Monthly Archives: February 2018

Missouri REALTORS Mobilize To Oppose Historic Tax Credit Cuts

Downtown

If you’ve lived in Missouri for any length of time, you’ve likely noticed some positive changes and upgrades to your local main street. Many of these improvements are thanks to The Missouri Historic Tax Credit Program. The program has been supporting the revitalization of downtowns, business districts and other public gathering spaces that were unused or in disrepair since 1998. According to the Missouri Historic Revitalization Alliance these upgrades have directly generated more than 43,000 jobs as well as boosting the state’s economy by $1 billion dollars annually.

Despite the seemingly successful outcome of MO’s historic tax credit, the program is currently at risk. The recently proposed SB 590 reduces funding for the Historic Tax Credit program to $120 million and gives the MO Department of Economic Development veto power over all submissions.

Sam Licklider, Chief Lobbyist at Missouri REALTORS (MR) explains how the passing of this amendment would affect MO homeowners “The historic tax credit program has restored neighborhoods and downtown areas, turning them into economic assets for the community. These improvements directly impact housing values. If the historic tax credit cuts are approved, homeowners will feel the impact financially.”

MR has been mobilizing forces and Licklider hopes that homeowners will join forces with MO REALTORS and contact their Senator, voicing their opposition to the proposed bill. Homeowners who wish to do so can look up their House and Senate members on the general assembly website.

New York REALTORS® Take A Look At The 2017 Housing Market Share: What’s Ahead For Homeowners in 2018

Sales

If you sold your New York home in 2017, you picked the right year to go to market. The New York State Association of REALTORS® (NYSAR) tells us that the average home sale price increased by 5.5%. Sellers enjoyed this uptick in profits, with many receiving 97% of their list price at sale.

If you were a seller with a two bedroom home in 2017, it’s likely your property sold quickly as there was a 2.9% increase in sales for this category. However, three bedroom homes brought sellers the largest profit, with 97.3% of them receiving their list price at sale.

NYSAR data tells us that all signs indicate that the real estate market has the potential to remain strong in 2018. The number of first-time home buyers continues to hold steady, and there is still significant movement by existing homeowners who are looking to upgrade or downsize with new property.

While the number of available homes for sale decreased by 9.5%, NYSAR believes that buyers can expect to see an increase in housing inventory over the next few years. Builder confidence is improving as the demand for new construction continues to rise nationwide. According to Associated Builders and Contractors Inc. (ABC), “The construction unemployment rate increased by 2 percentage points in January and now stands at 9.4%. That is an increase of 4.9 percentage points since July 2016.”

There is some concern about how the recent, historic tax reforms will play out for homeowners who are planning to sell. The reduction in tax incentives for homeowners does have the potential to diminish enthusiasm for ownership, potentially affecting the real estate market. However, policymakers claim that the new legislation will boost the overall economy and improve buyer confidence.

Read NYSAR’s complete Annual Report On The 2017 Real Estate Market.


Click on the arrows below the infographics for more statistics from the association’s annual housing market report.

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New York Hits New Sales Record in 2017

Homebuyer activity in New York State remained strong throughout 2017, driving closed sales past the 2016 record, according to the annual housing market report from The New York State Association of REALTORS®. The statewide median sales price also grew by 5.5 percent in 2017 to reach $250,000.

Click on the arrows below the infographics for more statistics from the association’s annual housing market report.

2017_Infographic_1
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Buying your first home in Mississippi is now a whole lot easier

First-Time Homebuyers

The Mississippi legislature recently passed the First-Time Homebuyer Savings Account Act, which allows you to save the money you need in a tax-advantaged savings account, to go toward the purchase of a home.

It’s an investment that comes with a sense of stability and a feeling of belonging. Because when you buy a home, you are really investing in yourself. In your family. In your future.

Now, when you are ready to buy a single-family home, you will have the money saved to help make the purchase. Additionally, money deposited into this account is deductible from your state income, which lowers your tax bill.

How does it work? Well here are the important things you need to know:

  • Any Mississippian who has never purchased, owned or part-owned a home in any state is eligible for this account. Parents and grandparents can open and contribute to an account for their children or grandchildren.
  • You can set up an account at your licensed local bank or credit union and there is no limit on how much you can save toward that first home purchase. It can also be a cash deposit account or a money market account.
  • Annual contributions that are eligible for tax deductions are capped at $5,000 for married, joint filers and $2,500 for all other filers. But you can save more than that annually if you choose, these figures are just caps for your tax deductions.
  • Account interest and dividends can also be claimed as an income tax deduction.

You can open the account today and take the tax deduction when you file for the 2018 tax year. As a reminder, you can keep the account open for as long as you wish as long as the account holder remains a qualified first-time homebuyer.

And while most people will use these savings to assist with their down payment or their closing costs, it’s not limited to those two portions of a property sale. Account holders can use the savings for loan origination charges, appraisal fees, credit report fees, flood certifications, title charges or deed charges.

Most homes are eligible as well. All newly-constructed homes, existing homes, manufactured homes, modular homes, mobile homes, condominium units or cooperatives are eligible.

Over the years, your new home can gain value and gain equity while you create memories.

So, if you’d like to invest in yourself, ask a licensed REALTOR® or financial institution about the First-Time Homebuyers savings account, or visit FirstHomeMS.org.

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), past President of both the Michigan Association of REALTORS® and past local association president (but not the 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 trying to live 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 Taylor wasn’t sure was in place in Grosse Pointe 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. It was in my head all the time.”

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 when Taylor became executive officer, the GPBR Fair Housing and Diversity Committee, chaired by Ursel Mayo, 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 GPBR 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.

“Because we were starting to think about Fair Housing all the time we started paying more attention to what was going on around us,” Taylor said.

Jaglois then discovered that in Grosse Pointe the school district had made this a part of their curriculum.

Consequently, in 2017, the district and the REALTORS® 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,” Mayo said. “School board members and REALTORS® picked what they 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 April, they will partner with the Detroit Association of REALTORS® in a program hosted at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History.

Additionally, GPBR will also 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.

“NAR President Elizabeth Mendenhall said, ‘To own the future you must own the past,’” Jaglois said. “We have to own up to where we were. Once we do we can move past old thinking and embrace modern thought,” Jaglois 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.