Monthly Archives: May 2017

Home Buying 101 Classes Are A Big Hit With Mississippi Residents

It’s not unusual to hear laughter coming from the room when a Home Buying 101 Class is in session at the Meridian Board of REALTOR® (MBR) offices. “We get lots of applause, laughter, and a really good Q&A in our open forum. Prospective home buyers leave our class feeling positive and well equipped to look for their first home.” says MBR executive Betty Oltremari.

The classes began in 2015 with the goal of educating first time buyers about the home buying process. Oltremari shared MBR’s motivation for offering the classes, “We believe it’s important to invest time into helping people have a better understanding of one of the biggest financial decisions of their lives. We also want them to know the American dream is possible when you understand how to achieve it.”

The hour and a half long classes are typically held quarterly and conducted by a panel of REALTORS® and relevant affiliates. Panels rotate every class so that the materials stay fresh and more MBR members have a chance to be involved. Each panelist speaks for about 10 minutes and takes a few immediate questions afterwards. At the end of the class, there is 20 to 30 minutes of open forum and attendees are encouraged to stay longer if they want to speak directly with any presenter.

The speakers present their topics in the same order prospective homebuyers will go through as the look for their first home. REALTORS® introduce themselves and share how their role benefits home buyers. Lenders are up next, providing sample loan documents and sharing what buyers need to gather for pre-approval. Appraisers, home inspectors and termite inspectors then discuss the importance of their role. An attorney speaks last, walking students through a sample closing and beyond.

MBR funds the classes themselves, and seeks out free advertising opportunities like social media, radio and TV programs to promote upcoming sessions. The board has been getting calls from residents asking when their next class will be held. Oltremari responds, “There are about 40,000 residents in Meridian and we average about 15 students per class. Our goal is to expand, making future classes an even bigger event that can reach more people.”

Maui Students Get a Helping Hand

Flip Flops

Wishing Well for Maui Students

When Sarah Sorenson first arrived on the Hawaiian island Maui, she was a tourist. She was awestruck at the beauty of it. So much so that she decided to move there and make it her home.

But it wasn’t until she settled in to her new Hawaiian digs and became a REALTOR® that she realized just how much people struggled in Maui.

And not just on an individual basis, but systematically as well.

Sorenson noticed quite quickly that schools are chronically underfunded because they don’t get their operating revenue from property taxes, as is the case in most states.

In order to fill that gap, Sorenson created a program during her time as President of the REALTOR® Association of Maui (RAM) to help Maui schools and teachers provide the tools necessary for kids on the island to get a better education and be successful.

Sorenson created Wishing Well for Maui Students, a volunteer program that procured essentials and other educational needs for classrooms for the 35 public and charter schools located on Maui.

“I enlisted the help of ‘coordinators’ (at each school) who are volunteers and we went to the teachers and asked them to make a wish list,” Sorenson said. “Each year, as more and more teachers hear about us and get their wishes filled, [the program] has grown.”

Has it ever.

From Flip Flops to Air Conditioning Units

In its decade of existence, Wishing Well has provided $1.5 million in supplies, furniture and other necessities helping more than 23,000 students.

“Sarah is a powerhouse,” said Terry Tolman, Chief Staff Executive for RAM. “Every time I talk about it I get more amazed by it because it shows how people can make difference. No one can do everything but everyone can do something and little bits matter.”

Tolman said a perfect example was Sorenson calling him from a local K-Mart on a recent afternoon.

“She was all excited because K-Mart was having a Blue Light Special on flip flops, selling them for $1 each,” Tolman said. “She bought hundreds of pairs. I went by with my truck filled it and a half of a second truck and brought them all to her house – which is our de facto storage area.”

She was all excited because K-Mart was having a Blue Light Special on flip flops... She bought hundreds of pairs.Click To Tweet

Sorenson thought that since so many kids came to school in flip flops – which is very commonplace in Hawaii, that it would be a great idea to have spares in every school in case a kid broke his flip flop while walking around.

Rather than be sent home because they don’t have shoes, Sorenson thought having a supply of new pairs available for the kids so they could simply replace the broken shoe and stay in school.

“It’s not like everyone on Maui is homeless or poor,” Tolman said. “But financially times are tough – so little things like that make a big difference.”

And although a large percentage of the efforts have focused on supplies like pencils, erasers, crayons, notebooks and the like, there have been other necessities that have made the learning environment more comfortable.

With Hawaii’s climate being so warm, very often, schools that are in old buildings and without air conditioning have to close because of the heat. Wishing Well… went out and got fans for many classrooms to keep the kids cool during the warmer times of the day.

Some classrooms even got window unit air conditioners. And for those schools that need portable classrooms because of space issues, Sorenson was able to get an electrician to donate the wiring to help keep those classrooms temperature controlled and operable.

“We had a teacher request a bar stool for her classroom so she could sit next to a child who is in a wheelchair,” Sorenson said. “We got it and the teacher was so grateful.”

National Recognition

The work Wishing Well‘s great deed has not gone unnoticed.

REALTOR® Magazine named her as one of five recipients of the 2016 Good Neighbor Award winner for all of her commitment to the program.

And, when the National Association of REALTORS® held their annual President’s Circle Conference for the REALTORS® Political Action Committee (RPAC) at the Grand Wailea on Maui in March, attendees brought 133 backpacks stuffed with $18,000 in school supplies to donate to the Wishing Well program. An additional $2,700 in cash and gift cards were also donated at the conference.

It was the first time members of the RPAC had reached out to donate to a nonprofit organization.

The Wishing Well program accepts donations year-round. People looking to donate any new or gently used household or office items or who would like to purchase school supplies for the program or who would like more information about the program or to make a PayPal donation can visit

Ohio REALTORS Protect Homeowners From Fraud

If you own a home in Ohio you may have received an official looking letter regarding the deed on your house. Solicitation letters have been sent out to multiple Ohio residences stating that homeowners needed to have a copy of their property deed in-hand, should they ever wish to sell their home in the future. The letters also say that a third party could obtain the deed on the homeowner’s behalf, requesting upwards of $100 for the service.

Sounds like a nice offer. An easy way for homeowners to take care of an item on their to-do list. However, the letters were sent by third parties with less than stellar intent. The truth is homeowners don’t need to have a copy of their deed for property transfers. But if they wish to, the deed can be easily and cheaply obtained through their County Recorder’s office. Getting a copy of a house deed in Ohio is a simple process and in many cases costs less than a dollar to do so.

The originators of these letters took advantage of homeowners by misleading them and then charging an excessive and unnecessary deed retrieval fee. Unfortunately, in many cases, homeowners did not register a complaint with the Attorney General’s office. Either because they were unaware they had been defrauded or unsure of how to register a complaint.

When the Ohio Association of REALTORS® (OAR) learned that homeowners were being taken advantage of they were immediately concerned. OAR offered their support to Representative Jeffery S. Rezabek who was sponsoring House Bill 52, legislation that was created to end unscrupulous deed solicitations.

Rezebek’s bill proposed to regulate the solicitation of certain deeds in Ohio. Specifically, Bill 52 imposed content guidelines that would prevent third parties from mailing out deceptively worded solicitations. Those that failed to follow the requirements outlined in the bill would receive fines that increased with every violation.

OAR garnered publicity for Bill 52 using by educating their members, comprised of more than 30,000 REALTORS, and asking them to help bring the issue to light. The Association also raised awareness on social media and made sure to feature the bill during its 2017 Legislative Conference. As a result of everyone’s hard work the bill passed the House 82-0.

“Ohio’s REALTOR® community is committed to protecting private property rights and helping advance the American Dream,” said Scott Williams, OAR Vice President of Public Policy.

Video: What Are the Top Three Homeowner Tax Incentives?

Learn More About Popular Tax Incentives for Homeowners

Not only is owning a home a cornerstone of the American Dream, but it also makes a lot of financial sense.

That’s because home equity provides the single largest source of savings and wealth for middle class families. And, home spending is a notable portion of our nation’s GDP, helping to support jobs, wage growth and our entire economy.

So it’s no surprise that our elected representatives tend to support policy that encourages home ownership.

While there are dozens of policies falling into this bucket, a few stand out as most popular among homeowners.

  • Mortgage Interest Deduction
  • Deducting Property Taxes
  • Capital Gains Exclusion

Watch the video to learn more.

Protecting Homeowner Rights and Tax Benefits in Minnesota

Minnesota homeowners are being asked to proactively protect their home ownership-related tax benefits by signing a petition asking the state legislature to keep the Mortgage Interest Deduction and other benefits in place.

The Mortgage Interest Deduction (MID) is important to many homeowners because it lowers the tax load, which makes home ownership affordable.

In addition, according to research from the National Association of REALTORS, eliminating tax benefits like the MID could cause a 15% decline in the value of homes.

Take a minute now and sign the petition and protect one of the few remaining tax breaks available for working and middle class families.

To learn more, visit the Minnesota Homes Matter website.

Helping First-Time Home Buyers in Oregon

The legislators in Salem are currently considering the Oregon First-Time Homebuyers Savings Program, a new idea to help prospective home buyers start saving for their first home.

Oregon is facing an affordable housing crisis. The housing market is suffering because homes are so expensive and it takes too long for young people and renters to save enough money for a down payment on a home. High rents, student loan payments and wages that don’t keep up with the cost of living are tough obstacles to overcome.

The Oregon First-Time Homebuyers Savings Program addresses these problems.

According to a statewide poll conducted for the Oregon Association of REALTORS®:

  • 79 percent of Oregonians support the Oregon First-Time Homebuyers Savings Program.
  • 86 percent of Oregonians view saving enough for a down payment and closing costs as a significant obstacle to buying a home.
  • 89 percent of Oregonians believe that buying a home is a good financial decision.

The Oregon First-Time Homebuyers Savings Program would allow individuals to take a state tax deduction for saving money towards a down payment on their first home.

The savings would be stored in a special bank account, like a college savings plan. Deposits into the account would be tax deductible, up to a limit, and the interest gained on the account would be tax free. Here’s how the plan works:

  • The funds in the account would have to be used for a down payment or other closing costs associated with purchase or construction of a home.
  • The account can be opened at any Oregon bank or credit union.
  • The savings account would be available to people who have never owned a home or those who have not owned a home in the last three years.
  • Families could save up to $50,000 including deposits and interest earned on the account over a span of 10 years.

Visit the Oregon First Home Coalition website to learn more.

REALTORS in Sioux Falls Build New Relationship with Habitat for Humanity

REALTORS® recently developed a partnership with Habitat for Humanity to help build a pair of homes in the community.

Sioux Falls is a very giving community with a lot of opportunities for residents to volunteer.

In April, it was exciting to put the volunteer spotlight on the REALTORS® doing their part to give back to their community.

The REALTOR® Association of the Sioux Empire (RASE) created a first-time partnership with Habitat for Humanity to spend a few days helping to build a pair of homes in the community.

And they had such a good time doing it, that the original build was extended and another one is in the works for May.

“This event was originally planned for two days,” said Kristen Gulson, CEO of RASE. “However, our REALTORS® and Affiliate members are so committed to the Sioux Falls community that we had more volunteers than we could accommodate, so we added a third day.”

The original time slots filled up in just four hours precipitating the need for the third day of volunteerism to be added to the schedule.

With First Bank & Trust, Land Title Guaranty and First Dakota National Bank sponsoring the event and providing volunteers with lunch and refreshments throughout the day, more than 60 REALTORS® participated in the event and thoroughly enjoyed working together to help benefit the community.

“The volunteers had a great time,” Gulson said. “They were enthusiastic to put their experience to good use and those with little construction experience were eager to jump in and learn a new skill.”

Many of the volunteers admitted they weren’t aware that this was an opportunity in which they can participate in Sioux Falls, and as a result, immediately built off the momentum of the initial partnership with Habitat for Humanity to create a second event just weeks later sponsored by one of the individual brokers who is a member of RASE.

“I’m so proud to be a part of RASE,” Gulson said. “I never would have imagined the level of support this initiative received and we’re looking forward to continuing our partnership with Habitat for Humanity in the greater Sioux Falls area in the future.”