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Sending Hope to Hurricane Victims

January 1, 2005

Hurricane relief efforts nationwide show the dedicated spirit and housing know-how of the Realtor® community.

Executives at state and local Realtor® associations mobilized their staff quickly to coordinate relief efforts for survivors after Hurricane Katrina hit in late August.

Some AEs, such as Jim Peters, South Carolina Association of Realtors®, had especially valuable experience to lend, having lived through a similar disaster. “It brings back vivid memories of Hurricane Andrew,” says Peters, who was CEO of the Realtor® Association of Greater Fort Lauderdale when Andrew struck Florida in 1992.

“I’ve seen the trauma and the tragedy of families who have been devastated, and I still can’t forget that.”
The South Carolina association contributed more than $30,000 to the state associations in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Peters estimates that individual members also donated $17,000 directly to NAR’s Realtors® Relief Foundation.

Immediately after Katrina struck, R. Scott Brunner, CEO of the Virginia Association of Realtors®, devoted his time to finding information about his colleagues in Mississippi and distributing the news to others via e-mail and discussion boards.

Brunner had served as chief executive of the Mississippi Association of Realtors® until the end of July. In the days after the storm, VAR pledged $250,000 for hurricane relief and nearly $30,000 of those funds went to buy 6 tons of much-needed supplies—such as bottled water, toothbrushes, diapers, and nonperishable foods. The goods were loaded onto a truck and delivered to the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency facility in Jackson. “We wanted to do some tangible humanitarian effort,” Brunner says.

Hundreds of other associations across the country have responded to the disaster with monetary and supply donations to the affected areas in addition to aiding displaced victims now staying in their own communities. The following are just some examples of association giving. Read more online at REALTOR.org/Katrina.
nLouisiana Realtors® Association, in partnership with federal response agencies, launched hurricaneHousing.net to enable property owners to post information on open rental units and victims to search for temporary and longer-term housing in a seven-state area.

nHouston Association of Realtors® worked with media and other local organizations to launch the project “Make a Home.” At HAR’s Web site (realtorshelp .har.com) visitors can apply for shelter, donate shelter, and find volunteer opportunities. In advance of Hurricane Rita, HAR posted information for members online including hurricane preparedness advice and links to government service centers.

No Houston association offices were damaged by Rita and the Texas association reports no damage to other boards in Rita’s path.

Traverse Area Association of Realtors® in Michigan is maintaining a community information Web site for northern Michigan hurricane relief efforts. The site, MIKatrinaHelp.com, offers information on housing, health services, social services, transportation, and schools.

“Realtors® are not only opening their wallets, they are scouring their databases and contacts to locate anything that can house Hurricane Katrina evacuees for a week, a month, six months, or even longer,” says NAR President Al Mansell.
rae

Hurricane Katrina Relief info:
Go to REALTOR.org/Katrina for the latest news on relief efforts and information on how your association and members can get involved.

NAR to Defend New Listing Display Policy, U.S. Department of Justice files antitrust lawsuit

After months of discussions with the U.S. Department of Justice, NAR announced in September that it had adopted a new policy governing the display of MLS listings on the Internet—a policy that doesn’t include the controversial “selective opt-out” provision that allowed brokers to pick and choose on which of their competitors’ Web sites their listings could appear.

The Internet Listing Display (ILD) policy replaces the Virtual Office Web site (VOW) policy—which included a selective opt-out provision. Many of the changes incorporated into ILD were in direct response to concerns the DOJ raised in previous discussions with NAR.

However, the new policy failed to quash the Justice Department’s antitrust concerns. The DOJ filed suit a day after the policy was unveiled, claiming it “continues to discriminate against innovative brokers.”

“The policy treats all MLS members equally yet respects the rights of property owners and their listing brokers to market a property as they see fit,” says NAR President Al Mansell. He says the ILD does not discriminate against any brokerage model, including discount brokers.

Although NAR is confident that it will prevail in its lawsuit with the DOJ, MLSs should wait until the litigation ends before adopting the new policy.

NAR has vowed to vigorously defend its policy and protect brokers’ rights to determine how their listings are marketed.

Associations should continue to enforce the IDX policy as revised in May until the DOJ lawsuit has been resolved. Get the latest news on the lawsuit and read the full ILD policy at REALTOR.org/ILD.

Housing Market Reports Dispel Bubble Myths

Is there a housing bubble? If so, when will it burst? AEs now have ammunition to answer questions like these from members, consumers, and media.

NAR’s Research Department has developed comprehensive reports for 150 metro areas in the United States that provide proof—in most cases—of strong and healthy housing markets, plus an explanation of the economic factors that would cause a housing bubble. The anti-bubble market reports provide historical home price analysis, home price-to-income ratio, employment gains, and other key data that determine whether a housing market is healthy. The reports come in an easy-to-understand format, complete with talking points AEs can refer to when dealing with reporters.

Each report is roughly 10 pages and will be available in PDF format on REALTOR.org this fall, search “bubble reports.”

According to NAR’s Research Department, there is virtually no risk of a national housing price bubble, based on the fundamental demand for housing and predictable economic factors. It is possible for local bubbles to surface under the right circumstances, but that also is unlikely in the current environment, the report states.
A close look at housing statistics actually shows that the national market has strong fundamentals, with a lean supply of homes, a growing pool of homebuyers, an improving job market, and continued low interest rates, NAR Chief Economist David Lereah said at the August Leadership Summit in Chicago where the reports were unveiled.

So what’s likely to happen with home prices? According to Lereah, the forecast is for mortgage interest rates to rise slowly over the next year and for a general slowing in the rate of price growth. But in many areas inventory shortages will persist and home prices likely will continue to rise above historic norms. “Even in an economic downturn, the demand remains. If conditions become unfavorable, homebuying may be postponed, but a general price decline remains highly unlikely,” says Lereah.

Cost of MLS Passed to Consumers

Real Estate Information Network Inc., a broker-owned MLS in Hampton Roads, Va., has become one of the first in the country to charge consumers for detailed listing information that used to be available for free.
The move was designed to cover the costs of running the 7,000-member listing service without further increasing membership fees for brokerages.

Under the new structure, consumers still can view basic data such as price, number of bedrooms, and a photograph, for free. But for more details, such as square footage, or a virtual tour, they must contact an agent or pay $3.95 a day or $4.95 a month for a pass to see the additional information online.

The so-called “E-pass” system went into effect in July, and some of the MLS’s broker-members aren’t happy about it. One brokerage, Buyer’s Broker of Hampton Roads Inc., went so far as to post a notice on its Web site informing consumers that “we do not agree with this program.” The brokerage offers to set up a custom listing search for free through its agents-only MLS.

Rookies Plan to Stay in the Biz, Despite Lower Income

Real estate rookies who have flooded the market over the past several years and boosted Realtor® association membership to record levels are working more hours than rookies of the past but are making less money.
According to the 2005 NAR Member Profile, members who have been in real estate for two years or less earned a median income of just $12,850 in 2004, compared with a more livable $27,973 in 2002.

More than half of these newcomers—54 percent—said they worked more than 40 hours per week in real estate in 2004. Only 40 percent of Realtors® with two years or less experience reported working that many hours in the 2002 survey.

“Real estate is a relationship business, and the fact that earnings went down for those in the business for two years or less underscores the fact that newcomers need to establish themselves before they can start earning a healthy income from referrals and repeat business,” says David Lereah, NAR’s chief economist.
However, the survey revealed positive income trends for members with more years of experience. Those with six to 10 years in the business earned a median income of $58,700 in 2004, up 19 percent from 2002. Members with 26 years or more of experience earned $92,600, up 37 percent from two years earlier.
The median income of a real estate broker in 2004 was $52,800, while sales associates earned a median of $37,600.

Despite earning less money than their more experienced counterparts, rookies are optimistic about their future in the business. Eighty percent say they are “very certain” they’ll remain active in real estate during the next two years.

The 2005 NAR Member Profile is based on a survey mailed to 120,000 members. For more free highlights, visit http://www.REALTOR .org/store.—Haley M. Hwang

NAR Offers Free Grassroots Software to Associations

NAR is installing new grassroots contact software to improve the NAR Action Center. The system automatically registers all members to participate in calls for action—as opposed to having members come to the site and register themselves—and also allows NAR and state and local associations to share grassroots information while better coordinating advocacy activities.

NAR chose the vendor, GetActive Software, for its ability to integrate NRDS data into the platform and for its experience with other large clients, including the AFL-CIO and the AARP.

The new software enables members to use one system to take legislative action at local, state, and national levels. Yet the action center can maintain individual association branding.

At a presentation at NAR’s August Leadership Summit, Monty Newman, NAR’s 2005 vice president and liaison to government affairs, called the new system “the most significant step NAR has taken to increase its voice in legislative action.”

NAR’s Action Center will offer a calendar feature that lets associations post when they plan to send calls to action so members aren’t bombarded with messages from all levels of the organization.

Some portions of the software platform went live in September, and the state and local portions are expected to be fully operational by January.

NAR is paying all state and local licensing fees for the GetActive platform. Associations that use this system will be responsible for one-time design and paste-up costs, and some special features like sending e-mail messages to legislators through the system.

Search “GetActive” on REALTOR.org for an FAQ on the new system.

Making Cents of the Realtor® Brand

The Realtor® brand generates an average of $32,000 in incremental income for every Realtor® during his or her membership in the National Association of Realtor®.

That’s according to new research by AbsoluteBrand LLC, an independent brand valuation firm based in Milwaukee. The company used data on industry licensing expenses and a study on consumer attitudes toward Realtors® to compute the dollar value of the brand to each NAR member.

The research shows that the average member, with six to 10 years experience, realizes $4,500 a year in incremental income due to the marketplace advantages the Realtor® brand brings to his or her business. The annual figure is lower for Realtors® who have been in business for a shorter span of time.

“Members receive the full value of their membership only if they tell every one of their customers that they are Realtors® and why it is important to work with a Realtor®,” says NAR President Al Mansell. “Now we can prove that when members fail to do so, it’s money out of their pocket.”

In the months to come, NAR will work closely with Realtor® associations and brokerages to provide training materials that will help members communicate the benefits of working with a Realtor® to their customers.

Member Survey Uncovers Foreign Buyer Trends

The Florida Association of Realtors® teamed up with NAR to survey nearly 1,000 of its members on how international buyers are impacting the real estate market. Results of the survey, released in late July, showed that foreigners account for nearly 15 percent of all home sales in Florida and make up a growing share of members’ business volume.

“This is the first time we’ve ever tried to quantify the makeup of foreign buyers in our state,” says Marla Martin, communications manager for the association.

Of the respondents, 87 percent reported closing at least one home sale transaction with international buyers in the previous 12 months. Other interesting findings: 36 percent of foreign buyers paid cash for their homes, compared with 10 percent of all buyers, and natives of the United Kingdom accounted for a third of all international home purchases in the state.

“We hope to partner with NAR more on studies like this to get hard research data,” Martin says. She also says that FAR frequently polls members on other topics, such as e-mail habits and views on affordability or eminent domain.

New Brochure for members: Educating Consumers on Risky Loans

To educate homebuyers on their lending options, NAR and the Center for Responsible Lending have produced a brochure titled “Shopping for a Mortgage? Do Your Homework First.” The brochure, unveiled at the Leadership Summit, explains the risks and advantages of various mortgage options in simple terms. It’s available for bulk purchase at REALTOR.org ($15 for package of 50), or it can be downloaded for free at http://www.REALTOR.org/housopp.nsf/pages/SpecialtyMortgages.

New License Plates Promote Housing

The South Carolina Association of Realtors®, working in conjunction with the state’s department of motor vehicles, has introduced a specialty license plate that will promote homeownership and raise money for housing causes.
Drivers pay $124 every two years to buy the plate—with $100 of that money going into a fund controlled by SCAR. The money will be distributed to groups that help people achieve homeownership, says Byron King, SCAR’s director of legal and legislative affairs.

The plates were scheduled to be available for purchase in time for SCAR’s annual conference at the end of September.—Bridget McCrea

Like NAR, New Illinois HQ to Be Steps from Capitol

The Illinois Association of Realtors® is moving forward with plans to build a new three-story headquarters building about three blocks from the Illinois Capitol in downtown Springfield. The 26,000-square-foot project will cost an estimated $7.1 million.

“We have chosen a location for our new building within steps of the state Capitol,” says John Veneris, president of IAR, which has 55,000 members. The location demonstrates the group’s commitment to advocacy for the rights of property owners, he says.

NAR accomplished the same goal by selecting a prominent location just three blocks from the U.S. Capitol for its new Washington, D.C., building, which opened last October. The Illinois association’s building is set to break ground Oct. 6 and is expected to be completed by spring 2007.

Fund Pays Dues for Members in Financial Need

Every year when dues-paying season draws near, the Northeast Association of Realtors®, Mass., receives phone calls and letters from members who can’t make the payment but don’t want to lose their membership. Usually, a personal financial crisis, such as a serious illness or house fire, has occurred.

“The stories we hear would just break your heart,” says Anne Rendle, CEO of the association. “And there used to be nothing we could do because we didn’t want to set the precedent of waiving fees.”

But thanks to a special fund the association created to deal with such instances, many of the unfortunate members can remain Realtors® while they get their life back on track. The executive board meets—sometimes over a conference call—to consider each letter or phone call and to decide how to respond.

If the member meets the requirement of “extraordinary financial need,” the NEAR Realtor® Crisis Fund is tapped to cover local, state, and national dues—which total about $500. In some extreme instances, the fund provides additional financial assistance to the member, Rendle says. Since the fund was established in 2001, about four members have received aid each year.

The association fills the fund’s coffers with money raised through selling raffle tickets, charging nonmembers to use its MLS center, and charging nonmembers who participate in the weekly broker tour of home listings. As of mid-September, the fund held more than $3,000.

“We’ve found that people are so grateful for the help,” Rendle says. “They’re grateful that they can keep their membership intact while they’re down and out.”

Realtor® Memorial Honors Members

Instead of sending flowers or a charity donation when a member of the West Michigan Lakeshore Association of Realtors® passes away, the association will engrave that member’s name onto a new Realtor® memorial completed this summer. Using reserve funds accumulated through increased membership, the association paid $7,500 for the memorial—including the special landscaping, flagstone walkway, patio, bench, and granite memorial stone, which has room for 38 names. Space is allocated for two more stones to be added, as necessary, in the future. “We felt it was a very good investment,” says CEO Dale P. Zahn. “We’ve had family members who see it just break down and cry about how nice it is.”

AE Professional Development: Successful Students

The following students successfully completed Realtor® Association Management Self-Study Courses between July 1 and Sept. 20, 2005. Students are eligible to receive points toward their Realtor® association Certified Executive (rce) designation. For more info, visit REALTOR.org/realtorae.nsf/pages/education#INDE.

Denise Blanks, Pinellas Suncoast Assoc., Fla.
Robert Conwill, Jackson Assoc., Miss.
Tracey M. DeBow, Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Rlty., N.C.
Shelley Dorsio, Valley Assoc., Conn.
Tricia Grace, Kansas City Regional Assoc., Kan.
Chris Hyatt, Pinellas Suncoast Assoc., Fla.
Jody Scott, Steamboat Springs Board, Colo.
Alexis Sier, Sierra Nevada Assoc., Nev.
Christina Smalls, Arizona Association
Heather Tam, Arizona Association
Linda G. Wyssmann, Kansas City Regional Assoc.
Advanced Administrative
Concepts Self-Study Course
Professional Standards Module
Etta Henry, Reading Berks Assoc., Pa.
Barbara Sue Murray, Mansfield Board, Ohio
Jennifer Soto, North San Diego Assoc., Calif.
Sherry Stein, Amelia Island-Nassau County Assoc., Fla.

Advanced Realtor® Association
Management Self-Study Course
David Cheek, Corpus Christi Assoc., Texas
Kathy Dispenza, Pinellas Suncoast Assoc., Fla.
Carol Fisher, Calhoun County Area Board, Ala.
Jenni Shephard, Lenawee County Assoc., Mich.
Kathryn West, Greenwood Assoc., S. C.