Monthly Archives: June 2017

Massachusetts REALTORS® Get Their Hands Dirty At The South Shore Garden Project

REALTORS® at the Plymouth and South Shore Association of REALTORS (PASS) wanted to give Earth Day 2017 the attention it deserved. So this past April 16, more than twenty REALTORS® were elbow deep in dirt at the Davis-Douglas Farm. The farm is part of the Wildlands Trust, a rural property in Plymouth that has been conserved and transformed into a space that area homeowners and families can enjoy.

The PASS team used a “Placemaking Grant” from the National Association of REALTORS® to build an organic, community garden on site. The grant was created to help transform underused public spaces, turning them into dynamic community destinations – and was a perfect fit for the Davis-Douglas project.

The funding went directly towards the construction of multiple raised garden beds and a dedicated “demonstration bed” that will be utilized in educational programming. REALTORS® built and prepped the beds over the course of two days, working alongside Wildland Trust volunteers. Their hard work means that a community gardening space is now available for use by South Shore residents. The trust also encourages their public gardeners to donate excess produce to area food pantries.

Jean Sawtelle, Communications Director at PASS, shared that the idea of applying for the grant was proposed by REALTOR® Bill Keohan, who was already involved with the Wildlands Trust. Sawtelle and the PASS Government Affairs Committee knew that the community garden project would be a perfect fit for the REALTOR® Party’s and unanimously moved forward with the grant application.

“It’s a wonderful, inclusive garden,” adds PASS CEO Rachel Tristano. “It will bring together members from all segments of the community, from the elderly living in facilities without gardening spaces, to professionals living in the newer high-end career-oriented complexes without hands-on gardens, and people of all different backgrounds and abilities. One of the best features is that some of the beds are even accessible to those in wheelchairs.”

The garden is part of a larger site that includes benches, picnic tables, a tree swing and walking trails. A large community hall is currently under construction as well. “The garden will be a place that produces more than just food,” says Tristano, “it will provide education and produce friendships and a sense of community.”

Five Hurdles to Owning a Home

Despite steadily improving local job markets and historically low mortgage rates, the U.S. homeownership rate is stuck near a 50-year low because of a perverse mix of affordability challenges, student loan debt, tight credit conditions and housing supply shortages.

President’s Tax Reform Plan Would Actually Increase Taxes For Most Homeowners

Tax Reform

The Trump Administration unveiled the outline of a tax reform plan at the end of April.  Its goals are a simpler, more growth-oriented tax system, and lower taxes on American families.

The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR)  has studied the outline and determined that while the tax reform plan is well-intentioned, it misses the mark by leaving too much of the tax burden on the shoulders of homeowners.

The study, known as the “Impact of Tax Reform Options on Owner-Occupied Housing,” highlights a pair of major concerns for homeowners.

  • Homeowners with adjusted gross incomes between $50,000 and $200,000 would see an average annual tax increase of $815;
  • Home values could fall by more than 10 percent in the short run following enactment.
'Homeowners put their hard-earned money on the line to make an investment in themselves and their communities.'Click To Tweet

“Tax reform and lower rates are worthy goals, but only if we can achieve them in a fiscally responsible way,” said NAR president William E. Brown. “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 America’s tax code shouldn’t treat those activities the same either.”

Brown added that between 80 and 90 percent of all personal federal income taxes in the United States are paid by homeowners. Without the incentives for homeownership, those figures could rise even higher.

“Targeted tax incentives are in place to help people [achieve their goals],” Brown said. “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.”

Brown pointed out that those tax incentives are at risk with the tax outline released by the White House. Homeowners could be facing a stark decrease in their home’s value and sharply higher taxes if tax reform cancels out the tax incentives they depend upon.

REALTORS® support tax reform and are encouraged by the White House and Congress’ commitment to needed changes, such as reduced tax rates and simplification. However, they are staunch in their belief that eliminating homeownership incentives is the wrong approach.

“A tax reform proposal that hikes taxes for homeowners is a raw deal,” Brown said. “Leaders in Washington who are driving tax reform have shown every indication that they have the best of intentions and we’re hopeful they’ll consider our study as this process plays out.”

Related Video

Video: Is The American Dream of Homeownership In Crisis?

For many Americans, the dream of homeownership is now at risk. That’s in large part because the real estate and economic crises impacted some of us differently than others. While you and your loved ones may have fully recovered, many have not, and in fact may not ever.

But the question remains, where do we go from here? What’s ailing the American Dream of homeownership today, how do we protect it for future generations and insure against future crises?

Watch this video to learn more.

Mississippi REALTORS Put Homeowner Concerns In Front Of State Lawmakers

Mississippi homeowners may not realize that the friendly REALTOR® that just sold them their home is also working behind the scenes as an advocate for their legal rights as property owners. REALTOR® associations across the country work with legislators on an ongoing basis, making sure that needs of property owners are brought to the forefront.

One of the ways the Mississippi Association of Realtors (MAR) makes sure homeowner concerns are being put in front of lawmakers is to host the annual “REALTOR® Day at the Capitol.” This event brings more than 200 REALTORS® from across Mississippi to the state Capitol in Jackson and is held during the legislative session.

REALTORS® are able to meet informally with influential state officials at the event’s morning coffee hour. They mingle with Mississippi Senators and Representatives who are responsible for introducing and supporting legislation that can impact the lives and bank accounts of homeowners.

The group then moves into the Old MS Supreme Court chambers where more statewide elected officials drop by and are given the opportunity to address the group. This year the group heard from Governor Phil Bryant, Lt. Governor Tate Reeves, Speaker of the House Philip Gunn, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, Treasurer Lynn Fitch and Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney.

Elected officials talked about the progress of some of their own legislative priorities, thanked the REALTORS® for their input and participation in the process and stressed the importance of REALTOR® support of their communities and the political process.

During this session the Mississippi Senate and House Legislators of the Year were honored, REALTORS® were given information about the current legislative priorities and tips were offered for speaking with their legislators.

The personal contact of members with their legislators and reinforcement of legislative priorities helped to yield one of the most successful legislative sessions for the Mississippi REALTORS® in many years.

Wisconsin REALTORS Win The Fight Against Costly Closing Delays

Hearing a REALTOR® say the words, “It sold!” is typically cause for celebration when your house is on the market. Homeowners are usually relieved to know that they can move on to the next step in their lives. Whether it’s moving their family into a larger house, downsizing as they prepare for retirement or simply the relief of getting out from under an oversized mortgage.

However, Wisconsin’s former Time of Sale Requirements (TOS) meant that residents in the dairy state used to have a stressful and costly list of home repairs to complete before they could celebrate the sale of their home. A TOS is a home repair or improvement that must be performed before buyers and sellers can close on a home. Some of the Wisconsin TOS requirements were large, and some were small, but all made closing on the sale of a home more complicated and created liability for property owners.

The Wisconsin REALTORS® Association (WRA) believed that while the intent of the TOS was a good one, it’s approach was flawed. Tom Larson, Senior Vice President of Legal and Public Affairs said, “Generally, communities impose TOS requirements to address possible health, safety, environmental or aesthetic concerns related to a property. While the concerns themselves and the proposed remedies may be reasonable, requiring the issues to be addressed only when a property is sold is problematic.”

So why didn’t TOS work? The WRA says that one of the reasons is that only a small percentage of properties are sold each year. This means that decades could pass before all the properties that are targeted for upgrades are remedied. “Waiting for a home to be sold in order to bring it up to code or address aesthetic issues is a slow and inefficient approach.” says Larson. “If the community is trying to address a health or safety concern it should be taken care of long before the property is up for sale.”

Larson shares that the other reason TOS wasn’t working was the financial burden that it placed onto homeowners, many of whom weren’t making much of a profit on the sale of their home. “It’s a common misperception that all property owners “make money” when selling their property. With the downturn in the real estate market that occurred several years ago, many homeowners don’t have the money to make expensive repairs or upgrades at closing. Moreover, people are often selling their home because of some adverse change in their life such as a divorce or loss of a job. Imposing an additional financial burden on them only makes a bad situation worse.”

WRA actively worked to address the failings of TOS by meeting with lawmakers to discuss alternative solutions in the hopes that new legislation would be introduced. Their goal was to ensure that Wisconsin communities could find a way to manage home requirements in an ongoing way vs. hitting homeowners with an overwhelming and expensive to-do list at the sale of their home.

The efforts of the WRA ultimately helped to put an end to the costly TOS process. On July 12, 2015, Gov. Walker signed the 2015-17 state budget, 2015 Wis. Act 55, into law. The new budget included a restriction on local time of sale (TOS) requirements. On February 29, 2016, Gov. Walker signed into law 2015 Wis. Act 176, legislation that expanded the scope of the TOS restrictions to also apply to both the time of occupancy and to buyers of real property.

Michigan REALTORS Are Transforming Public Spaces For Residents

REALTORS® in Michigan are improving communities with their “Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper” (LQC) placemaking initiative. LQC was born out of the idea that it’s not necessary to have a large budget or long timeline in order to make a big impact in public spaces. “Smaller, cost-effective placemaking projects that the LQC initiative provides can help improve a community and make it a more attractive and vibrant place.” says Gil White, Placemaking Consultant for the Michigan REALTORS®. Mr. White assists in both the grant process and educating communities around Michigan on the value of placemaking.

LQC projects build a greater sense of community and increases revenue for local businesses. For example, LQC helped to bring more visitors to Detroit’s Eastern Market by building a temporary community gathering space. They cleaned a large area with a pressure washer, used traffic barriers and brought in more than 120 chairs, oversized umbrellas and lighting to make the space inviting.

In addition, the city of Marquette, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, created extra seating areas during their popular Art Week on 3rd Street, as well as a mural. Hundreds of lights, including special effects lighting, were added during the Halloween week festivities, which will be used once again this year.

Upcoming 2107 projects include the Ypsilanti Farmer’s Market and Howell Main Street improvement. LQC will set up a multi-use space at the Ypsilanti market including; lighting, outdoor games, seating, patio heaters and picnic tables. The Howell area project will transform a 3 block alley by finishing up a mural the organization began in 2106, creating urban gardens, art, lighting and constructing event spaces.

The grants available for local REALTOR® association-sponsored LQC projects range between $500 and $3,500. REALTORS® have found that LQC dollars go much further when they join forces with existing community revitalization efforts.

“These projects provide the perfect opportunity for our members to get involved in local outreach programs, while creating a sense of place within communities around the state,” says Jason Copeman, 2017 Michigan REALTOR® President. “I have witnessed the rewards from the LQC project that was implemented in my hometown of Marquette, and I know my fellow local REALTORS® and I take pride in our continued connection with the community.”

Mississippi REALTORS Make Their Local Ronald McDonald House Feel More Like Home For Visiting Families

REALTORS® see firsthand how important having a comfortable home is for families with children. Having a safe place to recharge and connect is important in this busy world. But when a child falls seriously ill families often find themselves making do in hotel rooms or with relatives who are in close proximity to the hospital. The Mississippi Association of Realtors (MAR) recognized this need for a safe haven and reached out to help the Jackson Ronald McDonald House.

“Here in Jackson, Mississippi the Ronald McDonald House provides a ‘home away from home’ for families who are receiving care at the nearby Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children. These families are going through the most difficult time in their lives and we wanted to help make them their stay easier,” said David Griffith, 2017 MAR President.

The Ronald McDonald House in Jackson provides everything a family needs to feel at home. In addition to bedrooms with private baths they have four well-appointed kitchens, a colorful playroom, private sitting areas, a courtyard and a large dining and family room.

MAR wanted families who were staying at the house while their children were treated to have a home-cooked supper when they returned after a long day at the hospital. The association’s Executive Committee gathered in MAR’s office kitchen, spending the day putting meals together. The volunteers made large quantities of baked potato soup and chicken and dumplings, comfort food that is easily frozen in disposable casserole containers.

In addition to hands-on work, MAR held a REALTOR® drive to supply the house with needed items. During an annual event called REALTOR® Day At The Capitol, attendees were invited to bring things from the Ronald McDonald House wish list. REALTORS across MS rallied and brought paper goods, snacks and cleaning products to the event for delivery to the House.