Archive for June, 2009

Commonwealth contest instructions!

Ready to see if you’ll win a Flip Mino HD camcorder? Then let’s get to it.You could win this! Cool!

  1. Read all these instructions carefully before proceeding.
  2. You have five answers from the magazine. Take the first letter of each.
  3. Give those letters a numeric value using the traditional A=1, B=2, etc.
  4. You now have five numbers. Add the first four.
  5. Take that number and subtract the page number last month’s contest appeared on.
  6. Of that number and the last of your five original numbers, take the smaller of the two.
  7. Turn to that page in the magazine.
  8. In the main text (i.e., not the boxes), write down the first italicized word.
  9. Take the middle letter of that word.
  10. Take its numeric value (again, A=1, etc.).
  11. Double it.
  12. Note what letter has that value. (I.e., if you end up with 5, the letter is "E.")
  13. Turn to the masthead on page 1 of the magazine.
  14. Only one person on the masthead has a last name that begins with that letter. Write down all of this person’s designations (e.g., CAE, GRI, whatever) without punctuation.
  15. Add the numeric value of each of those letters.
  16. Take the square root of that number.
  17. Ignore the previous instructions.
  18. Curse yourself if you didn’t read all these instructions first.
  19. Turn to the back cover of the magazine.
  20. Note the person wearing a name badge in the photo.
  21. E-mail that person’s name to the editor of the magazine.

We will take all entries received by 11:59 PM tonight, June 30, 2009, and randomly draw one winner of the Flip Mino HD camcorder.

Good luck!

Form Changes

The Virginia Association of REALTORS® has made the following changes to its forms:

Form 600 (Residential Contract of Purchase) has been updated. Section 18 has been revised to include statutorily required Consumer Real Estate Settlement Protection Act (CRESPA) disclosure language. Section 22 dealing with lead paint issues has been amended slightly to bring it into compliance with EPA requirements.

The Virginia Real Estate Board has updated the Residential Property Disclosure Statement to reflect a statutory notice requirement concerning stormwater detention facilities. VAR has amended the SUM1 Form (Summary of Rights and Obligations of Sellers and Purchasers Under the Virginia Residential Property Disclosure Act) to conform to changes in the Residential Property Disclosure Statement.

Form 200 (Lease) has been amended to modify Section 30 as to a tenant’s holding over. The new section incorporates a recent amendment to the VRLTA that permits landlords to elect, as liquidated damages from a tenant’s holding over, a rent in the amount of 150% of the current rent.

These changes will be effective July 1.

Short sales & REOs continue to frustrate

NAR reports that 40% of Realtors have been involved in the sale of a distressed property over the past year. With over a million transactions per year, inevitably a few will go bad, regardless of the type. But when a third party is brought into the transaction, and the deal is no longer just between a buyer and a seller, this tends to introduce several new ways for the deal to go awry.

We’re hearing from all over the Commonwealth, but particularly in Northern Virginia, that short sales are causing all kinds of issues. Everyone seems to have gotten past the fact that it takes the banks a looooooooooong time to consent to these transactions. Realtors also seem to understand very well that there’s a possibility that a bank will refuse to act on an offer, even if the offer seems to be a strong one.

Knowing this, some Realtors have been skirting, exploiting gray areas of, or outright defying certain sections of the Code of Ethics and MLS rules in order to hedge their bets and keep their clients’ options open in the unpredictable realm of “subject to third party approval.” Because the banks are held to a different ethical standard, sometimes the banks’ actions (or in many cases, inaction) can cause the Realtor to violate NAR’s Code.

So when it comes to distressed transactions, how can you make sure you’re on the right side of your obligations to the Realtor Code of Ethics and Virginia laws?

What was hot in Commonwealth Online

The June issue of Commonwealth Online had one of the highest clickthrough rates ever thanks to things like the first-time homebuyer’s credit and all those new laws passed by the General Assembly.

The hottest links this month were all about the new stuff going down. At the top, the VARbuzz post “A handy flyer from VAR to explain to your clients how to apply the $8000 first time homebuyers credit to closing costs.”

Then came the link to VHDA because of its new Homebuyer Tax Credit Plus loan product — you know, the one with the built-in bridge loan.

Following close behind were links to’s information on those 2009 laws, and VARbuzz posts on the Home Valuation Code of Conduct and the new Residential Disclosure Statement.

Sure we love the traffic, but even better we love to see everyone wanting to keep up with all the changes.

Home sales in May: Good and bad

The good news: May existing-home sales were up over April (2.4 percent, according to NAR). The bad news: They were down 3.6 percent from May 2008.

My conundrum when writing this: Do I focus on the good news, even though the year-to-year numbers are what really count? After all, there’s a lot to be said for keeping a positive outlook.

Besides, there are a couple of major caveats. First, these are national, not Virginia numbers, so they’re sullied by Arizona, California, Florida, and Nevada. Second, I don’t know yet whether the April-May jump was bigger in 2009 than in 2008. If it was, that’s another good sign.

So take the numbers as you see fit. They’re just numbers.

Smartphones: BlackBerry is #1

image Get this: RIM pretty much controls the smartphone market these days. The BlackBerry Curve is #1 in the market, the BlackBerry Storm is #3, and the BlackBerry Pearl is #4. (Apple’s iPhone lost 10 percent of its market share in the first quarter of the year and fell to second place.)

Why? Aggressive marketing for one, but also for a simple reason: The BlackBerrys are available on all the major cellular networks, but the iPhone is only on AT&T. (Consumer Reports is pretty rough on AT&T. “[It and Sprint] might be an option if they’re competitive in the Ratings for your city or if their exclusive phones or plan features appeal to you.”)

Congress considers raising 1st time tax credit to $15K

Today’s USA Today is reporting that Congress is looking at several ways of expanding or extending the current $8,000 tax credit for first-time buyers – but not everyone is thrilled with the idea.

What kind of stuff?

  • There’s a Senate bill that would expand the tax credit to $15,000 for any home buyer regardless of income (sponsored by Johnny Isakson, R-Ga. and Chris Dodd, D-Conn.).
  • One House bill would extend the current $8,000 credit to all home buyers through 2010.
  • A different House bill would keep the current credit in place until June 2010, expand it to all home buyers, and offer a $3,000 credit to homeowners who refinance.

Business leaders like the ideas (in general). So, of course, does NAR. But there’s some push-back as people are concerned with government spending – with the Iraq War, bailouts, and incentives all driving the deficit through the roof. If there was a roof.

Go forth and read.

Leveraging Social Media, Step 1: Capturing Content

Those of you who know me, know that I’m always on a kick to capture content.  Whether it’s a video tour of a listing, or you driving through a neighborhood explaining its finer points, or just videotaping yourself ruminating about any number of real estate-related topics, the first step is to have the right gear to get the job done.  Here are some tips on “How to capture content, 101″ :

1) Here’s a blog posting on the “social media hardware” I use

2) More advanced: Here’s how I turned a Flip-type camera into a wide-angle lens camera to better capture content

Hope it’s helpful!

NAR: How to use the member profile

I, for one, couldn’t think of a way to use NAR’s free-to-members 2009 Member Profile. A buyer or seller profile, sure, but how useful is it to know other members?

Evidently I wasn’t the only one. So NAR now has a (free) webinar answering that very question: “Maximizing The Member Profile.”

Quoth: “NAR’s Survey experts will discuss the newly released 2009 Member Profile and how you can use the wealth of information in this user-friendly report to better your business.”

The nitty gritty: Live, 10:00 AM EDT, June 30, 1 hour. (I assume it will be available after that as well.)

That is all.

Has the Code outlived it’s relevance?


What’s the Point of the Story?

In recent months I’ve adopted Jim Duncan’s response to people who complain about other agents. I saw him ask “How did the complaint process go?” to a commenter on a blog; and I thought that it was brilliant.  I can safely say that on an almost daily basis one member or another will tell me about a bad deal or woe they’ve encountered with another agent.  After hearing tales of woe, I offer them Mediation and the Code of Ethics complaint form.  Almost every time, some series of excuses come forth.  The excuses range from lack of time, not wanting to really get anyone in trouble, lack of serious penalty or that the VREB is a quicker and easier solution.  My thought is that if it isn’t serious enough to reduce to writing; than the conversation is just gossip.       

Have We Seen Better Days?

My understanding (as I wasn’t there) is that in the early 1900’s when NAR was started, it was intended to bring real estate men together to uniform the industry and provide a level of responsibility.  Then in the 1920’s the Standards of Practice were developed and was the rule book for these folks.  License law came about around the 1950’s and since then a lot of changes to the regulations have followed the changed to the Code of Ethics.  So, in essence we’ve been trying to improve the practice of Real Estate for 100 years or better.  And we’re still trying…  It’s clear that the Code of Ethics has influenced regulation; but has it otherwise served its purpose? 

I hear agents lamenting the “old days” of real estate when people behaved better; but I have to wonder if there were really better days in the past, why did the previous generations need to keep creating new regulations, if everyone was so much better?

If a Violation Happens in the Forest…

The Virginia Regulations closely mirror the Code of Ethics, at least in the major areas.  If an agent can write a complaint and simply turn it over to a trained investigator at VREB; why is filing with the Association a better option?  I’ve been asked this question a few times, and I really don’t know how to answer.  (It’s important to note that many Associations will forward complaints that are a proven violation, of the public trust, to VREB, after the Ethics hearing)  Of course the Association has a place in Arbitration, of course the Code of Ethics is a valuable tool, but if you don’t use these items why would you expect others to?

To all the folks who think the Code is irrelevant, I would submit, it’s because you aren’t using it.  It’s relatively low rate of utilization is weakening it….not the lack of adherence.