Monthly Archives: May 2018

Sen. Mensch outlines First-Time Homebuyers Savings Program


Reprinted with permission from PARJustListed, a publication of the Pennsylvania Association of REALTORS®.

State Sen. Bob Mensch (R-Bucks/Montgomery) highlighted the benefits of legislation he introduced with Sen. Wayne Fontana (D-Allegheny) that would create a First-Time Homebuyers Savings Account Program in Pennsylvania during a press conference last week at a listing in Quakertown. He was joined at the event by Gilbertsville Realtor® Greg Herb, past president of the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors®, Quakertown Realtor® Paul Myers and first-time homebuyer Alicia Walck.

“Since the 2009 financial crisis, the number of first-time homebuyers has decreased significantly. According to the National Association of Realtors®, the share of first-time homebuyers in the national home sale market has fallen from 45 percent to just 32 percent,” Mensch said. “Homeownership strengthens communities and provides stability for families. A First-Time Homebuyers Savings Account will be an important tool in helping people overcome the financial obstacles to home ownership.”

To help reverse that trend, Mensch’s bill would allow first-time homebuyers or buyers re-entering the housing market to set up 10-year tax-deductible savings accounts for purchasing a home. Parents and grandparents also would be eligible to contribute to these accounts on behalf of children and grandchildren.

The program has the potential of boosting home sales by 4,000 per year across Pennsylvania while delivering an economic impact of up to $68.8 million, according to the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors®.

Myers, a Realtor® for 14 years, said many young buyers are burdened with high rents and college debt, making it difficult for them to save for a down payment and closing costs.

“The First-Time Homebuyers Savings Account could help reduce some of the hurdles these young people face,” he said. “But this program is not a handout. It offers an incentive and encourages people to save more of their own money toward the cost of buying a home.”

In a survey, more than 80 percent of Pennsylvanians said the First-Time Homebuyers Savings Account would be beneficial to the state.

Walck and her husband, Jeremy, have two young children and outgrew their apartment. They lived on a strict budget to pay off college loans and save money for a down payment. After a long and sometimes stressful search, they recently purchased their first home.

Even though the First-Time Homebuyers Savings Account won’t help them, Walck said she supports the program for the sake of “families like ours who dream of owning a place to call home.”

For more information about the First-Time Homebuyers Savings Account, visit FirstHomePA.com.

Pittsburgh Community Commemorates Fair Housing Act

Pittsburgh

The first fair housing law established in the United States was in New York City in the mid-1950s – years before the Fair Housing Act existed.

Following suit, in 1958 was Pittsburgh with the second law.

So, when the city of Pittsburgh partnered with the REALTORS® Association of Metropolitan Pittsburgh (RAMP) to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Fair Housing Act in April, you could excuse the steel city if it was quietly celebrating its own 60th anniversary – for being a city ahead of its time.

“Fair Housing makes our communities stronger. It makes our industries stronger. It lifts up not only the REALTOR® communities but the communities we work, play and celebrate in every day,” said RAMP President David Dean. “It not only makes us stronger, but it makes us better. It makes us diverse. And here in Pittsburgh it has been going on longer than almost anywhere.”

As part of the commemoration, RAMP along with the City and the Pittsburgh office of the Human Relations Commission (HRC) and the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh co-hosted a panel discussion about fair housing at the August Wilson Center in Pittsburgh.

A capacity crowd was on hand for the event, which had a panel featuring Dean as well as representatives of the Pittsburgh HRC, the National Low Income Housing Coalition, The Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Urban League of Pittsburgh.

The keynote speaker at the event was F. Alvin Pearman, Ph.D, Assistant Professor of Urban Education, University of Pittsburgh.

“We had been working on a celebration we wanted to do on April 11th because that’s the date President Johnson signed the legislation in 1968,” said RAMP Executive Vice President John Petrack. “We had come up with a lot of ideas. But with David being on the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing in the City of Pittsburgh Committee –  a Mayoral-appointed task force –  along with the president of the Pittsburgh HRC, they said, ‘why don’t we work together to have an event with a panel structure and keynote speaker?’

“That’s how this all came together. And when they decided they were looking for an opening act of sorts, we suggested sharing the video created by the National Association of REALTORS® commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act.”

During the panel discussion, there were three very important questions asked:

  • Now that 50 years have passed, are we better off, or worse off than we were when we passed the Fair Housing Act?
  • In 50 years what will fair housing look like in Pittsburgh?
  • How have we, or our group had an impact on fair housing both nationally and locally?

“This really gave us a chance to talk, among ourselves, as if the room full of people wasn’t there,” Dean said. “It was almost magic, and in the end, we all decided we would meet semi-regularly, because we felt we could impact the city and fair housing even more after that discussion.”

Each member of the panel had a specific forte that was shared and at the end of the discussion, the audience got to ask questions, and a significant number of questions were directed toward Dean.

“REALTORS® get a bad rap when discussing fair housing,” he said. “When I was appointed to the Committee, there were people who were uneasy about a REALTOR® being on a fair housing-oriented task force. But, in the end, people were saying to me that they didn’t realize how much of a true partner they have in REALTORS® -both in the local and national associations.

“REALTORS® are committed to fair housing and in multiple ways. People were asking me questions because they wanted to know what REALTORS® do to support fair housing and if they work with a REALTOR® what they should expect.”

Pearman’s presentation focused on the economic and social impact that fair housing has had on disparate communities – African-Americans, Hispanics, the disabled – and he showed how fair housing impacts educational opportunities to families.

Using census information and other data, Pearman honed it in to make it a local issue to Pittsburgh. He pointed to the challenges fair housing has faced in Pittsburgh. He showed a map the banks used to use when determining how to give out loans.

“Redlining” was a process instituted by the federal government in an effort to try to revive the housing market following the Great Depression.

Rather than foster the concept of integrated neighborhoods, the government encouraged mortgage lenders to withhold credit from certain urban neighborhoods and immigrant communities.

Banks and federal agencies marked maps of the neighborhoods where mortgages should be withheld with red ink.

Later, as part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, The Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC) prevented many foreclosures by refinancing hundreds of thousands of existing mortgages.

However, the HOLC took redlining to a whole new level.

It created “Residential Security Maps” that graded neighborhoods based on investment risk and credit worthiness. Areas thought to carry the least risk of defaulting on a mortgage got graded “A” and were colored in green on the map, while those neighborhoods considered “hazardous” and more high-risk got a “D” grade and were colored red.

Appraisers at the time, let cultural biases dictate the rating of certain neighborhoods. Communities that were predominantly African-American were given a “D” grade regardless of the condition of the homes in the neighborhood, essentially quarantining those neighborhoods and creating housing segregation.

“Many people had never seen one of these [maps] before,” Dean said. “But this was how redlining occurred. [Pearman] took the audience on a journey – showing that there were huge strides taken forward, but that there still were impediments that remain and that they are systemic.”

But the most interesting moments of the event occurred prior to the panel discussion, when a press conference was held to unveil a project that the Committee has working on for four years – a comprehensive fair housing package the mayor and city can use to address fair housing in the future.

“With the unveiling of that document and the Mayor’s remarks, we were excited about the positions the city would undertake to address fair housing holistically,” Dean said. “The economic, social and environmental concerns of fair housing.”

Ozaukee REALTORS® Find Continued Success With Fair Housing

Bowling for Freedom

Twenty miles north of downtown Milwaukee, right along Lake Michigan sits an upper-middle class community with the top school district in the state of Wisconsin.

Ozaukee County is the smallest county in Wisconsin, and it has that Americana, small-town feel.

“It’s a wonderful, small community,” said Troy Bretl, President of the Ozaukee REALTORS® Association (ORA). “It’s all hometown stuff here – we have our big July 4th celebration with a parade at the park, fireworks and live music – and we have festivals throughout the year.”

Despite its size, Ozaukee County is great for tourism and is one of the largest tourism destinations in the state.

Its Strawberry Festival in June attracts people from all across the state as well as far away as Illinois and Minnesota.

It’s a small community with a big heart. And that is perpetuated even further with its commitment to fair housing.

ORA has partnered with the Wisconsin REALTORS® Association and the National Association of REALTORS® to dedicate efforts in 2018 to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the signing of the Fair Housing Act.

And they’ve done that by working on a grassroots awareness campaign to educate, inform and remind Wisconsin residents that home ownership is not something that only the privileged can enjoy but that it is something that everyone has the right to experience for themselves.

Fair housing makes us stronger because it shows we are all truly united with wanting the same goals for ourselves and our families.Click To Tweet

“Fair housing makes us stronger because it shows we are all truly united with wanting the same goals for ourselves and our families,” Bretl said.

There are many tools at the disposal of REALTORS® in Ozaukee County to help make that home ownership dream a reality for many Wisconsin residents.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a Rural Development Program that provides assistance to low or middle-income families so they can have the opportunity to own a home as a primary residence in eligible rural areas of the state.

In Ozaukee County alone, that program has provided more than $31 million in single-family home loans since 2008, with more than $5 million coming in 2017, representing more than 200 single-family homes in the past decade.

Additionally, the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA) has been in existence since 1972 and has provided approximately $103 million in single-family first mortgages in Ozaukee County alone.

“More than 1,100 families have been able to buy a home in the past five years thanks to WHEDA,” Bretl said.

In that same five-year span, WHEDA has doled out $1.3 million in multi-family loans in Ozaukee County as well as approximately $676,000 in Down Payment Assistance Loans since 2002.

Another active participant in Ozaukee County that ORA has been advocating is the Wisconsin Partnership for Housing Development, which has administered 99 down payment grants in Ozaukee County since 2008.

ORA even partners with other organizations – like Habitat for Humanity.

Habitat for Humanity had a 30-for-30 fundraiser in April where it reached out to local businesses to donate $1 a day – or $30 – to help build strong communities and help with projects in the area.

ORA upped their donation to $50 – in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act.

That money went toward the construction of a duplex in Grafton, which is slated to be ready in 2019, allowing for an affordable home option for two families.

“It’s not quite the same as fair housing, but affordability is also an issue here in Wisconsin and affordability and fair housing definitely cross paths, so we thought this was a good way to promote fair housing while also supporting more affordable housing options as well,” Bretl said.

Finally, the WRA has a Partnerships for Success Program that is under the purview of the Cultural Diversity Committee that is part of the WRA, and ORA both supports and promotes this program.

“This program has brokers sponsoring people who otherwise might not be able to afford to become a REALTOR® – it’s an application process, so not everyone gets it – but the recipients are able to get assistance with membership and licensing costs.”

It’s another way ORA helps its members, as well as members of the state organization, and in the process remind them how important it is to help potential homeowners fulfill the dream of home ownership.

Freedom Walk in Memphis Links Fair Housing with MLK

Memphis

Getting motivated in Memphis to commemorate the Civil Rights Act of 1968 was not a difficult thing for the Memphis Area Association of REALTORS® (MAAR).

What was harder, was deciding how to do it, and when – especially since it was also the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King.

That’s when MAAR President Lauren Wiuff had an idea – commemorate both at the same time.

Wiuff got together with MAAR CEO Melanie Blakeney, Fair and Affordable Housing Committee Chair Deborah Williams, Cultural Diversity Committee Chair Cassandra Bell-Warren, Blight Task Force Committee Chair Brenda Hampton and MAAR Events Coordinator Kate Reddan for a brainstorming session.

The result, was the MAAR Day of Unity – which was done to both remember Dr. King as well as commemorate 50 years of the Fair Housing Act.

“Each committee chair had a vision and NAR had some guidelines that we wanted to follow,” Reddan said. “The Fair and Affordable Housing Committee wanted to have it centered around a tour of our Civil Rights Museum with videos where we interviewed REALTORS® who were practicing 50 years ago. The Cultural Diversity Committee wanted to have an all-day Freedom Walk. The Blight Task Force wanted to provide courses and education. That’s when Lauren said, ‘why don’t we do parts of all three.”

And so it was. The MAAR Day of Unity took place on March 28, with 100 MAAR members taking part.

The number 100 was targeted specifically – and achieved. The idea was to have one person representing each of the years since the passing of the Fair Housing Act and one person representing each year since the assassination of Dr. King.

And despite Mother Nature not really cooperating with the event, it went off without a hitch.

Rather than an all-day Freedom Walk, it was narrowed down to a two-mile trek from the Metropolitan Intra-Faith Association (MIFA) to the Civil Rights Museum. Reddan worked with the city of Memphis to secure permits for this peaceful sojourn.

“It wasn’t a march,” she said. “That’s important to understand. It wasn’t a protest or political in nature at all. It was a reminder of where we came from and where we are still going.”

Once at the Civil Rights Museum, the group took a tour, and then met at a neighboring restaurant for a luncheon, where the videos that were discussed in the brainstorming session were shown.

“It was all pretty impactful,” Reddan said. “There we were, all wearing the same t-shirt, walking the streets, learning about our civil rights history, eating lunch together and watching those great videos – it was really a day of unity and it was really powerful.”

But the commemoration of the Fair Housing Act didn’t stop there.

A little more than a week later, MAAR leadership was present when Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and Shelby County Mayor Mark H. Luttrell signed a joint proclamation recognizing April as Fair Housing Month in both the city and the county.

Then, on April 17, MAAR held a Blight Forum and Fair Housing Fair at the MAAR education center.

A capacity crowd of 110 MAAR members attended to engage with the Blight Forum panel that consisted of Daniel Schaffzin, the co-director of the University of Memphis School of Law’s Neighborhood Preservation Clinic, Amy Schaftlein, the Executive Director of United Housing, Shelby County Trustee David Lenoir and Steve Lockwood, Executive Director of the Frayser Community Development Corporation.

The Fair Housing Fair consisted of representatives from the National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB), the Women’s Council of REALTORS®, Disability Rights Tennessee, Memphis Area Legal Services, Community/Crump Mortgage, Independent Bank, United Housing, THDA, and the Frayser and Orangemound Community Development Corporations.

The Fight For Fair Housing In Illinois Continues Today

fair housing illinois

When the Fair Housing Act was first brought to the public’s attention, many homeowners and REALTORS® viewed it as an infringement on their property rights. Newspaper articles and pamphlets opposing the bill featured headlines claiming, “This Is Forced Occupancy Legislation”.

Matt Diffanis, President of the Illinois REALTORS® Association explains, “Fair housing was equated with ‘forced housing’ for many homeowners and REALTORS® during this period of history.” In fact, The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), known at that time as National Association of Real Estate Board’s (NAREB), stated their position in a trade newspaper with the headline, “NAREB fights ‘civil rights’ Bill: Trend is Against Forced Housing.”

Diffanis, an energetic and driven fair housing advocate, is quick to point out that NAR was on the wrong side of history for a time. “A large part of moving forward is being transparent and honest about where we’ve been as an organization.” Diffanis shares that the Illinois REALTORS® Association of today works hand-in-hand with minoreity trade groups like the Chicago’s Dearborn Realtist Board, an African American run trade association that was founded in order to offer support and leadership during a time when black Real Estate Brokers were not allowed to join existing trade organizations.

Courtney Q. Jones, President of the REALTIST board was recently part of a mini-documentary the Illinois association produced titled, Fair Housing Makes Us Stronger. Jones said, “This video was badly needed in order to bring awareness about how policy plays a huge role in Illinois’s housing market, in our black housing market especially.”

Jones says that evidence of fair housing issues today can be seen in the disparate ratio of black to white homeowners. He also points to a recent report published by UIC’s Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy that was titled “A Tale of Three Cities: The State of Racial Justice in Chicago” because “Racial and ethnic inequality in Chicago is so ‘pervasive, persistent, and consequential’ that the investigators describe life for white, black and Latino residents in Chicago today as a ‘tale of three cities.’ ”

The report found that prospective, minority homeowners (with credit scores comparable to their white counterparts) were still being offered high interest mortgages, balloon payment schedules and closing contracts full of additional fees. These offers either prohibited homeownership, or set minority homeowners up for potential foreclosures.

Jones stresses that it is important we see reports like this as more than just evidence of existing fair housing inequalities. “We as a city, as a state, need to see this underserved, undervalued, overcharged market as an opportunity for positive, financial growth.” Jones believes that an increase in black homeownership, ownership with fair and equitable home loans, will pave the way for black entrepreneurs. “Improving economic outlook for African Americans means a healthier economy and a solid housing market for all Illinois homeowners. White and black.”

When Jones is asked what national organizations like NAR and can do to continue to support fair housing he has a clear list of things to share. “Number one, we need to continue to educate homeowners and REALTORS® about the reality of our history. Let’s be brutally honest about our past so we can be fiercely inspired to change our future.”

“Secondly, local, minority trade organizations need to continue to work with larger, national organizations like NAR. Our collective voice needs to be clearly heard so that fair housing issues can’t get shoved into a dark corner.”

It is vital that we help current and hopeful homeowners to understand which public policies are standing in the way of a healthy housing market for Illinois.Click To Tweet

“Lastly, it is vital that we help current and hopeful homeowners to understand which public policies are standing in the way of a healthy housing market for Illinois.”

Jones goes on to say that he hopes the future holds even more collaborations with NAR. “I would love to see NAR work hand-in-hand with NAREB to champion legislation like the upcoming H.R. 4211, the Credit Score Competition Act.”

NAREB, or the National Association of Real Estate Brokers, and it’s local chapters like Chicago’s Dearborn Realtist Board, have been raising awareness about the act for the past three years. Once passed, this act will enable lenders like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to look at additional ways in which potential homeowners demonstrate their creditworthiness. Jones says, “This act has the potential to significantly and positively impact Illinois’s housing market.”

Infographic: A Look at Active Military and Veteran Homeownership

Differences in household composition and financing options incentivize homebuying demand for veteran and active military, according to the 2018 Veterans & Active Military Home Buyers Profile, which evaluated the differences of recent active-service and veteran home buyers and sellers to those who have never served.

A Look at Active Military and Veteran Homeownership

Infographic Courtesy of the National Association of REALTORS® Research Group.

Tight Home Inventory Leads To Faster Closings In Pennsylvania

Location

It took less than a month to find a home for nearly a quarter of new Pennsylvania homebuyers, according to the Welcome Home survey, conducted for the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors®.

We’re continuing to see low inventory in most markets across the state, which is forcing buyers to make quick decisions.Click To Tweet

“We’re continuing to see low inventory in most markets across the state, which is forcing buyers to make quick decisions,” said PAR President Todd Umbenhauer. “In order to be competitive in today’s market, we’re recommending that buyers be pre-approved for a mortgage so they’re ready to make an offer as soon as they find a house that meets their needs.”

Buyers over the age of 50 were even more likely to find a home in less than a month from starting a home search to closing on their new home. Thirty percent said it took less than 30 days to complete their home purchase.

Income levels appear to have an impact on the length of a home search. The survey showed that 31 percent of buyers with incomes between $75,000 to $150,000 spent more than six months in their home search, while only 23 percent reported the same in the first quarter.

While location remains the top reason for a new home purchase, with 37 percent saying that was the main reason for choosing their new home, 16 percent of new homebuyers picked interior features as their main reason.

“More new homebuyers with children indicated that a larger plot or more acreage was the reason they selected their home,” Umbenhauer said. “Only 4 percent of those buyers indicated that an affordable price was their main reason for purchasing their home. I think many homebuyers are willing to pay a little more if they find a house with the features they value.”

Why Are States Investing In Future Homeowners?

Across the country, states are stepping up to the plate to help future home buyers through programs that help them save the money they need, tax-free, to purchase their first home.

It turns out these programs help current homeowners, too.

If you’re a homeowner — or in the process of buying a home right now — you know just how hard it can be to save enough for the down payment, closing costs and other fees associated with purchasing a home. Student loans, credit card debt and flat wages can all make this task worse.

To address this problem, states like Alabama, Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Oregon and Virginia have already created programs that help these first-time homebuyers save the money they need, tax-free, to purchase their first home

And, states like Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, New York and Pennsylvania have considered or are still considering legislation to make these programs a reality in their state, too.

Homeownership builds wealth, strengthens communities, provides stability and helps individuals and families create memories.Click To Tweet

Why are states focusing on this? Because not only does home ownership build wealth, but it also strengthens communities, provides stability and helps individuals and families create memories.

These state-issued programs also help boost home sales in their states, which helps improve the economy and in turn, allow thriving businesses to create more jobs in flourishing communities.

And, a boost is needed, especially in regards to first-time home buyers. A 2017 survey by the National Association of REALTORS® shows that first-time buyers are a shrinking segment of home sales. Last year, the share was 32 percent, which is well below the long-term average of 40 percent.

To help first-time home sales, some of these states have even gone so far as to allow parents and grandparents to contribute to these savings plans to help their children and grandchildren become homeowners faster.

Read the stories below to learn more about the movement to create first-time homebuyer savings accounts across the country and why states are investing in future homeowners.

Houston Housing Market Data – April 2018

For the latest sales information on single-family homes and condos in Houston, see these three infographics below.

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

Total Property Sales
Total Property Sales
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