Monthly Archives: August 2018

Are you prepared for a natural disaster?

Weather is  becoming more extreme these days as record heat, record cold, and intense storms have been battering the United States. The wildfires in California are some of the worst on record. Four different Nor’easters pounded the East Coast with snow in a three-week span… in the Spring, no less. There was even freezing rain in Florida!

With so many unknowns and no area safe from the possibility of extreme weather, it’s important, as a homeowner, to be as prepared as possible.

As part of National Preparedness month, the National Association of REALTORS® wants to remind you of the best ways to prepare for intense weather, how to quickly siphon out basement flooding, and what exactly flood insurance covers, and who needs it.

The following items will come in handy for you to be the most prepared homeowner in your neighborhood.

Be prepared. Take the steps now to protect your property in case of an extreme weather event. And if there is damage to your home, act fast to rectify it and ensure that you are insured. A prepared homeowner is a good homeowner. Be a prepared homeowner.

Infographic: The Cost to Recover
Be an informed homeowner. Learn more about how federal, state and local legislators work in conjunction with communities after a disaster strikes to help those communities recover and prepare for the next one.

HUD Files Housing Discrimination Complaint Against Facebook

Online Discrimination
On Friday, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development filed a housing discrimination complaint against Facebook, alleging the site’s targeting tools allow advertisers to intentionally exclude specific demographics from viewing or receiving certain housing-related ads. HUD claims the social media site violated the Fair Housing Act by enabling advertisers to discriminate against prospective renters and buyers based on their race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin, or disability.

National Association of Realtors® President Elizabeth Mendenhall, a sixth-generation Realtor® from Columbia, Missouri and CEO of RE/MAX Boone Realty, issued the following statement in support of HUD’s aggressive enforcement of the Fair Housing Act:

“In 2018, as America recognizes the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, the National Association of Realtors® strongly supports a housing market free from all types of discrimination. However, as various online tools and platforms continue to transform the real estate industry in the 21st Century, our understanding of how this law is enforced and applied must continue to evolve as well. Realtors® commend the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Secretary Ben Carson for taking decisive action to defend fair housing laws, and for working to ensure its intended consumer protections extend to wherever real estate is marketed.”


Maui Summit Advances Conversation On Homelessness

In what is becoming an annual event in an effort to tackle homelessness on Maui, the REALTOR® Association of Maui (RAM), in partnership with the Governor’s Office, Maui County and the Maui Homeless Alliance as well as other social service agencies, hosted the third Maui County Landlord Summit in July.

The idea behind the summit was to further educate property owners and landlords on how they can help reduce homelessness by making more rentals available to the people who need them most.

“Housing is difficult for many Maui families. By working with landlords and the multitude of agencies gathering at the Maui County Landlord Summit, we hope to help some of these families find a light at the end of the tunnel.”

“Maui has a severe housing shortage, and as leaders on housing issues, the Realtors Association of Maui feels it is our duty to raise awareness, educate others and help find solutions,” said RAM Government Affairs Director Lawrence Carnicelli. “Housing is difficult for many Maui families. By working with landlords and the multitude of agencies gathering at the Maui County Landlord Summit, we hope to help some of these families find a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Finding safe and affordable housing on Maui is difficult for many low-income or homeless individuals and families. Many families are approved for a subsidized housing program through a local nonprofit or have a voucher through Section 8, however, they still have a hard time renting a property because landlords tend to reject their rental applications.

RAM’s goal this year was to help eliminate the stigma of the county’s Section 8 program as well as other support services, to make property owners and landlords more comfortable with accepting rental applications from these families who have vouchers or subsidized housing approval.

Hawaii’s Homeless Count Decreases

This year’s summit began with some encouraging news from Emma Grochowsky on behalf of Scott Morishige, the governor’s coordinator on homelessness. For the second year in a row, she said, Hawaii’s homeless count has decreased statewide, according to the Point-in-Time count survey conducted by Bridging the Gap and Partners in Care, a homelessness coalition. The survey found that there was a nearly 10 percent decrease in homeless individuals statewide—from 7,220 in 2017 to 6,530 in 2018.

The announcement was followed by a series of moderated panel discussions and question-and-answer sessions featuring legal experts, landlords, tenants and representatives from agencies that provide financial support and other services to Maui’s housing-challenged residents.

In addition, RAM had a Fair Housing presentation and the Summit featured a trade show, remarks from guest speakers, and panel discussions featuring landlords, tenants and representatives from agencies that provide financial support and other services to Maui’s housing-challenged residents.

Participants in this year’s Maui County Landlord Summit included RAM, the Office of the Governor, Office of the Mayor, Maui County Department of Housing and Human Concerns, Maui Homeless Alliance, Legal Aid Society, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Ka Hale A Ke Ola Homeless Resource Centers, Family Life Center, Catholic Charities of Hawaii and Maui Economic Opportunity, Inc.

“This may be only one step, but we, as an organization, are trying to do everything we can,” Carnicelli said. “Maui is a small community—and one big ohana.”

Sarah Ruppenthal of the Maui Times contributed to this report.

Kids Come Together: Sioux City Elementary Students Help Children In Foster Care

Stacey Verzal and her elementary school students at Riverside Elementary in Sioux City, Iowa wanted to help a fledgling non-profit group that was looking to meet the needs of young people in foster care.

So, they applied for a Project Jack grant, a program funded by the REALTOR® Foundation of Iowa that affords students in fourth or fifth grades the chance to “pay it forward,” by using grant money to help a community project.

Verzal and her students were one of 517 projects chosen across the state of Iowa to receive a $250 grant.

The $250 would have been a nice donation for JeNel Baker, who was starting this non-profit as several children in the Sioux City Community Schools have at one time or another found themselves in foster care.

“When this happens, the students are often taken right from the school with only the clothes on their backs,” Verzal said.

Baker needed funding to help with the start-up costs of making a supply shop – to provide foster kids with the everyday items they need when suddenly they are being brought to a new home.

Verzal’s class asked the school community for donations of new or gently used clothing items to help stock the supply shop. The response was overwhelming.

The students worked to create fliers that were hung up around the building and had them stuffed into every student’s take-home folders for their parents to see.

When the word spread about what these Riverside students were doing, one parent alerted Verzal to the Iowa State Education Association, which also offered grant dollars for community service work. As such, the Riverside students were able to secure an additional $500 in grant money for Baker.

As word spread, the donations started pouring in.

The students surprised Baker with a reveal of dozens of boxes of clothing and $750 to start her shop.

It was just one of hundreds of projects in Iowa that fall under Project Jack.

Project Jack

Project Jack is named in memory of Jack Lindaman, a student in the Quad Cities area who died in 2010 at the age of six. Lindaman suffered from spinal muscular atrophy, a nerve disorder that robs young children of the ability to walk, eat or breathe.

Lindaman’s family started Project Jack by taking left over money from his memorial and giving it to his classmates, asking them to take it and use it to do something good in their community in Jack’s memory.

The first Project Jack endeavor was held at Alan Shepard Elementary School in Jack’s honor.  The program was expanded by the REALTOR® Foundation of Iowa in 2016 to make “pay-it-forward” grants available to all 4th and 5th grade classrooms in the state.

Soon, the project took off. Students in elementary schools across Iowa were taking these grants and helping others.

Kids Come Together  

“There was one school (Spirit Lake Elementary) where one of the student’s mom had recently died from skin cancer and that classroom decided to use the money to purchase a sun block dispenser and sun block refills for the local ball field,” said Kerri McKim, communications director for the Northwest Iowa Board of Realtors. “It’s amazing to see the kids come together for such good causes in their communities.”

The individual projects are determined solely by the kids in the schools. Although the teachers apply for the grant, the REALTOR® Foundation doesn’t ask for specifics in advance of awarding the grant. The idea is for the kids to determine what is the best use for this money and to give back to their community, even though they are just nine or 10 years old.

Many of the projects are affiliated with making donations to local hospitals or helping sick classmates or friends.

Others are more targeted and specific – like making goodie bags and providing entertainment for families staying at the local Ronald McDonald House (Brookview Elementary in West Des Moines), or adopting a fire station (Des Moines Christian School in Urbandale) where little snacks and thank you cards are delivered to first responders so they know they are appreciated.

CAM North Elementary in Anita decided to “Pay it forward” by rewarding older students who also “pay it forward. CAM North 5th grade students participate in program called “Boomerang”, where high school junior and senior role model students lead weekly, semester-long lessons on character development, peer pressure and making good choices.

Twelve high school juniors and seniors lead the lessons, and they also lead the fifth graders in planning and carrying out a community-wide service project to benefit others in the community. This past school year, the group helped the local Tackle Hunger food drive sponsored by the high school football team, to help re-stock the local food pantries in Anita and Cumberland.

These students used the Project Jack grant money to fundraise further for the Boomerang Scholarship fund, so that the senior Boomerang Team leaders each received a small scholarship towards attending the college of their choice.

Iowa REALTORS® Increase Support

Local REALTOR® associations also mobilized with this project and helped provide even more grant money to Project Jack.

“Last year our Board of Directors allocated $1,000 in addition to the REALTOR® Foundation of Iowa,” McKim said. “So, we funded four more projects in our community outside of the REALTOR® Foundation.”

Overall, 16,611 students in fourth and fifth grades all across Iowa participated in Project Jack in 2018. The REALTOR® Foundation handed out more than $125,000 in grant money to fund the project.

“It’s really fun,” McKim said. “It’s one of the greatest things our REALTORS® have done and I hope they never stop doing it.

“You can see the engagement of the kids, when they are stocking shelves at the food pantry knowing their donation paid for the food that is going on the shelves to help the people in their community. It’s active learning and I think that is really neat to see.”

Building a Better Block in North Carolina

One of the great things about living in the Haymount district of Fayetteville, N.C. is the neighborhoods. Conducive for families, it’s got a small-town feel while remaining incredibly close to the action of downtown.

However, there is one dark cloud that refuses to move from over top of Fayetteville – the commercial district is not blessed with walkability.

It’s a high traffic area with cars speeding by and not a lot of room for people to walk or bike around. There are many who feel that creating room for people to walk or bike is just the thing the commercial district needs to blossom and reach its currently untapped potential.

One such group in Fayetteville who believe that is the Longleaf Pine REALTORS® (LPR), who set out last Spring to show the community just how easy a fix that could be.

Using a Smart Growth Action Grant and partnering with the Haymount business community, the North Carolina chapter of the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals and other local organizations, LPR worked with Better Block to create a half-day event to show how simple improvements to the commercial district – such as bike lanes, crosswalks, reduced traffic lanes and widened sidewalks could positively transform the area and help it flourish.

“It was beyond great,” said LPR Government Affairs Director Angie Hedgepeth. “This effort should benefit property values, business activity, and community connectedness, and could set a positive precedent for the entire region.”

“The event was an overwhelming success as it drew more than 3,000 visitors in just a few hours. Seeing this, City Council promised to to allocate funding for pedestrian safety measures.”

The event was an overwhelming success as it drew more than 3,000 visitors in just a few hours. Seeing this, City Council promised to to allocate funding for pedestrian safety measures.

“In June and July City Council found the funding necessary to paint the temporary crosswalks onto the road, making them permanent,” Hedgepeth said. “Since that happened, we had a call for action, so to speak, within our association and throughout the community to send letters of support to the North Carolina Department of Transportation to have traffic signals put in at this location as well. In August, I was told by the city traffic engineer, that it was pushed through a different avenue to speed up the process.

“I’ve been assured that within several months, we will have the signalization at those crosswalks that we have wanted.”

A Better Block Event

The initial idea for the March event came from a city staff member who approached the REALTORS® about the possibility of securing a Smart Growth Action Grant for a Better Block Event. She, in turn, worked on the project with a county transportation planner and a committee of about 70 REALTORS®.

Partnering with the community, only a little more money was needed beyond the $5,000 grant, to transform a central block of Haymount into a safe area to walk, bike and create a temporary plaza area for people to sit, eat, and listen to live music, browse local art vendors or even play game like cornhole.

An event like this takes months of careful planning, from acquiring permits, acquiring insurance, renting stages, hiring musicians, to arranging vendors and food trucks, it took an army of volunteers to show the city what could be with the right appropriations and planning.

And even then, the morning of the event, LPR members were using architectural drafting paper and duct tape to create the eight critical crosswalks that helped slow traffic and make the area safer and certainly more walkable.

“There was no honking of horns, no screaming; drivers were just easing down the road, giving all the pedestrian activity the time and space it needed,” Hedgepeth said. “It was wonderful, and a big relief, because of course, we had no idea what to expect.”

Some of the younger volunteers were able to collect more than 300 surveys from attendees of the event that were compiled and provided as a report to City Council. In addition, LPR interviewed all the business in the Better Block zone. All had positive feedback, including one fledgling coffee shop that reported sales that tripled it’s normal Saturday intake.

“There were people who came into our tent and said, ‘Please, can you make this happen for real,’” Hedgepeth said. “They also wanted to know how they could help to make it a permanent reality and not just a one-day event.”

And it may not just be for Haymount.

City Council reached out to Hedgepeth to see if other Better Block events like this one can happen in other areas of the city outside of Haymount.

“It’s amazing to me that our little grant has snowballed into meaningful change,” Hedgepeth said. “It was the most challenging and at the same time the most rewarding project I’ve ever done. It’s really kind of taking on a life of its own, and that’s really cool.”

Houston Housing Market Data – July 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
« 1 of 3 »

Lakeland REALTORS® Are Helping Kids Get A Great Start

The Lakeland REALTORS® Association has made community building one of its top priorities. These local REALTORS® know that helping Lakeland neighborhoods, and the people who live in them, is a win-win. One of the ways area REALTORS® offer support is by partnering with organizations like the Boys & Girls Club.

Members of the Lakeland REALTORS® Association work with clubs in both Lakeland & Mulberry, and tailor their support to fit the individual needs of each location. Recently, the Lakeland REALTORS® Young Professionals Network (YPN) was serving up ice cream at the James L. Musso club. Games, treats and fun were on hand for the 75 children who attended.  “We have really enjoyed visiting the kids and doing activities with them this year,” says YPN Co-Chair, Jana Lutz. “They especially love when we bring them treats…who doesn’t love ice cream?!”

A New Hangout Spot

The association also renovated a room at this location so that local teens could have a new hangout spot. REALTOR® Shannon Cornell was visiting the facility and saw the room set aside for the kids. She shared with the association that the room was so in need of attention that no one wanted to be in it.  President Kyle Vreeland recalled going to this exact club in his early childhood years and agreed that, “Not much has changed since I was here.”

After raising funds from more than 1100 REALTORS®, the room was freshly painted and had new flooring, lighting and ceilings installed. The updated room was stocked with bean bag chairs and a life sized Jenga set for the kids. The club also got a serious electronic upgrade as the new hangout was stocked with a Playstation 4, a new smart TV, and tablets.

Boys & Girls Club Bedroom Makeovers

Vreeland attended the room’s reveal to the kids this past May. “They were so excited, I am very proud of our Community Service Committee for doing such a great job,” says Vreeland. Vreeland shared that this room was the first the organization had done on-site but that REALTORS® had been giving the Lakeland & Mulberry Boys & Girls club members bedroom makeovers for years.

Boys & Girls club leaders nominate the child they think would benefit most from the boost of a bedroom makeover. The Lakeland REALTORS® Association then gets to work raising funds, collecting supplies and organizing volunteers for the makeover. In the end, the child is given a reveal of their new, organized bedroom. A space of their own to relax, be social and in which they can do their schoolwork. “Room Makeover Reveal Day is our favorite day of the year,” said Lakeland REALTORS® Community Service Chair Marie Hanna.

Brookings REALTORS Team Up with Habitat For Humanity

Habitat for Humanity has a mission to ensure that every person has a decent place to live. It’s one of the most notable non-profit organizations in the world, building homes for people in need in all 50 states as well as 70 other countries in the world.

The process of building homes for people is a long one, and it comes with many challenges – none greater than finding partners who can advocate for the families or individuals moving into a Habitat home. The partner needs to walk these new homeowners – many who are owning a home for the first time – through the design, construction and homebuying process and then be there with these new homeowners for the first year after they are in their new home.

Eight Families

In Brookings, South Dakota, a small community of less than 25,000 residents, finding these types of partners is even harder.

But, in early 2017, the Brookings Area Habitat for Humanity had an idea come up in one of their board meetings – how about partnering with REALTORS®?

“I reached out to the East Central South Dakota REALTORS® and quite frankly, the response from that organization was overwhelming,” said Dan McColley, the executive director and chief mission officer for the Brookings Area Habitat for Humanity. “We now have a waiting list of folks from that organization who want to help. It’s such a long list that we can’t find qualifying families fast enough.”

The East Central South Dakota REALTORS® first got involved with family No. 64 in Brookings in early 2017. Now, in the summer of 2018, they are still partnering with Habitat, and are on family No. 71.

Eight families in a little more than a year is a sizeable number.

“Our building capacity with our volunteer staff is about three houses a year in Brookings County,” McColley said. “This year, with the help of the REALTORS®, we have two additional houses in a neighboring community, Madison, so we’re pretty busy.”

Of the eight houses that the REALTORS® have been involved with in the past year, three are completed and the residents are working with the REALTORS® to learn how to be good home owners. The other five are still under construction.

“Our goal is to educate the new homeowners and teach the families to have pride in homeownership,” said Kelan Bludorn, president of the East Central South Dakota REALTORS®. “Habitat does a great job with their program, but we want to hold the partner family’s hand through the entire build process. We are able to accomplish this by discussing the benefits of homeownership, assisting throughout the entire build, providing basic knowledge on home maintenance as well as providing information about maintaining equity in the home. It can be stressful for anyone, so we (REALTORS®) really focus on making it a positive experience.”

Making Families Thrive

That is important to Habitat for Humanity because they want to see the individuals and families in their homes thrive.

According to McColley, of the 71 homes that were built or are still being built, there are 45 active mortgages – the rest have since been sold, meaning those homeowners were able to reap the rewards of homeownership during the sale of their home.

Individuals or families approved for a Habitat mortgage are currently renting, living with family or own something substandard. The way they qualify for a habitat mortgage is to fall within very specific income guidelines.

“The most important thing is they have to have a need for housing.”

“The most important thing is they have to have a need for housing,” McColley said, although that doesn’t mean that they are necessarily in a dire situation. “It could be that their current housing is either too expensive, unsafe or too small. One of the families we are working with right now have a two-bedroom condominium that is perfectly lovely, the problem is they have four children, so it’s too small. Or a family can be living in a very nice place but may be paying more than 50 percent of their income. So, they need to live in a place that is more affordable.”

Habitat does not make a distinction on choosing families in need ahead of individuals or couples. It falls under the same regulations as a bank. If the applicants meet the qualifications, they are generally awarded a mortgage.

“We do not have a waiting list,” McColley said. “Affiliates with waiting lists will sometimes prioritize families over others based on need. We aren’t in that situation. In 2017, we built for a single woman and we built for a family of six – and they live across the street from one another.”

Built By Volunteers

It takes a little longer for the houses to be built for these folks as Habitat does not have its own construction company.

“Habitat builds houses in the least efficient way possible,” joked McColley. “We use volunteer labor, supervised by a professional home builder, and on a build day – we might have 10 people show up or we might have two people there. So, it takes longer than a traditional homebuilding company.”

The family has to work alongside the builders in building their own home, though.

Habitat homes are uncomplicated in their design and are typically a smaller footprint. But, if someone has to make a decision between carpet or laminate floor, for example, the family gets to choose. But their choices are limited. They don’t get to choose their cabinets because cabinets are donated.

“At our first meeting I might tell the family, ‘Your cabinets are going to be honey oak, so let’s choose a floor and a countertop that will go with that,’” said McColley. “Within a price range, they get to choose their carpet, or the kind of laminate floor or tile – same thing with lighting fixtures, etc. They get to customize a little bit.”

And now, when Habitat needs a partner, it’s no longer a hassle to find one – at least not in the Brookings area.

“When we approve a family, I send an email to (East Central South Dakota REALTORS® Association Executive) RaeAnn (Thompson) and say, we’re ready for the next one, and she gets us a name,” McColley said. “Everyone moving forward will be partnered with the REALTORS® and we couldn’t be happier.”

Why Early Voting Matters

As citizens, we have the power through elections to decide who or what policies represent us in our communities and at the national level. Thirty-seven states allow eligible voters to cast their vote early. Early voting gives people a chance to get to the polls before Election Day.

Do you plan to vote early this year?

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A typical day for many Americans has changed drastically since the original voting laws were written, and confining a vote to just one day for only 8-12 hours simply does not work or benefit the electorate. Those with childcare duties or limiting work schedules, lessens the time it takes to vote.

Early voting allows eligible voters to visit an official election office or other satellite voting locations, and cast a vote in-person without needing to offer an excuse for why the voter is unable to vote on Election Day. The ability to early vote can ease stress levels and increase voter satisfaction.

The midterm campaigns are in full swing with candidates and state and local referendums being discussed and debated right now. Does your state allow early voting? The more people that vote the greater chance of electing leaders that are truly reflections of the communities, cities, states and the country they represent.

List of Early-Voting States