On April 15, 2014, FEMA issued a WYO (Write Your Own) Company Bulletin implementing the first provisions of the Flood Insurance Affordability Act and providing immediate rate relief to homebuyers. In the bulletin, FEMA directs insurance companies to stop charging full-risk premium rates when older properties are sold after May 1. Instead, buyers will be allowed to assume the seller’s current rate until FEMA issues new rate tables and refunds under the new law. NAR will continue pressing FEMA to implement the rest of the rate relief provisions according to the statutory deadlines.

The “Grimm-Waters” Flood Insurance Affordability Act allows property buyers to assume the seller’s current premium rate, instead of immediately increasing to the full-risk rate at time of sale.  NAR is asking members for information about your most recent transaction for a property that required flood insurance to learn if and how this provision is being implemented.

Complete NAR’s questionnaire here.

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Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe came to the meeting of the VAR Delegate Body in Richmond where he spoke to members from across the state.

“We’re excited to partner with Governor McAuliffe over the next four years on issues that are important to Realtors,” said VAR 2014 President Bradley J. Boland. As he had promised, the governor has not only kept his door open to Virginia Realtors, but has supported all our bills; he signed them into law this week.

Opportunities like this one to engage with the governor in person are important to our advocacy efforts. We work hard to have a positive and open relationship with every governor because the position can impact  Realtors’ ability to conduct business in so many significant ways — not only does legislation need his approval, but his office signs off on Real Estate Board regulations and appoints members to those boards.

In his remarks, Governor McAuliffe reiterated his support for keeping Virginia a business-friendly state. “A growing economy is what Realtors want,” he said. And a strong economy attracts more businesses, more jobs, and more money. “People,” he said, “need to be moving into Virginia.”

He outlined the various projects he’s been working on since his inauguration, all aimed at making Virginia more attractive. And he has high hopes for the future of the state and of real estate here: “You guys are gonna sell so many homes, you are not gonna know what to do.”

Click on any photo below for a larger version.

For even more photos from the Delegate Body meeting, click here.

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WS_elements_sidebar-banner(2)VAR is introducing a new tool for brokers that will give a boost to your next sales meeting.

It’s easy to use, it’s just the right length, it’s got smart, timely content.

Meet WorkSmart Sales Meeting Kits from VAR. Coming to you the second Monday of every month.

Each kit contains everything you need to discuss an important, timely topic with your agents: legal issues, technology, sales tips, marketing, and more.

They’re designed to be quick, relevant, and easy to use.

Each kit includes…

  • A short, printable broker’s guide. (Think of it as a teacher’s handbook, but only a few pages long.)
  • A 10-minute presentation — including a video and several Qs and As — to present to your agents.
  • A printable poster for your bulletin board or office fridge.
  • In some cases, printable handouts for your agents.

What you need to use the kits

  • A Web browser (Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, even Opera or Safari.)
  • Optional but recommended: A printer

That’s it.

What they cost

Nothing. WorkSmart Meeting Kits are provided free to Virginia real estate brokers as a VAR member benefit.

Check them out

The first kit will debut Monday April 14, so watch for the e-mail announcement where you’ll find the easy-to-follow instructions to beef up your next sales meeting!

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In some areas — maybe in a lot of them — housing demand is there but the supply isn’t. Economics 101 tells us that means more competition, higher prices… and a need for buyers to sell themselves.

David Charron, president and CEO of Rockville, Md.-based MRIS, writes in the Washington Post that there are some clear, specific things home shoppers can do to help make sure they’re the ones the seller chooses.

Keep in mind that sellers are sensitive to anything that would create more work or expense for them, so if you want to request contingencies or seller credits, discuss those items with your agent before mentioning them.

And of course…

In addition to setting up alerts on real estate search sites, ensure you are working with a trusted real estate professional. They see all the listings first and can contact you as soon as your new home hits the market. Even if there is an open house scheduled for the upcoming weekend, it could be a smart move to have your representative let the listing agent know a motivated buyer is ready to act.

Click here to read the whole thing… and share your ideas in the comments!

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A modern skyline -- Caprica CityWhat will be different about the commercial real estate market in 25 years? CNBC has its predictions based on speaking with Peter Linneman from the Wharton School of Business “and other key players in the industry”:

  1. Most shopping malls will be extinct.
  2. Brick-and-mortar will go tech—and warehouses will go back to the drawing board.
  3. Baby boomers will be behind the biggest construction boom.
  4. Urbanization will sweep the planet.
  5. The much-reported death of the suburbs will prove to be greatly exaggerated.
  6. Work spaces will be transformed by technology.
  7. Green buildings will come of age.

All right, number 6 doesn’t seem to be a terribly “bold prediction,” but the others are certainly interesting. These are just the titles; click over the the full CNBC article for the details.

 

 

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If you’re sick, you don’t go to the “doc-a-toor.” If you’re looking to buy or sell property, you don’t go to a “Real-a-toor.” Both words have two syllables, and now Business Insider magazine has pointed out what a lot of us already knew: “Realtor” is one of the most mispronounced words.

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Some of the other words that made the list are comptroller (pronounced  just like “controller”) and cache (pronounced “cash,” not “ca-shay”). Oddly missing is forte (pronounced “fort,” not “for-tay”).

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Over the weekend, your Virginia Association of REALTORS® Policy and Advocacy team received confirmation that Governor McAuliffe signed the entire Virginia Association of REALTORS® Legislative Agenda into law.  Though the specific provisions of the bills he signed will not come into effect until July 1, 2014, we are pleased that the Governor signed them, exactly as they passed the Virginia General Assembly.

  • HB 331 – Establishing First Time Homeowners Savings Plans
    VAR sought to establish First Time Homeowner Savings Plans that will allow a contributor to deposit up to $50,000 principal into a banking or investment account, and have all the earnings on that account be forever free of state taxes. A qualified beneficiary would be someone living in Virginia, who has never owned property- individually or jointly- anywhere in the U.S.
  • HB 273 – Making important changes to the Landlord-Tenant Act
    We amended the Landlord-Tenant Act to allow many more rental properties to fall under the Virginia Residential Landlord Tenant Act, which has long been supported by VAR attorneys as being much better for landlords, property managers and their owners.  In addition, we removed the requirement that landlords and property managers pay interest on security deposits.
  • HB 900 – POA/Condo Act changes
    We amended the POA / Condo Act to continue clarifying fees that are allowed versus those not allowed under Virginia law.  In addition we make sure that Realtors and their clients can receive homeowner association packets electronically, if requested.  Finally, we allow for easier use of those homeowners associations who maintain websites.
  • HB 208 – Clarifying the law to protect property rights
    We clarified the language of the vested rights statute we passed in 2008 to preserve our accomplishments and to protect property owners from local governments that may wish to require existing buildings without documented building permits be removed.
  • SB 302 / HB 259 – Protecting members from being labeled criminals (i.e., making it criminal to assert that a real estate licensee is a criminal)
    To protect Realtors from being unjustly labeled as criminals, if an attorney accuses a real estate licensee of criminal false advertising in a lawsuit, we will now require the attorney to state the facts with particularity, to make sure attorneys are not just accusing criminal false advertising without building in the facts or reasons behind the accusations.

As July 1, 2014 nears, we will make sure our members are reminded of these changes to the law, as well as the many others that will come into effect.

bradsig

Bradley J. Boland
2014 Virginia Association of REALTORS® President

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VAR Out & About: Hampton Roads

VAR Deputy General Counsel (and video star) Blake Hegeman traveled to the Hampton Roads REALTOR Association to teach an “Educate 4 Success” session to more than 100 local Realtors.

Here are a couple of photos courtesy of Victoria Hecht, the communications and public relations specialist at HRRA (click either to enlarge it):

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2014-04-07 Hampton2

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Did you know that NAR produces a weekly real estate radio show called “Real Estate Today”? You can hear it live on the radio in the Harrisonburg and Richmond-Petersburg areas (and in Washington, D.C.), but it’s also available through our website.

When you go to VARealtor.com you’ll see the button right on the home page. Click it and you’ll be able to listen to that day’s show. (You can also go directly to the RET website, RETRadio.com.)

retoday

Real Estate Today — which NAR touts as the fastest growing AM real estate radio show in the country — has a “fast-paced format” that includes real estate news, call-ins, field reports, and more covering all sorts of real estate topics: homeownership, buying and selling advice, remodeling ideas, landscaping suggestions, financing tips, and whatever else you can think of.

Here’s the Virginia schedule:

Richmond-Petersburg
Station: WHAN 1430 AM
Time: Saturday 4-6PM

Station: WRVA 1140 AM
Time: Sunday 1-3PM

Harrisonburg

Station: WKCY 1300 AM or WKCI 970 AM
Time: Sunday 8-10AM

Washington, D.C.
Station: WMAL 630 AM – 105.9 FM
Time: Sunday 7p-8p

 

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There are some really cool and interesting gadgets you can buy — right now, for cheap* — that can automate all sorts of things in your home. They’re a big step up from thermostats with timers or coffee machines that brew just before you work up. (Although those are pretty nifty.)

And when I say “automate,” you might be surprised by what I mean.

The Nest thermostat learns from your habits

The Nest thermostat learns from your habits

Take the Nest thermostat (Google recently bought the company) that, rather than have you program it with what you think you want the temperature to be, learns from how you set it. No more. “Honey, can you reset the thermostat because I’m getting up earlier now.”

You can even control it from your phone — think, “I’m leaving work early, better turn the A/C on now.” Or, “I forgot to turn the heat down but I’m already in bed.”

But that’s just the start.

Lights, Internet, Action

To get a better glimpse of the future (in the present), check out Belkin’s WeMo line. It’s a collection of electrical outlets and switches that can be turned on and off via the Internet or a smartphone app. (The same technology is also being incorporated into home appliances like CrockPots and Mr. Coffee machines.)

That means you can control lights and appliances throughout your house using your smartphone, which is pretty cool. But it gets even cooler — and really into the realm of automation — when you use a free Web site/service called If This Then That, or IFTTT.

IFTTT was originally created as a way to connect lots of online tools that people use: e-mail, Facebook, news feeds, Twitter, even texting. You tell IFTTT which services you use, then create “recipes” — for example, “If I publish a tweet, then send an e-mail to my mom” or “If I add a file to Dropbox, put a reminder in my Evernote account” or “If it’s going to rain tomorrow, send me a text with ‘Umbrella’ in the subject.”

But the folks at IFTTT have been working with the makers of smart devices like the Nest and those WeMo outlets. So now you can use the service to not just send messages or post comments when something happens, but actually control things in your house.

For example, you can tell IFTTT to turn on your bedroom lights if  The New York Times publishes an article with your name in it. (Yep, IFTTT tracks the Times’s content.) More realistically, you can have it turn on the house lights and A/C when you send an e-mail to yourself with “Coming Home” in the subject. Or dim the lights and turn on the music when you text “Bobby Brown” to a particular phone.

IFTTT has evolved into sort of the glue between these kinds of devices. You can still use the apps that come with each, of course, and IFTTT is sure to get some competition, but right now it’s the best, easiest way to automate those Internet-enabled gadgets. It’s list of sources is huge, too — way too long to list here. You can check weather, search New York Times articles, even follow fantasy sports teams. Really.

And in terms of smart devices, Nest and WeMo aren’t the only games in town. Samsung is rolling out a whole bunch of Internet-controllable appliances, for example. Or right now you can get the Withings Smart Body Analyzer — an Internet-enabled scale (!). Why not use IFTTT to post a tweet every time you lose a pound?

Watching You (in a good way)

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The WeMo Insight Switch lets you turn things on — but can also talk back

Back to those WeMo switches. Besides being able to control them via your phone or the Internet, some of the company’s devices can send information to you as well. For example, the Insight Switch can send you a notification if a light is turned on — say, by a teenager coming home. (And because IFTTT works with the WeMo, you can do a lot more. Maybe send a text to that teen: “Homework first!”

Or — get this — you can use the $99 WeMo NetCam to take a picture of whomever turned on the light and send it to you. (Or have IFTTT post it to your InstaGram account and save the file on your Google Drive). The camera even has night vision.

Not enough? A company called SmartThings makes a whole lot of Internet-enabled sensors you can put around your house. There’s a motion sensor, flood sensor, temperature sensor, even ones that will tell you if a window, door, or drawer is opened. In fact, there are door locks from big-name companies like Kwikset and Schlage that work with the SmartThings system (e.g., the Schlage Camelot Touchscreen Deadbolt).

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Schlage makes Internet-connected door locks, like the Camelot

SmartThings has an app for Androids and iPhones, but it’s also connected with IFTTT — so, again, you can do things like “send texts to the entire family if the basement moisture sensor detects water.”

The whole shebang is known as “the Internet of things,” and it’s here and it’s working.

Coming Home

There are already smartphone apps that can react to your surroundings. For example, Trigger for Android can have your phone do all sorts of things based on what you do with your phone or where you are (based on GPS or your current Wi-Fi network).

So you can do this, today: Set your phone to detect when you’re in range of your home Wi-Fi network after being away for a while, then send a specific text. That triggers IFTTT to turn on your lights (via a WeMo switch), set the thermostat for 70 (via Nest), unlock your door (via a SmartThings-enabled lock), and start the webcam you’ve pointed to the foyer. It then sends an e-mail to your husband or wife saying that you’re home, as well as a link to the video so he or she can make sure you’ve arrived safely.

Not bad, huh? And that’s just today, as this Internet of Things is in its infancy. Tomorrow, as our lights, music, and temperature follow us around as naturally as a puppy, we might look back and think of the times we had to do everything manually.

Want to know more? CNBC has a report that features the Nest thermostat and some pundits’ thoughts on the emerging smart home — click here to check it out.

 

*Well, reasonably cheap

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