Monthly Archives: April 2016

Arizona REALTORS® Oppose Mandatory Demand Charge for Residential Power Customers

The Arizona REALTORS® recently opposed a rate case before the Arizona Corporation Commission which would have set a poor precedence in allowing power companies to charge on the basis of peak usage rather than total consumption during the billing period. Under UniSource Energy Services’s (UES’s) proposal, power users in Mohave and Santa Cruz counties could have seen substantially higher electric bills.

Arizona REALTORS® responded by filing an official letter to the Arizona Corporation Commission Docket opposing UES’s rate proposal. The letter expressed concern that the proposal would establish a rate structure that is not only confusing to residential ratepayers, but would result in substantially higher electric bills.

The REALTOR®’s letter respectfully requested the Commissioners to reject the demand rate proposal and adopt a sensible, fairer and more understandable rate design. In response to our opposition and public opposition, UES announced on Tuesday, April 26, that it would withdraw its proposal and revert to their original proposal and only pursue the mandatory demand charges for solar customers.

Arizona REALTORS® is the only organization who advocates on behalf of private property owners, renters and REALTORS® throughout Arizona.

REALTORS Believe In The Future of Ferguson

The property destruction that occurred during the 2014 Ferguson riots was devastating for many homeowners. The St. Louis Association of REALTORS® (SLAR) was quick to respond, providing relief in the form of food and basic supplies to suburban homeowners whose property was damaged in the riots. The association shared that they have always been committed to being a strong community resource, so it was without hesitation that they came to homeowners aid immediately.

SLAR felt that it was imperative that they do more than just extend relief and so they worked to obtain a $5,000 Diversity Grant from the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR). The grant was used to launch an educational campaign that addressed the need for fair housing practices in the Ferguson area. The campaign also stressed the importance of maintaining integrated communities and holding home values steady during the rebuilding period.

Six months after the riots SLAR held a standing-room only town forum called “STL 20/20: Perfect Vision.” The forum focused on how the crisis in Ferguson would impact the housing market and featured a panel of professionals who were dedicated to building stable, diverse communities. REALTORS gathered to discuss fair housing laws and local resources that they could extend to homeowners. They also learned how to best participate in difficult conversations with homeowners about race, discrimination and residential segregation.

Elizabeth Braznell, then president of the SLAR, also launched a Ferguson task force made up of local REALTORS® and association leaders. The task force operated with the foundational belief that REALTORS® needed to provide community leadership in order to further diversity in the Ferguson area. The task force continues to be dedicated to maintaining a healthy, safe and sound community for Ferguson area homeowners.

SLAR is thrilled to see the community not only rebuild, but to come back even stronger than before the riots. Realtor.com predicted than in 2016 St. Louis would become one of the hottest housing markets in the nation. And trends seem to indicate that this is indeed Ferguson’s fate as homeowners watched prices in the 63135 zip code increase by 150% in 2015.

2015 SLAR President Janet Judd, herself a testament to the SLAR diversity commitment, as the association’s first Latina president states, “SLAR has many aspirational goals, and we must balance them with sensitivity to all perspectives, but I am confident we will be successful.” She went on to say, “We cannot erase the past, but we can change the future.” And indeed SLAR continues to work towards building a more racially integrated and supportive Ferguson.

Illinois REALTORS Advocate For Homeowners in Washington

Homeowners may not realize this, but REALTORS® are not only helping them to buy and sell, they are also one of their biggest political advocates. The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) appoints a Federal Political Coordinator, or FPC, to work with Members of Congress on a one on one basis. This means for every 435 members of the House of Representatives, there are 435 FPC’s appointed to work with them. Likewise, 100 Senators have 100 FPC’s assigned to them.

The FPC’s role is to educate Members of Congress about how the decisions they make in Washington positively or negatively affect the lives of homeowners. The FPC representatives give homeowners a voice and serve as an at-hand source of real estate knowledge for lawmakers.

The success of the program has resulted in a phenomenal expansion, with NAR encouraging every FPC to build a key supportive team to help them to execute grassroots awareness activities on behalf of homeowners.

Illinois, is a great example of a state that has rallied around the idea of expanding the support teams behind their FPCs. Illinois homeowners not only have 20 FPCs representing their interests with Congress, but also have an additional 130 FPC team members empowering their FPC’s efforts.

Mike Drews is both the President of Illinois REALTORS® and an FPC for Congressman Randy Hultgren. Drews gets to see the impact the FPCs have firsthand, “Through the collected efforts of the (FPC) team (homeowner’s) issues are consistently in front of the members of Congress.”

Sharon Gorrell, Housing Policy Advisor of the Illinois REALTORS® explains, “The teams are carefully developed to reflect the whole congressional district and the real estate industry as completely as possible.” Gorrell goes on to say that, “The combined expertise of the team allows the FPC to convey a truly comprehensive message to the representative in Washington.”

Gorrell says that the FPC program is in line with the philosophy of Illinois REALTORS® “Our leadership really believes in the importance of advocacy, and that means having the best possible system in place to deliver our information to legislators.”

She also says that because the FPC program wants to represent all homeowners equally, the Illinois REALTORS® are attempting to incorporate members of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP), the Asian Real Estate Association of America (AREAA) and the National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB) when building FPC teams. This collaboration ensures that the team members will reflect the multicultural breadth and specific needs of homeowners in each district.

Illinois REALTORS® have also replicated the FPC concept at the state level, assigning a local REALTOR® to each state legislator. And, taking a global view, Illinois REALTORS® have also just launched an innovative program called the Consulate General Liaison program which is based on the same FPC model, and connects foreign consulates in Chicago with the real estate industry in Illinois.

How Will 2016 Elections Impact Washington Area Home Sales?

In 2015, homeowners in the Washington area enjoyed a steady real estate market. Home prices were stable, and as a result homes sold quickly and the number of homes on the market increased. So how will the upcoming election affect the Washington area homeowners that waited to buy or sell in 2016?

Some experts are predicting that the area’s housing market will follow the typical pattern seen in previous election years. Hans Wydler, a broker with Wydler Brothers Real Estate in the District, was quoted in the Washington Post as saying, “Elections usually put a bit of a chill in the market in the late summer and early fall because buyers don’t like the lack of clarity around what will happen over the next four years.” Hans went on to say, “I think that will accelerate buying earlier in the spring and summer this year, and then we’ll see an acceleration again after the election.”

And indeed, pending home sales rose markedly in February as homeowners prepared for the spring market. According to The National Association of REALTORS (NAR) home sales in most of the country were actually the highest they have been in the past seven months, and higher than they were in 2015.

If the housing market continues to behave as it has in previous election years homeowners should expect to see a slowing in home sales by the summer’s end. To date, NAR’s statistics indicate that the market seems to be following previous election year patterns with a significant uptick in sales as we move into spring.

Austin REALTORS® Help Homeowners Protect Their Community

Homeowners in Austin, Texas were concerned when they learned that a Dallas based developer had controversial plans for the 31 acres they purchased near the downtown area. The developer intended to have the area re-zoned so that it would be permissible to build high density, mixed use buildings. The redevelopment, known as “Austin Oaks”, had the potential to change the landscape of downtown Austin with tall buildings as well as creating traffic congestion.

While most homeowners were on board with the city’s “Imagine Austin” growth plan, this type of high rise development was not what they had envisioned. Signs protesting Austin Oaks were quickly planted in many front lawns and negotiations became tense, eventually resulting in a stand-off between homeowners and Austin’s city planning and zoning commision.

The Austin Board of REALTORS (ABOR) were also concerned, and in fact a great many of their REALTORS were homeowners in the northwest Austin neighborhood closest to the proposed development. ABOR supported the move to form a charrette in order to bring resolution and compromise.

A charette is a planning session that gives homeowners, designers and other community members an equal stake in the planning process. Providing designers with the advantage of getting immediate feedback and most importantly allowing everyone to have input in the planning process.

In a gesture of good faith, the developer contributed 88K in funding for the charrette and proposed that work desist until all parties could come to a resolution. ABOR also secured funding for the negotiation process with a $15k Smart Growth Action Grant from the National Association of REALTORS (NAR). The funding from NAR not only helped to sponsor the charette but kept it from being solely developer-funded. This was actually the second charrette that ABOR had sponsored with this grant, the first helping Austin to address the underdeveloped South Central Waterfront.

With the funding from NAR and the developer in hand, the community was able to hold “Vision & Values” workshops, as well as a week long design workshop. More than 250 residents participated in the intense preparatory phase.

After reviewing alternative plans presented by the designers, a consensus was reached within the community. In the end, many participants accepted the development of additional acreage in order to ensure that features like a parkland, bike lanes and a trail along the creek were included.

Andrei Lubomudrov, a policy analyst in ABOR’s public affairs department, shares what impressed him the most during the charrette. “The way the facilitator emphasized fairness and trade-offs: shorter buildings mean a bigger overall footprint; preserving heritage trees would mean taller buildings; and so on.” Lubomudrov went on to say, “The brilliance of the process was the constant striving for a balance of competing priorities.  Not that it was easy—but, as an approach, it really worked.” 

Looking to Rent? Five Questions to Ask to Avoid a Scam

Fast Fact: First and last month’s rent, plus deposit, is a significant chunk of cash. Scammers know it, and have mastered the art of stealing it.

It’s tough enough to find an affordable rental in today’s tight market, so when you see that oh-it-looks-perfect place for an even more perfect price, take a closer look. It could be a scam. To avoid being a victim, ask yourself these 5 questions.

  • Does the landlord or agent say they’re unable to meet you at the property?
    Scammers often say they’re out of the country, on a mission, etc. Instead they’ll send pictures and offer to send keys if you send payment. The keys won’t let you in.
  • Are they rushing you?
    Scammers try to rush you into sending them money before you have time to sense something’s not right. So don’t let anyone rush you into anything — especially if they want the money wired.
  • Do they make a lot of spelling and grammar mistakes?
    Many scams are operated from other countries.
  • Does the house seem staged like it’s for sale?
    Scammers often break into unoccupied homes on the market. When you arrive, they’re already in the house.
  • Is the price a little too good?
    To create a deal you simply can’t refuse, scammers often price rentals under the market rate. If a rental sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Your local REALTORS® are always on the look out, protecting you from rental scammers. And working with a REALTOR® is one way you can protect yourself.

If you do come across an online rental scammer, you can report it to the FBI’s Internet Crime Center.

More on this topic


Mason City Iowa REALTORS Are Helping Children Find Their Happy Place

My Happy Place is a community non-profit in Mason City, Iowa that is dedicated to making a difference in the day-to-day life of children who are seriously ill. They do this by creating a dream bedroom, outfitted entirely in the style of their recipient’s choosing. The room is transformed, giving sick children a beautiful and therapeutic space to live in.

The Greater Mason City Board of Realtors has been working closely with My Happy Place for the past two years, and supports the organization on many levels. Iowa REALTORS participate in hands-on renovations and the board leads fundraising efforts. The board’s staff looks for creative ways to make sure that every dollar raised counts and actively seeks grants from organizations like the REALTOR Foundation of Iowa, who matched a portion of funds raised for room makeovers.

REALTORS fundraising

REALTORS fundraising

The board shared that the charity was dear to many Iowa REALTORS who know how important it is for families to have a home that feels like a safe and special place. The REALTORS that participate in the fundraising events and room makeovers are committed to giving the children involved with My Happy Place a special and healing space of their own.

Last year the Mason City Board of REALTORS did a room transformation for a terminally ill, four year old boy named Xavier. They had tremendous support from the REALTOR community and were able to give Xavier a new room, provide the family with more than $500 in gas cards and purchase a 4-wheeler and helmet for Xavier. Many of the REALTORS felt a special bond with Xavier and were grateful they were able to give him a better quality of life before he passed away later that year.

REALTORS painting and preparing the rooms for children.

REALTORS painting and preparing the rooms for children.

This past August the board partnered with Mason City Harley Davidson to raise the funding they needed to create a happy place for Logan and Hayden Putney. Logan and Hayden are brothers who were both born with hereditary x-linked spastic paraplegia, a condition that has confined them both to wheelchairs. By working together, local REALTORS and Harley Davidson were able to provide both boys with new rooms as well as do some minor remodeling to help with mobility concerns.

The Greater Mason City Board of REALTORS is committed to building strong communities and will continue their work with My Happy Place. They also work with many other local organizations including but not limited to; the Hawkeye Food Bank, the Meals on Wheels Program, Habitat for Humanity and the Crisis Intervention Services of Northern Iowa.