Voices of Real Estate
This week, NAR released the 2015 Member Safety Report, an index of responses to a recent survey of members about concerns, procedures, and self-defense on the job.
“When I became NAR president last year, I pledged to make Realtor® safety a priority and develop new education and resources for the industry,” said NAR President Chris Polychron, executive broker with 1st Choice Realty in Hot Springs, Ark. “It is important to know how safe or unsafe our members feel, what causes them to feel unsafe, and what steps they are taking to keep themselves out of harm’s way, so that we can respond and provide the best tools tailored to our members’ personal safety needs.”
The report revealed that, while 96 percent of Realtors® have never been the victim of crime, 40 percent have found themselves in situations where they have feared for their safety or the safety of their personal information. Recently, the California Association of Realtors® showed a video at a recent meeting of a male agent recounting a story of how he eluded a dangerous situation, while ABC News interviewed a female agent who was assaulted while showing a home in San Antonio.
The survey is part of Polychron’s call to examine the state of Realtor® safety and to roll out new education and resources throughout 2015.
“I want to thank each and every respondent to this survey,” writes Polychron in the introduction to the report. “Your honesty and willingness to offer your thoughts are the keys to us taking the right road.”
Follow the discussion on Twitter at #RealtorSafety
On Thursday, February 26, NAR offered testimony on patent troll demand letter practices and solutions in front of the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade.
Testifying on behalf of NAR and its Leadership Team was Vincent Malta, broker of record for Malta & Company in San Francisco, and the NAR Liaison for Law and Policy.
In the real estate industry, patent trolls have targeted REALTOR® brokers, agents, and multiple listing services for implementing simple website technologies. In 2013, more than 2,600 companies were sued by patent trolls, representing 67 percent of all patent infringement cases brought that year.
You can read Malta’s full testimony here.
NAR President Chris Polychron, executive broker with 1st Choice Realty in Hot Springs, Arkansas, has released a new statement via video on the FHA policy change that will result in lowing the cost of the FHA’s mortgage insurance premiums.
In the video, Polychron highlights four reasons why the move is a win for REALTORS® and homebuyers. He also thanks Keith Lynam, the 2015 President of the Las Vegas Association of REALTORS for penning an op-ed in the Las Vegas Review Journal.
NAR President Chris Polychron, executive broker with 1st Choice Realty in Hot Springs, Arkansas, issued the following statement on an upcoming news segment on safety:
“Friday night, safety in the real estate industry will be a focus of one national news program. ABC News’ 20/20 will feature a segment (Feb 13, 10 p.m.) on San Antonio-area agent Janice Tisdale, who recounts a story about how she nearly lost her life at a house showing.”
Here’s an excerpt from the story on abcnews.com:
Tisdale took some precautions in the moments before meeting Maldonado. She removed her diamond jewelry and opened the doors of the house so she would have an escape route. Even though she’d shown him several homes in the recent months, she felt inexplicably uneasy around him.
As Tisdale and Maldonado toured the vacant house, Tisdale said her instincts were telling her to bolt.
“The hair on the back of my neck was standing up, and I just was feeling really uncomfortable,” Tisdale recalled. “And finally I said, we really need to go. So, we started out the door, and I reached down to pick up the lock box. That’s when he struck me over the head.”
“I urge every REALTOR and real estate professional to watch this segment. Ms. Tisdale’s brave story of survival is both an inspiration and a reminder to us all that we need to be prepared for threats in our profession.”
NAR President Chris Polychron, executive broker with 1st Choice Realty in Hot Springs, Arkansas, issued the following statement at the conclusion of today’s hearing of the U.S. House Financial Services Committee, The Future of Housing in America: Oversight of the Federal Housing Administration:
“The new mortgage insurance premium reduction policy implemented last month by the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Julian Castro, will help more first-time borrowers achieve homeownership without increasing the risk of mortgage defaults or of another taxpayer bailout.
“Realtors® support safe lending practices based on strong underwriting requirements, and the Federal Housing Administration’s new prices encourage sustainable homeownership for creditworthy borrowers. FHA is not lowering its underwriting standards or luring irresponsible borrowers into homeownership, instead it is resetting its fees to appropriately balance anticipated risk while still making a profit to support its funds.
“After four years of increases, the fees had become so expensive that last year alone, roughly 234,000 creditworthy borrowers were priced out of the market.
“For first-time buyers in particular, the premium reduction could not have come at a better time. As the cost of FHA premiums increased, the percent share of first-time buyers using FHA-backed loans shrank from 56 percent to 39 percent. Meanwhile, an NAR survey released in late 2014 revealed that the annual share of first-time buyers fell to its lowest level in nearly three decades.
“The new policy lowers the cost of FHA’s mortgage insurance premiums by 50 basis points, which translates into an average savings of $900 a year for future homeowners and current borrowers who refinance. NAR estimates that the reduction will price-in an additional 1.6 million to 2.1 million renters, along with many trade-up buyers, and could result in 90,000 to 140,000 additional annual home purchases.
“FHA’s new pricing is not going to magically bring all of the missing millennials to the closing table, but they, and the housing market, will certainly benefit from the reduction.”
Shortly after it ended, 2015 NAR President Chris Polychron, executive broker with 1st Choice Realty in Hot Springs, Ark., offered some remarks on the success of this year’s Federal Policy Conference in Washington DC.
Today marks the debut of ”Unscripted”, a monthly audio podcast featuring conversations with members of the NAR Leadership Team. A mix of personal storytelling and advice, the podcast centers on a different theme each episode and offers a look into the lives of NAR’s elected leaders.
You can listen to the first episode, “Leadership”, on the Leadership Team Podcast page. 2015 President Chris Polychron talks about what leadership means to him, his first forays into being a leader (including a bookstore and the school republican club), and advice for aspiring REALTORS seeking leadership opportunities.
NAR President Chris Polychron, executive broker with 1st Choice Realty in Hot Springs, Ark., has released a statement on FHFA Director Mel Watt’s efforts to promote affordable homeownership:
“Realtors® support responsible lending to qualified buyers, which is essential for building strong communities. The new low down payment mortgage program introduced last month by Federal Housing Finance Agency Director Mel Watt will safely serve creditworthy borrowers who lack the resources for substantial downpayments plus closing costs while mitigating risk with strong underwriting.
“NAR research shows that saving for a down payment is the biggest hurdle to homeownership for many first-time buyers, who have been entering the market at lower than normal rates. Improved access to safe, affordable mortgage credit through FHFA’s 3 percent down payment program will help new borrowers achieve the dream of homeownership.”
NAR President Chris Polychron, executive broker with 1st Choice Realty in Hot Springs, Ark., has released a statement on REALTORS® joining a new coalition to pass patent litigation reform and protect the real estate industry from frivolous lawsuits:
“NAR has joined the United for Patent Reform coalition along with a diverse group of American businesses to pursue comprehensive solutions to abusive patent litigation, which costs the U.S. economy billions of dollars every year.
“As a member of United for Patent Reform, NAR reinforces our efforts to protect Realtors® from so-called patent trolls who can drag unsuspecting real estate professionals into expensive and time-consuming litigation.
“Reform is crucial to our industry because Realtors® have become targets of frivolous patent infringement lawsuits for their everyday business practices such as using scanner-copiers and adding user-friendly online search features to their websites. Many businesses are forced to choose between not offering new features or potentially paying tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees and displacing other activities like hiring people, research or expansion.
“Trolls are exploiting the patent system at the expense of Realtors® and other professionals who provide services that fuel the American economy; the problem has grown out of control.
“Along with the United for Patent Reform coalition, NAR will continue to advocate for commonsense patent litigation reform that fosters innovation and investment while benefitting the entire American economy.”
You can read more about the issue and the coalition in Thursday’s Washington Post.
Swanepoel has released its annual “SP 200″, a list of thought leaders that influence, impact, and lead the residential real estate brokerage industry. NAR 2015 President Chris Polychron placed #51 on the list:
Polychron is the 2015 President of NAR. He has served on the NAR’s Board of Directors since 2002, served as President of the Arkansas REALTORS® Association in 2003 and President of the Hot Springs Board of REALTORS® in 1996. He has over 25 years of industry experience and is an Executive Broker with 1st Choice Realty in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
Joining Polychron on the list are 8 NAR staff as well as numerous CEOs, and state and local REALTOR® leaders.
You can view the full list here.
Writing an opinion piece for Housing Wire, NAR 2015 President Chris Polychron discusses the Obama administration’s decision to reduce the price of its mortgage insurance by 0.50 percent.
“Realtors support responsible lending to qualified buyers; this is essential for building strong communities.
“This mortgage insurance reduction is not about repeating the mistakes of the past, in which underqualified buyers received loans they could never repay. This 0.5% reduction is a good balance – it is the right policy at the right time.”
Read the full post on the REwired blog.
On Thursday, NAR President Chris Polychron flew to Phoenix, Arizona, as an invited guest to President Barack Obama’s speech on housing and the middle class. Before the speech, Polychron had the opportunity to meet the President one-on-one with a handful of other VIPs. So, what was it like?
“It’s a pretty efficient operation backstage,” said Polychron. “I was in a short line of folks and when my turn came, he knew who I was. I shook his hand and he said ‘You must be happy with how things are going right now.’ I told him ‘Yes, but we still have plenty of important work to do.’ He and I exchanged a few quick thoughts on policy and then I thanked him.”
Polychron is no stranger to meeting presidents, of course. Former President Bill Clinton installed Polychron as NAR President in New Orleans last November. In his own speech, Polychron recalled his first meeting with President Clinton after the former Arkansas governor took the Oval Office – a meeting that ended with Polychron riding with President Clinton to the NAR Midyear event near the White House.
But, this was his first time meeting the current president. Polychron said there were maybe 800 people in the room and a pretty diverse crowd overall, including a lot of students and young folks. “The suits were outnumbered,” Polychron said.
Speaking-wise, he saw Obama’s skills on full display. “He started very relaxed, but by the end, his vocal inflection rose and he really captivated the room. I’ve noticed he likes to lose the jacket when he speaks and even roll up his sleeves. I think that’s symbolic. Not sure I’ve seen a president do that before, at least not as much as he does.
“My impression of him was that he gets us as REALTORS®, and he understands that homeownership is vital to American families and to building wealth through equity. He led off his speech by talking a lot about his family, not just in personal terms, but also tying family stability to economic stability. Overall, I believe he wants to help the middle class and that it’s high on his list. I expect we’ll see these themes reoccur in his State of the Union address.”
NAR President Chris Polychron, executive broker with 1st Choice Realty in Hot Springs, Ark., has released a statement on President Barack Obama’s housing speech today in Phoenix:
“The National Association of Realtors® applauds new policy initiatives announced today by President Obama that will enable more first-time and underserved homebuyers to enter the housing market while preserving strong underwriting standards and protecting taxpayers from unnecessary risk.
“As the leading advocate for homeowners, Realtors® strongly support the President’s plan to reduce annual mortgage insurance premiums on home loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration, which are currently so expensive that in 2014, roughly 234,000 creditworthy borrowers were priced out of the market.
“NAR first raised concerns about the costly premiums in an April 2014 letter to then FHA Commissioner Carol Galante, and we have worked in coordination with advocacy groups and members of Congress to educate the Department of Housing and Urban Development about the critical need to reduce the fees.
“We are optimistic that more affordable FHA loans will have a positive impact on first-time buyers who have been entering the market at a lower than normal rate. Over the past four years, as the fees increased, the percent share of first-time buyers using FHA-backed loans shrank from 56 percent to 39 percent.
“NAR estimates that a reduction in the annual MIP of 0.50 to 0.85 percent from the current 1.35 percent would price-in an additional 1.6 million to 2.1 million renters along with many trade-up buyers, resulting in 90,000 to 140,000 additional annual home purchases.
“The increase in volume of borrowers acquiring FHA-backed loans will also contribute to the solvency of FHA’s Mutual Mortgage Insurance Fund which is already on track to meet the 2 percent excess reserve amount required by Congress.
“NAR is a strong supporter of the FHA and its vital role in the mortgage marketplace for homebuyers. We will continue our work with the administration to help make the dream of homeownership a reality for millions more Americans.
“It was an honor to represent Realtors® and homeowners today in Phoenix and to personally thank the President for his work to make homeownership more accessible and sustainable.”
UPDATE: You can read the full text of the President’s remarks on WhiteHouse.gov.
NAR President Chris Polychron, executive broker with 1st Choice Realty in Hot Springs, Ark., has released a statement on the House Reauthorization of Federal Terrorism Risk Insurance Program (TRIA):
“Realtors® applaud the U.S. House of Representatives for prioritizing the reauthorization of the federal terrorism risk insurance program and quickly passing the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, which authorizes the program for six years. The program lapsed at the end of 2014 after the U.S. Senate failed to reach agreement on the legislation, which provides a crucial framework for economic recovery in the wake of a catastrophic terrorist attack.
“TRIA allows the U.S. to maintain a stable terrorism insurance market so employers can invest in properties and create jobs without assuming the risk and liabilities of a terrorist attack. Additionally, if the program lapse continues, many property owners with existing commercial mortgage balances that require terrorism insurance could be in technical default of their mortgage terms.
“Without timely Senate action, terrorism insurance will become scarce and expensive, causing construction projects to stall, commercial property values to drop and the ongoing economic recovery to slow. Realtors® will continue to work closely with senators and their staff to swiftly reenact TRIA and provide much needed certainty to the market.”
NAR President Chris Polychron, executive broker with 1st Choice Realty in Hot Springs, Ark., has released a statement on the Federal Aviation Administration’s decision to grant the first drone exemption to a real estate professional in the U.S.:
“The FAA has taken a positive step by approving Realtor Doug Trudeau’s application, member of the Tucson Association of REALTORS®, for an exemption to fly an unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or drones) for commercial purposes. Images captured using UAV technology will provide residential and commercial property buyers with more information and visual insights than they’ve ever had before.
“NAR looks forward to the release of the FAA’s proposed regulations for UAVs, but in the meantime, the exemption process is a way for real estate agents to take advantage of the new technology. We are now compiling resources for our members who might want to apply for the Section 333 exemption so that they can legally and safely use UAVs for their real estate businesses. NAR will continue to educate our members about new technology and innovation that can enhance the experience of buying and selling real estate.”
The FAA is developing a regulatory framework that would integrate UAVs into the national airspace, while ensuring safety, privacy and national security. Currently, NAR still recommends that its members not use this technology for any purpose related to selling property, outside of such an exemption.
NAR President Chris Polychron, executive broker with 1st Choice Realty in Hot Springs, Ark., says Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s new low downpayment program should improve access to credit for responsible buyers.
“NAR applauds Fannie and Freddie’s commitment to homeownership by serving creditworthy borrowers who lack the resources for substantial downpayments plus closing costs with its new downpayment program,” he said. “The new program mitigates risk with strong underwriting and ensures that responsible buyers have access to safe and affordable mortgage credit. Furthermore, NAR believes lenders must do their part to ensure loans are prudently underwritten and are made available to qualified borrowers.”
Read the full press release.
National Association of Realtors® President Chris Polychron issued the following is a statement on federal terrorism risk insurance:
“The U.S. Senate’s alarming failure to renew the federal terrorism risk insurance program before adjournment will stall commercial real estate development around the country. The Senate missed an opportunity to approve a six-year reauthorization of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives with overwhelming bipartisan support.
“TRIA provides a crucial framework for economic recovery in the wake of a catastrophic terrorist attack and allows the U.S. to maintain a stable terrorism insurance market so employers can invest in properties and create jobs without assuming the risk and liabilities of a terrorist attack. Terrorism risk insurance is also a requirement of many existing commercial mortgage balances, so those whose coverage will lapse at the expiration of TRIA will be in technical default of their mortgage terms.
“Without action, terrorism insurance will become scarce and expensive, causing construction projects to stall, commercial property values to drop and the ongoing economic recovery to slow. Realtors® will work closely with Congress in the new year to swiftly reenact TRIA and provide much needed certainty to the market.”
National Association of Realtors® President Chris Polychron has issued the following statement on key legislation passed by Congress:
“The package of tax extensions approved by the U.S. House and Senate, and headed to the President’s desk for signature, includes important provisions that will help distressed homeowners and commercial property investors with transactions made during 2014. NAR applauds Congressional leaders in both chambers for their effort to pass this legislation before adjournment.
“Realtors® strongly supported the bipartisan Mortgage Forgiveness Tax Relief Act, which was included in the package to prevent underwater borrowers from paying taxes on any mortgage debt forgiven or cancelled by a lender in a workout or after their home was sold for less money than was owed. We are grateful to Sens. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Reps. Tom Reed, R-N.Y., and Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., for championing the provision.
“The legislation also includes one-year extensions of the 15-year depreciation schedule for leasehold improvements and the deduction for improvements to energy efficient commercial buildings.”
Chris Polychron: Advocating for Brokers in 2015
Steve A. Brown, NAR’s Liaison for Large Residential Firms Relations asks questions to Chris Polychron, a Realtor® for 27 years, who will bring his straight-shooting, passionate brand of advocacy for brokers and Realtors to his role as 2015 NAR President.
FHA actuarial report is a Rorschach test for Washington players
The National Association of Realtors is generally pleased with the implications of the FHA actuarial report and wants the premiums reduced as well.
Housing agency won’t need another bailout
“By lowering its fees, FHA could provide greater access to homeownership for historically underserved groups,” said NAR President Chris Polychron. During the past four years, the percentage share of first-time buyers using FHA-backed loans shrank to 39 percent from 56 percent. “A shift in policy would also increase the volume of borrowers acquiring FHA-backed loans and contribute to the solvency of the MMI Fund,” Polychron said.
Big News for Existing Home Sales: 1st Annual Gain of 2014
“Although distressed sales are trending downward, there are still areas (such as judicial states Florida, Maryland and New York) plagued by foreclosures, and homeowners faced with the awful choice between a tax bill they are unable to pay and losing their home,” says NAR President Chris Polychron. He said that the NAR was continuing to urge the U.S. House to vote on “The Mortgage Forgiveness Tax Relief Act.” Passage would extend an expired provision that exempts forgiven mortgage debt from being taxed as income.
REALTORS raise the bar with new code of excellence
“Times have changed, people have changed, and as a result, we as realtors always feel like we need to stay ahead of the curve in what we do as an association,” said Chris Polychron, NAR’s newly installed president. “We felt like we did need additional education and training to go along with our Code of Ethics, and these new policies get at doing just that.”
Why net neutrality matters to real estate
“If the FCC’s proposal went into effect today, new and small businesses, who cannot afford to pay the fees, would instantly be put at a competitive disadvantage,” NAR President Chris Polychron said in a statement.
Housingwire has a story on the Federal Housing Administration and the Mutual Mortgage Insurance Fund for single-family programs. According to the agency’s report, the financial health of the regulating agency improved dramatically but that it still has a way to go with its finances. The FHA boasted a $21 billion improvement since late 2012, after implementing a series of financing changes.
2015 NAR President Chris Polychron is quoted:
“Now that the MMI Fund is on a path to recovery, NAR urges FHA to lower its annual mortgage insurance premiums and eliminate the requirement that mortgage insurance be held for the life of the loan. Achieving homeownership has become more difficult with current FHA mortgage insurance premiums…NAR estimates that in 2013, nearly 400,000 creditworthy borrowers were priced out of the housing market because of high FHA insurance premiums. By lowering its fees, FHA could provide greater access to homeownership for historically underserved groups. To put it in perspective, over the past four years, the percent share of first-time buyers using FHA-backed loans shrank from 56% to 39%.”
The MMI Fund gained almost $6 billion in value in the past 12 months, printing now at $4.8 billion. This is a vast improvement from last year when it fell short by more than $1.3 billion.
In a separate story, Polychron discusses his 2015 presidential term with Steve A. Brown, NAR’s Liaison for Large Residential Firms Relations. Among his priorities is data:
“One of the areas I want to work on is making sure members have availability to big data and understand how to use it effectively. All REALTORS® must have good technology training so they can use data for the benefit of the consumer. In the past, we gave away our data and got no value for it. As we move forward as an industry, our members will continue to accumulate accurate, timely data and gather insight into properties by using a wide variety of sources. More than any other group, these efforts will steer consumers toward REALTORS®.”
Check out the full interview published RISMedia.