Monthly Archives: September 2017

Passaic County REALTORS® Aren’t Just Selling Homes, They’re Building Them

REALTORS® out to help Habitat for Humanity build a new, energy efficient home in West Milford NJ

Homeowners in Passaic County might not realize that their local REALTORS® not only sell homes, they also help to support residents in need. Former Passaic County Board of REALTORS® (PCBOR) President, John Walters explains, “REALTORS® are community builders, and many are on the front lines serving in various volunteer capacities within our towns and cities.”

One of the many ways that Passaic REALTORS® help is by working with organizations in the area that need additional support. In particular, the association looks for housing opportunity organizations that give families in need a place to call home. Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit that has helped build homes across the world since 1976, seemed like a natural partnership.

When PCBOR reached out to ask how they could support the organization’s mission, Habitat called for hands on deck. PCBOR responded, sending 50 REALTORS® out to help Habitat for Humanity build a new, energy efficient home in West Milford NJ. The enthusiastic REALTORS® worked from 8:30 in the morning until approximately 4:00 in the afternoon.

The added manpower meant that the volunteers were able to completely assemble the home’s foundation. “We did everything, from setting up scaffolds, to shoveling gravel, to putting up signs and using nail guns. It was a lot of hard work but it paid off at the end of the day,” said George Finelli, a REALTOR® and volunteer.

Another volunteer remarked that the Habitat for Humanity foreman was impressed with the group’s hard work and looked forward to having them on site again. PCBOR is excited to continue their partnership with Habitat for Humanity as well and felt that they were off to a great start.

Kaua`i REALTORS® And Residents Work Together To Shape the Island’s New General Plan

Na Pali Coast on Kauai island on Hawaii

Kaua`i is nicknamed “The Garden Island” because of its abundance of tropical rainforest. In fact, it’s known for being one of the least commercially developed of the Hawaiian islands, which makes the current initiative of redoing the island’s development plan a delicate undertaking.

The Kaua`i County Planning Department actually hasn’t touched the existing general plan (Kaua`i KaKou) since 2000. However, the island’s population continues to expand, placing heavier demands on the island’s infrastructure. As a result, the area is also struggling with traffic congestion and the need to develop affordable housing to accommodate new growth.

The majority of the population boom is actually coming from locals whose families are expanding. In a recent article in The Garden Island (tgi), Mike Dahilig, Kaua`i’s Planning Director, says “People want to have families, and the concept of handling that kind of growth tends to be forgotten in the context of looking at how the community is changing.” “Because that growth, coupled with someone who is moving here, they both need the same sewer, water and services.”

The Kaua`i Board of REALTORS® (KBR) has been taking an active role with the Kaua`i County Planning Department as the County undergoes the process of reviewing the Kaua`i general plan. For the past two years, KBR has helped to gather community input – asking residents what their vision for the island’s future is and communicating concerns to the planning department as resident’s voice their concerns about island preservation.

The feedback KBR shared with the planning department helped to shape the first plan draft that was then submitted to the Kaua`i County Council. The council agreed that it was time to significantly redo the general plan and set a public hearing for October 4th – allowing the community an additional opportunity to weigh in before a final plan is put into place.

Read articles about the General Plan from The Garden Island:

January 2, 2017
General Plan addresses a growing island community

July 10, 2017
Tuesday meeting on General Plan

July 24, 2017
Take the plunge into the General Plan

Home Prices in Utah Are On The Rise

Median Sales Price

Year to date, the median price of a home in Utah is now over $264,000 — a nearly 9% increase from 2016, according to the Utah Association of REALTORS®. Overall, 22 of Utah’s 29 counties have seen an increase in the median home price.

County 2016 2017 % Change
Beaver $129,300 $142,500 + 10.2%
Box Elder $170,000 $198,900 + 17%
Cache $190,000 $202,000 + 6.3%
Carbon $108,350 $118,000 + 8.9%
Daggett $196,000 $124,900 – 36.3%
Davis $246,625 $270,000 + 9.5%
Duchesne $150,000 $143,000 + 4.7%
Emery $79,500 $85,000 + 6.9%
Garfield $150,000 $133,500 – 11.0%
Grand $285,600 $314,750 + 10.2%
Iron $159,950 $189,900 + 18.7%
Juab $165,000 $225,000 + 36.4%
Kane $225,000 $189,650 – 15.7%
Millard $124,250 $119,000 – 4.2%
Morgan $392,000 $390,000 – 0.5%
Piute $88,250 $97,500 + 10.5%
Rich $192,500 $257,250 + 33.6%
Salt Lake $263,022 $290,000 + 10.3%
San Juan $122,500 $138,500 + 13.1%
Sanpete $147,500 $174,900 + 18.6%
Sevier $131,500 $147,500 + 12.2%
Summit $702,669 $747,825 + 6.4%
Tooele $199,322 $219,900 + 10.3%
Uintah $158,000 $144,500 – 8.5%
Utah $252,000 $268,550 + 6.6%
Wasatch $419,500 $422,000 + 0.6%
Washington $237,334 $265,000 + 11.7%
Wayne $175,000 $265,000 + 51.4%
Weber $183,950 $203,000 + 10.4%
Entire $243,000 $264,265 + 8.8%

* Does not account for seller concessions. | Some figures can look extreme due to small sample sizes.

This report is based on July 2017 data provided by the UtahRealEstate.com, Iron County MLS, Washington County MLS and Park City MLS. Report © 2017 ShowingTime 10K

Washington REALTORS® Play A Big Role In Bellingham’s Community Improvements

The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) have been working with REALTORS® across the nation in order to lend support to their community building efforts. One of the many ways NAR helps is by providing financial and technical assistance with a variety of “Placemaking Grants.” Some associations use the grant as a needed, one-time community boost while many others consider it an ongoing resource for neighborhood improvements.

The Whatcom County Association of REALTORS® (WCAR) is one of the associations who have integrated Placemaking Grants into their long term strategy. In 2015, the 534 members of the WCAR began executing the first of many creative neighborhood projects in the city of Bellingham, Washington thanks to a grant of $1,500.

The community felt that a lot of the area’s individuality had been diminished by the arrival of strip malls and shopping centers. So WCAR’s first placemaking initiative focused on projects that would symbolize the neighborhood’s individuality and vibrance. These included; a painted concrete ‘soapbox” that anyone could “preach” from and a vibrant hanging garden that turned a multi-story car park into a pleasing green space.

The following year, WCAR sought additional placemaking funds, this time asking for a grant that would give them $15,000 to work with. WCAR Executive Officer Perry Eskridge shared that Past President Cerise Noah realized that if they were successful in obtaining this grant they would, “need a community partner to help implement the program, so she forged a partnership with Sustainable Connections.”

Sustainable Connections is an organization dedicated to bringing together local businesses who have a common goal of sustainable practices and community building. WCAR was already acting as a sponsor for Sustainable Connections’s superhero themed creative competition – KAPOW! The additional funds they received from the grant meant that WCAR would also be able to fully fund one of KAPOW!’s winning projects.

The KAPOW! competition attracted dozens of proposals, each containing ideas on how to best improve Bellingham’s North State Street corridor, a high-profile downtown location with an outdated infrastructure. The fast-paced and fun event was held at the Mount Baker Theater and attended by 500 community members.

The 24 competitors were required to present their ideas in “PechaKucha” format. Meaning that each competitor had just seven minutes and no more than 20 PowerPoint slides in which to pitch their ideas. In the end, the winning projects were chosen based on their creativity, innovation, potential to bring a true social impact to Bellingham.

WCAR’s 2016 President MaryKay Robinson, noted how fun it was to watch the parade of dynamic, well-organized proposals. Robinson was part of the selection process and helped to name 3 KAPOW! competitors whose concepts would be realized – the Mayor’s Choice award, the juried Superhero award and the People’s Choice award.

Robinson shared that two audience members actually spoke up and offered to fund two additional proposals that hadn’t initially made the final cut. So the highly successful KAPOW! event ended the night with eight, fully funded community improvement projects.

Among the winning projects was a coin-operated all-weather dance space; a giant sidewalk hopscotch game and a bicycle maintenance, map and repair station. The winning project that WCAR chose to fund was a State Street light installation – a solar system scale model that will bring an interactive, pedestrian element down the length of the North State Street corridor.

Rose Lathrop, Green Building & Smart Growth Manager at Sustainable Connections felt that WCAR’s contributions helped the event to be a tremendous success. Lathrop reports that the KAPOW!’s outcome inspired the city of Bellingham to make additional investments on State Street, including re-striping for reduced lane widths and traffic calming measures. Based on the strength of the 2016 event, she is now planning a KAPOW! placemaking event for this year focused on Birchwood, a neighborhood separated from the rest of the city by both economic barriers and physical divides, notably a ravine and an airport.

WCAR’s Government Affairs Director Perry Eskridge shared her organization’s enthusiasm for community transformation projects like KAPOW! Eskridge noted that the association will continue to seek out new placemaking opportunities moving forward, “It’s good to be a part of the good things happening here in Bellingham.”

Medina County REALTORS® Have Become A Community Service Resource

Though the Medina County Board of REALTORS® (MCBOR) has large Housing Opportunity and Legislative Committees set up, they don’t believe in taking a bureaucratic approach when asked to contribute to community service projects. The association’s goal is to learn what would improve local a homeowner’s quality of life and to make it a reality with as little delay as possible.

Because the 800 REALTORS® that serve MCBOR work closely with homeowners and property managers, they are often the first ones to discover a need within the community. Once a local REALTOR® has discovered a community initiative they contact Sherry Stell, MCBOR’s Association Executive. Stell then reaches out to see if there is a National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) grant that would be a good fit for the project.

This organic approach to discovery has worked well for Medina. With the help of REALTOR® recommendations and NAR grants MCBOR has been able to help to upgrade the Newbridge Veteran’s Place, build a new bike repair and cleaning station create raised garden beds for the community and place trail map signs at a new public park.

The Newbridge Veteran’s Place project came to be after a REALTOR® handled the sale of some area property. The buyers shared with their REALTOR® that they planned to convert the space into housing for disabled veterans who required round-the-clock care. MCBOR then made Newbridge Veteran’s Place the beneficiary of their Annual Charity Bowl-a-Thon, an event that raised more than $3,000 for the project. MCBOR also contributed an additional $5,000 after successfully obtaining a NAR Housing Opportunity Grant.

In addition to raising funds, local REALTORS® also contributed their time and labor by holding 3 REALTOR Care Days. “So much was needed in this seven-bedroom home to get it ready to house low income/homeless and disabled veterans,” notes Stell. “Our members helped with painting, hanging blinds and setting up the kitchen, in addition to purchasing and moving furniture into the home.” Another REALTOR Care Day was held to do a yard clean up at the home.

The new bike station came to be after a MCBOR committee member learned that a former golf course in his township was being converted to a public park. MCBOR succeeded in securing a $1,300 NAR grant that was used to build a park map and information display case along with a Saddle Buddy mountain bike repair and cleaning station.

The need for raised garden beds was brought to MCBOR’s attention via a relationship they had with Medina Creating Housing, an organization that promotes the development and management of permanent affordable housing for people with disabilities. MCBOR was able to secure an NAR grant in order to purchase the materials needed to build raised garden beds. The beds would be used by low-income residents to grow their own produce and then sell the excess at the farmer’s’ market for income.

Once again, REALTORS® pitched in as a team of MCBOR members met at the site to construct the garden beds. They also provided coffee, donuts and pizza to the other volunteers who contributed their time and elbow grease. “Our members are very supportive of each other in these efforts,” Stell shares.

Video: Got Student Debt?

If you’re a recent grad or current student, chances are you’ve got student debt.  And if you’re the parent or grandparent of a former or current student, you may very well have co-signed for that debt.

Nowadays it’s commonplace for students to graduate with over $40,000 in debt and wind up paying between $300 and $400 a month.  Often times it’s that added debt that keeps young adults from qualifying for a competitive home loan.

The problem is, defaulting on student loans can put the dream of homeownership out of reach for years.   And, if not handled properly, student loan defaults can be more difficult to navigate than just about any other kind of obligation, particularly in the bankruptcy arena. These are among the reasons why government policies regarding student debt are so important.

Watch this video to learn more.

New Option in Iowa to Save for a Down Payment for a Home

First-Time Homeowners

Coming up with a hefty down payment will no longer be a huge hurdle for people buying their first home in Iowa.

That’s because buying a first home just got easier.

The Iowa legislature recently passed legislation that included the First Time Homebuyers Savings Account Program, which now allows individuals or couples to save the money they need in a tax-free savings account to go toward the purchase of a home.

No longer do you have to worry about coming up with the money necessary to cover additional closing costs, taxes and fees associated with buying a home.

Because now you can save the money you need for such an important life investment tax-free.

It’s an initiative to incentivize homeownership, which is the backbone of safe neighborhoods, healthy schools, a consistent labor force and stronger communities, especially here in Iowa.

In a recovering housing market in the wake of the worst recession in 70 years, a variety of strategies are needed to support and encourage homeownership. Creating this savings account is a great first step.

Five things you need to know about the Iowa First Time Homebuyers Savings Account Program.Click To Tweet

Here’s five things you need to know about the Iowa First Time Homebuyers Savings Account Program:

  1. Individuals or couples can establish a dedicated savings account at their local bank or credit union, a savings and loan institution or a trust company for the purchase of a first home in Iowa regardless of their income.
  2. Individuals and couples qualify for this loan as long as they haven’t owned a home of any kind for at least three years.
  3. Parents or grandparents can open an account for their children or grandchildren and contribute to those accounts as well.
  4. Annual contributions are capped at $4,000 for married joint filers and $2,000 for all other filers. The cap for the account is $20,000.
  5. All interest and dividends earned on this account can be claimed as an income tax deduction.

Visit IowaFirstHome.com or contact a Iowa REALTOR® to learn more.