Monthly Archives: February 2018

I Wanted To Make A Statement

Frank Williams

With over 50 years in the industry, Frank Williams has played an integral part in fighting racism and championing the fair housing movement.

Frank recalled his childhood in Flint, Michigan, stating, “I was taught, right along with all the white kids, that all people are created equal…and I believed that.” Racist sentiments still ran high in the slowly integrating community, and Frank was expelled from school for dating a white woman, who he later married.

The couple moved to Chicago in 1962. After his own frustrating experience with a REALTOR®, Frank secured his license in 1966 and joined a firm. In his first month, he made several sales, but as his practice grew, he observed the difficulties minorities faced – struggles securing fair financing, neighborhood segregation, and intimidation – all compounded by Chicago’s practice of redlining.

Although based in Chicago and Beverly, Frank has had a long view of the problem. There are historical inequities that have left minority populations at a disadvantage from the consequences of centuries of slavery to anti-immigrant movements. “We talk about Chicago as the center, but I grew up in Flint, Michigan, and it [housing discrimination] was happening there. It was happening in Chicago. It was happening in Mississippi. It was happening everywhere.”

The prevalence of housing discrimination motivated many to become involved in finding solutions. The National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB) was founded in 1947, making it the oldest minority trade association in America, and was formed out of a need to promote fair housing and equal opportunities for African-American real estate professionals, consumers and communities. Frank Later became the President of the Chicago Chapter of NAREB (Dearborn REB) in 1974.

In 1968, the Fair Housing Act was passed, and by 1971, Frank had opened his own firm. However, the Fair Housing Act was not an immediate solution to housing discrimination. Frank explained how some areas would perform a “bait-and-switch” version of fair housing by creating quotas for loan applications, engaging in steering, or faulty versions of integration management plans.

Frank also faced protests throughout the 1960s and 1970s from within his community. Demonstrators vandalized his business, angry at his efforts to combat housing discrimination. “I remember how angry I was looking around my office.” In 1975, his home was firebombed.

Frank, however, did not stop his efforts in his community or in changing professional associations like NAR, where he stated in some meetings, “there wasn’t anyone that looked like me.” He believed that not only did NAR need to stand behind the Fair Housing Act, but the real estate industry needed to create opportunity and space for minorities to enter the business, to succeed, and to become leaders. Frank eventually became president of the Chicago Association of REALTORS®, and was voted REALTOR® of the Year in 1992. His record in advocacy also includes being the president of the South Side NAACP chapter from 1979 through 1985.

In the fifty years since the Fair Housing Act first passed, Frank acknowledges that the country has made progress. But, there is still work to be done. He states, “As a Black American, a REALTOR®, and a parent, I am determined to help erase discrimination from our housing landscape.”

Fair Housing made us free

Liza and Pedro

Pedro Hernandez remembers a time before the passage of the Fair Housing Act when discrimination ran rampant in the neighborhoods of Miami, Florida. Pedro immigrated to the United States from Cuba in the late 1950s before the wave of refugees from the Fidel Castro regime. By 1966, he obtained his real estate license and began working in an environment where race, more often than not, determined sales.

Pedro stated, “When a person of color came to the neighborhood, [white] people began to panic,” and property values would fall. In stores and businesses, he would often see signs stating, “No Blacks. No Cubans. No dogs.” A move towards integration would face many obstacles in Miami, but Pedro persevered, “Was I discriminated against? Yes. Because I was Cuban. Because of my accent. Because of not speaking English. I didn’t care.”

Pedro was more concerned with establishing his practice and making a name for himself as the go-to Cuban REALTOR®. His firm, where daughter Liza Mendez eventually joined him, was one of the first Hispanic-owned firms in Miami. Between the two family members, they have over eighty years of experience in real estate and have witnessed the impact of the Fair Housing Act.

Pedro explained that the transition after the act was difficult, because the population needed to transition from discriminatory to fair practices – a process made more difficult by lack of understanding of the law. However, he cites the efforts of NAR, the local government, county officials, and other REALTORS® as key to reducing housing discrimination in Miami.

Although she grew up with the Fair Housing Act in place, Liza “never takes it for granted.” At the beginning of her career in the 1980s, Liza faced subtler versions of housing discrimination compared to the vitriol of her father’s early years. The questions about neighborhood demographics were more coded. She soon learned to guide her clients away from those biases, encouraging them to focus on their housing goals and reminding them that Miami was a melting pot – its diverse neighborhoods an asset, rather than a cause for fear.

Both father and daughter would argue that racial discrimination in housing is no longer a problem in Miami, because of the Fair Housing Act. The commitment that they share with other REALTORS® to uphold the act ensures a “more level playing field for everyone.” Liza acknowledged that there is still work to be done for other marginalized communities, such as the LGBTQ+ community, but believed that the Fair Housing Act has the structure to create balance.

With their influence on the Miami real estate industry, and Liza’s leadership positions in local REALTOR® chapters and her certifications in ethics training, Pedro and Liza continue to work with their clients and community to ensure the enforcement of the Fair Housing Act. For them, this is not just a legal obligation. Fair housing is “ethical and right” and opened the doors for anyone to be a homeowner or renter.

As Pedro stated, “Fair housing made us free.”

Fair Housing is good for our business and our clients

Pat Combs

For Pat Combs, it’s as simple as that. What the Fair Housing Act promises is the right thing to support as a REALTOR®, as a member of her community, and as an United States citizen.

When Pat joined the real estate industry in 1971, she entered a “contentious time.” REALTORS® in Grand Rapids, Michigan, were being tested to see if they were complying with the Fair Housing Act, and the legacy of the race riots of the 1960s were still felt in Michigan’s communities. While Pat felt comforted by the knowledge and training she had been given by NAR, she knew that some of her colleagues felt the testing as unfair and they feared legal consequences.

In her own practice, Pat described witnessing acts of racial discrimination throughout the 1970s. On one occasion after showing a home to a Black couple, a bigoted neighbor found her contact information and called her home. The neighbor threatened to do physical harm to Pat if she sold the house to the couple. Her response? She asked for their contact information and told them she would report them to the FBI because this was a violation of the Fair Housing Act.

Pat, while shocked, did not shrink in the face of this harassment and continued to do her best to follow fair housing practices. She was instrumental in developing self-testing and training programs for the Grand Rapids Association of REALTORS® that have been adopted throughout the country. She wanted veteran and rookie REALTORS® to be able to oppose housing discrimination because it “was good for all of us,” clients and the real estate industry. By partnering with the local Fair Housing Center, Pat created a strong support network for everyone involved in real estate.

As she has continued to be a part of equal opportunity initiatives at the local and national level in addition to serving as President of NAR in 2007, Pat has had the opportunity to see the tremendous progress in the fair housing movement. Describing the young people entering the business, she sees “more openness [to fair housing] and less prejudice.” She believes that training and education in fair housing is key to maintaining this progress.

After all, Pat acknowledged that the fair housing fight is not over. There are new pressures ranging from gentrification to the difficulties of enforcing fair housing practices with international investors. Racism remains an issue. “Back in the early days of fair housing, people thought it was a black and white issue. That still needs attention, but these days we’re [also] seeing a lot of discrimination of people with disabilities and of LGBT people. We’re finding a lot of rental discrimination.”

It is not enough, of course, to just see the problem. Pat believes NAR can continue to give members the tools to “understand [how] to do the right thing to help them with their business and to practice fair housing techniques for those [vulnerable] communities.” Combatting modern problems in fair housing will require efforts on multiple fronts – legislation, community-building, and education.

Old-Money Suburb Takes On The Fight For Fair Housing

Fair Housing - Holding Hands

At first blush, Grosse Pointe, Michigan may appear to be the same kind of big city suburb that has been depicted on television screens: Well-manicured lawns. White picket fences. Nuclear families.

But look a little closer and you will find that included in this small, wealthy community, made up of 93% Caucasian residents, is one of the most active advocates of fair housing and diversity in America.

That isn’t a typo.

Meet the Grosse Pointe Board of REALTORS® (GPBR) who believe fair housing is not just an occasional advocacy campaign, but rather an internalized, everyday way of thinking.

“Grosse Pointe is an affluent, somewhat urban suburb of old money that for many years had embraced old school thinking,” said Bob Taylor, executive officer for GPBR. “But that’s changing. We are a community becoming more integrated over time, and we want to be sure we are accepting of anyone who wants to own or rent a home.”

Taylor, who has been a realtor for 40 years and is a past Regional Vice President for the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) and past President of both the Michigan Association of REALTORS® as well as GPBR, said the efforts are being led by GPBR’s exceptionally engaged and focused Fair Housing and Diversity Committee.

“We wanted to change the focus,” Taylor said. “We used to have Fair Housing Month every April, but why is this something we should only think about one month out of the year? We should be thinking about it every day.”

This is why GPBR is a glowing example of REALTORS® who aren’t just commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, but who are living it every day.

“We want to make sure we are putting ourselves in the right position for the next 50 years,” Taylor said.

And it’s not just race-centric, although, that is a big part of it. But it also includes people with disabilities, alternate lifestyles, and even families with small children – something that some residents of more upscale neighborhoods may have quietly frowned upon in the past.

It’s a path of progression that wasn’t in place in Grosse Pointe, at least not on an organized level, as recently as five years ago. Even Taylor himself admits that it wasn’t something he was focused on until a decade ago.

“The more I felt like I wasn’t part of problem, the more difficult it became for me to understand issues minorities face,” Taylor said. “A light finally clicked 10 years ago. This isn’t something that’s like picking up a book and putting it down or turning on a TV show and then turning it off.

Refusing to accept bigotry, racism or any labeling is far more than that. It has to be part of who you are 24 hours a day, seven days a week.Click To Tweet

So, in 2014 the GPBR Fair Housing and Diversity Committee, chaired by Ursel Mayo and in Taylor’s first year as executive officer, started to look at fair housing differently.

Instead of focusing on fair housing one month out of the year and then forgetting about it the next 11 months, they decided to incorporate a more targeted focus with every outreach.

It started with simple things – like having a fair housing component at each of the quarterly membership meetings.

Then the Association acquired copies of NAR fair housing posters. They used them to create a collage, and had them reproduced as a new poster. This poster is positioned so that anyone entering their offices sees it. A duplicate is also displayed at all off-site events.

A print copy of the poster, NAR’s current fair housing poster, NAR’s “Fair Housing Declaration,” NAR’s “One America Principles,” a certificate of recognition and multiple recognition opportunities are provided through an association specific program.

Taylor was a key advocate for this approach, but so was Mayo, who is the President-elect of the GPBR and will be the first African-American president of the Board.

Together with current president Lori Jaglois and the rest of the Fair Housing and Diversity Committee, brokerage participation in this grassroots program in Grosse Pointe has grown exponentially and plans on continuing to spread into neighboring communities that the GPBR also serves.

Diversity Graphic

Above: Front cover image of the 2018 Diversity Calendar, entitled “What Diversity Looks Like in 2018.” Image courtesy of GPBR.

The concept has taken off so well in Grosse Pointe that even the school district has become part of the movement. Grosse Pointe schools have made this a part of their curriculum, according to Taylor.
In 2017, they used the diversity education component to produce a “diversity calendar” depicting how students see diversity.

“We partnered with them to have their students show us what they believe diversity looks like,” Taylor said. “We picked what we thought were the 13 best pictures and used them for a 2018 calendar – one for the cover and one for each month of the year.”

Funded solely by GPBR’s All-In for Diversity program, sale of the calendars was then donated, in full, to the school district.

And the beat keeps going into 2018.

In February, as part of Black History Month, the GPBR Fair Housing and Diversity Committee will help commemorate a March 1968 speech delivered at Grosse Pointe South High School by Martin Luther King, Jr.Click To Tweet

Also in February, at GPBR’s first membership meeting of 2018, the members will be viewing the new NAR fair housing video.

In March, they will partner with the Detroit Association of REALTORS® in a program hosted at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History.

And in April GPBR will provide an “At Home with Diversity” class.

Beyond that, GPBR has found that there are several small diversity groups in Grosse Pointe that weren’t well-publicized, and has decided to actively explore how to get involved and partner with them to help make a bigger difference in the community and to continue to work to make diversity and fair housing an accepted part of the community’s culture.

“We have to own up to where we were and once we do we can move past old thinking and embrace a new thinking,” Taylor said. “It’s something I’m passionate about.”

And it seems like a lot of other people in Grosse Pointe are as well.

Restrictions on Short-Term Rentals in Sisters, OR Could Hurt Local Economy

Short-Term Rentals

Sisters Country is a beautiful location in Central Oregon with a wonderland of lakes, mountains and rivers that is a paradise for hikers, fishers, mountain bikers, skiers and horseback riders alike. It is definitely a destination location and tourism is a huge part of the local economy.

But for some reason, the City of Sisters is considering policy changes that could negatively impact its tourism-reliant economy.

Based on recommendations from the City’s Planning Commission, the City Council is considering tightening existing vacation rental regulations and further restricting short-term rentals. These changes would be short-sighted and are especially an overreaction to a modest increase in vacation rental permits and the popularity of online listing services and platforms.

In short, making changes to policy now is a pursuit of solutions to problems that do not currently exist. Additionally, further restrictions could end up infringing on the private property rights of homeowners and result in unintended consequences that could adversely affect the Sisters community, including local businesses.

The Planning Commission has proposed a cap on vacation rentals of 8% of the housing units in residential zones. Currently, vacation rentals account for only about 3.5% of existing residential units, so placing a cap that is more than double the existing rental units is quite premature.

Rather than setting an arbitrary cap number, the city should focus on more closely monitoring permits and issues related to vacation rentals as well as reevaluating codes, how they are enforced and the processes that should be followed.

In other words, if concerns related to vacation rentals have been voiced by the public, the city should determine whether existing measures and processes designed to combat or respond to issues are effective and/or properly enforced.

For example, if excessive noise from a vacation rental is an issue, the City should check to see if its noise and nuisance codes are being enforced. Do the types of “calls for service” to the County Sheriff reflect the concerns being voiced? Are the appropriate authorities being contacted when these instances occur?

If the answer to the above is no, or not appropriately, addressing these areas may be a more logical first step in responding to issues before pursuing a policy change.

TAKE ACTION: TELL CITY COUNCILORS AND PLANNING COMMISSIONERS ABOUT YOUR CONCERN

The Planning Commission also recommended a total paradigm shift that would tie vacation rental permits to the property owner and not the land. This would mean that if a property is sold, the vacation rental permit would no longer be transferable to the new owner.

This change would have a negative impact to home values for those sellers who have obtained a permit, and many property owners in Sisters consider a vacation rental permit an attractive and marketable benefit to owning the home.

The timing of these potential changes is curious. Some city officials have stated publicly that there are few existing problems related to short-term rentals in Sisters. Instead, they have indicated that their pursuance of change in this instance is to “get ahead of an issue.” But if no issue exists, what are we getting ahead of exactly?

Another argument has been made that restricting short-term rentals would return much-needed affordable housing options to the city’s housing stock.

However, that is a fallacy.

The average value of homes that are currently also used as vacation rentals in Sisters is $371,588. Classifying that average rental property in the city as “affordable” is a tough sell.

The Sisters economy relies heavily on tourism, and as a city with limited lodging options, vacation rentals can provide needed support during peak tourist seasons and major events, such as the Outdoor Quilt Show, Folk Festival and Rodeo.

REALTORS® in Sisters Country report that the ability to periodically rent a home is an important, and increasingly common, criterion for homebuyers in the area.

So, take action today. Contact City Councilors and Planning Commissioners and express your concern about these potential restrictions which could negatively impact the local economy, as well as Sisters’ homeowners and the real estate market in general.

TAKE ACTION: TELL CITY COUNCILORS AND PLANNING COMMISSIONERS TO OPPOSE RESTRICTIONS ON SHORT-TERM RENTALS

Don’t Panic Over Stock Market Mayhem


The housing market likely won’t be deeply affected by the sharp decline in stocks in recent days because underlying economic fundamentals remain strong, says Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of REALTORS®. Jobs are being created, workers are seeing wage gains, and there’s no recession on the horizon. Those data trends don’t support the theory that the stock market drop indicates a larger underlying problem with the economy, Yun says.

Right now, the effect of the dive in stocks is mainly psychological. But if it becomes a prolonged slowdown, it could cut into the buying power of households who have exposure to stocks—and many do, primarily through 401(k) and other retirement accounts. It could also lead to job and wage cutbacks, but Yun says it’s premature to draw conclusions.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index fell by more than 4 percent on February 5, 2018, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average declined nearly 5 percent. As of mid-February, the S&P has substantially recovered from those loses. Yun points out that even with the drop, stocks remain well ahead of where they were a year ago. A correction is a natural part of the stock market’s cycle, Yun notes.

One metric to watch is long-term bond rates, which historically have gone up as stocks go down. That link, however, hasn’t been as strong in the past few years. Investors tend to increase demand in bonds as an alternative to stocks, driving up yields, which can lead to higher mortgage rates. Since the start of the year, the average rate on a 30-year mortgage has risen about 30 basis points, from 3.95 percent to 4.22 percent, according to Freddie Mac. That’s still low by historical standards.

Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine.

Why you should support Home Inspector Licensing in Ohio

Home inspection

THE NEED

When the time comes to buy or sell a home, all parties involved hold their collective breath as the home inspector is called in to check every nook and cranny of the property.  If done poorly, the home inspection could make or break a potential sale, arguably making it the most crucial step to buying a home.

Consumers assume that all home inspectors are diligent and equally committed to following industry standards.  After all, it is the home inspectors’ report that ensures a home is in proper working order and that the buyer can rest assured in their investment.  Yet, here in Ohio many would be surprised to learn that home inspectors have no oversight leaving consumers with no real way to differentiate between a good and a bad practitioner.

Ohio buyers and sellers are left to cross their fingers and hope they land upon a competent inspector.  It’s a risky move – especially when it’s the largest purchase most people will make in their lifetime.


“The home inspection report is often times the final factor in a consumer’s decision to purchase a property.” – Pete Kopf, Ohio REALTORS® President, 2017

WHAT IS BEING DONE

The need to protect consumers is why Rep. Jim Hughes, R-Upper Arlington, and some of his colleagues in the Ohio Legislature want to change the way home inspectors operate here in Ohio.

With support from the Ohio REALTORS®, Hughes introduced House Bill 211, which would require licensure for all Ohio home inspectors and create an oversight board to handle licensing and monitor their performance.

The Bill would require 80 hours of education, a peer review for new inspectors and a path to licensure for current inspectors.

Currently the bill is awaiting passage out of the Ohio House Economic Development, Commerce and Labor Committee.


“The Ohio consumer is unaware that home inspectors are not licensed in our state. Therefore, when an Ohio Home inspector does not perform well, the buyer and seller are both harmed.” – Pete Kopf, Ohio REALTORS® President, 2017

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Join us in telling your Ohio House member that this is important consumer protection legislation.  Together we can make Ohio a safer place to buy or sell a home. Take action today!

REALTORS® Are A Key Resource In North Carolina’s Competitive Housing Market

Smart Move Winners

North Carolina’s real estate market continues to boom as we enter 2018. In fact, Wallethub’s 2017 Best Real-Estate Market report listed five North Carolina cities within its top 100, and cities like Charlotte are experiencing the highest sales volume since 2007.

The state’s REALTORS® have long understood the positive impact this rise in home ownership has on families, communities and the local economy. Because of this, they strive to support the homebuying process in many ways. This includes advocating behind the scenes to make life easier for homebuyers.

Andrea Bushnell, Esq., Chief Executive Officer for NC REALTORS®, the state’s REALTOR® Association, was aware that while the state’s rapid growth was a good thing, it also left many prospective homeowners overwhelmed with the buying process. She wanted to make sure consumers were aware that REALTORS® could be their strongest ally during the search for a new home and after.

One of the ways NC REALTORS® raised awareness was by hosting The Smart Move™ contest. Consumers who worked with an NC REALTOR® to purchase a home in North Carolina were encouraged to share their “smart move” story for a chance to win $7,500 to put towards home improvements. The REALTOR® they worked with would also come out a winner, taking home $2,500 of their own.

Video entries were submitted online and reviewed by a neutral jury panel, consisting of corporate and nonprofit leaders from across the state, representing Homes4NC, Lennar Homes, and WKZL/WKRR-FM among others. Homeowner Edie Wilson of Charlotte and her REALTOR® Phyllis Furr St. Clair were the winners of The Smart Move™ contest. Edie’s entry was unanimously selected out of dozens of eligible entries because of her video’s originality, creativity, storytelling, and her explanation of why working with an NC REALTOR® was a “smart move” for her. Prizes were awarded during a special ceremony at the NC REALTORS® 2016 Conference & Expo.

Bushnell shares that The Smart Move™ contest was just one part of a long-term effort on NC REALTORS®’ part to reach out to NC homeowners. It’s important to the association that homebuyers feel confident when working with a REALTOR® regardless of where they live. “Improving the perception of REALTORS® is not a North Carolina issue, it’s a national issue,” says Bushnell. NC REALTORS® will continue to advocate for homeowners and act as a resource in an increasingly competitive market.