Archive for May, 2010

Census workers contacting Realtors for info about vacant homes

The foreclosure crisis and Census taking have joined forces to create yet another new headache for Realtors®:

Some Census workers have been contacting the listing agents of vacant properties (or their brokers) if the last known occupant hasn’t completed the Census form. Sometimes the Census workers have been very aggressive in attempting to acquire information about the owners or occupants. And the United State Code stipulates that it’s unlawful for an “…owner, proprietor, manager, superintendent, or agent of any hotel, apartment house, boarding or lodging house, tenement, or other building, (to) refuse or willfully neglect, . . . to furnish the names of the occupants of such premises” during the Census.

But under listing agreements, brokers and agents have obligations to their sellers, usually including a duty of confidentiality.  Which raises the question: What do listing agents and their brokers have to disclose to Census workers?

Fortunately, NAR and the Census Bureau have been in communication about this issue, and NAR has released some information on an understanding reached between the two. You should read the article in full, but in a nutshell:

  • Realtors® are not legally required to provide Census workers with information about their listings’ owners or occupants.
  • Before releasing information to Census workers, agents should seek authorization from the seller, if any existing agreements between the seller and agent are unclear on confidentiality matters.


New lead paint rules went into effect April 22

Editor’s note: This story was originally posted on March 25, 2010. We’re re-publishing it due to reports of a large number of members being unfamiliar with the new rules.

According to NAR, new EPA rules about lead paint are set to go into effect on April 22, 2010.

To help you comply with the new rules, your friends at NAR have set up a Lead Paint Renovation Rule Compliance Guide at

cover the earthQuoth NAR:

This compliance guide provides information for REALTORS® on the EPA’s new Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule. The guide describes the new lead-based paint safety practices established by the rule, and what steps real estate agents, brokers, and property managers need to take to comply with the new procedures.

If the amount of information in this Lead Paint Renovation Rule Compliance Guide could be poured into a paint can, it would be enough to cover the earth, but here are the highlights:

Also, watch out for a legal update with VAR’s special counsel Lem Marshall coming to a town near you for an in-depth look at your (and your clients’) responsibilities under these new lead paint rules.

RE BarCamp RVA: June 23 at RAR

REBarCampRVAThe Richmond Association of Realtors and VAR are teaming up to bring you RE BarCamp RVA. “RE BarCamp RVA? What the heck is that?” you say?

A BarCamp is a FREE unconference, meaning there is no set agenda of topics before everyone arrives at the site.  At the beginning of the event anyone in attendance can “pitch” an idea such as leading a discussion on the use of Twitter for real estate, a discussion on best practices in dealing with a Short Sales, hot mobile applications or using Facebook for real estate.  Each idea is written on a post-it note and posted on the wall at the front of the room.

After all post-its are finished, the participants at the event will make a mark each post-it note they find of interest.   The top ideas are assigned to rooms, and off we go for the day. The person who pitched the idea doesn’t necessarily have to be the leader of the discussion but often they are the facilitator of an interactive conversation surrounding that topic.  All sessions are intended to be free of personal pitches for your particular company, in the spirit of  BarCamp.  Taking in and sharing knowledge with your peers is what RE BarCamp is all about.

There will be plenty of opportunities for networking, too; we’re planning networking time the day before the event and right after RE BarCamp finishes for the day.

Some agents REALLY like this format because you set the agenda based on what you want to learn not what someone else determines you need to learn.  Be prepared for an open discussion format where you participate in the discussion sharing your thoughts on the topic, if you decide to attend.

Check out the RE BarCamp RVA Web site to learn more and register.

Legal battle ends over condemnation of Roanoke property

starThe legal battle over a three-acre plot of land on Reserve Avenue has ended, with B&B Holdings accepting its condemnation. The City of Roanoke had exerted eminent domain to take the land for a Carrilion Clinic biomedical park, but has since dropped those plans.

The case has been closely watched by advocates of property-owners’ rights, who are pushing for stricter limits on the use of eminent domain to seize land. Ultimately, the owners in this case, Jay and Stephanie Burkholder, gave up the fight because it made good financial sense to do so. The legal battle cost them about $600,000.

“After spending that kind of money and all of this time, we’ve lost our property,” Stephanie Burkholder said. “With the economy the way it is, we are making the decision we need to make for our financial future.”

Read more in The Roanoke Times….

Hot clicks: Commonwealth Online May 2010

The May 2010 Commonwealth Online was out on the streets over the weekend. Here’s what VAR members were clicking:

And here are some honorable mentions (e.g. stuff you might have missed):

The national housing recovery begins in 2011

According to a survey of 92 housing economists and experts, home prices across the nation will begin a slow but steady recovery beginning next year.

The analysts surveyed by MacroMarkets on average expect home prices, as measured by the S&P/Case-Shiller national index, to rise about 12% in the five years ending Dec. 31, 2014.

Here in Virginia, the median sales price hit a low point in the first quarter of 2009.  It climbed steadily in the second, third and fourth quarters, but took a dip in the first quarter of 2010, according to our most recent home sales report. But even with the dip in 1Q, in Virginia, we’re still up 8.1% from the bottoming out in the first quarter of 2009.

But is there another dip coming? Everyone’s watching the housing market to see what will happen now that the federal homebuyer tax credit has expired. The Mortgage Bankers Association reported that mortgage applications declined to their lowest level in 13 years last week. Not a good sign.

However, NAR cites a statistic that 27% of all home purchases are cash-only deals (up from 15% last year at this time), perhaps making mortgage purchase applications a less reliable leading indicator of future sales.

Experts also have their attention fixed on jobs. Almost all agree that the housing market won’t fully recover until the unemployment numbers subside. But the employment figures are fickle: Jobless claims unexpectedly jumped last week, the first increase in five weeks.

What are you seeing from your perspective? We’d like to know: Our July/August issue of Commonwealth will have a feature story on life after the housing stimulus. What’s your take? Leave a smart comment and you could be interviewed for the story.

(photo credit)

FHFA Kills IVPI, Announces Complaint Process

 NAR’s Appraisal Insight blog reports a change in plans for complaint procedures related to the Home Valuation Code of Conduct:

In a letter to New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s (FHFA) Interim Director, Ed DeMarco, announced that the Independent Valuation Protection Institute (IVPI) will not be implemented by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  Instead, the GSEs will offer a standard form for appraisal complaints and act on suspected acts of fraud and violations of HVCC.  The form should be available in the coming weeks.

Mr. DeMarco cites the use of substantial taxpayer funds on the GSEs as the primary reason the IVPI will not be implemented.  “In light of the billions of
dollars in taxpayer funds the Enterprises have drawn since entering conservatorships, I cannot, as conservator, justify the Enterprises funding  the Institute. Therefore, as conservator, I have determined that they will not  proceed with that portion of the Cooperation Agreements.

Read more from the Wall Street Journal.

Take note—this June won’t be normal for end-of-month closings. Lenders and settlement agents across Virginia anticipate a very high volume of closings scheduled to beat the June 30 federal tax credit deadline. To make sure your homebuyers don’t miss out on their tax credit, be proactive.

Schedule closings on different days of the week—the earlier in June the better. Don’t wait until the end of the month just to save your buyer per diem interest, only to have them miss the deadline. Closing earlier allows time to resolve unforeseen problems.

Help prevent holdups by encouraging buyers to provide documentation to their lender ASAP and arrange for homeowners insurance well in advance of closing. Their response, and your guidance, can make a difference in meeting the scheduled closing date.

Homeowners and Realtors® in Loudoun County should be concerned about the impact of the proposed Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance. If enacted, it would make Loudoun County the first non-tidewater county to enact the restrictions, and the only one to do so without being required by law.

The ordinance would designate segments of the county either as a Resource Protection Area (RPA), (land that is within 100 feet of a stream, pond or other body of water), or as a Resource Management Area (RMA), (land that is outside an RPA but if developed could have an adverse effect on nearby waterways). Homeowners in designated RPAs would likely find some of the ordinance’s provisions onerous, as any activity that disturbs land near a stream could be affected.

A public hearing on the issue scheduled for Monday, May 24th, 6:30 p.m. at the County Government Center in Leesburg.

For more information:


Call for action: Urge Congress to prevent new burdens on real estate

On May 17th, NAR launched an all-member call for action to urge the House and Senate prevent new tax burdens on Real Estate.

If you haven’t responded to the call waiting for you in your e-mail inbox, you can do so here.<!–break–>

From NAR:

Congress is considering changes to the tax code in order to pay for a number of tax provisions expiring in 2010. Two of these provisions would impact real estate. First, Congress is proposing that all owners of rental properties be required to file IRS 1099 forms on service providers such as electricians, plumbers and landscapers. This onerous provision would apply to even the smallest landlord.

In addition, Congress is considering taxing “carried interest” at ordinary income rates instead of capital gains. Carried interest rules govern how general partners in real estate investments pay taxes when the investment is sold.

Your participation is important. Thank you for your time and energy.