Archive for February, 2009

As far back as my short sales webcast, released almost a year ago, I’ve been telling Realtors that they do NOT have to agree to lower their commissions on short sales. Fannie Mae recently made this crystal clear with announcement 09-03, Miscellaneous Servicing Policy Changes, available as a PDF download on  From the document:

Servicing Guide, Part VII, Section 504.02: Contacting Selected Borrowers
Effective March 1, 2009, closing of preforeclosure sales may not be conditioned upon a
reduction of the total commission to be paid

Here’s the direct link to the PDF (18 KB).

Up to this point, NAR and President Obama have been getting along swimmingly. The administration has been rolling out programs and proposals in an attempt to keep homeowners in their homes and stabilize home prices. NAR smiled repeatedly.

Then Barack Obama looks to tinker with one of NAR’s most sacred, untouchable, most holy issues: The mortgage interest deduction (MID).

As part of the budget sent to Congress, the President is proposing to change the MID regulations for homeowners who file joint returns and earn $250,000 or more annually ($200,000 per year if filing single). The short version, according to NAR, is that proposed changes to the MID will counteract the initiatives contained in the recently-passed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the proposed Homeowner Affordability and Stability plan, and other measures intended to help the floundering housing market.

Here are some other consequences of changing the MID, according to NAR:

  • further erosion of home prices and home values
  • will cause greater distress on the balance sheets of banks as the collateral value of mortgage backed securities declines
  • a second credit crisis could emerge before the first one is resolved

In their own words, NAR is “prepared to use its formidable array of resources against its enactment.” See what they’re doing about it already.

Looks like the VARbuzz blog brawl won’t be the only battle being waged this spring.

A new facility in Chicago?

When we saw the post from NAR’s Hilary Marsh with this image:


We immediately realized a mistake was made. Here’s what was obviously supposed to go up:

Looks cozy.

Todd, VAR, NAR, and Bar(Camp)

Todd_Carpenter Todd Carpenter is NAR’s new social media manager. NAR made the announcement yesterday.

You also might know that the announcement was supposed to have been made at our RE BarCamp Virginia — in fact, we were honored to have been tapped by NAR to be the venue for it.

Alas, it was not to be. On Tuesday, we got a message from NAR: The Powers That Be wanted to make the announcement immediately. We wouldn’t get to host it after all.

And so it was.

We’ve heard some rumbling in the real estate world — grumbling, really, about NAR’s decision and how the announcement was made. NAR should have waited. They stabbed VAR in the back. People are flying in to Virginia to be there when the announcement was made. There is evil afoot.

It’s deep-breath time.

Are we disappointed? Of course. We were looking forward to Todd’s debut on our turf. But these things happen, and we’re glad that RE BarCamp will still be Todd’s official “coming out” party.

We’re not privy to the decision process in Chicago, and while we’re not sure what was gained by making the announcement early, we know those folks and there must be a good reason for naming Todd a few days early. (And heck, many of you already knew who it was!)

We got a sweet audio interview with Todd and Hilary, and RE BarCamp will still be his first public appearance. (Monday, March 2 — the pre-RE BarCamp Virginia dinner and happy hour. Be there.)

We’re happy. RE BarCamp isn’t diminished — it’s still gonna be a hit. And we’re looking forward to working with Todd.

It’s coming



U.Va. study: Housing crisis concentrated, not widespread

0_61_UVA_logo A new study from U.Va. says that the "housing crisis" — the rise in foreclosures and the significant drop of home values — is concentrated in only a handful of states. And even within a state, a small number of areas is dragging everyone’s numbers down.

The analysis, done by U.Va. professor William Lucy and graduate student Jeff Herlitz, looked at all 50 states, 35 major metro areas, and 236 counties.

The results? They found that 87 percent of housing losses in 2008 came from California, Florida, Nevada, and Arizona (plus "a modest number of metropolitan counties in other states").

From the press release:

Although there are pockets of substantial declines, claims that overall housing values have tanked nationwide are exaggerated, they said. "In the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, for example, prices have barely changed in the District of Columbia, Alexandria and Arlington County, and parts of Fairfax County in Virginia. The largest price declines ( more than 30 percent in 2008 ) have been in Prince William County, Va., but even there, the range of price declines in its six zip codes ranged from 49 percent to only 6 percent."


Commonwealth Contest winner (and more)


(Sorry about the messy audio at the end, but I didn’t want to reshoot.)

The correct answers:

1. Courts have typically allowed between 30 and 60 days as a “reasonable” extension for a settlement.

2. Vicky Lawson was the broker/owner at Wythe County Real Estate we quoted.

3. Andrew Kantor suggested you might be thinking of throwing eggs at “the idiots on Wall Street.”

4. Realtor® of the Year Carol Clarke was runner-up in her high school’s Miss Flame contest.

5. Lem Marshall said a fool and his money wouldn’t get a bailout.

There were 27 letters in answers 2 through 5 (you needed to read the VARbuzz post to know to count them. Adding 27 + 30 + 60 (from answer 1) gave the final answer: 117. We also accepted 122 for those of you who counted the letters in "Miss" and "a."

Next issue: Another HD camera is ready for a new home!

The cat’s out of the bag and the big announcement that was to be made at RE BarCamp Virginia next week is common knowledge. Todd Carpenter, a well-known real estate social mediaphile, has been hired as NAR’s Social Media Manager. We have the first audio interview with the man known to Twitter users as @TCAR (though we think he should change his handle to @TNAR).

Thanks to Loudoun County Realtor Danilo Bogdanovic and Fredericksburg Area Association of Realtors Education Director Matthew Rathbun for helping pull together on very short notice the questions asked in this interview. Right-click this link and select Save Target As… to download the file, or use the embedded media player below.

Todd’s coming-out party will be at RE BarCamp Virginia next week, so all of you who have RSVP’d will get to meet “the chosen one” in real life. It’ll be his second day on the job, so go easy on him, okay?

AgentGenius also has a must-read interview with Todd.

Commonwealth Click Compendium: February

If you’re like me (and, to be honest, lemmings), you sometimes like to see what other people are interested in. Do they know something you don’t?

Well, let’s find out.

In the case of our most recent issue of Commonwealth Online, the stimulus bill was big news. We had a tremendous open rate and one of the highest click-through rates eveh.

Check it out, yo:

The most-clicked link was to’s Economist’s Commentary from Lawrence Yun, followed 
closely by the Inman News story "Obama signs stimulus bill."

What else was hot?


So now we know: When times get stressful, Realtors click.

Remain calm

Feeling stressed? That’s ’cause you’re a Realtor. So says the good folks at Career Cast, who ranked it as the fifth most stressful job in America.

Yes, we know the first question you ask. "What are the others?" Here:

1. Surgeon (one slip and your patient is dead)
2. Commercial Airline Pilot (one slip and your passengers are dead)
3. Photojournalist (one slip and you’re covering Iraq)
4. Advertising Account Executive ("Will place ads for food")
5. Real Estate Agent
6. Physician; General Practice (one slip and you’re six over par)
7. Reporter; Newspaper (everyone hates it when you do your job and when you don’t)
8. Physician Assistant (you have to work with those stressed-out surgeons and docs)

Could be worse, though. The site also lists the worst jobs:

1. Lumberjack (even with the cool song)
2. Dairy Farmer (moo)
3. Taxi Driver (even with the cool song)
4. Seaman (people laugh at your job title)
5. Emergency Medical Technician (because kids text and drive)
6. Roofer ("Roofer needed, full time. 10 yrs exp. required. $12.00 hr.")
7. Garbage Collector (’nuff said)
8. Welder (even with the cool mask)
9. Roustabout (even with the cool title)
10. Ironworker (except for Robert Downey Jr.)

And finally, the least stressful jobs:

1. Actuary (because numbers never promise to call but don’t)
2. Dietitian (in America, at least, get paid to do nothing)
3. Computer Systems Analyst (because computers do what you tell them to)
4. Statistician (see #1)
5. Astronomer (unless you spot that one errant comet)