REALTORS® Urge Action on Patent Trolls

REALTORS® made a forceful case yesterday to lawmakers in Congress to curb so-called patent trolls—companies that use the threat of patent litigation to extort licensing fees from unsuspecting end-users.

It was an $80 billion-dollar problem in 2013, according to a study, and it continues to cast a pall on businesses, particularly small ones, because it forces them to divert resources away from their core activities to focus on patent issues. In a typical scenario, a patent troll sends out a demand letter in bulk without knowing whether the business receiving it is actually infringing its patent or is even a liable party to a lawsuit.

“Patent trolls are using vaguely worded demand letters to bully REALTOR®-owned businesses into paying exorbitant ransoms for using everyday business practices like scan-to-email technology and website features like searchable property listings,”  San Francisco real estate broker Vince Malta told a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee at a hearing yesterday.

The hearing was the latest of several held by the lawmakers in the past couple of years. The issue attracted high-profile media attention two years ago after a company called MPHJ Technologies, using  dozens of shell companies, sent out 16,000  letters related to the use of scanning technology to companies, some of them real estate brokerages, that demanded payment of a licensing fee. The company, which has just one employee, settled with the Federal Trade Commission last year.

Malta testified on behalf of NAR and the United for Patent Reform Coalition, a group of businesses seeking to curb this kind of abuse. Real estate brokerages and practitioners in particular have been hit by patent trolls for alleged infringement of patents for searchable online listing databases on their websites.

“Trolls are exploiting the patent litigation system at the expense of legitimate businesses that contribute to the economy,” said Malta. “Congress needs to pass meaningful reforms, including transparency requirements for demand letters.”

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Reibbeca wcr

The award evaluates the members involvement with the Fredericksburg and NoVAChapter, which she served as President in 2013 and 2014, respectively, as well as involvement with Virginia State Chapter and the participation with the National Women’s Council, Local Board Activities, and involvement with VAR.  Additionally, consideration is given for designations and political involvement as well as Community Services and Business Accomplishments.

Rebecca says, being active with FAAR and PWAR is a great advantage in networking and discovering the opportunities to serve in community and VAR.  I am privileged to serve on the VAR Brokers Day and Information Management Committee as well as Attend 2015 Virginia Leadership Academy.

Rebecca said, attending the National Association of REALTORS® annual and mid year conferences widens her ability to understand and bring understanding nationwide.  She has met people in every state and is now putting together a National Map to pinpoint peers and friends nationally so she can access them easily when giving or getting referrals.  Rebecca jokingly said, working with other REALTORS® that attend such events, brings her game up!  Rebecca Straley knows she need to surround herself with entrepreneurs and visionaries to continue to progress.

Rebecca is a NAR Certified ABR Instructor and WCR Certified PMN instructor and provides classes to New Agents and REALTORS® who wish to be Brokers through Moseley Real Estate School and at the Prince William Association of REALTORS®.

Rebecca and Michael Straley are brokers at Fathom Realty, operating at Quantico Corporate Center in Stafford, VA.  The Fathom Realty office focuses on Residential Real Estate throughout Metro Virginia to Fredericksburg.  Fathom Realty is a National Company awarded INC 500 2nd Fastest Growing Real Estate Company!

Mission: We are a network of successful REALTORS®, advancing women as professionals and leaders in business, the industry and the communities we serve. Learn more at http://www.wcr.org/.

Release: Provided by Women’s Council REALTORS® NoVA Metro Chapter

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The Virginia Association of REALTORS® is pleased to announce the 2015 VLA Class

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The Virginia Association of REALTORS® is pleased to announce that nineteen REALTORS® have been selected for the 2015 Virginia Leadership Academy (VLA). This bi-annual program is designed to identify and mentor new leaders to serve in local, state and national REALTOR® associations.

Congratulations to the members of the 2015 class:

  • Miguel Avila, Long & Foster – Northern Virginia Association of REALTORS®
  • Karen Hall, At Home Real Estate – Northern Virginia Association of REALTORS®
  • Navona Hart, Real Living Cornerstone – South Central Association of REALTORS®
  • Cindy Hawks, Keller Williams Realty – Hampton Roads REALTORS® Association
  • Rhonda Howlett, Virginia Capital Realty – Richmond Association of REALTORS®.
  • Philip Innes, RE/MAX Commonwealth – Richmond Association of REALTORS®
  • Ernie Lightfoot, VSE Capital Realty – Blue Ridge Association of REALTORS®
  • Theo Lodge, Real Living at Home – Northern Virginia Association of REALTORS®
  • Lisa Lowery, Long & Foster – Williamsburg Area Association of REALTORS®
  • Marina Marchesani, Keller Williams Realty – Greater Piedmont Area Association of REALTORS®
  • Sherry Maser, ERA Real Estate Professionals – Hampton Roads REALTORS® Association
  • Anthony McGhee, Assist 2 Sell – First Rate Realty, Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS®
  • James Nolen, RE/MAX 8 – New River Valley Association of REALTORS®
  • Steve Overgard, RE/MAX Commonwealth – Southside Virginia Association of REALTORS®
  • Fatima Pereira-Shepherd, Long & Foster – Prince William Association of REALTORS®
  • Sarah Santa Ana, Move4Free Realty – Northern Virginia Association of REALTORS®
  • Rebecca Straley, Fathom Realty – Fredericksburg Area Association of REALTORS®
  • Chip Taylor, Century 21 Battlefield Real Estate – Fredericksburg Area Association of REALTORS®
  • Will Wiard, Arbour Realty – Northern Virginia Association of REALTORS®

 VLA graduates put their skills to use in their communities and professional lives. We encourage them to pursue leadership roles in advocacy and professional development for the real estate industry.

We wish each member of the class a very productive, rewarding year!

Sincerely,

Deborah A Baisden
2015 President, Virginia Association of REALTORS®

Denise Hurst Ramey
2015 Chair, Virginia Leadership Academy Workgroup

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Day on the Hill Lunch featured speaker Tom Davis III dissects a dysfunctional government

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More than 500 members of the Virginia Association of REALTORS® (VAR) – a record number, came together at Capitol Square — for the annual REALTORS® Day on the Hill in Richmond bright and early on February 11, 2015. Members met with their respective Virginia General Assembly representatives to discuss legislation covering a wide range of issues that could affect Virginia’s 30,000 REALTORS® and the rights of property owners in the state.

VAR President Deborah Baisden said, “As the largest professional trade organization in the Commonwealth, the REALTOR® vote has a great impact on Virginia legislation.  The REALTOR® vote represents the collective voices of REALTORS® and the residents of the towns and cities they live in. We have a finger on the pulse of communities because we are integrated within their communities.”

Following their morning at the Capitol, Baisden greeted VAR members at the Legislative Lunch at the Omni Richmond Hotel, which featured former member of the House of Representative, Tom Davis, III as the keynote speaker. He represented the 11th district in Northern Virginia.

Terrie Suit, VAR CEO, gave a warm, welcoming introduction to Davis, whom she praised for his inspiration and ongoing support. Davis had encouraged Suit to run for a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates.

Davis, who hails from Fairfax, focused on an increasingly polarized and dysfunctional government. His book, The Partisan Divide: Congress in Crisis, co-authored with former Democratic House campaign committee chair, Martin Frost, is generating a lot of discussion on Capitol Hill and in the media. The two collaborated to write an eye-opening look at a Congress that has been devolving.  They saw a Congress incapable of reforming itself – A Congress, that they say, needs a good kick in the seat from the American public.

Far different from his days in Congress, when cordiality, collaboration and voting on issues, rather than party lines, were the norm, Davis relayed his concerns and reasons for the breakdown between parties. He cited redistricting, media outlets and the bias of their coverage to a specific political slant, the financial influence of special interest groups and changing voter behavior.

“People don’t care about the person; they vote for the party,” said Davis. “Each party views the other as the opposition party…everything is ‘No’—both parties behave this way.”

Davis recognized the importance of the REALTOR® party and its impact on state government and in Washington. He noted, “You are leaders in your communities. Your are actively involved in local and state government and you are non-partisan!”

The audience gave him a rousing applause. President Deborah Baisden closed out the lunch with the proud statement, “We are REALTORS®.”

Check out more photographs from the Get Active 2015 conference:

Photo Gallery – RPAC Awards Ceremony

Photo Gallery – RPAC Awards Reception

Photo Gallery – Day on the Hill Visits

Photo Gallery – Day on the Hill Visits with VAR Leadership Team

Photo Gallery – Day on the Hill Lunch Featuring Tom Davis III

Photo Gallery – Day on the Hill Lunch Book Signing with Tom Davis III

Photo Gallery – Legislative  Reception with Governor Terry McAuliffe

Photo Gallery – Legislative Reception

 

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Virginia home sales up; spring selling season looks strong

The Virginia Association of REALTORS® (VAR) released its January 2015 Home Sales Report today confirming that sales are continuing to track higher in year-over-year comparisons on a monthly basis.

While January is typically the slowest month of the winter selling season and the slowest month of the year, sales and sale prices improved year-over-year, resulting in an 8% increase in sales volume (dollar value) year-over-year.

“Going forward, Virginia can expect to see steady increases as the spring selling season begins. Mortgage interest rates and the Virginia unemployment rate continued to decrease in January and December, respectively,” said Deborah Baisden, president of the Virginia Association of REALTORS®. We expect the combination of those two factors to have a strong positive effect on spring sales,” she added.

The average 30-year fixed mortgage interest rates decreased to 3.67% in January. This decrease in interest rates represents a 17.2% decrease year-over-year. The combination of low mortgage interest rates and low unemployment will likely have a strong positive effect on sales this spring. Virginia’s unemployment rate continued to decrease in December 2014. Virginia has seen a steady and consistent decrease in unemployment of about 0.2% per month over a four-month period.

More good news is that the median sales price in January 2015 ($239,900) is 4.76% higher than the previous year, January 2014 ($229,000) and 6.62% higher than the median sales price in January of 2013 ($225,000). Virginia prices declined 7.7% over the previous month, which is typical for January. The recent spate of cold weather and snow may keep February sales down a bit, but should not affect the spring sales season.

The Virginia Home Sales Report is published by the Virginia Association of REALTORS®, with analysis provided by the Virginia Center for Housing Research at Virginia Tech. The January 2015 Home Sales Report, with charts and graphs, is available on our website.

 

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To Good Neighbors, community is key

The application process is now open for the 2015 NAR Good Neighbor Awards.

For nearly two decades, these awards have recognized the volunteer service of REALTORS®. Dedication to community interests is a hallmark of National Association of REALTORS® members. Says NAR President Chris Polychron, “The Good Neighbor Awards remind us that REALTORS® build communities in many different ways.” The awards celebrate a member’s personal impact on the community through volunteer work, and each winner is granted $10,000 gift to direct to the charity of his or her choice.

Virginia REALTORS® make significant contributions to the communities across our state, both through local associations and independently. Whether committing personal resources to fund the education of students in need, providing expertise to veterans on the Commonwealth’s housing benefits, or sheltering those without homes, REALTORS® throughout Virginia devote care to their neighbors.

VAR proudly recognizes the impact of our members and encourages you to celebrate your service-minded peers with the special Good Neighbor Award nomination. Entries must be submitted by Friday, May 15, 2015. For more information, contact Jenny Wortham, VAR Director of Community Outreach: jenny@varealtor.com or (804) 262-3755.

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Advocacy Alert: Hitting the home stretch

A couple of days ago we updated you on a flurry of activity on VAR legislative agenda bills in the Senate General Laws Committee (Advocacy Alert: A Blizzard of Bills).

Today, the full Senate unanimously passed the five bills that advanced from that committee.

Since HB 1451, HB 1452, HB 1642, and HB 1965 passed the Senate in the same form they had previously been adopted by the House, they will be sent to the Governor’s desk for his signature.  The Senate made a friendly technical amendment to HB 2100, dealing with Property and Condominium Owners Associations. This bill now goes back to the House for approval of the amendment before it can head to the Governor.

Earlier this week the House adopted SB 775 that adds special flood hazard zones to the “Buyer Beware” disclosure list. This is the Senate companion bill to HB 1642.

As we approach the scheduled end of the 2015 General Assembly Session on February 28, your VAR Policy and Advocacy team will keep you posted on any last-minute developments. We will compile a comprehensive legislative report for our members at the end of session that can be found at www.varrealtorschoose.com.

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Realtors® Applaud FAA’s proposed rule to allow commercial drone use for real estate

On Sunday, February 15, the Federal Aviation Administration released its long-awaited proposal for governing small commercial drones, setting a plan for remote-controlled aircraft to share the skies with passenger planes.

As USA Today reports, the FAA proposal would allow drones weighing up to 55 pounds to fly within sight of their remote pilots during daylight hours. The aircraft must stay below 500 feet in the air and fly less than 100 mph. People flying drones would need to be at least 17 years old, pass an aeronautics test, and be vetted by the Transportation Security Administration, but a certificate wouldn’t require the flight hours or medical rating of a private pilot’s license.

The FAA asked for 60 days of public comment on its proposal for commercial drones, but industry experts expect the analysis of comments could take 18 months or longer before the rules are completed.

In response to the proposal, National Association of Realtors® President Chris Polychron released a statement on Feb. 15, “The proposed rules announced today for the commercial use of unmanned aerial vehicles are good news for property owners and Realtors® who desire to embrace cutting-edge technology to enhance the process of buying and selling real estate with images gathered by unmanned aerial vehicles. Realtors® support the proposed federal regulation, which would allow for safe commercial use of UAV technology by the real estate industry for the purposes of marketing real estate.”

“NAR plans to submit comments to the agency and will continue to work with our members to educate them about the future safe, responsible, and legal uses of UAVs; however, until the final rule is published, NAR discourages Realtors® from using UAV photography or video for commercial purposes without an FAA exemption.”

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Lending & Real Estate Compliance Conference featuring Terrie Suit

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Are you ready to comply with the new RESPA/TILA rules?
August 1, 2015 will be here before you know it. On that date, the new Loan Estimate and Closing Disclosure forms go into effect. Don’t make the mistake of thinking these are just new forms, there are many regulatory changes that come with them.

Please join the VMLA, members of the mortgage lending, and home buying industries to learn about all the changes that will affect you and your industry. We have put together a detailed program that will teach you in-depth information about the forms and a forum of industry leaders to discuss how the new rules will affect the mortgage lending and home buying industries.

Click here to register http://www.virginiamla.com/_docs/Compliance%20Conf%20Flyer%20and%20Registration%20Form.pdf

Date & Location
March 25, 2015
VHDA Virginia Housing Center
4224 Cox Road
Glen Allen, VA 23060

 

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