you know this: There’s a little-known resource only REALTORS® have that can make finding that affordable home easier?

The National Association of REALTORS® Housing Opportunity Program was created over a decade ago with the vision of positioning, educating, and assisting REALTORS® to create housing opportunities for hard-working Americans. The Housing Opportunity Program offers programs, grants, training, and essential resources that enable state and local REALTORS® and REALTOR® associations to expand housing availability, ensuring an adequate supply of rental housing and home ownership.

For example, the program supports the“Expanding Housing Opportunities Classes,” designed to educate REALTORS® on the range of affordable housing opportunities — and who can benefit from them. REALTORS® learn how affordability affects housing markets, residents, and the community. The program also identifies and explains:

  • the range of affordable housing opportunities for buyers and renters alike
  • how to analyze financing options, including local, state, federal, and nonprofit assistance programs for home buyers
  • how to build partnerships to further expand housing opportunities through advocacy and workforce housing initiatives

This highly successful grant program, funded entirely by the REALTORS® who serve you every day, has invested over a million dollars in communities across our nation.

Other activities supported by these grants include REALTOR® association partnerships with non-profit housing organizations. REALTORS® partner with housing counseling agencies to conduct neighborhood outreach, hold community events, and engage local employers to help solve housing.

Some examples

  • Gaston County North Carolina:Times have been tougher for folks in Gaston than other parts of our great nation. Once a mill town, Gaston felt it hard when textile manufacturing moved overseas. Area unemployment exceeded national numbers. When the real estate market dropped, the value of Gaston housing plummeted. Even as the economy began improving again, Gaston housing seemed stuck. But with the help of a Housing Opportunity Grant from the National Association of REATORS®, the Gaston Association of REALTORS® organized a free housing fair, giving folks in Gaston the opportunity to become re-informed and re-educated again about the local housing market and value recovery.
  • Contra Costa County California: The Contra Costa Association of REALTORS® used a National Association of REALTORS® Housing Opportunity grant to host a home loan modification assistance fair when folks in their communities needed it most.
  • Hartford Connecticut: The Greater Hartford Association of REALTORS® coordinated an affordable housing clean-up day. They painted fences, improved landscaping, and cleaned up common areas with the help of a grant from the National Association of REALTORS®.

Tell us what you think about the NAR Housing Opportunity Program and the essential role your state and local REALTORS® are playing, or email your questions to asktheexpert@shariolefson.com.

More on this topic



First-time Buyers Fall Again in Annual Buyer and Seller Survey

Increasing rents and home prices are impeding the ability of first-time buyers to save for a down payment.

A new survey released by the National Association of Realtors® show the share of first-time buyers declining for the third consecutive year, which puts it at its lowest point in nearly three decades.

The 2015 National Association of Realtors® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers continues a long-running series of large national NAR surveys evaluating the demographics, preferences, motivations, plans and experiences of recent home buyers and sellers; the series dates back to 1981. Results are representative of owner-occupants and do not include investors or vacation homes.

In this year’s survey, the share of first-time buyers declined to 32 percent (33 percent a year ago), which is the second-lowest share since the survey’s inception (1981) and the lowest since 1987 (30 percent). Historically, the long-term average shows that nearly 40 percent of primary purchases are from first-time home buyers.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says the housing recovery’s missing link continues to be the absence of first-time buyers. “There are several reasons why there should be more first-time buyers reaching the market, including persistently low mortgage rates, healthy job prospects for those college-educated, and the fact that renting is becoming more unaffordable in many areas,” he said.

“Unfortunately, there are just as many high hurdles slowing first-time buyers down. Increasing rents and home prices are impeding their ability to save for a down payment, there’s scarce inventory for new and existing-homes in their price range, and it’s still too difficult for some to get a mortgage.”

Yun says this year’s survey perhaps offers additional clues to why fewer first-time buyers are reaching the market. “First-time buyers reported that debt (all forms) delayed saving for a down payment for a median of three years, and among the 25 percent who said saving was the most difficult task, a majority (58 percent) said student loans delayed saving,” he said. “With a median amount of student loan debt for all buyers at $25,000, it’s likely some younger households with even higher levels of debt can’t save for an adequate down payment or have decided to delay buying until their debt is at more comfortable levels.”

More highlights from the 2015 NAR Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers are available online.