Monthly Archives: April 2017

Oregon REALTORS® Crowd The Capitol In Support Of Home Ownership

Oregon State Capitol Building

More than 850 Oregon REALTORS® came together for the annual Oregon Association of REALTORS® (OAR) REALTOR® Day at the Capital in support of legislative policies that protect home ownership and the American dream for all Oregonians. The organization’s members are comprised of residential and commercial brokers, managing principal brokers, property managers, and industry affiliates.

During the daylong session REALTORS® heard presentations from the Association’s leadership detailing the 2017 legislative agenda and met with Legislators during the luncheon hour to discuss hot topics impacting the real estate industry, including the importance of preserving the Mortgage Interest Deduction (MID) and deductibility of property taxes for Oregon homeowners.

“The value of homeownership is under attack and its critically important that Legislators hear from people in their local communities today and throughout the entire year.”

“I am thrilled to see so many of our members in Salem advocating for policies that make home ownership affordable and achievable for more Oregonians,” said George Grabenhorst, 2017 OAR President. “The value of home ownership is under attack and its critically important that Legislators hear from people in their local communities today and throughout the entire year.”

At the top of OAR’s 2017 legislative agenda are the following programs:

  • First-time Homebuyers Saving Program: Multiple House and Senate Bills to help first-time homebuyers start saving for their first home.
  • House joint memorial (HJM) to address the appraiser shortage: HJM 3 will support changes to minimum appraiser qualifications criteria proposed by the Appraiser Qualifications Board of the Appraisal Foundation.
  • Wood Burning Stove Rebate Program & Funding: House Bills 2725 and 2748 will appropriate funds to support a grant program for wood burning stoves and authorize the Residential Solid Fuel Heating Air Quality Improvement Fund to replace solid fuel burning devices.
  • Onsite Septic System Repair, Replacement or Upgrade Funding: Senate Bills 812 and 383 to address fixes to the program and appropriate $1.5 million to support low- interest loan programs for on-site septic systems.

This year, OAR is also focused on combating harmful legislation that attempts to balance the state budget on the backs of Oregon homeowners. At the forefront of this discussion are two bills drawing heightened attention across the state—HB 2006, legislation to eliminate the Mortgage Interest Deduction (MID) for many homeowners and HB 2004-A, legislation posing onerous restrictions on landlords. OAR is aggressively working with policy makers to educate them about the dangers of these bills and drive understanding about the impact they could have on homeowners and overall state economy.

The mission of the OAR is to stand up for private property rights and home ownership in Oregon. “We achieve our mission by advocating for legislation and candidates that align with our priorities,” said George Grabenhorst. “This year, we are laser-focused on working together with our members and state officials to protect tax benefits for homeowners, fight new schemes to tax homes, and ensure our land use system works for all Oregonians.”

From Toy Drives to Flood Prevention, REALTORS® Lead the Way in the Fargo-Moorhead Area

Coffee Deliverers
Volunteers delivering coffee. Fargo-Moorhead Area REALTORS® do numerous drives throughout the year.

There is no doubt that buyers and sellers will find that the Fargo-Moorhead Area REALTORS® are a great resource for any real estate need.

But these REALTORS® aren’t just one-trick ponies.

There is so much more that they do in the community that not only advocates on behalf of the area residents, but also shows their giving side.

The local association, the Fargo-Moorhead Area Association of REALTORS (FMAAR), holds a general membership meeting each month, known as the Connections Luncheon, where they recognize and donate to a designated charity of the month.

“Our public relations committee makes a small donation and then we sell raffle tickets at the registration desk at the luncheon and all proceeds from that raffle is donated to the designated charity,” said Marti Kaiser, Chief Executive Officer of the FMAAR.

There are other charitable functions in which they partake – toy drives, coffee drives, clothing drives and Stuff the Truck, just to name a few.

But perhaps the charitable event they are most associated with is the Salvation Army bell-ringing. It was a tradition that started with the FMAAR and has now grown into a charitable event not just in North Dakota, but around the country as well.

“It started simply here with a couple of our members who were very passionate about the Salvation Army and it quickly spread statewide and to other associations in 34 other states,” Kaiser said.

In what is a healthy competition in the spirit of giving, especially around the holiday season, the FMAAR has an on-going challenge with local firefighters and law enforcement to see which group can raise the most money on a given day.

“Each of us has a designated day where we ring the bell,” Kaiser said. “Whoever raises the most money on their day wins a travelling trophy from the Salvation Army shaped like a bell.

“We always joke that the firefighters have an advantage because they bring in puppies and babies to raise more money which makes them tough to beat, but we’re proud to say we’ve had the bell for the past two years. Regardless, the real winners are the Salvation Army and the people they serve.”

And while finding ways to give back to the community through charity is an admirable effort by the FMAAR, it’s not all they do outside of their day-to-day REALTOR® functions.

With the Fargo-Moorhead area prone to flooding, the FMAAR is always right on the front lines combatting the flooding, whether it’s sand-bagging to prevent it, or delivering food to those working tirelessly to keep the flood waters out.

“We haven’t experienced a major flood recently, but our goal is to not have to sand-bag ever again.”

“We haven’t experienced a major flood recently, but our goal is to not have to sand-bag ever again,” said Kaiser. “We have bee working to get a diversion in our area. They’ve broken ground, but is still a controversial issue. It looks like it’s going to happen, but it’s probably still 10 years away from becoming a reality, so we still have a window where we can be hit by flooding.”

Finally, the FMAAR has created a joint task force with the local Home Builders Association that frequently meets with city leaders regarding special assessments. The premise of the meetings are to evaluate the current city processes to better understand them and be able to explain them to consumers or clients when they have questions.

“We serve three major communities – Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo and we do special assessments a little different than a lot of other places,” Kaiser said. “While in most places they are rolled into the price of the lot, here they are separate and sometimes they can be in the neighborhood of $40-50,000, which a lot of people find to be a big concern.

“We make recommendations to the cities to try and curb those expenses, but most importantly, it allows us to understand why they are assessed the way they are and to better be able to explain that to the potential homebuyers.”

Selling And Buying A Home In Pennsylvania Just Got Easier

Sidewalk cracks. Missing house numbers. These were the types of minor code violations that municipal code inspectors in Pennsylvania were using to classify homes “unfit for habitation” and thus unfit for sale. The unrealistic standard of maintenance hurt both homeowners and home buyers.

The Suburban Realtors Alliance (SRA), a subsidiary of the Bucks, Montgomery and Suburban West associations of REALTORS®, has a history of advocating for public policy that benefits homeowners and real estate markets. The excessive inspection issues that were disrupting area housing transactions were very much on their radar.

“This abuse of real estate consumers was occurring because there was too much ambiguity in the state law.”

“This abuse of real estate consumers was occurring because there was too much ambiguity in the state law,” said Jamie Ridge, president/CEO of the SRA. “By withholding the resale certificate, inspectors were essentially taking away a seller’s ability to negotiate the expense of repairs. This was even occurring in short sales, when sellers had no financial ability to make the repairs.”

SRA staff began talking to REALTOR® and state Rep. Jamie Santora (R-163rd) about the property maintenance inspection issues shortly after his election in 2014. The focus of their discussions centered on the refusal of some municipal inspectors to issue “use and occupancy” permits due to minor code violations found during resale inspections. The SRA felt that inspectors were taking advantage of their ability to label homes “unfit for habitation” because it allowed them, under the old state law, to force sellers to remedy code issues prior to a real estate settlement.

Having experienced these same issues himself during real estate transactions in and near his legislative district in Delaware County, Rep. Santora was eager to find a solution. The SRA worked closely with the government affairs staff of the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors to help Santora craft an amendment to the state law. They also met with numerous state legislators to promote the bill.

After learning that another, simpler amendment to the state law was already moving through the legislature, Santora spoke to that bill’s sponsor, who agreed to allow the additional language to be added.  The final result, HB 1437, included a major amendment by Rep. Santora  that closed PA Municipal Code and Ordinance Compliance Act loopholes that were allowing some municipal code inspectors to stifle home sales with excessive citations.

The bill was passed unanimously by both the House and Senate, and signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf in November 2016. As a result, municipalities that require inspections prior to sale must provide clearer guidance to local code enforcement officials. The bill also creates a new category of certificate (“Temporary Access”) that allows buyers of homes deemed “unfit for habitation” to go ahead with their purchase and gives them 12 months from the date of purchase to complete repairs. Additionally, HB 1437 prohibits escrow requirements by municipalities as a condition of issuing a resale permit. Large escrow requirements in some municipalities had made selling homes very difficult.

It’s a new day for real estate consumers in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.Click To Tweet

“It’s a new day for real estate consumers in the Commonwealth thanks to Rep. Santora’s efforts,” said SRA Chairman Chris Beadling, a REALTOR® and member of the Bucks County Association of REALTORS®. “No longer will municipalities be able to strip away the right to negotiate real estate transactions.”

Homeownership in the Crosshairs of Latest Tax Plan, Say Realtors®

Major reforms are needed to lower tax rates and simplify the tax code, but that shouldn’t come at the expense of current and prospective homeowners. That’s according to National Association of Realtors® President William E. Brown, a second-generation Realtor® from Alamo, California and founder of Investment Properties.

Brown said that while the President’s tax proposal released today is well-intentioned, it’s a non-starter for homeowners and real estate professionals who see the benefits of housing and real estate investment at work every day. By doubling the standard deduction and repealing the state and local tax deduction, the plan would effectively nullify the current tax benefits of owning a home for the vast majority of tax filers. In light of the plan’s release, NAR released the following statement:

“For over a century, America has committed itself to homeownership with targeted tax incentives that help lower- and middle-class families purchase what is likely their largest asset. No surprise, real estate now accounts for over 19 percent of America’s gross domestic product, or more than $3 trillion in investment.

“But for roughly 75 million homeowners across the country, their home is more than just a number. It represents their ambitions, their nest egg, and the place where memories are made with family and friends.

“Targeted tax incentives are in place to help people get there. The mortgage interest deduction and the state and local tax deduction make homeownership more affordable, while 1031 like-kind exchanges help investors keep inventory on the market and money flowing to local communities.

“Those tax incentives are at risk in the tax plan released today. Current homeowners could very well see their home’s value plummet and their equity evaporate if tax reform nullifies or eliminates the tax incentives they depend upon, while prospective homebuyers will see that dream pushed further out of reach. As it stands, homeowners already pay between 80 and 90 percent of U.S. federal income tax. Without tax incentives for homeownership, those numbers could rise even further. And while we appreciate the Administration’s stated commitment to protecting homeownership, this plan does anything but.”

“Homeowners put their hard-earned money on the line to make an investment in themselves and their communities, and it’s on them to protect that investment. Common sense says owning a home isn’t the same as renting one, and American’s tax code shouldn’t treat those activities the same either.

“Realtors® support tax reform, and it’s encouraging to see leaders in Washington doing their part to get there. We believe tax rates should come down to the degree that sound fiscal policy allows, and simplifying the tax code will help ensure fairness and transparency for individual taxpayers. It’s a goal we share with the authors of this tax plan, but getting there by eliminating the incentives for homeownership is the wrong approach. We look forward to working with leaders in Congress and the administration to reform the tax code, while preserving America’s long-held commitment to homeownership.”

Home Buying By Older Americans Picks Up Steam


Baby Boomers were a rebellious generation.

They grew their hair long. They fought for social equality. And now, they refuse to be “old.”

A clarification: They refuse to be old based on the standards set by previous societal norms.

In other words, previous generations, when they reached retirement age, were more likely to settle into a retirement home, or to a retirement community to live out their days peacefully.

And while there are “R” words that Boomers don’t mind these days – like rest, relaxation and recreation – retirement is a bit taboo, especially when used as an adjective referring to their living situation rather than as a noun to describe their state of being.

That’s because Baby Boomers still want to be active, despite primarily being in their 60s or early 70s. They aren’t interested in communal meals watching the Game Show Network for hours on end.

No, they’d much rather continue their counterculture approach to living – and turn retirement on its ear – concentrating more on things like their garden, an active outdoor lifestyle and remaining an integral part of their neighborhood and community.

It’s why we are seeing a noticeable upswing in home buying among older Americans.

'We are seeing a noticeable upswing in home buying among older Americans.'Click To Tweet

Older Americans Now Make Up a Quarter of Housing Market

“We found that 14% of the home buying market in 2016 was from ‘Older Boomers’ and an additional 8% of the market was from the ‘Silent Generation,’” said Jessica Lautz, managing director of survey research and communication for the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) Research Division. “So they are an active population purchasing homes today.”

Lautz said that “Older Boomers” were identified as homebuyers between the ages of 62 and 70 and the “Silent Generation” consisted of homebuyers between the ages of 71 and 91.

Some people are surprised when they learn that a quarter of the home buying market is made up of retirees or those close to retirement age. Some may find that a quarter of the home buying market being made up of retirees or those close to retirement age to be a surprisingly large percentage. But, as Bob Dylan sang to these same folks as impressionable teenagers more than a half century ago – the times, they are a-changing.

“Age in community is not ‘old’ the way we used to be ‘old’,” said Linda Lugo, the 2016 president of the New York State Association of REALTORS®. “You are not seeing the traditional, mature owner wanting to go into what is considered a retirement community. They still want to be part of the [regular] community.”

Lautz added that according to NAR research, the primary reasons older Americans move are retirement (moving to warmer climates), downsizing or wanting to move closer to friends and family. However, there are trends that again show this generation of retirees is unique.

“Today’s retirees are different than in the past,” Lautz said. “Warmer climates are always going to be popular, but we don’t see them downsizing as much as they did before. As recently as 2004, retirees would downsize by about 500 square feet on average, now we are seeing the average down to 100 square feet, meaning they really aren’t downsizing much, if at all.”

And despite the fact that they have smaller household incomes, this is a financially confident group who hold about $8 trillion in home equity – nearly two-thirds of the equity of all American homeowners.

“Their wealth sneaks up on them,” said Boyd Campbell of the Maryland Association of REALTORS®. “They buy a home in the right neighborhood and the right ZIP Code and the home they bought for $100,000 is now worth $400,000.”

Older Americans Are Heading North

And there is a bit of a reverse migration going on, too. There has been a recent trend of seniors leaving traditional retirement states like Florida, Texas, California and Arizona, for states which actually have winters – like Illinois, Michigan, New York and New Jersey.

With the real estate market rebounding in those warmer states, older Americans can now sell their homes there for a significant profit, giving them the freedom to once again relocate closer to their loved ones.

But this trend is also rooted in policy – and although they may have at one time in their lives been a bit anti-establishment, Baby Boomers are not foolish, and recognize where their best interests lie.

In some of these states – specifically in New York and New Jersey – Medicaid expansion, for example, means healthcare is more affordable for some people.

Sometimes though, existing policies meant to assist older homeowners – such as reverse mortgages – require close attention.

“Reverse mortgages can indeed be very beneficial to mature homebuyers,” said Iona Harrison, a member of the Maryland Association of REALTORS®. “But care must be exercised to ensure that the mature homebuyer makes an informed decision and truly understands the consequences of the reverse mortgage.”

Reverse mortgages have been rapidly increasing in number in the past 15 years, but they also come with criticism for being too confusing, costly and misleading.

Still, far fewer Older Boomers (68%) and Silent Generation (58%) homebuyers are taking out mortgages than Millennials (98%) and Gen-Xers (96%).

This means older homebuyers are a greater force in the market than many may realize and they actually could have an unintentionally adverse effect on younger homebuyers, especially those trying to buy their first home.

Newly Passed House Bill Will Avert Flood Insurance Disaster

Manoa flood
Flood waters pushed several vehicles into the trees immediately downstream from the Woodlawn Drive Bridge. Source: National Weather Service.

A statement from Susan Savage, 2017 president of the Hawai‘i Association of REALTORS®

In April 2016, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) sent a letter warning the State of Hawaii that they will suspend Hawaii’s participation from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) because of Act 203, which exempts agricultural structures from building permits. FEMA requires permits for all construction. In their letter, they stated, “Failure to address this compliance problem by July 31, 2017, will force FEMA to initiate suspension procedures for the State and all Hawaii communities that participate in the NFIP.”

What many people do not know is that all properties are at some risk for flooding. In 1968, Congress established the NFIP, which enables homeowners, business owners, and renters in participating communities, such as Hawaii, to purchase federally backed flood insurance. This potential suspension would have negatively affected existing policies in Hawaii and would adversely affect new policies as required by mortgages.

“Hawaii currently has 60,000 flood insurance policies totaling in over $13.2 billion in flood insurance covered by these NFIP insurance policies, which were vulnerable to cancellation from FEMA’s suspension warning. For the past four decades, Hawaii benefited from nearly 4,600 claims paid, totaling over $87 million.”

Hawaii currently has 60,000 flood insurance policies totaling in over $13.2 billion in flood insurance covered by these NFIP insurance policies, which were vulnerable to cancellation from FEMA’s suspension warning. For the past four decades, Hawaii benefited from nearly 4,600 claims paid, totaling over $87 million. It is estimated that Federal Disaster Assistance made available to the State of Hawaii since 1980 provided under the NFIP, has totaled over $400 million following Hurricanes Iwa, Iniki, Tropical Storm Iselle, the magnitude 6.7 Kiholo Earthquake, and various severe storms, tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanic activity, and flooding. Furthermore, FEMA’s letter threatened that all Federal agencies will also be prohibited from making grants, loans, or guarantees for the acquisition or construction of structures, including assistance from the Federal Housing Administration, Veterans Administration, and the Small Business Administration, among others, if the State of Hawaii was suspended from the NFIP.

This year, efforts were initiated by Representative Ryan I. Yamane (Mililani, Waipio Gentry, Waikele), with the support of FEMA Region IX, the Hawaii State Legislature, the Engineering Division of the Department of Land and Natural Resources, Hawaii’s four counties, the Hawaii Association of Realtors, the Hawaii Farm Bureau, and Hawaii’s insurers, banks, and builders to address this federal warning. Thanks to this partnership, the State of Hawaii was able to pass House Bill 1418 to clarify our state building laws and avert a disaster in our federal flood insurance coverage.

With the passage of House Bill 1418, Hawaii’s property owners can trust that their NFIP federal flood insurance will be protected and remain in place. We would like to express our appreciation and thanks to everyone involved in the support and passage of House Bill 1418.

As REALTORS®, we are committed to staying informed and advocating when necessary for our communities.

The 2017 “Sixth Penny Tax” Projects in Laramie County

Did you know that state law allows counties, in cooperation with cities and towns, to fund specific projects through a voluntary sales tax? It’s called “The Sixth Penny Tax.”

There are nine projects on the ballot this year.  For projects that are approved by voters, a “sixth penny” sales tax will be added to the purchases you make. When the specific amount is collected, the tax stops.

Here is more information on this year’s proposed projects:

Court Expansion (Prop. 1)

The City of Cheyenne seeks $9 million for the construction of a new Municipal Court facility to be located at 2101 O’Neil Ave. as an addition or remodel to the City of Cheyenne’s current government building. The facility would house three judges (two court judges and a juvenile judge) and administrative staff.

Laramie County seeks $9 million to remodel and expand the existing Laramie County Courthouse to provide courtroom and office space for a fourth District Court Judge authorized by the Wyoming Legislature along with building systems and physical plant upgrades.

County Jail Expansion (Prop. 2)

Laramie County seeks $16,176,680 to construct an addition on the existing Laramie County Detention Center located at 1910 Pioneer Ave., for the purpose of expanding inmate capactiy, for any additional administrative space, and for updating and improving existing infrastructure of the current facility.

Christensen Project (Prop. 3)

The City of Cheyenne seeks $15 million for The Christensen Road and Overpass Project which begins at Commerce Circle, near the I-80 and Campstool Road interchange in the center of the Cheyenne LEADS Business Parkway. The new road crosses the Union Pacific Railroad mainline, then continues north to US Highway 30. The length of the project is 1.25 miles. Constructed with the road and bridge project will be a new water main and storm sewer for drainage. The absence of the Christensen Project is a critical public safety concern. This relates to access and response times for fire, police and emergency personnel, particularly to the eastern portion of the LEADS Business Park and to the I-80/Campstool developments and nearby neighborhoods.

Multi-Purpose Event Facility (Prop. 4)

$9,885,000 and interest earned thereon to the Laramie County Fair Board to be used for the design, construction, equipping, and furnishing of a Multi-Purpose Facility at the Laramie County Archer Complex. The proposed facility will be an open-span building that will host a variety of events year-round for both residents and visitors, including Trade Shows, Expositions, Sporting Events, RV Rallies, Concerts, and Horse and Stock Shows. The Archer Complex was purchased in 2004 by Laramie County for the purpose of a Multifunctional Campus for citizens to use and enjoy year-round.

Proposition 5 ($11.970 million)

  • Albin housing expansion
  • Burns road, parking, watering improvements
  • Pine Bluffs electric infrastructure improvements
  • Cheyenne Street Improvements
  • Cheyenne Greenway expansion/maintenance
  • Albin emergency generators/water source
  • Pine Bluffs clean water system renovation
  • Pine Bluffs new public works facility
  • Laramie County Fire District#1 construction of a new fire station

Proposition 6 ($11.969 million)

  • Cheyenne mulitpurpose indoor turf facility
  • Burns remodel/O&M of town owned facilities
  • Albin (O&M) new water meter system
  • Burns street maintenance
  • Laramie County radio equipment/O&M
  • Pine Bluffs refurbish recreational facilities

Proposition 7 ($14.870 million)

  • Albin replace vehicle storage facility
  • Burns dump truck and attachments
  • Albin replace parking lot at Town Hall
  • Pine Bluffs upgrade town cemetery
  • Laramie County emergency services storage
  • Cheyenne Construct Indoor Gymnasium/offices (O&M)
  • Burns 4th Street sewer line completion (O&M)
  • Cheyenne fire station improvements/fire engines

Proposition 8 ($8.848 million)

  • Albin purchase utility pickup truck, toolboxes
  • Cheyenne street improvements
  • Albin sewer line replacement
  • Pine Bluffs debt reduction
  • Cheyenne purchase land East Community Park
  • Pine Bluffs replace town equipment
  • Burns Radios, Pagers, and other communication equipment

Proposition 9 ($11,700,500)

  • Eastern Laramie County Solid Waste Disposal District purchase new scraper, shop addition
  • Laramie County enhance emergency computers
  • Laramie County Fire District #2 new station
  • Cheyenne West Edge District enhancements
  • Laramie County Sheriff video recording system
  • Pine Bluffs street maintenance/repair program
  • Albin replace existing water lines
  • Albin Community Center repairs/maintenance
  • Burns improvements to town parks
  • Burns improvements to water and sewer system

Video: The Longevity Economy

Businesses are catering to mature homeowners

Folks over 50 already control most of our nation’s wealth and spending, including on homes and home improvements. That’s trillions of dollars each year! It’s such a big influence that there’s even a name for it: “The Longevity Economy.”

This video includes an overview of reverse mortgages, a home financing product that is available to folks age 62 or older who are still residing in their primary residence.

Watch the video to learn more.