Will Homes Be “Sold Out” By Spring 2017?

NAR Existing Home Sales Median Days On Market December 2016

Buy That House Before It’s Gone

The housing market is its strongest in a decade.

According to the National Association of REALTORS®, nearly 5.5 million previously-owned homes changed hands last year, marking the first time that’s happened since 2006.

The rise in home sales can be attributed to many factors. However, three reasons stand out:

  1. Rising U.S. rents, which has changed the math of “Buy vs Rent”
  2. Loosening mortgage guidelines
  3. Historically low mortgage rates

Today’s mortgage rates are in the low-4s, if you didn’t know. ARMs are now in the 3s.

Plus, there’s an abundance of available low- and no-down payment mortgage programs, including the new 3% down HomeReady™ loan which has widened the pool of potential home buyers nationwide.

Homes are selling quickly and they’re selling at higher prices.

Click to see today’s rates (Feb 6th, 2017)

Existing Home Sales: 5.49 Million Homes Sold Annually

Each month, the National Association of REALTORS® publishes its Existing Home Sales report, a tally of sold homes which have been previously occupied, or are otherwise not considered as “new construction”.

The trade group’s December 2016 report shows 5.49 million homes sold on a seasonally-adjusted annualized basis, a decrease from the month prior but a figure which is above the 12-month average.

Strength in housing has been attributed to low mortgage rates, rising rents, and a simpler approach toward mortgage approvals for many U.S. banks.

Demand for homes has been high — so much so that supply can’t keep up. There are now just over 1.6 million homes for sale nationwide.

At the current pace of sales, the entire stock of homes for sale would “sell out” by April.

In December, Median Days on Market for an MLS-listed home was 52 days. This is the fewest number of days for any December this decade.

  • December 2011: 99 days
  • December 2012: 73 days
  • December 2013: 72 days
  • December 2014: 66 days
  • December 2015: 58 days
  • December 2016: 52 days

The number of days on the market tends to creep up in December as home buyers take a break for the holiday.

Typically, Median Days On Market bottoms out in June, then rises toward winter. Each year, though, homes are selling faster — even in the cold months.

December is starting to look more like summer as far as the speed of sales is concerned.

The wise home shopper, then, will start their home search in earnests before the spring buying season. There could be fewer homes available, compared to demand, than any time in history in coming months.

Click to see today’s rates (Feb 6th, 2017)

Home Inventory Hits Multi-Year Low

The December Existing Home Sales report showed homes selling quickly. Homes typically sold in 52 days last month — a 12% decrease over the year prior.

It’s no wonder homes are selling quickly. The NAR reports just 1.65 million homes for sale in the U.S. in December.

There are nearly 1 million fewer available homes compared to 2012.

Those numbers are showing up in days-on-market numbers: homes are selling faster than during most of history.

But, while Median Days On Market remains an imperfect measure of the housing market’s strength, the data sometimes highlights the relative ease with which a seller can sell a home, and the relative difficulty a buyer may face in buying one.

Three main factors affect Median Days On Market — the economy, median rent prices, and national sentiment toward housing.

When the economy is performing well, for example, consumers may be more likely to take risks, including the risk of buying a new home.

More risk-taking helps homes to sell faster, and moved Days on Market lower.

Rising rents can also cause Days on Market to drop.

When U.S. rents are rising, it puts a strain on the budget of the nation’s renters. It also affects the answer to the question “Should I buy or should I rent?”

Median rent is up more than five percent in many metros nationwide. Certain housing markets like Seattle and Portland are experiencing rents that are rising even more quickly than that.

A number of U.S. households have had enough.

Rather than signing new leases, they’re choosing to buy new homes instead. And, because many are buying “starter homes”, they’ve found the 5-year ARM to be an excellent budgetary fit.

However, there’s a third, less obvious reason why Days on Market can change, and it’s linked to home seller sentiment.

Sometimes, regardless of the market’s strength, home sellers just feel “less confident” in the market. Now is one of those times.

Is It Really “A Good Time To Sell”?

According to a Fannie Mae consumer attitudes survey, more half of all consumers now think it’s “a good time to sell” a home.

When sellers think “it’s a good time to sell”, it’s typically because they believe housing has dropped from a peak and prices are on the way down.

These perceptions often favor buyers.

When sellers are concerned about falling prices, it can result in homes being listed for cheaper prices; and, in homes being sold at “the first reasonable offer”. Strangely, though, sellers may have it all wrong.

According to the data, the housing market’s going quite strong.

The December Existing Home Sales report shows a national home supply of 3.6 months. Home supply is at its lowest level in history.

Today’s housing market is one of the strongest in a decade, in other words, but sellers are behaving like the market’s in a downturn. For buyers, this creates opportunity.

Sellers may be currently undervaluing their home. Demand outweighs supply, and values are expected to rise. You may pay less for a home today than you’ll pay in six months.

The market looks ripe for a deal.

What Are Today’s Mortgage Rates?

With mortgage rates still low, sales of homes are soaring. The best deals you find in housing may be the ones you get today.

Get today’s live mortgage rates now. Rates are available with no social security number required to get started and all quotes come with access to your live mortgage credit scores.

Click to see today’s rates (Feb 6th, 2017)

The information contained on The Mortgage Reports website is for informational purposes only and is not an advertisement for products offered by Full Beaker. The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not reflect the policy or position of Full Beaker, its officers, parent, or affiliates.

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Hanover real estate team makes Top Ten Realtors list

Mary Ellen Gallo and The Liz McCarron Team with William Raveis Real Estate, have finished 2016 in the Top Ten Realtors in Hanover based on statistics from Multiple Listing Service.
Gallo, a 32-year resident of Hanover, joined The Liz McCarron Team three years ago with three years of experience. She holds a Massachusetts Real Estate Salesperson’s License and an ASP Home Staging Certificate. She is accredited in Seller Agency and Buyer Agency and the Quadrennial Code of Ethics Training. Gallo also holds the Certified Homeowner Professional designation. She is a member of the National Association of Realtors, Massachusetts Association of Realtors, Plymouth and South Shore Association of Realtors and the Multiple Listing Service.
A native of Weymouth, Gallo and her husband have raised their three children in Hanover.
“Joining The Liz McCarron team has been the key to my growth and success,” said Gallo. “Liz is very knowledgeable and provides the tools and coaching I need to provide exceptional personalized service and simplify the home buying and selling process for my clients.”
“Mary Ellen is a dedicated advocate for her clients and brings great insight to the Hanover market,” said Liz McCarron, sales vice president at The Liz McCarron Team. “We congratulate Mary Ellen on a great year and we wish her continued success.”

Seacoast sees shrinking real estate inventory, rising prices

PORTSMOUTH — After several months of month-over-month and year-over-year gains in residential real estate sales volume, the Seacoast is now showing the ups and downs of a more volatile market.

Starting in February 2015, the region saw year-over-year increases in the volume of single-family home and residential condominium sales for 16 consecutive months. Volume started to fluctuate in July 2016 and it’s been a roller coaster ever since.

Data for sales in December is indicative of the trend: Compared to the same month the previous year, December was down 8.8 percent, November was up 8.8 percent, October was down 6.6 percent, and September was up 22 percent.

A Seacoast Media Group analysis of sales in 17 sample communities, as recorded with the Rockingham County Register of Deeds, show total residential sales volume of $68.5 million for December compared to $75.1 million in December 2015 and $71.3 million in November.

The sample communities include Brentwood, East Kingston, Epping, Exeter, Greenland, Hampton, Hampton Falls, Kensington, New Castle, Newfields, Newington, Newmarket, North Hampton, Portsmouth, Rye, Seabrook and Stratham.

The data show 109 single-family homes in those communities sold for a total of $50 million at an average price of $492,497. That volume is 9 percent less than the $20.1 million on 124 transactions last December.

Condo volume in December was $18.5 million on 57 sales, which is 8.4 percent less than the $20.1 million volume on 62 sales last December.

The Seacoast Board of Realtors, which tracks data in 13 communities, said its sampling shows a fourth straight month of declining house and condo sales, less inventory and rising prices, falling in line with national trend cited by the National Association of Realtors.

“These numbers mirror national trends,” said Todd Hudson, 2017 president of the Seacoast Board of Realtors. “The NAR notes declining available inventory but rising sales prices across the country and that’s what we have here. Clearly, our sales totals for the year were strong, record breaking in fact. The demand for and confidence in Seacoast real estate remains impressive.”

The Portsmouth-based board noted the inventory of available homes has reached its lowest level in five years. A squeeze on inventory can put a squeeze on prices. According to SMG’s analysis, the average price of a house in the region is 5.1 percent higher than it was a year ago, and the average price of a condo is 18.9 percent higher.

House sales in Portsmouth for December provide an example.

According to the data, 17 single-family homes in the city sold in December for a total of $7.4 million versus 19 homes in December 2015 that sold for $7.7 million – a 3.4 percent decline in volume. Yet the average price of a home in December 2016 was $435,829, putting it 8 percent more expensive than last December.

Condo sales in Portsmouth cooled in December, dropping 60.5 percent from $6.2 million in volume in December 2015 to $2.4 million in volume in December 2016. The average price dipped too – from $442.224 to $407,783.

In Exeter, the opposite was true – condo sales grew, while home sales went down. Ten condos sold for a total of $2.9 million at an average price of $291,647. Last December, 10 units sold for $2.6 million at an average price of $255,800. Single-family home sales in town totaled $5 million, an 11.9 percent decline from the $5.7 million last December.

Hampton experienced increases in both condos and homes. There was a 14.2 percent increase in the sale of single-family houses – from $6.8 million last December to $7.8 million this past December. The average price was $410,489. Condo sales saw a 13.7 percent increase in the year-over-year comparison – from $5.1 million in 2015 to $5.8 million in 2016 with an average price of $251,361.

Rockingham County as a whole saw a year-over-year decline in single-family volume. The New Hampshire Association of Realtors, in its monthly report, said home sales in the county were $107.6 million for December 2016, a 10.8 percent decline from the previous December.

Condo activity was up in Rockingham County for the month, according to the NHAR data. Unit sales in December totaled $29.7 million, a 12.9 percent increase from December 2015.

Construction Zone: Billings Association of Realtors settles into new headquarters

BAR leaders are excited about the additional space and innovative technology available at their new location. Pictured here (clockwise from top-left): Nancy Morrison, accounting director; Tim Hudson, treasurer; Bob Leach, building committee; Tom Llewellyn, building chair; Amber Sundsted, government affairs director; Angela Klein-Hughes, president; Mary R. Grant, executive officer; Shannon Bowers, programming director.

Christopher Zoller Elected to Lead the Largest Local Realtor – PR Web

Christopher Zoller, 2017 Chairman of the Board, MIAMI Association of REALTORS

I’m honored to be leading the nation’s largest local Realtor association

The MIAMI Association of REALTORS® (MIAMI) has elected Miami Realtor Christopher Zoller, CRS as its 2017 chairman of the board. He and all of the 2017 MIAMI leadership boards will be installed this afternoon at MIAMI’s 2017 Inaugural and Awards Celebration at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood.

The MIAMI Corporate Board is dedicated to leadership in the industry, the real estate profession, and the communities they serve. MIAMI represents 45,000 residential, commercial, and international real estate professionals.

“I’m honored to be leading the nation’s largest local Realtor association,” Zoller said. “As elected leaders for one of the nation’s most dynamic real estate markets, the 2017 MIAMI Corporate Board will analyze trends and information and make key policy decisions affecting the real estate industry in Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Martin counties.”

Born in Mount Vernon, N.Y. and raised in Fairfield County, Connecticut, Zoller began selling real estate in Connecticut in 1973. Zoller moved to several U.S. cities before settling into Miami in the late 1980s. He began working with EWM Realty International, Inc. and Christie’s International Real Estate in 1990.

Zoller specializes in custom properties for commercial and residential clients. In 2009, Zoller was named the MIAMI Residential Realtor of the Year.

Zoller served as MIAMI Residential President in 2015. He serves as a director for the Florida Realtors and the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR).

In addition to his volunteer work with various Realtor associations through the years, Zoller devotes countless hours to the local community. He first joined the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce in 1988. He became chair of the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce Board in 2000-01. His chamber connections resulted in participating in nonprofit work with United Way and the American Red Cross.

As a member of the Rotary Club of Coral Gables, his community work included numerous outreach projects such as Habitat for Humanity. Other volunteer activities include: business community representative for the Coral Gables High School Educational Excellence School Advisory Council (EESAC), serving on the Coral Gables Property, Budget Finance and Transportation boards and serving on the Professional Standards Committee of the Coral Gables Board of Realtors. He currently sits on the City of Coral Gables Code Enforcement Board.

Announcing the 2017 MIAMI Corporate Board

Joining Zoller are: Chairman of the Board-Elect George C. Jalil, RAA, TRC of First Service Realty, Real Living; 2016 Chairman of the Board Mark Sadek of The Keyes Company, Inc.; Secretary Nancy Hogan, CIPS of Avatar Real Estate Services; Treasurer Jack H. Levine, ABR, ABRM, CRB, CRS, SRES of Levine Realty Inc.; 2017 Commercial President José María Serrano, CCIM of New Miami Realty Corp.; 2017 Residential President Christina Pappas of The Keyes Company; 2017 Broward President Ellen R. Mitchel, CRS, CDPE of RE/MAX Executive Realty; 2017 YPN Chairman Alberto Carrillo of The Keyes Company, Inc.; 2017 JTHS President Lynne Rifkin, ABR, PMN, MRP, SRES of Keller Williams Realty/Jupiter; Commercial President-Elect Brian Sharpe of Sharpe Properties Group; Residential President-Elect Jorge L. Guerra, Jr. of Real Estate Sales Force; Broward President-Elect Patricia C. Anglero of Galleria International Realty; YPN Chairman-Elect Jorge H. Fernandez of Caribe Homes Realty; JTHS President-Elect Barb Fox, RSPS, ePRO of One World Realty; Director Terri Bersach, CRB, CRS, CIPS, SFR, TRC of Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate; Director Nancy Lubeck of One World Realty; Director Jay Phillip Parker of Douglas Elliman; Director Natascha Tello, CDPE, CIAS of Keller Williams Realty Partners SW; Director Moe Veissi of Veissi Associates, Inc.

Teresa King Kinney, CAE, CIPS, GRI, RCE, TRC serves as the CEO for the MIAMI Association of REALTORS®.

About the MIAMI Association of REALTORS®

The MIAMI Association of REALTORS® was chartered by the National Association of Realtors in 1920 and is celebrating 97 years of service to Realtors, the buying and selling public, and the communities in South Florida. Comprised of six organizations, the Residential Association, the Realtors Commercial Alliance, the Broward Council, the Jupiter Tequesta Hobe Sound (JTHS) Council, the Young Professionals Network (YPN) Council and the award-winning International Council, it represents nearly 45,000 real estate professionals in all aspects of real estate sales, marketing, and brokerage. It is the largest local Realtor association in the U.S., and has official partnerships with 160 international organizations worldwide. MIAMI’s official website is http://www.miamire.com

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Are MLSs And Associations Held To The Same Rules As Members?

The MLS rules and the Realtor Code of Ethics should be honored by everyone — including MLSs and Realtor associations.

What do I mean?

Well, in August of 2015, my MLS (HiCentral MLS, part of the Honolulu Board of Realtors), came out with the following rule: “Photos will be watermarked with HiCentral MLS for tracking and data-security purposes.”

Everyone had to comply with this rule, and if we did not, we’d be fined and perhaps eventually shut down.

However, it has now been more than 500 days since this rule came out, and the MLS’s own public-facing website does not show a watermark on many new listings. The MLS has simply cropped it out.

This example highlights my point: There is no way to hold the MLS accountable. There is nothing brokers can do, no entity to report them to and no fine we can issue.

Public websites not subject to IDX rules

In addition, it is my MLS’s position that their public-facing website is not to be held to the same rules we must follow for our internet data exchange (IDX) websites.

Without getting into specifics, when they told me I could not so something on my website per the MLS rules, I pointed out that they are doing the same thing.

This is when I got a response that their website is not an IDX or virtual office website (VOW) website; therefore it is not held accountable to the IDX or VOW rules.

Realtor Code of Ethics does not apply

These groups are also not held accountable to the Realtor Code of Ethics.

If an agent is breaking the Code of Ethics, there are several procedures you can follow to report the violation. That’s not so for the MLS and associations.

One recent violation regarded truth in advertising. I saw a Facebook ad promoting a certain public-facing website, but what it claimed was simply not true, which is an ethics violation.

In this case I will give the MLS credit because when I mentioned what it was advertising was not true, it stopped running the ad.

In other cases where I felt it violated the Code of Ethics, however, I have not been able to get any results.

I hope the MLSs and the National Association of Realtors will give this some serious consideration and perhaps start holding themselves accountable in the same way we are.

Bryn Kaufman is the creator and principal broker of OahuRe.com. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Email Bryn Kaufman

Flagstaff housing market nearly 80 percent recovered

Flagstaff-area median home prices

Year;Yearly;December

2016;$352,000;$334,000

2015;$330,000;$340,000

2014;$315,000;$335,000

2013;$290,000;$288,000

2012;$252,000;$257,000

2011;$262,000;$235,000

2010;$280,000;$262,000

2009;$310,000;$295,000

2008;$345,000;$335,000

2007;$370,000;$352,000

2006;$379,000;$355,000

2005;$336,000;$372,000

2004;$255,000;$275,000

2003;$222,000;$214,000

2002;$195,000;$195,000

2001;$180,000;$200,000

2000;$170,000;$146,000


How Realtors Association Gains Clout

Highland Boulevard homes. Photo by Carl Baehr.

Highland Boulevard homes. Photo by Carl Baehr.

The Wisconsin Realtors Association is one of the state’s most influential political groups, helping elect candidates favored by the real estate industry and scoring victories on policies.

The association spends most of its time lobbying on tax, legal, construction, environmental, and other issues to benefit the real estate industry, which has made about $10.7 million in individual and political action committee (PAC) contributions since January 2000 to legislative and statewide candidates.

The overwhelming amount of campaign cash contributed by the industry – about $7.6 million – went to Republican and conservative legislative and statewide candidates.

For its part, the Wisconsin Realtors Association has directed about $2.5 million of the industry’s direct contributions through its longtime conduit, which is a legal check-bundling outfit, and PAC. The group’s PAC contributions to legislative and statewide candidates totaled about $1.1 million between January 2000 and December 2016. Excluding political parties and candidate committees, the realtors PAC ranks first among contributions from special interest PACs.

The top recipients of individual and PAC contributions since January 2000 through the Realtors Association’s conduit and PAC were Republican Gov. Scott Walker, about $315,150; former Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, about $104,180; and former 2006 GOP candidate for governor Mark Green, about $99,350.

In addition to direct contributions to candidates, the realtors group has spent an estimated $1.2 million on phony issue ads and independent expenditures to help Republican and conservative candidates through its PAC, a corporation and a phony issue ad group called the Wisconsin Homeowners Alliance. The Realtors Association has gotten money for some of its outside electioneering activities from the National Association of Realtors via a 527 organization that may raise and spend unlimited funds on elections.

The top recipients of the Realtors Association’s outside spending have been Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Patience Roggensack, about $206,600 during her 2013 reelection campaign; and Walker, an estimated $200,000 during his 2014 reelection campaign.

The Realtors Association was recently among numerous special interest organizations that urged Walker to fund pay raises for judges in his upcoming 2017-19 state budget. The groups’ letter to Walker earlier this month coincides with an effort by Roggensack, who leads the high court’s 5-2 conservative majority, to get 16 percent pay raises for the state’s judges at a cost of $6.4 million a year.

In 2010, the Realtors Association and Wisconsin Manufacturers Commerce helped write looser Code of Judicial Conduct rules that were later adopted by the high court. The rules said campaign contributions, endorsements, and outside electioneering activities like broadcast ads and mailings by a person or group in a case before the high court are not automatic grounds for justices who received such support to recuse themselves.

In recent years, the association has sharply increased its lobby spending at the State Capitol. During the 2011-12 legislative session the group spent about $359,400 compared to about $492,330 in the 2013-14 legislative session, and about $630,200 during the first 18 months of the 2015-16 legislative session. That’s an increase of 75 percent over the last three sessions.

The group has taken an active role lobbying on some controversial issues, such as lead paint regulations and local control. Among the bills backed by the realtors that were approved by the GOP-controlled legislature and signed into law by Walker were ones that:

  • Reduced state lead painting inspection and testing requirements;
  • Loosened standards for placing structures along the shores of lakes and rivers, and banned counties from using zoning ordinances to regulate or restrict shoreline construction projects, like boathouses and fishing rafts;
  • Limited the ability of communities to require rental unit inspections, license landlords, charge inspection fees, and enforce sprinkling ordinances stricter than state law. The law also makes it easier and faster for landlords to evict tenants and dispose of personal property that is left behind;
  • Provided more than $250 million in state and local bonding and other support to help the Milwaukee Bucks build a new arena;
  • Reduced public access and state oversight and regulation, and increased logging on more than 3 million acres of privately owned forestland in exchange for property tax breaks.

Matthew Rothschild is executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

Marin real estate agents relaunch Young Professionals Network


Logan Link, a Mill Valley resident and real estate agent at Decker Bullock Sothesby’s International Realty, has been named co-chairwoman of the Young Professionals Network, a Marin Association of Realtors networking group for young real estate agents. (Courtesy of Logan Link)

Logan Link, a Mill Valley resident and real estate agent at Decker Bullock Sothesby’s International Realty, has been named co-chairwoman of the Young Professionals Network, a Marin Association of Realtors networking group for young real estate agents. (Courtesy of Logan Link)






The Marin Association of Realtors has named two Marin real estate agents as co-chairwomen of its relaunched Young Professionals Network group.

Lindsay Smith, a 23-year-old Novato resident, and 21-year-old Logan Link, of Mill Valley, were appointed chairwomen of the group, which held its first meeting last month. The Young Professionals Network is a national organization under the National Association of Realtors, providing young real estate professionals opportunity to network, fundraise for nonprofits and host events.

Smith is an agent at Century 21 NorthBay Alliance, and Link is an agent at Decker Bullock Sotheby’s International Realty.

•••

Kim Noon of Lafayette has been hired as vice president of operations of Meritage Medical Network, the Novato-based physician run medical group. Noon has more than 20 years of health-care experience, previously serving six years as vice president of clinical operations at Palo Alto Medical Foundation as well as chief operating officer and chief financial officer for Mills-Peninsula Medical Group.

Meritage Medical Group is the largest independent Medical Group in the North Bay with 700 member physicians servicing nearly 500,000 residents in Marin, Sonoma and Napa counties.

•••

Leslie Murphy of Novato has been appointed to the Bank of Marin Board of Directors. Murphy is the chief executive officer of the Novato-based W. Bradley Electric, Inc. and has 32 years of business experience. She will also join both the Bank’s Audit Committee and Asset and Liability Committee.

•••

Nicole Frazer of Inverness has been hired as part-time registrar and exhibition coordinator at the Bolinas Museum. Frazer, who plans to relocate to Bolinas, is taking over for Adele Barbato who is moving on to work for the nonprofit MarinArts.org and the Prison Yoga Project.

Movers and Shakers is compiled by Adrian Rodriguez and appears weekly. Send information to arodriguez@marinij.com.

A response to a broker’s open letter from NAR CEO Dale Stinton

Editor’s note: After contributor Daniel Bates wrote an open letter to the new CEO at the National Association of Realtors, he received this response from current NAR CEO Dale Stinton. Stinton agreed to allow Inman to publish it.

The email has been edited slightly for style and length.


Dear Daniel,

I read your “open letter” on Inman regarding some ideas you have for the National Association of Realtors to do a better job. (You offered similar thoughts back in 2013, but regrettably, I didn’t see that one.)

Your time is valuable, and because you took the time to openly and honestly pen your thoughts, I want to acknowledge that upfront. As a 30-something broker of a small office, with a decade of experience, you are very important to me and NAR — and in no event would we purport to “judge” you, other than as a concerned, decent, core constituency.

I’m hoping the best way to address your comments is to take them one at a time, seeking to provide clarification where I can. This has ended up a much longer informational exchange than I originally intended. But my motivation is to acknowledge your point of view while providing context or clarity to the thoughts you’ve introduced.

By no means is my intent to offer a rebuttal or to suggest a right or wrong position. I think you’ll find we agree on more than you might think — I just want to begin a conversation and to let you know you’ve been heard.

Step 1: Goals

Always a good place to start. The mission statement of NAR, in brief, is to help our members ethically and successfully conduct business and protect private property rights.

The more specific priorities of President Bill Brown for 2017 are:

  • Preserve the Mortgage Interest Deduction (MID)
  • Support a reinvented stable, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and FHA, thereby preserving the secondary mortgage market and the 30 year mortgage
  • Preserve 1031 exchanges
  • Research and develop ideas which help our members plan for their financial future and retirement years
  • Research and develop policies and potential government actions which would allow for Trade Associations and Small Businesses to offer health care plans across state lines (7 years ago we were literally one vote from getting small business healthcare approved, afterwards Obamacare took over)
  • Develop the Commitment to Excellence membership strategy the NAR Board of Directors approved in November, 2016

Step 2: Build a brand

In your comments, you accurately link brand value to what members far and wide consistently express as our most sacred set of principles — the Code of Ethics. Yet there is also no single issue that has been the subject of more debate than the COE and professional standards.

More specifically, there has always been much talk about the respect for, the violation of and the challenge in enforcing that code, particularly as it relates to dispute resolution in an industry and system that self-regulates.

Many members, including me, agree with your point of view — for the brand to continue to carry value, to mean something in the future, to be a true differentiator, we must look to the principle it’s built on — what does it mean to be a member of the National Association of Realtors?

Call it a higher bar, call it a commitment to excellence, call it a renewal of our core principles — call it what you like — we need a new story to tell, one based on more stringent respect and adherence to our core principles, performance standards and subsequent actions, which demonstrate that “trusted advisor” is more than just a concept to which we aspire.

In November, the NAR Board of Directors approved a member-driven “commitment to excellence” report, which outlines a new path for our membership. Albeit voluntary, it is a step in the right direction, and time will tell if and when the desired effect will be achieved. Right now the effort is largely top-down; for it to succeed, the grassroots must demand it.

Additional information: Every couple of years, we engage a highly regarded New York trademark expert to update the literal value of the Realtor brand. The most recent valuation, about a year old, puts the big blue “R” and the term Realtor at $5 billion. Eighty-six percent of the 5-million-plus residential transactions that were completed in 2015, were completed by Realtors. The other 14 percent were split fairly evenly with 7 percent to non-Realtor licensees and 7 percent to FSBOs (for sale by owners).

Close to 70 percent of the Realtor transactions were started by “referrals.” So, is the brand effective? Does it translate to your bottom line? When your members are doing practically all of the business in the space it can’t be completely coincidental.

However, to again reinforce your views on the brand, it is my opinion that this extraordinary valuation may be based more on our sheer size, longevity and the overall reputational value of organized real estate earned over 100 plus years.

To be sure, there are plenty of our own members that still enunciate the term as “Real-a-tor”. Whether this intrinsic brand value bleeds its way down to each and every member is a fair question. But there does seem to be general agreement — raising the bar raises the brand.

Step 3: Education

To your comments about education specialties, some 25 years ago, NAR’s governing body made the decision to get out of the “education” business as it was deemed the purview of brokers, state and local associations, and our institutes, societies and councils (CRE, IREM, CCIM, CRS, CRB, RLI, WCR, SIOR).

But like many things at NAR, these things can be cyclical, and what goes around eventually comes back around.

We currently have two primary educational vehicles. The first is the Center for Specialized Real Estate (CSRE) a wholly owned not-for-profit subsidiary of NAR, which includes among others ePro, the Green Designation and Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR). Approximately 80,000 members take courses in these subject matter areas each year.

The other initiative we have been pursuing is Realtor University.

Started five years ago to offer a completely online master’s degree in real estate, in 2016 it was certified as an “accredited” degree granting institution. This accreditation will now allow us to pursue our real long-term goal, which is to partner with major educational institutions and universities around the country to offer Realtors online real estate-related education course work leading to college credit, certifications, associate’s degrees and even bachelor’s degrees.

(Surveys indicate that as much as 50 percent of our membership have no post high school credits.) The virtual online nature of the University will allow us to reach every member and also allows the member to work at their own pace on their own schedule.

Realtor University is funded entirely through tuition, scholarships and the accumulated reserves of CSRE — in other words, resources are allocated to the program, but none of your annual dues fund it.

Step 4: Value

As a frame of reference, Charleston Trident Association dues are $111, South Carolina dues are $165 and NAR dues are $155.

You mention one of the tangible benefits provided by SCAR is the Real Estate Forms Program. I’m glad you find value in the forms program because in partnership with our colleagues at SCAR, NAR is currently paying all of the costs for the forms software and libraries that you are using.

Additionally, we have negotiated discounted rates with ZipLogix (the national forms company provider, of which NAR owns 30 percent) for an e-signature solution, the mobile version, as well as a broker program.

I’m sorry you do not find value in what we call the “affinity” program. We have 35 separate corporate programs where we’ve negotiated member rates from the Chrysler deal to Dell, to FedEx, to DocuSign — and a bunch more. All I can tell you is 875,000 members took advantage of at least one of these programs in 2016.

Thank you for the mention of RPR (Realtors Property Resource), which grew by 18 percent in 2016, has 635,000 user accounts and is available to 1,120,000 members.

Website traffic statistics on total user sessions grew 83 percent in 2016 and exceeded 10 million individual sessions. I hope your board decides to take another look at it, since 90 percent of all the local associations and MLSs are signed up.

I’m sure we can resolve the “data use” issue as RPR does not resell or otherwise generate commerce from your data. That’s why it’s a no-cost service to our members — and remember, you can participate on RPR using your member (NRDS) ID, whether or not your local association chooses to participate.

As mentioned in the first section, we are working very hard to figure out how to get better health care coverage to our members — who, as you stated, are largely independent contractors. We’re encouraged by the administration’s statements about creating competition across state lines, as that is similar to what we were trying to accomplish with the small business health care program we were one vote away from getting approved right before the market collapse back in 2007-2008.

Step 5: Wasteful spending

Since you suggested the single largest source of wasteful spending is lobbying, most of the specific information I offer will come in this section.

Respectfully, I do want to correct your point about spending $100 billion on our lobbying since 1999. I think you meant to say $100 million over that 17-year period.

Even so, that’s a lot of money, and we need to be accountable for it.

I am pleased to tell you that when we talk about getting things done (or, in a lot of cases, keeping things from happening) in Washington, the NAR team does not “grease any wheels.” The old-school tactic of “hammer them until they submit” or the slimy “buy them off” approach does not work in D.C. any more, at least not for how NAR operates.

Our approach is sublimely simplistic: We have a reputation on the Hill, second to none, for doing our homework, providing the highest-quality research and applying reasoned conclusions to our arguments.

More often than not, this collegial and far more intellectual approach is extremely well-received and appreciated, since many of our peers and others still employ a fear based threat infused style of advocacy. (It does not hurt that we have over 1.2 million members.)

Feet on the ground will always be worth more than money. And we have many more feet than you realize.

As a result of our efforts the last several years to engage the public in our legislative and regulatory causes, we now have more than 8 million consumers and property owners in a massive database who have indicated they are ready and willing to be part of our call-for-action network should we call on them for help.

This virtual property and homeownership coalition will be critical to us going forward, as the rules and methods of advocating in Washington are certainly fluid.

Additional information: At any point in time, we are monitoring 35 to 40 federal legislative and regulatory issues that could either help or harm real estate and real property issues. You will never hear how we resolve many of these threats because our goal is to make them go away without drawing attention to them, embarrassing anyone or “outing” any of the folks who helped us.

You asked for some specific examples of political accomplishments that would not have just eventually worked themselves out if NAR never existed — here are some we can talk about that I think will resonate:

  • 2008 – Carried Interest: NAR successfully convinced Congress to shelve a planned tax increase on real estate partnerships.
  • 2008 – We kept alive and helped reform the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), keeping it renewed for an additional five years through 2017.
  • 2008 – Commercial Real Estate: Tenants in Common; NAR successfully negotiated an exemption proposal with the Securities and Exchange Commission that would permit experienced commercial real estate professionals to provide real estate services to their clients interested in TIC securities.
  • 2009 – Protecting Realtors Business Interests and Activities: Banks in Real Estate; after eight years of continuous struggle to convince Congress that real estate is not financial in nature and banks should not be allowed in the real estate brokerage business, NAR achieved its objective. On March 11th, 2009, The Omnibus Appropriations Bill, H.R. 1105, was signed into law, and with it a declaration that, going forward, neither real estate brokerage or real estate management can be classified as a financial activity.
  • 2009 – Expanding Housing Opportunities: A NAR-initiated First-time Homebuyer Tax Credit; H.R. 1, the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009,” was signed by the President on February 17, 2009. Included was an $8,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers. Over one-third of all properties sold in 2009 used the First Time Homebuyers Tax Credit. The credit was extended to April 2010 and included a move-up buyer’s credit after more work from NAR.
  • 2009 – Extended GSE Loan Limits another year
  • 2010 – Extended FHA Loan Limits for 2 more years (through 2013)
  • 2013 – Preserved Mortgage Cancellation/IRS income recognition
  • 2014 – Convinced GSEs, the FHA and HUD to relax credit standards and to be responsible but reasonable
  • 2015 – Convinced FHA to lower premiums by 50 basis points while still being fiscally responsible
  • 2015 – Reauthorized TRIA (Terrorism Risk Insurance Act) for 6 years
  • 2016 – Convinced Congress to pass new FHA/GSE Condo Rules

We continue to advocate for the survival of Fannie, Freddie and FHA until intelligent, responsible reform can occur, thereby assuring the continuation of a secondary mortgage market and the 30 year mortgage

The invention of the Realtor Party in 2011 and the addition of a $40-per-member dues increase is what I’m certain you’re referring to when you observe that you are now required to pay for additional advocacy activity.

The genesis of this major strategic move was the conclusion that although we were highly confident of our abilities to monitor and influence federal legislative and regulatory events, those who would seek to adversely affect the real estate marketplace were shifting their strategies to the state and local levels.

Many of our state and local associations are not particularly experienced in combating these forces in their own backyards, so the Realtor Party strategy was born. Of the $40 per member collected, each year $27 of programs, grants and subsidies are distributed back to the state and local associations to “fit them up” to protect and defend real estate markets and private property rights in their own backyards.

Over the last five years, this has resulted in 16,500 campaigns nationwide helping 1,026 local associations with their local real estate issues. Our success rate is right at 75 percent.

This is all well and good, but what does it mean to someone less interested in condos and residential stuff, with a more specific interest in land sales and land use? Fair question.

In the last several years, the Realtor Party has funded 14 major land use initiatives in South Carolina that were delivered through your board, the Charleston Trident Association of Realtors. They involved smart growth on common ground, local zoning issues, impact fees, rental restrictions, vacant property registry, neighborhood revitalization, urban growth boundaries, school of the future and a diversity initiative.

Combined with a number of other statewide land use initiatives, the South Carolina Association and your board to date has received more than $240,000 in assistance to address these important community needs. I’d like to think that these activities have contributed in some way to a better marketplace for your land-based niche and expertise.

As to your comments on top-level domains (TLDs) — the .realtor offering resulted in 100,000 members signing up in the first year (2015) when it was free, and 72,000 have renewed their domains in 2016. Given there are more than 1.2 million Realtors, your comment about the program being a huge failure seems a little harsh — but it is true we had hoped for several hundred thousand.

The one mitigating factor I offer up is that the entire program was and is paid for by the Realtors Information Network (RIN) a wholly owned subsidiary of NAR’s that is paid royalties to oversee the realtor.com operating agreement we have with News Corp.

Yes, NAR resources are allocated to the program through RIN — however, none of your annual NAR dues are used to pay for the .realtor program. As is the case with a number of our other major initiatives (Credit Union, Real Estate Technology Incubator and SentriLock Lock Boxes, to name a few) all of them are solidly in the black and require no use of member dues.

Step 6: Shake things up

I have not been the CEO for 36 years; this is my 12th year as CEO — but I have worked for four other NAR CEOs in the 25 years before I became the chief staff person.

Out of everything in which you’ve expressed an opinion, this is the only one where I will push back when you characterize our more involved volunteers somewhat pejoratively as “cheerleaders.”

I estimate that between NAR’s volunteer positions and other assignments, those of the 54 states and territories, and the 1,200 local associations of Realtors, there are somewhere in the neighborhood of 20,000 to 25,000 active governing members who give an extraordinary amount of time to upholding Realtor values and helping their communities and fellow members be more successful.

It is true: They usually are very positive and upbeat about contributing to the Realtor organization and family, but they also are not shy about telling us when they think we’ve screwed up or we’re off track.

I am faithful to them and have great respect for their volunteerism.

And I have a similar respect for you for stepping up to be heard. I promise you — we are listening and want to know what you or others are thinking!

To that end, you can find me on Facebook.